So you’ve finally upgraded from Esky to Camping Fridge (welcome to the good life). But now you have to figure out how to keep it running, and most importantly how to make sure you’ve always got cold beer on hand.

In our newest video we run through the range of different options that are available to  power your 12 volt camping fridge.

Today I’m gonna go through all the various options to run power to your fridge in your vehicle. As I go through, I’m pretty much gonna start from the cheapest to the best option.

Okay, so here we go.

Using Your Starting Battery 

First option is to run off your start battery. Please Note: We do not recommend this option!

Sometimes this can be achieved just purely by plugging in to one of the factory cigarette sockets on your vehicle, or running a separate wire down to another cigarette socket. The reason why you’d run a dedicated wire is the factory wiring is often too small and you’ll find the fridge will cut out really early, ’cause you just get too much voltage drop, not enough current down the wiring and the fridge will cut out.

With the fridge running off the cigarette socket off the start battery, you’ve got two options.

Either have it running off the battery, the disadvantage with this, so a battery feed, the disadvantage with this
is it can just run your battery flat and your car doesn’t start. The other option is to put it to an ignition feed.
This means that the fridge has only got power when the ignition is on. The advantage of that is you obviously not going to get a start battery, ’cause the alternator is going to be charging whenever the fridge is running
The disadvantage is, the fridge is only going when the car’s running. So you leave the car to sit, everything in the fridge goes warm, bad idea.

Option number two is to connect it to a battery feed off your start battery, so the fridge has always got power, and then fit something like a low voltage cut out.

You can set this one from 10 volts to 12 volts and what it will do, is once the battery voltage gets down to that voltage, it will cut power to the fridge. This is good, because it means that your car should always start. But it also means your fridge is gonna cut out fairly early, and you kinda running a risk constantly of your car not starting. I would definitely not recommend it, but this is by far the cheaper option that should ensure your car starts.

The third and better option is installing some sort of auxiliary battery.

Using an Auxiliary Battery

Okay, so obviously having a second battery is the way to go. So there’s a couple of ways you can do that.
The first way, is just put a battery in a box with a couple of cigarette sockets, or something that you can plug your fridge to and charge it on a 240 charger before you leave.

What that’ll do, is that’ll mean that you basically get two to three days out of your fridge. But what will happen
is this battery will just discharge and it won’t get charged again until you get home. The main problem with that is your battery’s lifespan, it’s not going to last that long, because it’s permanently getting discharged, recharged with nothing in between, so it’s not a good way to keep the health of your battery.

And it also means, if you’re away camping, somebody leaves the fridge door open, fridge doesn’t cycle out,
battery gets hammered, that’s it, you’re stuck.

Option number two would be then to plug a folding solar panel into this.

That will depend on the size and the condition of the day, but that will give you more run time out of this. Your average 160 watt panel will sort of keep in front of the fridge on a sunny day. So, if you had a separate
folding solar panel hooked into this, you would greatly increase the time that it will run.
But, again, clouds come over, you’ll be in trouble, warm beer.

Option number three is to have a battery in a vehicle with some sort of isolator.

So basically what you’ll do, is you’ll wire from your start battery, through an isolator, there’s many on the market, to your auxiliary battery. What that’ll do is, that’ll mean that when your car is running the battery will charge, so if clouds come over, or somebody leaves your fridge lid open, you’re not getting the time you expect, start your car, run your car, battery charges, turn the ignition off, this cuts the system in half, start battery sits there fully charged, auxiliary battery running, nicely charged up and running your fridge, and away you go.

The next option would be a DC-DC charger.

So what a DC-DC charger does, is the same job as the isolator. It will split between the two, when the vehicle’s not running, but will optimally charge your battery. Each of these batteries we’ve got here and there’s obviously lithium and lead crystal in the mix.

They require a different voltage and charge profile. The beauty of a DC-DC charger is you can set the battery
chemistry to suit it. The advantages of that is your battery will get charged to 100% every time, and also the life span of the battery will be a bit longer because it’s getting charged correctly the whole time.

Also, most DC-DC chargers, this one included, will have a MPPT solar regulator in it, so therefore you’ll get
a much better efficiency out of your solar panel than you will with the standard regulator that comes on it.
So obviously at this point, we’ve decided that auxiliary battery with the DC-DC charger is the way to go. Your battery is gonna last longer, your fridge is gonna run for longer.

The next question is, where do you wanna put the battery?

Some vehicles lend towards under the bonnet, say your Hilux’s, Prado’s, 200 series, the 22 Navaras,
they all fit very well under the bonnet. And you generally go for some style of calcium battery under the bonnet.

The reason why you go calcium is most AGM’s don’t like the heat. Other vehicles don’t give you that option,
say, Rangers and so on. So, you’d either go for a battery box like this in the tub, or some kind of slim-line behind seat.

So personally what I always feel is best, is if you can somehow have a battery box or under bonnet system
mounted to the vehicle, permanently and out of the way. What that means is your battery’s permanently getting maintained. Every time you drive your car that battery’s getting a charge with a DC-DC charger, so it’s gonna last a lot longer and also it’s tucked away, out of the way, and it’s always there.

Okay, so you’ve got your fridge, you’ve got your battery, we’ve decided we’re gonna go to a DC-DC charger,
you’re not sure where the best place to stick it is.

Give us a call on 1300 227 353, email us at info@amae.net.au and we can go through all the options that’ll best suit your vehicle and your application.

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