One of the key accessories that any traveller touring Australia needs is a good portable fridge. If you spend any time away from caravan parks and go bush camping, or in fact of you spend any time in the tropics than a portable fridge that keeps your food and drinks cold, is super reliable and doesn’t use much power is an essential to make the trip enjoyable.
Enter the Autofridge. While they have been around for what seems like 20 years (since 1987 in fact) they still are unique in that they are the only eutectic portable fridge on the market. Manufactured here in Australia to suit Australian conditions they have always been on the fringe of a market dominated by Waeco and Engel.
What are they like? Lets have a look at the big brother of portable fridges the 75L.
The first thing you notice is that it is a stylish looking fridge that hides immense practicality under the clean crisp exterior.
The interior cabinet and the exterior construction of the Autofridge are white fibreglass – this colour is the best for hot climates and the integral strength of fibreglass for use in rough conditions has been proven by the long-term popularity of fibreglass for boat manufacturers. The other advantage of the fibreglass is that it is durable and easy to clean if something spills inside.
Internally it is massive and will store enough cold food and drinks for a family of four for a week with no problems.
The compressor chosen for use in the Autofridge is the well-tested Danfoss unit and controller. This compressor has been selected because of its remarkable efficiency and it is supplied as a spring-housed unit, suitable for use in off road conditions.
The EUTECTIC operation of the refrigeration system allows the user the luxury of knowing that in ambient temperatures of up to 32 degrees Celsius, the MAXIMUM DAILY POWER CONSUMPTION of your fridge is on average only 20AH/12Volt. This of course means that you can easily determine how long you can remain stationary without flattening your battery. Ideally suited to work with the SOLAR power supplies.
The Autofridge is totally unique to the Australian market and operates differently to all other portable fridges in that the Autofridge combines a compressor driven system with the power-saving advantages of the EUTECTIC refrigeration system. While it is still unusual in the camping caravanning industry, boat users have been using Eutectic technology for eons.
The ‘EUTECTICS’ act as a cold storage compound for the refrigeration contents. The EUTECTIC fluid surrounds the outside of the four walls of the interior cabinet acting as an ‘ice bank’. In an ambient temperature of up to 32 degrees Celsius, having initially pre-chilled the Autofridge, it need only be run on its maximum setting for a total of 5-6 hours per day (preferably 2 hours in the morning and ~3 hours in the afternoon), and during this run-time, the fluid is frozen and the cabinet contents are thoroughly chilled.
The Autofridge can be turned OFF in between the run-times, and the eutectic fluid acts as a thermal phase change (cold storage) compound and provides the continuous refrigeration holdover for NIL power consumption. Figures quoted assume normal usage of your refrigerator, e.g. opening/shutting the lid to use or replace contents.
We have used an Autofridge in extreme tropic temperatures with absolutely no fuss. Because they don’t rely on evaporative cyclical cooling like most portable fridges they don’t fail in the tropics.
The ability to turn off the fridge allows users to not only save power but also enclose the fridges within sealed containers such as storage boxes on the front of camper trailers etc without the inconvenience of having to vent the box.
If you think of your home fridge, for it to work effectively it needs to run constantly, this si the cyclic nature. Imagine the power savings if you could turn it off for up to 18 hours a day and still operate the same. That is the benefit of the Eutectic system.
The Autofridge uses an average of less than 1amp per hour to run the fridge. Compare that to any other fridge on the market and you will see why Autofridge is so popular with those that are power conscious.
The benefit of the Autofridge is flexibility as it can be operated in any one of the following ways:
As a EUTECTIC refrigeration system – the Autofridge is run for a total of 5-6 hours per day – split into two separate running periods of 2 hours in the morning and ~3 hours in the afternoon. The Autofridge is turned “OFF” in the interim. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~20Ah/day @ 12V.
As a CYCLIC refrigeration system – the Autofridge is set on a refrigeration setting (e.g. ‘2’) on the thermostat and left to cycle ‘on’ and ‘off’ throughout the day. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~24Ah/day @ 12V.
As a CYCLIC freezer – the Autofridge is set on one of its sub-zero settings (‘5’, ‘6’ or ‘7’) on the thermostat – the higher the setting, the colder the Autofridge will cycle – and left to cycle ‘on’ and ‘off’ throughout the day. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~40Ah/day @ 12V.
As you probably are aware, the efficiency of your vehicle or marine electrical system can greatly affect the operation of any low voltage refrigerator. Whether to install an auxiliary battery can usually be determined by how you intend to use your Autofridge or any other D.C. lights or appliances. There is a 240V adapter as well if you want to use the fridge on plug in power.
I have to admit to being a huge Autofridge fan. When I ran a large fleet of hire camper trailers I used the Autofridge exclusively. Both the 40L and 73L (the capacities then) were used in the trailers and for general hire in cars and boats etc. These fridges had a very tough life, belted, abused overstocked, etc and they never missed a beat. A number of times hirers would return the fridges with tales of being in a convoy and theirs were the only fridge that had no problems.
I have mates that own an Autofridge and basically sling them on the back of their Ute, tie them down and never move them. These fridges have an extremely hard life but keep going.
The 75L is expensive at around $2400, which seems ludicrous considering you can buy a fridge for the home for much less, but they are absolutely worth it. It’s not for everyone obviously and there are much cheaper alternatives on the market, but when only the best will do, you pay for it.
If you’re in the market for a quality large portable fridge then you should at least have a look at the Autofridge before you buy anything else. Autofridge can be contacted on (02) 93169539