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Fridge and Solar Installation (October 2014)

Portable Fridge

Model: ARB 50


Exterior dimensions: 27.75"L x 14.96"W x 20"H


Interior dimensions: 13.27"L x 11.22"W x 15.79"H 9 (main compartment);

5.95"L x 11.22"W x 8.11"H (fruit compartment)


Interior volume: 50 quarts (47 liters); 2898 cubic inches


Capacity: 72 12-ounce soda/beer cans


Weight: 50 pounds (empty)


Power source: 12/24V DC, 100-240V AC with automatic switchover with

integrated low-battery protection


Power draw: 2.3V max (initial cool down), 0.87-1.35V intermittent average


Warranty: 3 years


Features/comes with: Removable, locking lid; rubber feet; recessed handles;

recessed digital control panel; integrated lid seal; interior LED light; removable, reversible interior basket with divider; AC and DC power cords; integrated cord retention clips; powder-coated steel case.


Available accessories: Protective, insulating cover (not shown in the photos); slide-out rails and tie-down kit (didn't bother with them)


Price: Varies, depending on vendor; average price is around $850.  I found a seller on eBay selling a bunch of ARB 50's for $750 + free shipping… couldn't pass that up!


Installation:

AC power cord was routed along the front side of the kitchen cabinet, in through an access slot, and plugged into the factory AC outlet.

DC power cord: I cut its plug off (seen below) after labeling the + and - wires, crimped ring terminals onto the wires, used heat shrink to cover the crimps (red for +, black for -), routed the cable with the AC cord, and attached the terminals to the Blue Seas fuse panel (15A fuse) mounted to the back "wall" inside the kitchen cabinet.  The Blue Seas panel is wired to the auxiliary battery under the driver's seat.       

         

Review: I love this thing!  You could not pay me to go back to using ice!


Modifications (March 2017): More like enhancements, than modifications.  Taking a cue from an Expedition Portal topic, finally set about this project.  I removed the protective grille, cleaned the dust out, and made a condenser baffle, albeit slightly different from the EP guys.  I shaped my sheet metal into an "L" with mounting tabs on both sides, and long enough to reach under the fan.  I placed a short piece of stick-on seal on each side of the condenser bottom, slid the baffle into place(between the foot bolt and fan) so that it butts up against the two seals, and used two screws to mount it to the pre-existing condenser holes. Now, airflow from the fan will no longer escape into the large void beneath the condenser so that it's a bit more efficient.  I then added Reflectix across the entire bottom of the fruit bin and back of the main compartment to reduce heat transfer from the compressor.


         



Solar System

Auxiliary battery:

Power Patrol SLA0190 (50Ah; bought direct through Interstate Batteries)


Fuse panel:

Blue Seas 6-position panel with ground bus, mounted to "wall" in the back of the kitchen cabinet (desired a ground bus for the sole purpose of wanting the ground wires terminating in one place instead of all over the van).  I used 8AWG wire to connect the fuse panel to the auxiliary battery.


Solar panels:

♦ Renogy 100W Portable (folding rigid, monocrystalline)

♦ 120W flexible (bought on sale from solarblvd.com)


These panels are used separately (i.e. it's one or the other), depending on the road trip, or camp spot.  The Renogy rigid panel is stored in the van's roof-top luggage bin; the flexible panel is stored either upstairs on the bed, or under the rear deck cushion.


I wanted a portable system as I prefer to park my van in the shade (it's also garaged).  Additionally, solar panels need to be aimed properly to achieve maximum power output; if permanently mounted to the roof, that would basically require aiming the van in a particular direction, which is not always feasible on my adventures.


Installation:

The Renogy panel came with a programmable 30A PWM charge controller mounted to the panel as well as alligator clamps for the battery connection (along with a 15-foot extension cable).  The charge controller should be mounted near the battery to be most effective (or so I've read).  So, I removed the controller, joined the panel wires together, cut off the giant 50A PowerPole connector at the cable end, installed small 40A PowerPoles onto the cable, and mounted the controller to the kitchen panel behind the driver's seat.  I turned the unused (thanks to a ShurFlo faucet) GoWesty city water hookup into an Anderson PowerPole connection.  Using 10AWG, I ran wires from the hookup box to the controller, and from the controller to the aux battery (fused).


The flexible panel came with 5-foot cables with MC4 connectors and Solar Blvd only sold MC4 extension cables.  This posed a problem.  After an exhaustive search, I finally found another solar company (will post the name once I find my receipt) that could custom-make cables to any length: MC4 on one end, PowerPoles on the other.  Phew!


From the aux battery, power and ground wires were run to the Blue Seas fuse panel inside the kitchen cabinet using 8AWG wires.  The Blue Seas panel distributes fused power to the ARB fridge, the LED lighting in the van, and to the camper equipment.


Wiring diagram

Renogy panel modification


Charge controller: Why PWM over an MPPT?  Because the PWM came with the panels and I have a small auxiliary system that simply doesn't warrant the need for an expensive MPPT.


Review: Highly recommend the Renogy panel; it's well built and works fantastically.