Old Blue's Blog - Fridge & Solar

Fridge, Solar, Auxiliary Electrical

Portable Fridge

ARB 50

Installed: October 2014

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: 30 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 (shown below); slide-out rails and tie-down kit (didn't bother with them)

ARB cover

Price: Varies, depending on vendor; average price is around $850 (in 2014). I found a seller on eBay selling a bunch of ARB 50's for $750 + free shipping… couldn't pass that up!


Review: I love this thing! You could not pay me to go back to using ice! Update 2024: Ten years since installation and it's still going strong.

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 Panels & Charge Controller

Renogy suitcase

Product: Renogy 100W portable suitcase panel (folding rigid, monocrystalline)

Comments: Stowed in Westfalia luggage bin. No longer in use.

flex panel

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

Comments: Stowed under rear mattress, above engine. No longer in use.


Product: LuvKnit 100W folding solar panel

Comments: Lightweight, easy to deploy; bought a 25-foot extension to make it truly portable.

charge controller

Product: Renogy Voyager 20A PWM charge controller

Comments: Mounted behind driver's seat onto kitchen cabinet. Why PWM? Small auxiliary system that simply doesn't warrant the need for an expensive MPPT.

hookup box

Product: GoWesty city water hookup box, modified

Comments: City water connection removed; Anderson PowerPole installed to which the solar panel is connected.

From the aux battery, power and ground wires were run to the Blue Sea fuse panel inside the kitchen cabinet using 8AWG wires. The Blue Sea panel distributes fused power to the ARB fridge, the LED lighting in the van, and to the camper equipment (original Westfalia fuses no longer used).

I wanted a portable system as I prefer to park my van in the shade during the warm/hot months (it's also garaged at home). 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.

PDFWiring diagram (not current)

Auxiliary Electrical System


Product: VMAX MR86-50 12V 50AH AGM Deep Cycle auxiliary battery

Comments: Small AGM that fits under the driver's seat without modification.

fuse panel

Product: Blue Sea 12-position fuse panel with ground bus

Comments: 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.


Product: Uniwerks Fridge Vent PowerPod

Comments: With the Dometic fridge removed, the original vent was replaced with a Uniwerks Design product that provides a 12V socket and switched USB sockets. Convenient electronics charging and such. Highly recommend!

fuse panel

Product: Blue Sea USB socket in kitchen (replaces 12V socket installed by a previous owner)

Comments: Additional option for charging electronics. Comes in handy when the two USB sockets in the dash are in use while driving.

fuse panel

Product: Blue Sea USB socket in dash (replaces factory cigarette lighter)

Comments: Majority of electronics today utilize USB. Cigarette lighter was useless and 12V adapters were unreliable and bulky, hence replacing it with USB. Hole in dash had to be enlarged just a bit using a file. (Not part of the auxiliary system, but thought I'd list it here.)

Updated: 1-Feb-2024