CAMPING PRODUCT REVIEWS

REFRIGERATION

 

Camping Product Reviews - Refrigeration

 

 

 

 

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REFRIGERATION

 

35 Litre Engel
35 Litre Engel

 

Price: $1139
From: Ray's Outdoor Rockingham.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: *****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Very good.

 

We needed to get a smaller fridge/freezer to fit into our Coaster and after having our 60 litre Engel for many years we eventually decided to stay with that brand.

The Engel's are still much better constructed than other brands and the motor uses about half the power of anything else on the market. (3-3.5 amps instead of 7-8).

There are some nice additions to the Engel fridge including a temperature LED read out and the ability to set a specific temperature. Another nice addition is an internal light.

The nice thing about the Engel design is that the quoted size is the real size you get. With many other brands, part of the space can never be used as a freezer as it sits over the motor section of the fridge.

 

Engel 80 ltr upright
Engel 80 ltr upright

 

Price: $1059
From: Caravan parts suppliers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: *
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: **
Product quality: What quality? Apart from the motor there is NONE!
WARNING! If you intend to drive over rough roads with one of these fridges on board REPLACE the top bolt (holding the fridge door) as it is FAR TOO SHORT and the door will come off the fridge if you don't!
Our recommendation: Not recommended

 

As with all 12 volt fridges this is vastly over priced. Somewhere there must be someone making millions of dollars out of this rip-off and so far no-one has done anything about bringing prices down. When you consider that a similar sized 240v only fridge costs around $200, I simply do not believe that a 12/240v fridge costs 5 times as much to produce.

This fridge, like the MT60F below, automatically swaps from 12v to 240v when it is available but it looks like this one has a much higher power draw as it seems to take 3.8 - 4.2amps consistently.

When you look at the freezer door you think, 'Great, a full width freezer' only to be disappointed when you open the freezer door and find the temperature control takes up about a quarter of the area that should have been freezer space.

The big 'pain in the bum' with this fridge is that some dill has made a fridge door that WILL NOT take either a 3 litre or 2 litre milk bottle. In the picture above you can clearly see the indents in the door intended to hold bottles, this is a good idea but should only have been done for half the width. The other half should have been made to accommodate a milk container and Engel SHOULD FIX THIS in this range of fridges. While it is possible to put a milk bottle in one of the inner shelves by flipping up a section of wire shelf, it is awkward and means pulling just about everything else out to do it.

Engel has spoiled its good design reputation by not thinking too hard about this model. The wire shelves have a cheap and nasty feel and are too flexible. The door catch is simple and would be effective if the door was hung correctly.

The height of the fridge door shelves is quite good. The fridge comes with two small ice trays but the length and gauge of 12v wire (hidden in a box at the back) leaves a lot to be desired. There should be a pre-drilled hole for the 12v connection with a rubber insert to protect the very thin wire. The insulation and the black plastic stuck to it around the sides and back looks awful. Yes I know this goes inside a cupboard and isn't seen after it has been installed but surely it could be done in a better way than it has been. Even compared to the Vitrifrigo we used to have (see below) the Engel lacks finish and is somewhat disappointing.

At the time we purchased it, this was the largest upright in the Engel range we were less than impressed that it is only 80 litres. Even our old gas fridge was 90 litres and the Vitrifrigo was 113 litres. People in caravans need every bit of fridge space they can possibly get and Engel needs to develop a range of slightly larger fridges to give people a better choice.

Although we have opted for Engel reliability in purchasing this fridge, we are not very happy with many of its features. If Engel wants to continue to be the leader in 12/24v fridge technology it needs to lift its game when it comes to upright fridges.

After only using this fridge for a short time we were VERY disappointed with it. The motor is excessively noisy and there are rattles in the metal frame work that can only be cured by pushing bits of cardboard between them. The freezer door rattles constantly and nothing we have done seems to keep it quiet for long.

It uses far more power than is claimed by the brochure, which claims the fridge runs at 0.5 - 3.3 amps. The PL20 shows a draw of 3.8-4.2 amps which is exactly what you would expect from a fridge drawing 48 watts at 12 volts. What is the point of blatantly lying about the current draw? A more realistic rating system needs to be developed for assessing the power use of these type of fridges. An average daily consumption in amp hours at 20 / 25 / 30 and 35C would be much more useful.

The fridge is currently exceeding 44 amp hours a day on a setting of 3 with daily temperatures of less than 30C.

To add insult to injury the door fell off after driving down a corrugated road and dumped the contents of the fridge on the floor we sent a written complaint to Engel but apart from getting a dealer to 'look' at it nothing effective was done. If this fridge is typical of the quality of Engel uprights, then we suggest that caravaners and motorhomers look elsewhere and do not consider an Engel upright until they fix all the problems associated with this model. Compared to the top opening Engel, this upright is a downright disgrace and Engel should be ashamed of producing something this poor.

 

Engel upright fridge door falls off

 

After taking the fridge to the local repairer we were told that the problem with the door had been sorted out. Turns ouit it wasn't and the door fell off again, this time after driving on normal bitumen roads.

The excessive noise and vibrations from the cabinet remain unresolved. The construction of this fridge is so poor, it is my opinion that the vibrations will never be sorted out. The conclusion is simple: DO NOT BUY ENGEL UPRIGHT FRIDGES!

There really is nothing more I can say about this fridge, except that if you buy one you will regret it. Our letter to Engel has been ignored so we will be making our complaints about this fridge known to as many people as we can.

It came as no surprise at all that the bloody door fell off yet again on a trip to Perth. Eventually I re-engineered the door hinge myself and since then we had no problems. If I can fix it, why couldn't Engel?

To stop the noises coming from this fridge we finally got to the point where we would freeze a big bottle of water and then turn the fridge off at night to get some sleep.

 

Two Zone Engel MT60F extension
Two Zone Engel MT60F extension

 

Price: $400
From: Retra-Vision / Taylor Marine etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: **
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: *****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy but too expensive in our opinion

 

You can turn your Engel 60 litre fridge freezer into a 100 litre fridge freezer with this somewhat pricey extension. It is hard to see why it costs $400+ when it is basically a cool box with no top or bottom. I guess the rationale is that if you have enough money to buy an Engel then the makers of the Two Zone figure you have too much and are happy to separate you from even more. The existing Engel fridge lid unclips, the extension box replaces the lid and then the lid goes on top of the extension. You can use it as all fridge or as a 60 litre freezer at the bottom with 40 litres of fridge space on top.

The extension comes with 2 baskets and the freezer can be accessed by simply opening the bottom catches (see picture above). Some sort of leg to hold the top section up while you get at the area underneath would have been a nice addition.

If you intend to use one of these you need lots of room. We found it was too big to keep in the back of the Cruiser so it had to come out and be set up in the caravan annexe.

We used this for quite a while, even at home as it gives us an extra freezer to put specials in whenever we find them. No complaints about the performance at all as the Engel seems to cope quite happily with cooling the extra space.

 

60ltr Engel MT60F 12 / 24 /240 volt fridge / freezer
60ltr Engel MT60F 12 / 24 /240 volt fridge / freezer

 

Price: $1599+
From: Retra-Vision
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: **
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: *****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Highly recommended

 

There is little doubt that this is the standard of 12 volt fridge to which all others aspire. Simple design features like a lid that leans back slightly so it doesn't keep falling down on you when you open it, catches that release easily and are very secure when closed, a PROPER temperature control (see insert) and self-starting when the power goes off and on.

With this model there is no fibbing about the space actually available. Far too many fridges we have seen claim to be a certain size but use space above the compressor or up in the lid as part of the size quoted. With the MT60f what you see is what you get, 60 litres of real fridge / freezer space.

Power options are 12 / 24 volt DC from batteries or 240v AC. Unlike many cheaper fridges the 240v is built in and the fridge will switch automatically from 12/24 to 240v when it is available.

Our biggest complaint about the Engel is the price. $1599 for a 60 litre fridge is a hell of a lot of money. Even if it is the best on the market a price closer to $1000 would be much more realistic.

A good option to purchase for this fridge is the cover that not only insulates it more but protects it from damage while in the back of the car or trailer. Covers are $150. Another option is an add on section which sits on top and increases the useable space (see above).

The Engel is now over 10 years old and it has performed flawlessly with only one minor hiccup. After working faultlessly for years the Engel suddenly couldn't keep the temperature down and apparently stopped working. I had a quick look round on the internet and found that some people were suggesting that if this should happen to empty the fridge, turn it off and turn it UPSIDE DOWN over night.

I didn't really have any faith that this would work but with nothing to lose I gave it a go and guess what? IT WORKED! That was two years ago now and it has been working fine ever since.

The main problem with a 60 litre Engel is you need a big caravan or motorhome to have somewhere to put it. In our little van is sat in the middle of the floor and got in the way a bit but this is only a problem when we are moving around a lot. In the end we got a bigger van and the problem went away.

One strange thing that I can't explain is why the unit sometimes uses as little as 2.5 amps and other times it will use up to 4.5 amps. If anyone can give me an explanation I would be most grateful.

It is now early 2017 (it was bought in May 2005) and this fridge still plods along in the back of the Prado. It is still fairly quiet and it does what it is designed to do. I guess I can now regard the horrendous initial purchase price as worth while.

 

3 Way or Gas Fridge
Dometic 3 Way or Gas Fridge

 

Price: $1500+
From: 12 Volt Shop etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: **
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Old models - not recommended, new models - much better.

 

We have been through more gas fridges over the years than we care to think about. They are sometimes referred to as '3 way fridges' because they will run on 240 volt, 12 volt and gas. They are only meant to run on 12 volt when they are wired through to your car and should only really be run when the engine in the car is running.

They do work on 240 volt but the main way they are used out in the bush is with gas.

There are two distinct generations of these fridges. The earlier models are worse then useless when the temperature creeps up into the mid-30s, but the new models cope much better with the higher temperatures.

On gas they are fairly expensive to run and you can expect to change a 9kg cylinder every 10-14 days.

The older models also had an awkward method of determining if the pilot light was on. There was a plastic rod that reflected the light from the flame through to the front of the unit and it was usually located next to the floor. These were difficult to see except at night. They have now been replaced with what Dometic call a 'flame indicator'. This is simply a small analogue meter that uses a small needle to show you when the flame is lit. It is a much better way of doing things BUT they can fail and when they do you are up for almost $100 to get a new one.

Even though the new gas fridges are much better than the old models, we still prefer a 12 volt fridge as once everything has been set up to run on solar, it costs no more to run./

 

12/24 volt 113ltr Fridge Freezer (Vitrifrigo) front opening
12/24 volt 113ltr Fridge Freezer (Vitrifrigo) front opening

 

Price: $1072+
From: CAMEC and caravan Dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ****
How well designed is it: **
Product quality: ***
Our recommendation: Not recommended

 

A fridge using the Danfoss 35f compressor. The internal freezer door opens upwards and has no catch (a nuisance). The temperature control is by the side of the freezer which reduces freezer space. (There is a model with a full width freezer.) At least this fridge has a sensible temperature control that allows the unit to come back on automatically when power returns after an outage.

This model has a built in compressor (which reduces available space in the fridge) but there is a model with an external compressor if you have room to fit one. There is NO crisper draw (optional extra) which sucks! In general terms it is quite a good unit drawing around 4.5Amps.

The door catch is hopeless and has to be replaced. Theoretically the door can be hinged at either side but in practice the screws are almost impossible to remove.

We also had a chest style Vitrifrigo that was a piece of pure crap. Although it wasn't cheap to buy, it was a cheap and nasty construction. All plastic case including the hinges. A top that fell on you every time you opened it and it died not long out of warranty.

Junk, junk, junk, that is all I can say about it.

 

WAECO 12 volt upright fridge
WAECO 12 volt upright fridge 108 litre

 

Price: $1300+
From: Caravan dealers etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: **
Our recommendation: Poor.

 

The design of the shelves on the door is, to put it bluntly, stupid. There is far too much room on the bottom shelf and too little room on the 'middle' shelf and no way to adjust it. This creates a complete waste of space and a useless middle shelf. The main shelves in the fridge are, however, very adjustable.

On the positive side there are two vegetable crisper draws. Why other fridges don't come with these really astounds me. They are nothing more than a couple of cheap bits of extruded plastic. Why so many expensive fridges don't have this simple accessory included just beggars belief!

The door catch seems to be effective and there is a lock-open setting for the times the fridge is turned off.

The freezer is actually full width and there is even an internal light in this model which we find very handy.

We have been using this fridge for a while now and to be honest I would rather have the bloody noisy Engel upright back.

This one has intermittent problems, the fan for the fridge seems to have given up and it is generally unreliable.

It has some sort of compressor error where a red light comes on and you have to turn the fridge off/on to reset it. Trouble is, apart from the tiny little red light - which is hard to notice - there is no other indication something is wrong until you notice the beer isn't cold enough.

As horrible as the Engel upright was in many respects, it stayed cold and the cooling side of it never stuffed us around.

 

 

 

 

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