The following was transferred from a TIPS post.
3/12/00 (10:42 AM)
Not truly a Westy fridge syndrome post, but I thought it might go here as well since it's along the same thoughts.
I was asked by private email about some AC/DC fridge wiring & operations. That exchange resulted in some fridge ideas some might find interesting. Below is a copy of my last email to the writer.
>>>If you go to the Westy site under either TIPS or FRIDGE sections, there is a thread on Westy "Fridge Syndrome". Although it was meant to apply to the 3-way fridges with LP, some of the info is applicable to the AC/DC modes and thus yours.
Primarily, the AC/DC requires the long 24-48 hours cool-down just like the 3-way. You should, after 12-24 hours, be able to detect a noticeable temperature difference from the grill behind, where the heating unit vents. Not like a hair-dryer or anything, but several degree warmer than ambient. Try a good shop-type thermometer if in doubt.
Also, do cool-down and operate your fridge every month or two during the off-season. They seem to get sluggish when left idle for long periods.
The AC/DC fridge works on the same principles as the 3-way; a sealed coolant (ammonia based) that moves only by heat transfer flow. The differences are what supplies the heat, AC, DC or LP. AC is the most effective, thus why fridges pre-cool best on AC. In your case, the DC cannot provide sufficient power to cool down the fridge. The best of batteries will only give about 4-5 hours at full power. Per the owner's manual, it is meant to HOLD temperatures for a short period. An overnight will pretty much wipe out the auxiliary battery.
In my '79, I used to frequently cut my fridge off for the middle night hours, say MN - 0400. The discharge until dead-dead cycle is tough on conventional batteries, thus the move to deep-cycle & gel-cells posted elsewhere on the site.
P27 campers were equipped with a heavier duty alternator. The battery would recharge quicker and it provided better fridge operations underway. Still, it required a good 3-4 hours continuous drive to bring things back towards full charge and cool. Thus whenever replacing an alternator, be sure you have stayed at or above OE specs.
Another thing to remember from the owner's manual is that the fridge system is only capable of bringing the fridge a certain amount below ambient temperatures, not to any sort of absolute low. Typically, presume no more than 40°F below. Add to this to the fact that it is inside the camper, thus ambient temp, especially parked in sunlight, can get pretty high!
These drawbacks were part of the reason VW went 3-way in the Vanagons. Believe it or not, the idiots in marketing originally planned the Eurovan camper to go back to AC/DC because they had compressor type DC fridges that were slightly more efficient. I was fortunate enough to be one of the ones the US headquarters asked, and in my quiet reserved way, told them they were STUPID! Apparently enough others did as well, and the final version came with AC/DC/LP.
You want a real laugh, they were going to combine the AC/DC fridge with an alcohol stove and do away with LP altogether! Brought to you by the same marketing geniuses that put pale gray velour upholstery and carpet in a camper! And say we don't need diesel or 4WD.
There are number of things that can greatly extend the DC battery life and efficiency. Camping more than overnight without an AC plug-in is pretty near impossible. [Not applicable to AC/DC/LP models] I have carried a small generator, but be advised that's a good way to find sugar in your tank or tires slashed if you run one in a campground with others around. It was no sweat on trips into the Yukon & NWT where we were camped alone in remote areas. See the extended rear bumper picture I posted on my Pic Site under Accessories. The right side gas can could be quickly changed to a generator mount for a small 1,000w model.
Now they do make some ultra-quiets (<56 db) and some smaller units in the 650w range that would still be adequate. But anything >58 db is likely to get your run out of a campground.
Besides pre-cooling the fridge, also pre-cool and even freeze foods whenever possible. The chest style of a '75 was far more efficient than uprights in a Vanagon, but still avoid using the fridge for drinks, condiments and other frequent access items when possible. Many condiments are often available in non-refrigerated packets like the fast food joints from places like Sam's, though usually in such huge quantities it takes a group purchase. Sweet-talk your connections at restaurants or schools to see if you can buy some from them. Some, like mustard, ketchup & BBQ sauce, do fine without refrigeration if bought in small containers and kept out of the heat and light.
If you put frozen meats in there, you can get an extra day or two. Frozen sausage instead of fresh, frozen eggbeaters to reduce fresh egg quantities, pre-freeze hot dogs & hamburger patties. You can freeze grated cheese (sliced, too, but it gets crumbly).
Oddly enough, the fridge works better full, though not at the expense of putting in hot foods to refill it. One of the few times I might recommend drinks in the fridge is to keep it reasonably full. I do keep a couple of the long-life box milks in there and you can freeze most box drinks & juices. You can freeze milk (did it for years on the ships) but it may separate slightly. [2% does better than whole.] I hate the lumps but perfectly harmless and often a real good shaking can get it back together enough.
For drinks, we carry a 5-gallon water cooler. We use it for most drinking & cooking water requirements, reducing tank use, and keep an assortment of drinks in there. 4 brews, 4 soft drinks leave plenty of room for water & ice. Since ice is something you can get almost daily, it's a constantly renewed cold drink source and as it melts, is your water supply. Makes for some COLD hands though when fishing around for a brew, though!
Although we do extensive, full cooked meals when camping -- it's part of our camping experience and pleasure -- switching to some canned items is still better. Homemade stew might be nice, but canned doesn't give you ptomaine. We know some who dry foods & veggies. We despise most of the freeze-dried packages, but have to admit the eggs work pretty good for everything except sunny-side up and in most recipes like our cornbread.
There are some acceptable mixes for pancakes & biscuits that use only water. Long life milk is the only way to go, but we found we have to carry the trip's entire supply as the Â½-pints size isn't widely available on the road. That's something that can be carried in storage and just cycle in a couple at a time. Same with box drinks.
We find we can usually go about 3 days between major restocks of fresh foods. But I also think buying and eating 'off the land' is fun and part of the adventure. Get caribou burger in the NWT; reindeer sausage in AK; codfish tongue in Nfld! We've learned you can't get good canned beef & gravy in Canada (We mix with one of the Lipton flavored rices or noodles pkgs. for a full meal.) but they have a very different flavor of canned meatballs with gravy. Forget their canned sausages, tho'! When you get way into the boonies, those small stores are sometimes very accommodating. Through-out Canada and Alaska we've been amazed how the stores with bakeries will break 12 packs of rolls into an amount we can handle. Same with burgers, steak or chops, etc. But ya gotta carry the entire trip's supply of grits!
Start really looking close at your menus and experiment with cooking. My wife makes a good meal with packaged chipped beef, a white sauce and canned mixed vegetables over an English muffin -- high grade SOS. With the portable Coleman oven, we can bake biscuits, cornbread, and even roast potatoes. We do make French fries as well.
We strive to carry that 3-4 days of fresh meals in the fridge, but also keep a steady supply of heat & serve only. If we arrive late, in bad weather, or must leave early, it's nice to heat up the aforementioned beef, gravy & rice, or in mornings do hot cereal & toast, thus not have to fire up the big Coleman outside. We do NOT do smoky, splattery, greasy cooking inside; that's reserved for the Coleman outside. No sense in screwing up the interior permanently with cooking mess.
Hope this helps.
[This message has been edited by Capt. Mike (edited 06-27-2000).]
Last edited by Capt. Mike; 10-05-2010 at 04:43 PM.
An extension of food shelf life for both fridge and dry goods can be found with the vacuum sealers "as advertised on TV." Yes, I detest those info-mercials and didn't buy one for years because of it. And since they require AC, they probably aren't practical to take with you. But they do work!
Vacuum sealed food lasts considerably longer, both in the fridge and dry. Plus they tend to pack smaller. Thus they are good candidates for at least the intial stock of camping goods.
You can vacuum any frozen item and though it may thaw in the fridge, will usually last many days longer than the original store packaging. I vacuumed a couple of Venison tenderloins that stayed fresh as new in my fridge for over a week. We routinely vacuum our WI cheese and it will not go green for weeks. The difference in freezer life of vacuumed products compared to factory or store packaging is months, not weeks.
Although I caution & repeat the manufacturer's warning that this is NOT a substitute for hermatically sealed cans (you can't seal while the food is still at sanitary temps), it does come pretty close.
Nor can you vacuum liquids. But a very good trick is to freeze the liquids in a shaped container like tupperware, then vacuum seal the frozen product. Nice little blocks that extend fridge live double or triple.
They also allow you to custom size packaging for space and servings. Non-fridge foods and other uses are in the TIPS forum under the "Vacuum packing . . ." topic.
[ 03-19-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]
When you turn the fridge on, the compressor should make noise?
There is no compressor in a Type II AC/DC fridge. You just turn it on to activate the heating coils with the switch on the control board (with timer in center) above the fridge. One switch turns from AC to DC; the other fridge on or off.