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Old 10-14-2017, 10:36 AM   #1
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Isotherm vs Norcold 4cf fridge

Hi everyone, we are trying to finalize the details of our build, and need some help on selecting a fridge. We want a bigger (~4cf) fridge, and are trying to decide between the larger Norcold offered by SMB (I think they call it a 4E, ~3.6cf) and an Isotherm Cruise Elegance 130 at ~4.6 cf. We are leaning towards the Isotherm because of its larger size and longer compressor warranty. Also, it seems the Norcold has a larger freezer space and less fridge space, where we would want the opposite.

Which would you suggest, and why?
Does anyone have any experience with the Isotherm Smart Energy Control add-on which is supposed to reduce energy use?
Any other suggestions for similar sized fridges?

Thanks for your help!

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Old 10-14-2017, 11:59 AM   #2
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I've found the Norcold 3.6 has plenty of room but more would be better. Some claim to bring ice cream along but with mine, the setting to keep an ice cream bar frozen has a tendency to lightly freeze foods in the back of the lower section when set that cold. I do use the freezer to store a small bag of ice which is great for a night of two of cocktails. Generally steaks and the like stay lightly frozen. I used to use a small refrigerator fan to help distribute the air inside but got tired of messin with it. The Norcold pulls a hefty +/-5 amps while running, much more than their older units but run times are lower due to the upgraded compressor. It also seems to reach operating temp twice as fast as the older models from the off setting. The fridge makes a strange swishing noise from time to time when it cycles. I'd suggest listening to one before you decide.

I saw a build at SMBW where the owner installed two smaller Norcold's on top of each other. Kind of a slick energy on short trips if you only need to run one, you can set one to very cold and the other a setting for veggies and what not, & if one isn't in use during a short trip, it can be used for storage. Best is you would have a backup if one failed for any reason. On the bad side two running at once may have a higher overall draw and make twice the noise. It was interesting anyway. I'm considering a small chest freezer as a compliment to my Norcold.

There are a couple good threads on Isotherm's. Here is one:

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Old 10-14-2017, 12:14 PM   #3
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The Isotherm is the same as a Truckfridge T130 and is a rebranded Vitrifrigo. It is a phenomenal unit with a Secop/Danfoss compresor and lots of room. I have moved over to a chest type Truckfridge (a rebranded IndelB) but if I were putting one in a cabinet I would most definitely get the Truckfridge/Isotherm/Vitrifrigo or whatever badge it has on it. The Truckfridge branded one is much less expensive than the others at $699. Ask for $100 off and they'll usually give it to you, which more than covers your shipping.

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Old 10-14-2017, 02:21 PM   #4
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We went with the TF130 for our fridge. We also added a used National Luna 50 chest for our freezer. This combo has worked out very well, especially on longer trips. With the 300w solar panel, we leave these running nearly ALL the time as a backup to our home fridge.

For camping - the TF130 with its vertical door, lower veggie drawer, shelves,and on-door storage works very conveniently. BUT, and it is significant for us, the freezer does hold much. I have covered ice trays (very nice!) that take up half of the freezer space, but I have cubes for drinks 😊.

So, the NL50 does the heavy lifting for freezing. We set it to 0F, and it keeps everything frozen solid except really creamy ice cream which is just a bit soft. I suppose so could drop the temp to -6 but normally we do not have ice cream. The rational behind the chest fridge/freezer was we normally would hall a cooler along, so if we do not need the NL50 freezer on, it just becomes another storage space.

I have recently seen the SnoMaster chest fridge/freezer and was very impressed! I would gladly purchase another Truck Fridge product as well as a National Luna, but the NL new price would send towards the Smadter st 1/3rd the price.

You may be very surprised at how much you might miss a larger freezer on the road.
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Old 10-14-2017, 05:53 PM   #5
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I know some of the Isotherm units (& Truckfridge?) have an ASU unit which you can freeze while on shore power, and/or solar power, and therefore reduces the power draw when there's no other power source available.

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Old 10-16-2017, 02:02 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone.

I had looked into the Truckfridge when we first started our van design, but had kinda forgotten about them.

Isotherm has discontinued the ASU, and has no backstock of the 130 ASUs. Darn.

We may ultimately wish for a larger freezer than we think now, but we won't know until we are actually using the van. We don't envision long trips without access to supplies, so the freezer seems less important than fridge space to us.

Now I have to decide between the Truckfridge and the Isotherm. Seems the fit & finish of the Isotherms might be a little better, but you definitely pay a premium for it!
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:54 PM   #7
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Me... I like ice in my hydration pack when mountain biking so I would like to have a better freezer compartment. Stock Norcold 3 and it will freeze the water in the trays overnight for the most part. Just thought I would throw that out there and get my post count up.
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Old 10-17-2017, 08:32 AM   #8
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I have noticed the Dometic fridges never seem to be in the conversation w the SMB crowd. Does anyone have any experience w these?
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Old 10-17-2017, 09:33 AM   #9
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I replaced our 4 CF Norcold with a 4.6 CF Isotherm 130 Cruise with the ASU unit eight years ago and we love it! For those not familiar with the ASU feature, the refrigerator freezes a gel pack during the day when the house battery is being charged. At night, the ASU monitors the house battery voltage so that it will not get below 12.2 volts...when the house battery gets close to 12.2 volts, it turns off the compressor and the cold pack keeps things cool. We even make ice cubes over night! We have never had problems with items in main compartment freezing or get too cold.

I described my refrigerator replacement in this post:

If you decide on the Isotherm unit, talk to SMB about how they attach the ASU module to the unit. Back when I switched to an Isotherm, they used zip ties which won't do well on rough roads.

Another interesting thing about the Isotherm is that is doesn't have nor need an adjustable thermostat. When we had our original Norcold, we were constantly monitoring the temperature inside the unit and adjusting the thermostat...up during the day and down at night. We still monitor the inside temperature but that is out of habit. Everything that goes into the refrigerator at home is precooled and we turn the unit on several hours before we plan to load it. We like to load it quickly after dark when the outside air temperatures are down.

It is a great unit!
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Old 10-17-2017, 03:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by dirtanddogfur View Post
I have noticed the Dometic fridges never seem to be in the conversation w the SMB crowd. Does anyone have any experience w these?

I bought a dometic fridge cooler, chest type, and it rocks!! It's the combi and the kids have ice cream on demand. Very quiet and sucks about 3.5 amps.

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