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zugg 07-04-2008 05:56 PM

What is the best performing 12 volt refrigerator?

Does anyone knowof the best performing 12 volt refrigerator on the market today?
I currently use a Norcold and it does a good job.
Are there any models that require very little energy?
What one(s) are quiet?
What one(s) should be avoided?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!




Skywagon 07-04-2008 09:20 PM

Any of the refrigerators work pretty well. If you take the time to carefully insulate and make sure the hot air can escape from around them, they work very well indeed. We had one on our boat that we did all the above to, and reduced the duty cycle by about 75%. It's REALLY worth while to pull it out and spend some time improving it. we used the insulation that looks like two sheets of Mylar with bubble wrap between and carefully insulated the refer box, the floor (deck), the bottom of the counter, and the inside of the hull (van side) or cabinet back. We then made sure the air flow was adequate. It made an EXTREME difference in the time we could spend at anchor (another two days) and made all the difference in our cruising regime.

Skywagon 07-04-2008 09:26 PM

BTW we had a Norcold which, if not the exact one in the SMB, was pretty close. After the insulation trick, you really had to concentrate to hear it.
Also, make sure the case only touches the cabinet where it screws to the van. I also put the bottom of the refer on Neoprene. Absolutely amazing difference!

49ers 07-04-2008 09:34 PM

Hi Zugg,

We haven't used it, yet (take delivery of our SMB on July 7th), but we read about this refrigerator on the Forum and opted for an Isotherm Cruise 130 Marine Refrigerator with Automatic Start Up (4.6 CF, 12/24 Volt).

It's advertised to "withstand violent movement, operate noiselessly, be thoroughly reliable - and perhaps most important of all - consume an absolute minimum of battery power." There are a couple of pictures of the frig posted in our album.

We'll try it out and, hopefully, provide some positive feedback in the next couple of months.


Jammyauto 07-05-2008 10:57 AM

I have the isotherm cruise 130 with asu and I really like it. It is much quieter than the norcold and more efficient. Of coarse it costs twice as much. I'm also running a dual coil isotherm hot water heater. It has an intigrated mixing valve as well. One coil is fed by an espar and the other by the van engine.

charlie56 07-05-2008 12:02 PM

We have the Isotherm Cruise 130 with ASU also. Just do a search for Isotherm on this site and you will find a number of posts on it. It's extremely quiet, has smaller outside dimensions than a Norcold but has a larger inside capacity and has a small but useful freezer compartment. Only when first loading and starting it up on a hot day has it taxed the battery. As Seth mentioned it does come with a hefty price.

Two minor issues that 49ers should note. SMB installed it using the standard fuse block setup. Twice now, it has gone into a low battery alarm (flashing yellow light), which happens when the battery drops below a preset limit. Cycling the on-off switch that comes with the ASU does not clear the alarm. You have to actually pull the fuse to clear the alarm. My advice would be to install a "easy to get to switch" on the 12v conductor. Also when SMB installed the refrigerator, the control unit conductors were not fully plugged in. Driving on a washboard road made them come detached, which shut down the refrigerator for a few days till I was able trace back the problem.

All said, I am extremely satisfied with this refrigerator.

zugg 07-10-2008 12:22 PM


Thank you skywagon, 49ers, Jammyauto and Charlie56.
Your ideas are appreciated!

Charlie56 & 49ers, I may get the Isotherm Cruise 130, but is the ASU really needed?

Jammyauto, were did you get your Isotherm units?
Will the dual coil water heater work with the Blue Heat furnace?
The Blue Heat unit uses a heat exchanger while the engine is on.

Thanks again!



charlie56 07-10-2008 11:18 PM

My Opinion. The ASU is extremely important and worth the extra $$. Without it, the refrigerator functions as a standard 12v unit, and will cycle much more often. With the ASU I only purchased a single 125w PV panel instead of the two I had originally planned. I purchased mine from Cost was $1,426 drop shipped to SMB west. Took 10 days from placing order to delivery in Fresno. I think the factory or at least the assembly plant is in Florida. Go2marine was very easy to work with. :d3:

Angel 08-22-2008 08:00 PM

I just picked up my Isotherm Cruse 85 with ASU, 12 V, 3 CF refrigerator from Aegis Marine in Newport Beach, CA (phone# 949-631-3014) for $1100 + tax + shipping. They have not charged me for shipping from the manufacture and may not. If they do, it will be less than $100.
I will take it to SMBW next week. I want to check on my van anyway.


charlie56 08-22-2008 11:53 PM

Angel, Great buy!

Now that you bought it, here are two recommendations for you.
1. When you get the unit you will see a reddish/orange box near the compressor. It has modular plug-ins for power and the fan. These plugs (at least on mine ) have a way of working themselves loose. On a number of trips the fridge would simply shut down. I traced it back to these connections. Take a pair of pliers and crimp them tighter. I'm considering soldering mine but that red box has some integrated components in it so I am concerned about melting them. The box itself plugs into the fridge using the same type of connectors. (I think they should have used screw down connectors especially since this fridge is designed to be used on boats.) Just make sure all the connectors are as tight as they can be. Otherwise some night on the road you may have to pull the fridge out of the cabinet and jiggle them to get it working again. SMB uses 3-inch long screws to mount the fridge, so carry a battery screw driver in your gear box.

2. The fridge has a sensor that determines how much power is left in your battery. If you read the user manual, it says a yellow flashing light means the battery was too low for the compressor to start, and it will try again once the battery starts charging. I have found that sometimes it gets into this "error mode" and never comes out of it even when the battery is fully charged. Turning off the fridge at the remote ASU control panel will not clear the "error mode". The only way to clear the error is to cut all power going to the fridge. SMB wired mine directly from the fuse block to the fridge, so cutting power meant pulling the fuse. The fuse is in an extremely hard to get location. Last weekend I installed an inline switch to interrupt the power circuit. Its in an easy to reach position. I would strongly recommend that you have SMB install an inline switch.

Hope this helps

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