Fridge AND Freezer in a Minivan? Am I insane?

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Lance22

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Ok, so I have an Alpicool G22 Portable fridge 23 Q for almost 3 years now running non-stop in my minivan hooked up to 200 watts of solar. ( I live in the southwest, plenty of sun or cold during winter so never an issue with not enough power)

I'm thinking of going back to FT minivan life but want more food capacity to stay healthy. I want to change my current 23Qt. fridge into my freezer to store cooked frozen meats and frozen veggies. Then I want to add a bigger fridge.

Maybe something like the Alpicool CF55 Portable Freezer, 58Qt. I'm typically in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona so really hot summers. I try to park in the shade, but if it's over 95 degrees I put up the window coverings while I'm away from the minivan. I do plop the window coverings on the fridge to block out the sun but beyond that no added protection.

With it switching to a freezer I'd sure try to protect and insulate it more likely keep window coverings on all the side and back windows (not the passager window of course) Plus I'd likely replace it with another G22 23Qt. if and when it finally burns out. My charge controller can handel another 100 watt pannel but my roof rails on my 06 Honda Ody are to tiny. I think I have to mount a frame then mount 3-4 100 watt pannels onto that.

I have never really had issues with not enough power, even on the most cloudy of days I'm typically back up to full well before 12-noon. and power drop typically is only down into the 80% but I only have a 200AH AGM battery. (its one box but I suspect there are 2 100ah batteries inside.)

I always kinda wanted to put a roof vent in my minivan as well but with more solar I think my space is going to be mostly blocked with panels now. Although... maybe a ven UNDER the pannels might be still worth doing to vent the van for those hot days and run a fan during the day to help keep it cooler for the fridge and freezer to not to work as hard?

Am I living a fantasy with this idea? Maybe I need to replace my two 100 watt pannels that get more watts per inch?

I also would like to cook my daily meals in a rice cooker, typically it's frozen already cooked meats, and frozen veggies. However I havn't researched the best cookers (warmers) I tried the hot-logic which took forever! and the road pro which didn't run on my existing 12v outlet. Likely might have to stick with butane or the green propane bottles. ..point being I don't want to use 80-100% of my power capacity as I want plenty left over to do other things if I can.

Is this kinda crazy to have a 23Qt. freezer AND a 55Qt. fridge inside one minivan that has a few solar pannels on the roof? like 400watts of solar or maybe 500-550 if I get new better sized pannels ( I don't think I could fit more than 2 more 100 watt pannels on there before being to bizarre looking with overhanging pannels or something..

OH. I would consider a 100watt flexable pannel and ducktaping that into a window as a "window covering" likely would be inside a tinted window in the back so the output wouldn't be that great but I think might be a great little boost ie the back window so I could face the rear end towards the morning sun to help get a earlier boost to help the batteries get more juice when they are their lowest before when the sun is at the peak of the day and getting the REAL juice.

I do want to do some tests on the 23Q and run it as a freezer to see how much my before dawn battery % changes. However I don't have to much ability to test given I use the fridge daily so any help or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

 
You can put anything that will fit into your minivan, and no one here will even say "boo". It's your van.

All you need to do is add up the electrical demand of the items you want to use (this info will be found on the product specs), make sure you have the battery capacity to support that use, and determine what kind of charging system(s) you need to keep your battery charged.

Why look, there's even a sticky in this very forum that is full of advice on this very topic - https://vanlivingforum.com/threads/how-much-solar-do-i-need.13431/
 
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As long as you can fit in the equipment and power it such decisions are up to you. Your space decisions are based on your personal priorities. Start by measuring your available space and included your electrical power measurements for fitting in batteries and panels.
 
That's a lot of ideas/questions all at once.

But let me ask first, if you go to the mini van FT.....how much are you going to be in camp and how much will you be on the road ? I would suggest you try to give that thought first. Why ? If you will be in camp most of the time you'll likely need the extra power and fridge/freezer capacity.

If you will be traveling and only stopping long enough to get some sleep before moving on you will likely be driving by any number of grocery stores where you could stop and buy "just enough" to continue on.

I learned this lesson myself at home when I bought a huge side by side fridge freezer and was driving by grocery stores each day on way to work etc. I had originally purchased in quantity and stuff sit in the freezer until it got freezer burn and I had to throw it out or the stuff in the fridge became unusable cause I didn't use it soon enough. A regular refrigerator with freezer on top would have done the job and I could have purchased food once or twice a week.

It sounds like you're planning on purchasing frozen foods entrees & bags of frozen veggies at the store. Is this right ?

I think ventilation is a must if you are running compressors inside the rig all of the time. But it doesn't necessarily require a "hole in the roof". If you have tilt out rear door windows and make screens for them and then make screens for your front windows (rolled down about six inches you could vent plenty of air thru the rig.

Some of the marine supply outfits sell refrigeration/freezer compressor kits you could install in a foam board chest fridge/freezer. Boaters often put a partition in the chest with small holes near the top of the freezer so that it will drain cold air into the refrigeration chamber to keep it around 35/40 degrees F and the freezer compartment at 30 to 32 f. Thus may require a purpose built 3/8" ply wood chest and 3" high density foam board to line it with.

Again, if you will be in camp most of the time....more power and storage space. Traveling will require less. (this is where I mention the 2-2-2 System of traveling)

2 2 2 System of Travel

And it should be mentioned that you could buy "Dry Ice" to refrigerate with as well. (no water to contend with from ice, no power/compressor demands....solar array either. It isn't cheap but for what all the support equipment would cost you could buy a lot of dry ice). The ventilation demands may not be so great either. There are super insulated plastic ice chest like the "YETI" that you could make a dense foam board partition so cold air could vent into the refrigeration compartment via gravity.

For my rig I made these window vents from rain gutter guard material from Lowe's. Comes in brown or white 24" strips. I'm also considering buying side window rain guards for the front doors to work with these screen vents.
.
Rain Gutter Guard WS 2.jpg

But these are some thoughts I'd offer you.

.........and just to add:

How to build a fridge with dry ice

How to build a freezer with dry ice
 
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You can do it for sure. I would test it a few days and see how much power is consuming as a fridge, on average. Then add in a bigger for when temperatures are higher.

Then test it as a freezer for a few days, doing the same measurements.

They would give you a baseline of what using two of that exact unit would use energy wise in fridge and freezer modes.

See if that fits into your battery usage and adjust your plans accordingly. Especially if using a larger fridge.
 
Running 2 fridges in hot weather will produce even more heat in your van. I measured the heat coming out of the fridge compressor at over 115F, the freezers compressor will be running more, almost constantly.
On my van I have one fridge and I had to vent the compressor to the outside with 4" inch flexible hose. That helps alot in hot weather areas. Without a way to expel the heat of the fridge I would have got rid of the fridge, it was heating my van too much and I live in a cool climate.

Picture of my roof vent, the one on the left feeds the swampcooler, the one on the right is from the fridge compressor exhaust. I later moved the compressor exhaust to a hole on the side of the van. On the roof the hot air of the compressor was getting sucked into the swampcooler.

a roof vents.jpg
 
Some untried musings:

I've always wondered why home refrigerators aren't located on an outside wall so that the coils can be exposed to outside air instead of "conditioned" (heated or cooled) inside air. In summer they would dump the excess heat outside instead of fighting the air conditioning, and in winter they would become super efficient since a simple heat exchange could do most of the cooling, often not even needing the compressor to run.

Not so easy to implement in a van, but if your fridge is fixed in place (not portable or pull-out), you could build an insulated plenum (box) around the coil intake/outtakes. The plenum would draw and exhaust outside air through the floor. This is really just a refinement of the venting system jonyjoe303 describes.

In very cold weather an expert may need to adjust how the fridge thermostat works - sometimes unmodified outdoor fridges won't run in freezing weather
 
You're not crazy at all. I have been running an Iceco VL60 fridge/freezer in my Sienna minivan for almost two years. I also have only 200 watts of solar which is okay when there's lots of sun. We didn't have much sun this last winter but fortunately my Ecoflow Delta 1300 (I have two of those) can be recharged in only 90 minutes with 110v. If you buy a "solar generator" then be sure to get one that charges quickly because many require about 8 hours. 90 minutes, okay, but can't hang out in a Starbucks charging for 8 hours!
 
..... I've always wondered why home refrigerators aren't located on an outside wall so that the coils can be exposed to outside air instead of "conditioned" (heated or cooled) inside air .....
Aside from the logistics of isolating the heat exchanger residential refrigerators are made to run most efficiently in temperatures between 60ºF and 90ºF. At temperatures outside of these the refrigerator gets less efficient (uses more electricity).
Above 90º:
The compressor must work harder to get rid of the waste heat, which makes it run hotter.​
The compressor lubricating oil gets thinner, lubricating less, which makes the compressor run hotter. At ~ 150ºF the lubrication starts to break down.​
Below 60º:
The refrigerant gets thicker making the compressor work harder.​
The lubricating oil gets thicker, making the compressor harder to rotate.​
Running a refrigerator at below 32ºF can damage it.​
It's a compromise between efficiency and cost. And like most specifications once in common use it is almost impossible to change.

Air conditioners and commercial refrigerators are designed differently to handle heat and/or cold.
There are split refrigeration systems where you put the heat exchanger elsewhere but now you are talking about a custom built in system.
 
Ok, an update and to answer a few questions.

I was doing some calculations on new solar pannels. I'm thinking of upgrading to 3 175Watt Renogy solar pannels. Granted my 2 100Watt panels are not that old, however the 175 watt pannles seem to be much more efficent per inch of space. That means I will be able to have a max generation power of 525 watts instead of just 400 watts as I was thinking I would.

Plus I still am interested in being able to hand a 100 or less watt flex panel into the back window, granted there IS tint but maybe if I removed that getting some setting sun solar might help juice up my batteries right before sunset. Maybe it's a dumb idea, but still curious about it..

According to specs my current fridge the Alpicool 23Q. (22L) fridge uses 45watts and the fridge I am looking to get the Alpicool T50 53Qt. (50L.) also is rated at 45 Watts. This October will mark 3 years of having my 23Q. fridge running non-stop inside my van in the southwest. Temps up to the high 90's in summer and low 20's during the winter. YES, it's been highly abused. (I do want to open it up and clean out the compressor to try to help it "breath" better but beyond that no significant manatance I can do)

I have an odyessey so the windows do not push out in the back. I have the front windows cracked always because I have rain guards, the 2nd row windows blue off so they don't have the rain guards anymore so those windows now remain shut. I am VERY interested in getting new rain guards so those windows can remain cracked.

I also would love to get two roof vents installed, one towards the front and one towards the rear. they would be completely covered by the solar pannels however the pannels would be mounted to pole on both sides and THEN those poles would be mounted to the roof rails, mainly because the odyessey roof rails are so short. This would result in a bit more height between the van roof and pannels so I think this would allow for decent airflow.

Which would be why I'd want two vs one given much poorer airflow. Yet, better shelter from the rain so the vent could be perhaps completely open or more open? Also the rear bucket seat area has two drain holes which I would pull out both plugs and just glue a screen on them to keep mice out (hopefully?) but that helps improve bringing in cooler air from a lower level.

MUCH of my time for the first few years will be in town. Right now I work a typical 40 hour week. Going to be changing from overnight to dayside that way I can be at work during the heat of the day and sleeping at night when it's the coolest.

The foods that I intend to be storing are as followed:

Frozen:
frozen veggies broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, mixed peppers (frozen peppers and onions) kale, spinach
frozen fruit: strawberries, blueberries, berries
frozen meats (likely 100% cooked to reduce cooking energy) frozen meatballs are my goto beef replacement and will be switching from cooking my own chicken to buying the pre-cooked frozen chicken breasts diced meat
Also Ice and maybe a few frozen OJ concentrates ( I want to figure out a system where I can take a frozen cube out and add it to a glass and have a glass of OJ at my convenience)
Also the frozen Totino's pizza are a guilty pleasure I'd love to keep on hand as well. Although When I was living in the minivan I would usually get one or two from the dollar store and then put one in the fridge for tommarrow and one on the dash and let the sun melt it and heat it up and then a few hours later I would have pizza! :ROFLMAO: Not the best tasting but they are pre-cooked just fine and usually I could wait long enough to when they were mostly thawed out.


Fridge:

Veggies mixed greens I like the big shoe boxed size boxes of the mixed greens and I try to eat one of those a week. In the past I have moved them to plastic bags and squeezed out the air to save space, just time consuming task I would rather avoid if I could.

Almond milk typically 2 1/2 gallon jugs I use mainly for my coffee and time to time for cereal. (rice crispy is USUALLY just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth)

Eggs, I also like to precook my lunches (broccoli, rice, chicken or meatballs) and have them in the fridge for a few days ahead of time. typically 3-4 days I will prep my lunch meals so that's meal prepping my lunches for work 1-2 times a week. depending on if Im working 4 or 5 days that week. (when I worked 5 days then I would have a 6th day meal then one day I had a splurge day meal)

I also typically always have a deli potato salad that I use as a topping sause for my meal preps. gave it a little more flavor and taste.


Typically when I meal prep I steam broccoli, boil chicken, and then cook the rice in the rice cooker.

However I have done days where I put a bag of frozen broccoli, raw rice, water, and frozen meatballs or frozen chicken (both precooked) and used the rice cooker to cook them up.

I want to be able to get a rice cooker into the mix. however I don't know how realistic that is..

I have a hot logic and a roadpro. The hot logic took four hours to cook my eggs and frozen peppers and meatballs.. Plus the size of the unit seems to small for my meals. (im more of a 2 big meals kinda guy and a few smaller snack meals) the Roadpro didn't power on with my current system I did try getting a bigger inverter but still no luck.

I still have to try more tests but I really want to try to fit this all together into my minivan so then I can start saving 800-1000 on rent each month. Last time I did it for a few months I ended up spending all my money on fast food. Yuck! I felt like crap and the only thing that got slim was my wallet!

Living out at the LTVA I felt comfortable cooking in the back of my minivan, but in the city where im working a typical job I just want to throw crap into a pan and set it and forget it. Like in a Roadpro. If I have 525 watts and my fridge and freezer I think I might be within reason of being able to do it.. I think I will keep my batteries the same with the AGM 200AH battery box. I don't have much more room to expand. If my system was at critical I think maybe I could upgrade to 200AH lithium. Yet, I'm hesitant about that..

As for airflow the space for my fridge gets air from under the bed which I try to keep it airy. My freezer space will then in the back above the bucket seat well. I have a metal shelf there and it would be sitting on the bottom shelf so it would be quite airy as well. I do plan on leaving in my reflectics in the back and two side back windows full time. I even think I want to eventually leave the two side 2nd row reflects in so the sun does not hit the fridge or freezer at all. My reflects have dark color fabric covering up the shiny bubbles and that worked just fine for me at the LTVA during the warm spring and fall parts.

I'm sure im rambling on by now, but I just want to figure this all out completely before I get back to living in my minivan full time. With student loan restarting and getting burned out of my manager job I gotta find a way to live VERY COMFORTABLE in my minivan.

Right now im in Oklahoma, but I think eventually I want to live here or another nearby area for 8-10months and then take the summers off from work and then head up north for the summer. Likely even getting a PT. or FT. job up there!

I'm planning on building up dividend income wealth from my rent savings so I can have some monthly income that should help offset my winter costs. This is NOT easy (for me at least) to figure out. But eventually, I think I will have a whole packaged plan and strategy to live a comfortable life that I can share with others so they do can copy me and make adjustments that fit their needs better.

I plan on spending most of my time working at a retail job, then inside a gym working out, then inside a mall sipping bubble tea and surfing videos and then back to the gym for a shower, then back to the van to eat my meal that been cooking in the roadpro or rice-cooker than off to bed at a midwest overnight friendly retail store, then wake up and start a brand new day!

I enjoyed my time at the LTVA but I'm trying to blend minivan life into an urban working life and that seems completely different, but at the same time very familiar.
 
If you are looking for an immediate solution to burn out and are working 40 hour weeks anyway try a seasonal job with free housing while you spend time off preparing the van and exploring.
 
Running 2 fridges in hot weather will produce even more heat in your van. I measured the heat coming out of the fridge compressor at over 115F, the freezers compressor will be running more, almost constantly.
On my van I have one fridge and I had to vent the compressor to the outside with 4" inch flexible hose. That helps alot in hot weather areas. Without a way to expel the heat of the fridge I would have got rid of the fridge, it was heating my van too much and I live in a cool climate.

Picture of my roof vent, the one on the left feeds the swampcooler, the one on the right is from the fridge compressor exhaust. I later moved the compressor exhaust to a hole on the side of the van. On the roof the hot air of the compressor was getting sucked into the swampcooler.

View attachment 33958
I have an "off-brand" 15 qt 12v compressor fridg and yes it sure does raise the internal temps of the vehicle. I had mine on a week long trip in 90 degree weather, using reflectix to try and keep the sun off it yet the duty cycle really increased. It still drew 31-35 watts but ran much more often then when I did a static test in my 75 degree garage.

While I won't be cutting holes in my CUV for additional airflow (a big issue with car dwellers and yes minivans as well), I can sure see how summer ventilation (or lack of) is a big factor in dc power usage.
 
Anyway that you can swing an older full-sized van?
You'd gain much more roof space and then could put a lumber rack with plywood on top for at least 600 watts solar. Then cut in two inexpensive 3 speed 14" roof vents under the plywood base of the roof rack w/panels. The panels/plywood would shade the van roof and act as rain covers for the vents.
That was my plan, well one of the many variants anyway.

Otherwise I'd suggest scrapping your AGMs and going to a 100 amp lithium battery, they are like $320 ish now on Amazon.
Watch Will Prowse's YT videos where he cuts open the batteries to determine which are built well and which are not.

Just thoughts.
 
I plan on spending most of my time working at a retail job, then inside a gym working out, then inside a mall sipping bubble tea and surfing videos and then back to the gym for a shower, then back to the van to eat my meal that been cooking in the roadpro or rice-cooker than off to bed at a midwest overnight friendly retail store, then wake up and start a brand new day!

I enjoyed my time at the LTVA but I'm trying to blend minivan life into an urban working life and that seems completely different, but at the same time very familiar.
Boondocking and citydocking have some fundamental differences. At its core, the former is about being self sufficient, the latter having readily available resources is more about convenience.

At many of the places you will be spending time you will have access to shore power. This is a much faster and more reliable way to replenish your batteries than solar. So an alternative approach would be to use portable power stations. During my first year, I used one to power my fridge, microwave, and induction cooktop. I routinely took it out to recharge it. Gyms, malls, hotels, restaurants, laundromats, rest areas, I never had a problem finding a place where I could plug it in. In your case, you may need two so that there’s always one in your minivan while the other is out with you.
 
Thats a good summation of the basic differences between LTVA/boondocking and urban camping.

I‘d add looking for a library or a bookstore (not too many of those left) as well as walking trails or city parks that have all weather paths to use. There‘s also deli seating in certain grocery stores that often have guest wifi (slow but ok and don't ever do anything financial on it).

As to the portable power station usage, I have a small J (<300) that fits nicely in a backpack and can plug that in at various retail spots, while my other one stays in the car running the 15 qt compressor fridg. Swapping them out keeps the fridg going and allows me to not have solar on the roof. (This is for my short-term trips as I am only PT and dont want solar visible.)

Regarding power, since a 100 amp battery is basically 1200 watt-hours and requires some sort of wiring/solenoid/dedicated charger setup, it‘s certainly reasonable to purchase a discounted 500-1000 wh portable unit and thus not have all that fuss with the big battery system. Costs more yet portability has its own rewards (but that’s for super stealth mode where solar is an unwanted attention getter).
 
Not to shill for some low review off-brand portable power station but I just saw this today on Amazon:

EBL Portable Power Station Voyager 1000, 110V/1000W Solar Generator (Surge 2000W), 999Wh/270000mAh High Lithium Battery​


Order Summary​

Items:$649.99
Shipping & handling:$0.00
Your Coupon Savings:-$160.00

Total before tax:$489.99
Estimated tax to be collected:*$39.20
Total:$529.19
That‘s not a bad price for a Lithium (NOT LIFEPO) unit.

Compare that to other similar lithium units and with the coupon its a pretty good deal. Of course you need to look at all the details yet these knockoff brands can be a decent purchase, especially if you pick up the 2 or 3 year warranty.
 
Here’s another no-name unit, not that many reviews but for those of you who know “Hobotech” on YT, he has done a review of it back in April of 2021 (when it was $950!)

$599 on Amazon is pretty cheap if you ask me, but then I saw Walmart has it for $499 at the moment. Just make sure its the same model.

Anybody have a spare $499 you could gift me?

pecron S1500F Portable Power Station 1500W,1461.6Wh Solar Generator,110V/1500 Watt Pure-sine Wave,AC Outlet,12V DC Cigar,QC3.0 USB,Backup Lithium Battery for Outdoors Camping Fishing Emergency​

Visit the pecron Store
4.4 4.4 out of 5 stars 72 ratings
 
Portable power stations are getting into the 80s-90s style of rating for car stereo amps. RMS was the accepted rating system for amplifier output. A certain amount of power with until it started distorting the sound.

Then some marketing guy decided to start using pmpo amp ratings. It didn't take into consideration distortion. Only the actual power that count be generated by the amp regardless of usability.

Pmpo sold a lot of cheap amps but left a lot wondering why their super cheap amp want doing what the "lower amp rated" more expensive did. Everyone assumed the larger number was better

I feel like people were really getting to understand the amp hour rating and what it meant. Now we have watt hours, mah milliamp hours, and other ways of marketing the portable battery stations.

Please be aware that the numbers aren't always what they seem. And research based on common ground. Whether it's amp hours, watt hours, or whatever.

Cheap in price doesn't mean cheap. But making sure you know what the numbers mean exactly will help you not to rip yourself off.
 
Well said.
Understand the specs before you pull the trigger on the purchase.
Note recharge times, amount of charge the unit can take, provided cables, type of battery (lithium vs lifepo), “age of tech“ like usb c ports, regulated or unregulated 12v output, modified vs pure sine inverter, pass through chargng.

There’s lots to compare before just buying on price.
 
I live in a minivan myself and I have three of the 100w squarish panels from Santan on my roof (for 300 watts of solar, they even tilt...Thanks Doug!!), My 100AH battery, even while using my laptop, running my fridge, charging my phone etc it's rare that the battery isn't completely charged before noon. I even use an instant pot and and electric kettle (I do plan to add a 2nd 100ah in case of bad solar days).

I highly recommend an instant pot. Just toss everything in, set it and forget it. I've used mine to make rice, spaghetti, chicken and rice, beef stew and a host of other things. At this point I've ditched the propane stove and just use the instant pot. Once you get everything put into it meals are generally ready in maybe 10 or 20 minutes depending on whether you need to let it naturally vent or can just go ahead and fast vent it. Plus it takes up much less room than the propane/stove setup. It's basically an electric pressure cooker and there are tons and tons of recipes online for it. If it's just you I would go with a 3qt unless you want to cook large quantities in which case go with the 6qt.

I think as long as you plan for it you should be able to do the fridge+freezer, though you may need to pull out the passenger seat. I'm not sure a 58 qt plus a 23 qt would fit well depending on your van and layout. Personally I would look maybe at a 30qt for the fridge (actually considering doing this myself once I can get more AH).

As for an inverter, I would just bite the bullet and go pure sine right from the start. From what I understand, electronics don't like modified.

Also if you can at all I would go LifePo4. Far larger depth of discharge (80% vs 50% on agm) and alot more cycles before the cells start degrading. Plus they are lighter.
 
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