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Old 08-06-2019, 08:46   #1
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Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

We have a 20 something year old Alder Barber fridge/freezer that is no longer freezing the small freezer section and can only get the fridge portion down to 50. An A/C tech did a quick checkout of the system and said it was sufficiently charged but not "pulling down".

Rather than throw thousands at troubleshooting this old unit and possibly replacing the components I am looking at portable units. We could use it as a freezer and put the ice inside the existing fridge and ice boxes.

The boat is in Jamestown RI, we are not, so we are limited in our choices. West Marine and Defender sell Isotherm and Dometic portable (compressor) coolers. I have read the threads here regarding the Dometic 12v cord issues. If we lived near the boat we would get an Engel, but that may not happen this year.

How do the Isotherm portables stack up for reliability?
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:59   #2
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

I have had a thermoelectric portable cooler for 2 yrs. So far it has provided reliable and maintenance free service. Manufacturer claims will cool down up to 20 deg below ambient, so actual temperature inside is relative to ambient. Best way to maintain food and beverages cold is to tart from cold or frozen, then minimize the number of times you open the fridge. Three sec vs. 10 sec makes a huge difference!
I've managed to keep content chilled for about a week, and cool for longer.
Together with unit, also bought a number of flat ice packs which I freeze at home. On board, I line the inside of the box with these packs, then transfer the cold contents into the unit. When restocking content from ambient temperature, I also try to buy a couple of bags of ice cubes. Put the stuff in ice in a bucket, leave it outside in the shade, and after an couple of hours, content is cool enough to go into the fridge.
Try not to put ice cubes directly into the fridge! Water vapour will freeze around the unit's fan, decreasing efficiency and increasing power usage. Inside of the fridge should be dry.
Starting with cold contents, my unit (24 l capacity) draws slightly less than 1 Ah. Starting from ambient, 1.3 to 1.5 Ah, so quite frugal. I run it from my solar array.
Cheers!
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:02   #3
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

Thanks. But I am looking for a compressor type of fridge/freezer.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:02   #4
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

You asked for something to freeze water with so that you could keep food cold in your existing ice box.
That is very inefficient for many reasons, and I doubt that any portable has enough power to freeze enough water to do that.
Efficiency doesnít matter if your plugged into the dock, but if it canít do it, it canít.
I donít think our Engel could anyway.
Need to know how your using the Boat, if itís just weekends, than maybe freezing a lot of blue ice at home may work.

I would buy whatever is sold at the big home supply stores, I was going to but the Engels went on sale.
Iím not at all convinced there is any superiority to an Engle, I think a lot of it is Marketing, like anything that has Yeti on it.

I think for what an Engle costs it should have a digital thermostat and digital temp display.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:36   #5
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

Where Engel stands out is robust build quality, much longer average longevity before major repairs are needed, especially in harsh abusive conditions.

Is that worth paying a much higher price for? That's an individual judgment call.

Otherwise, all brands are "fine", pretty similar specs and performance.

These days the Waeco / Dometic brands, are pretty dominant in the market, OEM for most mass-marketed units in big box outlets.

Indel B (Truckfridge, Peterbilt, Kenworth, isotherm, vitrifrigo) also a good rep.

As does SnoMaster

It is often not worth the price to repair them, skilled labor rare and the parts expensive. So if there is a good shop near you that fixes a particular brand, that might be a good reason to buy it.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:11   #6
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

Quote:
Originally Posted by deluxe68 View Post
We have a 20 something year old Alder Barber fridge/freezer that is no longer freezing the small freezer section and can only get the fridge portion down to 50. An A/C tech did a quick checkout of the system and said it was sufficiently charged but not "pulling down".

Rather than throw thousands at troubleshooting this old unit and possibly replacing the components I am looking at portable units. We could use it as a freezer and put the ice inside the existing fridge and ice boxes.

The boat is in Jamestown RI, we are not, so we are limited in our choices. West Marine and Defender sell Isotherm and Dometic portable (compressor) coolers. I have read the threads here regarding the Dometic 12v cord issues. If we lived near the boat we would get an Engel, but that may not happen this year.

How do the Isotherm portables stack up for reliability?

===


For my money the best portable coolers are the Engels. They are very rugged, will easily cool to zero degrees if you want to use it as a freezer, and they will operate from either 12v DC or 110v AC. On the other hand I wouldn't be too quick to get rid of the Adler-Barbour. They are rugged units also and easy to service yourself if you understand refrigeration systems. If the compressor is operating and the unit is fully charged, it's possible that you've gotten some water vapor in the system which is freezing in the evaporator plates and blocking refrigerant flow. The solution to that is hooking up a vacuum pump, letting it run for several hours, and then recharging with fresh 134a. You can buy everything you need on Amazon for several hundred dollars.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:17   #7
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

I recently watched a YouTube review for a Costway 12v refrigerator.
https://youtu.be/I6g5B9tge2Q




The Costway refrigerators appear to be similar to other 12v compressor units.

https://www.costway.com/portable-ele...rigerator.html



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Old 09-06-2019, 09:27   #8
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

We just bought an Isotherm fridge/freezer combo last month.

I was surprised to see that it's just a refrigerator bolted on top of a freezer requiring two separate AC plugs, but so far that's the only downside, it'll also run off the the batteries.

I'm very pleased with all the features, the quality of the build and the power consumption. I've never had an Engle, so I can't compare.

But a big thumbs up for Isotherm!
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:43   #9
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

The Snomaster is the better choice IMHO. They come with a 5 year warranty. Nobody else stands behind their product like that.

I'm going the opposite way. My 120 Volt factory built in refer unit (R-12) died. I went with the Snomaster as the replacement and it works awesome as either a fridge or freezer. However, even the largest one which I bought doesn't work for me for long distance Bluewater cruising. So, I'm removing it (it is a few months old and I am going to sell stat a discounted price. PM me if interested) and go through the hassle of rebuilding the refer box I took out and put in another 12v refer system
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:47   #10
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

I have several refrigerators and freezers on my boat, freezers are working very good, ice bags will stay frozen for ever, some are Vitrifrigo, and some are Isotherm, they are AC/DC 12v 115v no noise very efficient, after 3 years one required a module because during a trip to the Bahamas was not cooling the properly.
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Old 09-06-2019, 10:45   #11
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

My over 10-year-old small Engle refrigerator/freezer is great. Low power drain, too. My friend Dave installed 2 Engles, a frige and a separate freezer where the built-in old frige was. He was quite pleased after a year-long cruise on his 43 footer.
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Old 09-06-2019, 11:09   #12
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

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Originally Posted by Cpt Mark View Post
The Snomaster is the better choice IMHO. They come with a 5 year warranty. Nobody else stands behind their product like that.

I'm going the opposite way. My 120 Volt factory built in refer unit (R-12) died. I went with the Snomaster as the replacement and it works awesome as either a fridge or freezer. However, even the largest one which I bought doesn't work for me for long distance Bluewater cruising. So, I'm removing it (it is a few months old and I am going to sell stat a discounted price. PM me if interested) and go through the hassle of rebuilding the refer box I took out and put in another 12v refer system
They look great, however they are not available on the east coast.
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Old 09-06-2019, 11:26   #13
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

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Originally Posted by wayne.b View Post
===


For my money the best portable coolers are the Engels. They are very rugged, will easily cool to zero degrees if you want to use it as a freezer, and they will operate from either 12v DC or 110v AC. On the other hand I wouldn't be too quick to get rid of the Adler-Barbour. They are rugged units also and easy to service yourself if you understand refrigeration systems. If the compressor is operating and the unit is fully charged, it's possible that you've gotten some water vapor in the system which is freezing in the evaporator plates and blocking refrigerant flow. The solution to that is hooking up a vacuum pump, letting it run for several hours, and then recharging with fresh 134a. You can buy everything you need on Amazon for several hundred dollars.
A vacuum pump does not recover and filter the refrigerant, it is intended just to pull down a vacuum. If I remember correctly you need a recovery machine and a tank to do it correctly.
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Old 09-06-2019, 12:06   #14
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

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A vacuum pump does not recover and filter the refrigerant, it is intended just to pull down a vacuum. If I remember correctly you need a recovery machine and a tank to do it correctly.
Or you can do it incorrectly but conveniently and just vent the old gas to the atmosphere.
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Old 09-06-2019, 13:16   #15
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Re: Isotherm vs Dometic Portable Cooler Reliability

Bought a 95 liter Dometic 16 months ago and have been happy with it. Will bring both sides down to under 0 F with cabin temps in the mid to high 80's. Orignally ran off 110 via an inverter then ran a 12 line to it presuming that it would use less power. Did add another 260 watts of solar ($120 in Miami) to cover the extra electrical usage. Using my math I figured that was a lot cheaper than the extra $1,000 for the Engel.



I would not get a thermoelectric unit. I have always heard they are not very efficient and deal killer if it can only drop temp 20 degrees from ambient (assuming F and not C).


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