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Old 06-18-2022, 10:44 AM   #1
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DC only refrigerator issues

Hello all,

I just bought a Cherokee 23DBH with a DC only refrigerator and two solar panels. When I bought it I had concerns on if the solar would keep up with the fridge so the dealer installed a second battery for me. Her is my problem. With only the refrigerator running, nothing else, and not plugged in it drains the batteries down to 11.4 - 11.6 each night. In direct sunlight it will charger to 12.2 by the end of the day. (direct sunlight in New Mexico). It has only been out once for a weekend and the solar panels were not charging at all. I took it back to the dealer and they found a ground wire screwed into a plastic panel. That was fixed and now the panels charge but can't keep up with the fridge. I told the salesman that I planned on doing 95% mountain camping with no hookups. He said it will work fine. I think I have been lied to. Does anyone else have these kind of issues or advice on the next step to getting it resolved? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 06-18-2022, 11:18 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!

You've pretty much answered one part of your questions when you said "I think I have been lied to." Chances are excellent that the reply to that is a resounding Yes.

Unfortunately, there are far too many sales people who will tell you anything to clinch the sale, even if their noses are growing like Pinocchio's.

I don't have any suggestions re the 12 volt fridges, but there have been lots of discussion about them on this forum. I'm sure you'll be getting lots of replies.
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Old 06-18-2022, 11:39 AM   #3
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Welcome to the Forest River Forum.

I agree with PopFla, you were lied to.

If you expected to use your camper with NO Hookups 95% of the time you purchased a trailer with the wrong type of refrig.

I camp with Full Hookups almost 100% of the time and love our 12v only Everchill refrig, but you should have purchased a trailer with an absorption style Refrig that will work on LP (or 120vac).

Perhaps there are others on the Forum who also have a camper with your style of Refrig that have found solutions for boondocking and keeping their battery(s) charged and food cold.

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Old 06-18-2022, 11:45 AM   #4
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Do you know how many watts of solar panels you have and type of solar charge controller you have? 11amps seem like a lot for a DC only fridge. My ac residential running of the inverter pulls about that same amount.

You will want need a least 200w of solar and a mppt solar charge controller. If your panels are mounted flat on the roof they will not output 200watts. So more solar panels will be needed. 200w of solar at best will put out 15.6 amp at 12.8v. So you can see even 200w is just barely enough and that will only be in perfect conditions, and won't build up enough reserves to get you through the night.
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Old 06-18-2022, 12:20 PM   #5
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A solar suitcase of 200 watts would help a lot. 12.2 is not fully charged. Try that since you can aim them at the sun and follow it. Otherwise, 6volt golf cart batteries.
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Old 06-18-2022, 01:36 PM   #6
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The "proper" no-hookup RV refrigerator is the tried and true -- and significantly more expensive (!) -- absorption propane refrigerator. These are available on the option lists I've seen but dealers seem reluctant to order them for stock. These are more expensive as they require a chimney stack, outdoor access panel, and LP plumbing to the unit. Compared to a "12v" that just requires two wired.

Seems the typical camper buyer isn't aware of this nor do sales folks explain it. In past years the absorption refrigerators were all that was available so even experienced campers get fooled by assumptions.

Lack of information provided by camper sales is often astounding. We get questions here routinely wondering why their microwave, wall outlets, or air conditioner don't work when not connected to shorepower.

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Old 06-18-2022, 01:45 PM   #7
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Your batteries aren't going to last long if they are discharging that much overnight. You need more batteries, more solar or a generator. A small propane (dual fuel) generator would help keep you boondocking.
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Old 06-19-2022, 12:45 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by nvs4602 View Post
Do you know how many watts of solar panels you have and type of solar charge controller you have? 11amps seem like a lot for a DC only fridge. My ac residential running of the inverter pulls about that same amount.

You will want need a least 200w of solar and a mppt solar charge controller. If your panels are mounted flat on the roof they will not output 200watts. So more solar panels will be needed. 200w of solar at best will put out 15.6 amp at 12.8v. So you can see even 200w is just barely enough and that will only be in perfect conditions, and won't build up enough reserves to get you through the night.
Well I agree with all of the above, EXCEPT, I have NEVER SEEN 200 watts of solar generate anything close to 15 amps. My camping partner and I have installed five solar systems on our own rigs ( only took the first install to convince our wives of the value) Then we planned and installed systems for or with at least 12 or 15 of our friends, on there rigs. The new 12 volts presented a different problem. Last summer we engineered our first install for a rig with a 12 v frig. We found that in so cal Sun at the beach in August the frig ran more than half the time and when running was pulling over 9 Amps.

Initially we installed two 100 amp panels. That helped but even with two batteries it would not keep up with daily use. Three days of camping later the owner asked us to install one more panel and that seemed to cover their normal use.
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Old 06-19-2022, 07:33 AM   #9
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It is only money, and math.

First new persons have some options.

You must load the fridge the night before and plug in.

It should have several gallons of frozen drinking water. Best to drink any way.

Then the math.

You need a source for about 100 amps of input likely. A 100 watt solar panel on its best day in the right location can produce about 25 ah dc. You need thus about 400 watts per day. A battery monitor is a necessity.

Since the sun will not provide that much most of the time. So you need a big reserve, I.e. battery. What you have is likely less than 100 ah dc.

A 400 ah dc lithium battery for about $2000 will work. Odds are with that you will get 4-5 days.

Or, run a nice generator 4 hours per day. $1100 gets a Honda 2200.

Generator plus battery and monitor $3100 or so. 400 watts of solar would be better. Then likely not much generator.

To be an rv salesman requires some high school and a four hour training course in salesmanship. Most of them cannot do the math. You have learned that now.

The salesmanís training is you will plug in every day.

Your setup does not include using the furnace. Another big user.

Nor cpap.

To even boondock overnight, most stock units without a generator and a compressor fridge are like this. First night maybe. Second night, virtually never!
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Old 06-19-2022, 09:14 AM   #10
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Tomkatb is not wrongÖ

Even if you switched out the 2 regular batteries for 2 lithium 100ah batteries you will probably see a favorable increase.

Thatís my next step, but going lithium and changing converters and whatever else you need isnít cheap.

When we bought we fell in love with the layout and fridge but did not realize it was a 12v fridge. We still like the fridge because we almost never boondock, but it does create challenges loading before a trip. For us the second 12v is working well, but I only allow for a max 12 hours prior to leaving to have the fridge running.

If I could do it over again, Iíd opt for a 110v/propane fridge but it seems more than ever the 12v fridges are being ordered to the dealer lots on a lot of units.
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Old 06-19-2022, 10:36 AM   #11
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Update to my DC fridge issue

Thank you all for the input you provided. It's been a big help.

Yesterday morning when the voltage got down to 11.4 volts I turned the fridge off and left the master battery switch on. It was partly cloudy most of the day and with nothing on except the battery switch it only gained .2 volts to 11.6. From the factory the unit has two 100 amp panels on top. In late 2021 FR started adding the second panel because of customer complaints. Salesman said they have not had any issues since. Wrong, he needs to read the threads on here.

I suspect something is still nor right with the charging system as it only gained the .2 volts yesterday. I have the knowledge to start digging into it myself but I'm reluctant because of the warranty. I'm going to make a call to the dealer tomorrow to set up a meeting with the owner/manager and the lying sales guy. I'm going to push for them to replace the fridge with a propane/DC one and also check out the charging issue again.

Again, thanks for all your expertise and comments.

I'm pretty frustrated at this point.
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Old 06-19-2022, 11:08 AM   #12
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.2 volts is signifiant. Your panel could produce 50 amps. Likely way less.

However the parasitic load was also not part of the calculation.

Could be normal.

Wait 5 days! Or 10.
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Old 06-19-2022, 11:18 AM   #13
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Going to the dealer is sort of fruitless.

They canít do warranty work.

Why would they do anything for you that costs money?

They really do not care if you ever cross their threshold again.

The conversion to a gas electric fridge will cost more than a big battery and cheap generator!

The dealer will say everyone likes the faster compressor fridges better.

The truth is maybe. But, they do cost 50% or less than a gas electric. Makes me wonder.
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Old 06-19-2022, 12:02 PM   #14
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You'll be much happier with an absorption refrigerator if you can get one installed. It's not a trivial job and the dealer has no incentive to do it for you and it certainly won't be free. The camper really needs to have this factory installed with the requirement for a chimney and an outside access panel/vent.

I'd plan on having this done in the off-season where they can have the trailer for a couple of weeks.

I'm hoping potential camper buyers check these forums to avoid the mistakes many of us made. But, alas, most come here only experiencing problems that were well defined but not read before buying like "12v" or "residential" refrigerators.

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Old 06-19-2022, 01:16 PM   #15
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Thank you all for the input you provided. It's been a big help.



I suspect something is still nor right with the charging system as it only gained the .2 volts yesterday. I have the knowledge to start digging into it myself but I'm reluctant because of the warranty. I'm going to make a call to the dealer tomorrow to set up a meeting with the owner/manager and the lying sales guy. I'm going to push for them to replace the fridge with a propane/DC one and also check out the charging issue again.

Again, thanks for all your expertise and comments.
m pretty frustrated at this point.
Lots of luck. A DC frig costs the manufacturer/dealer a quarter of what the 120v/propane unit costs.

If you only gained .2 v in a day, either your solar is not working or it is not hooked to the batteries. OR, AS IS OFTEN THE CASE, your battery/batteries are TOAST.

As a practical matter, at rested voltage of 12.0 v the battery is already, HALF DEAD, and at the point where further discharge is doing harm to the batteries. 11.4 may just be recovering .2 v from resting after you took the frig load off, and not charging at all. A fully charged battery at rest s/b 12.6 or 12.7 if it is in perfect health. I learned this early in my camping with a modern trailer. Like most newbies I plugged in for a few hours or ran the generator for an hour or two then measured the surface charge @12.0+ and thought I had done some good. By sunset my lights were already dimming and I couldn't understand why the batteries were sitting on 11.0 v.

Good luck. I think I would learn my system and not wait for a dealer. He got his commission and flat doesn't care about your learning curve.
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Old 06-19-2022, 01:49 PM   #16
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Hello all,

I just bought a Cherokee 23DBH with a DC only refrigerator and two solar panels. When I bought it I had concerns on if the solar would keep up with the fridge so the dealer installed a second battery for me. Her is my problem. With only the refrigerator running, nothing else, and not plugged in it drains the batteries down to 11.4 - 11.6 each night. In direct sunlight it will charger to 12.2 by the end of the day. (direct sunlight in New Mexico). It has only been out once for a weekend and the solar panels were not charging at all. I took it back to the dealer and they found a ground wire screwed into a plastic panel. That was fixed and now the panels charge but can't keep up with the fridge. I told the salesman that I planned on doing 95% mountain camping with no hookups. He said it will work fine. I think I have been lied to. Does anyone else have these kind of issues or advice on the next step to getting it resolved? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
We have a camper equipped with a Magic Chef 12 volt refrigerator. Currently there are two 190-watt solar panels flat-mounted on the roof, connected to a MakeSkyBlue 60-amp charge controller. Battery bank is one 300ah lifepo4 battery paralleled with two 100ah "feeder" lifepo4 batteries. For monitoring the battery bank I installed an inexpensive Qwork shunt and state of charge meter. This setup can allow us to stay offgrid for several days /nights with cloudy skies as long as we use electricity judiciously, and almost indefinitely with sunny days.
Your system needs to have the solar capacity to fully charge your battery bank as 12.2 volts at rest is nowhere near 100%. Your battery's state of charge is nearer to 40% at a resting voltage of 12.2 volts.You also need batteries with an amp-hour rating high enough to support the amp draw of your camper's nighttime needs. I personally don't believe that two 12-volt multi-purpose (which ARE NOT deep cycle) "dealership" batteries are capable of doing that.
As mentioned above, knowing and posting your present system's parameters will allow us to help you improve your system so that you can charge your batteries to 100%, which should get you through the night with everything working in the morning.
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Old 06-19-2022, 05:35 PM   #17
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I didn't see this info in replies, but I hasten to add that it was referred to.

Loads to add up:
1) Fridge. On average, a 12 volt compressor fridge will consume 35 amp hours (AH) per day every day.
2) Furnace. Variable. Your rig's furnace will consume between 10 and 20 amps when running. On a cold night in the mountains, let's assume 10 amps and a 20% duty cycle...furnace on for 8 hours. 8 x 10 x 0.2 = 16 AH.
3) Parasitic loads...CO and Propane detector, standby mode for stereo, various pilot lights on the panel, etc. Average 3 AH/day.
4) Ignition for hot water heater...trivial, but maybe 1 AH.
5) Water pump 7.5 amps when running. Let's assume about 1/2 hour per day. Let's call it 4 AH.
6) Running the awning in and out... Let's call it 3 AH/day if it's windy (as it tends to be in the Mountain West).
7) Lights of all sorts... maybe 2 to 3 AH/day.
8) Entertainment? Stereo/TV...maybe not, but figure at least a couple amps per every hour of run time. Let's assume 6 AH/day for giggles. (We use our stereo now and then, but we got a JBL Charge 4 bluetooth speaker, and it is very stingy with power.)
9) Charging devices? We charge our phones and the JBL via USB ports on our small inverter.
10) Slide and tongue jack? Big loads for short periods of time. I always hook up and run my generator before doing these so that the genny does most of the work passing power thru the converter.

You're in what's likely to be "Sunny NM." Solar will do its best there. Rated output for a 100 watt monocrystaline panel is about 18 volts at 7.5 amps in full sun. My 400 watt array has my batteries full by about 1 to 2 PM in Colorado...with an absorption fridge. Of course, over the course of a full solar day, your average charge rate will be more like 2.5 amps/hour/100 watt panel...so, somewhere between 25 and 35 AH charging per day on a good day.

Tomkatb said it's math and money. He's right. Time to dig out your wallet. You might be able to add solar to what you have...assuming you have a MPPT charge controller rated for 30 amps or more. And you can get a really good generator for far less than $1000. I have this one for the 30 amp connection and the reserve power yet relatively light weight. Bigger ones go over 100 pounds.

Bookmark this link to help with math: https://www.rapidtables.com/calc/ele...alculator.html
This is especially helpful if you get the bright idea to use an inverter for anything (as I do to run my electric blanket for 20 minutes - timed - to take the chill off the bed...to the tune of 10 AH). When using the calculator, voltage is ALWAYS 12 volts when the battery is the source of power...as it is with an inverter.

My rig below. With 400 watts of solar, 2 x 6 volt golf cart batteries in series capable of providing 115 USABLE AH before needing to be charged, and an absorption fridge, we can camp indefinitely on solar alone. We use the generator to run the microwave and espresso machine to make lattes morning and evening...because we are not savages after all. Otherwise, we don't need the generator unless the weather is miserable.

As for the RV salesman telling lies? I presume that was a rhetorical question with a joke flavor. And those batteries the dealer installed? They'll save you the core charge on real batteries.
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Old 06-19-2022, 06:48 PM   #18
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PM me with your email and I'll send a copy of the spreadsheet for my Roo which has DC measurements accurate to 0.01 amp. No "12v refrigerator" or other power hogs but the rest is there including the furnace which -- Spoiler Alert -- draws 3.34 amps or 26.72 amphours if run for 8 hours. That's 8 hours of flame time so well more than a single night but also about half the useful amphours of the cheap dual purpose "marine" Group 24 battery fitted by dealers to these campers.

YMMV, of course, but the bones of the spreadsheet are there for your use. Parasitic loads are there too.

Offer applies to anyone reading this. Ask for the Roo Amps Spreadsheet.

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Old 06-29-2022, 03:08 PM   #19
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In response to the OP, yes, we have these issues!

New 2022 Wolf Pup. Loved the floor plan so bought it even though I knew the 12 v Everchill 10 cf might be a problem for us since we don’t have hookups about half the time. And it sure is.

I really wanted propane but I guess they’re going extinct because of cost and so many people opting for the convenience of hookups.

Performance is horrible but I’m pretty sure it’s defective and I’m working with the dealer right now for a warranty replacement. It’s VERY noisy, like a ticking time bomb, runs constantly, burns through two 75 ah batteries in about 8-10 hours. 200 watt solar keeps it from going lower during the day but doesn’t gain anything, so the next night starts at 12.2 volts?? No, I know I can’t do that but that’s the predicament I’m in. Basically, a generator is required if you have a 12 v fridge. But the book says battery will last days with a little solar bump. Hah!

Almost forgot, pulling fuses doesn’t help unless I pull the one marked OneControl. ?? Or use the battery kill switch.

I really dislike this thing. Hopefully a new one will run better.
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Old 06-30-2022, 11:01 AM   #20
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Good news

I have been corresponding with the dealer for the last week and was surprised they are going to change my Fridge out at no cost to me with a Propane/DC unit. I'm working with them on schedule at this time.

I used some of your messages as talking points and they agreed that this setup for boonedocking is not going to work.

What I have learned from this fiasco is that sales people never have the knowledge on systems as one would expect.
If I ever buy another one my first question is going to be what unit do you own and how often do you use it. Turns out the sales guy doesn't own a camper and doesn't camp. Red Flag!!!
Never listen to your wife when she says we better get this one the first day you start looking. Love her to death but I should have left and done my research before committing. My mistake.
I do believe this configuration will be phased out do to complaints or severely upgraded to meet the demand of DC powered equipment.

Thank you all for helping me out. I'll post another update when things progress.
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