Thursday, October 21, 2010

TECs suck

Well it turns out that my whole project of attempting to run my TEC cooler on a short duty cycle in order to save electricity, is pointless.

TECs run at only 5-10% efficiency. If I'm using 48W of electricity, I'm only getting 2.4W of actual cooling!! That's a HUGE amount of wasted electricity, considering my entire panel gives me only 200W in full sunshine, maximum exposure, daytime. It's also not enough to actually cool the food. This would explain why the specs on TEC coolers are that it will only cool to 40 degrees below ambient, and not down to refrigerator-safe temperatures. And in winter? I'm getting NOTHING when running it on a 15-minute-per-hour cycle (1A), which is all I can afford in the dark, certainly not enough to run this damn thing, and definitely not enough to keep food from spoiling. This whole TEC cooler idea is brain-dead.

I need to get an actual refrigerator that uses state-change, a condensor, an evaporator, and a compressor. These get 40-50% efficiency, and so to make an even comparison, my 48W of electricity would get me 24W of cooling.

There are plenty of small 12v high-efficiency refrigerators out there, but they are VERY expensive: anywhere from $1500 to $700 to $400. This is crazy. Although, there's one out there that supposedly uses only 10Ah a day. That is what I need.

It seems that these super-ridiculously-expensive units use the Danfoss compressors, which are especially efficient on electricity, and also run off of 12v. A fellow vandweller (who is also an EPA-certified refrigeration tech, luckily), suggested I just buy an old, small, college dorm refrigerator off of Craigslist, then buy a Danfoss compressor, and weld it in, then have him charge it up with refrigerant. I'm really liking that idea. Even better, I can pull the condensor out of the unit, and mount it and the compressor OUTSIDE of the van, underneath it. Got plenty of room under there, and it would keep the heat out in the summertime and also the noise out all year long. So that's an especially intriguing idea.

But either way, this cooler has got to go. It was a good experiment, but it just won't survive the winter, and certainly won't work in the summer.

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