KEEPING a fridge powered without draining a starter battery can be a challenge if spending a few days in camp. Adding a second battery and the associated hardware to your 4X4 is the most common solution, but Waeco has its own alternative. With a new Waeco CFX40 fridge in the FJ Cruiser, we decided to try out Waeco’s RAPS44 battery pack and PS120 solar panels.
The Waeco CFX40 is one of the brand’s latest generation fridge/freezers, so it uses the most up-to-date electronics to deliver reliable and consistent cooling while minimising power usage. The efficient compressor that powers the CFX40 is controlled by electronic wizardry, including a power monitor that will cut power to the fridge if the power supply drops below a predetermined limit. This is adjustable to three settings to protect a vehicle’s starter battery, if that is what you’re relying on to power the fridge. It can be set as low as -22°C to freeze the contents, and it can be controlled via an app which also allows you to monitor the temperature.
The internal capacity is 41 litres, big enough to carry 60 cans of beer and tall enough to accept a standard-sized wine bottle standing upright. The lid is easily removable if you have the fridge mounted in the back of a wagon where height limits its opening, and there are sturdy handles at each end that can be used to tie the unit down.
Waeco rates the current draw of the CFX40 at 7amp, so you need to have back-up power if you intend to run the fridge for extended periods from a single battery without running it from the vehicle’s engine.
The FJ Cruiser was running a single battery, so we put Waeco’s RAPS44 battery pack and PS120A solar panels to use as backup. With most of the use being on the road where the car was running the fridge during the day, we also used it to charge the RAPS while on the road via a 12-volt outlet. This then allowed us to unplug the fridge from the car and plug it into the fully charged RAPS unit, to keep things chilled overnight. Using the RAPS for power also allows you to remove the fridge from the car.
On the few times we were away and camped in the one spot for more than a day or two, we put the solar panel to use. The two-panel folding PS120A unit has an inbuilt regulator and 6.9amp output. The supplied lead has both alligator clips and an Anderson plug, and we used the clips to attach it directly to the terminals on the RAPS44, with the fridge plugged into the RAPS unit.
With careful repositioning of the solar panel throughout the day to keep it pointed at the sun, it allowed us to feed enough charge into the RAPS unit to keep the fridge cool. Keeping the fridge out of the sun also helped, and the handy voltage readout on the RAPS unit informed us how much power it had in store.
Since the test, Waeco has updated the PS120A solar panel to make it more efficient and affordable. It now comes equipped with a heavy-duty 10A threestage automatic charge that will switch between battery and solar power as necessary, as well as a built-in battery temperature sensor to protect the battery from overheating.
While the trio of Waeco products kept the fridge running and food chilled on our trips, it wasn’t ideal for the FJ Cruiser. The FJ is a compact wagon where space is at a premium. Carrying the RAPS44, PS120A and the CFX40 posed a challenge on some trips. Sure, we could carry the solar panels in their carry bag on the roof, but not the RAPS44. As such, we will be fitting a dedicated dual-battery system to the car in the near future, as well as look at one of the solar blanket-style panels which are more compact when not in use. The CFX40 fridge is staying.
The space restrictions of the FJ Cruiser limited the use of these products for us, but it doesn’t in any way affect the way they work. All did their job well and could easily be the solution to your 12-volt fridge power needs. The RAPS44 is particularly handy if your 4X4 doesn’t have the space in the engine bay for a traditional dual-battery system or you want the ability to have power away from the car.