I want to tell you all about our Dometic CFX 65DZ fridge/freezer which is the best 12V Fridge on the market today. However, before I do that I need to address the fact that some of you who have full-sized refrigerators are about to think we are absolutely nuts. Every home needs a way of keeping things cold, but Americans take this to the extreme. We were right there with you; we are recovering fridge-a-holics. The good news is if we can live with this smaller fridge/freezer so can you. In this Dometic CFX review, we will lay out the reasons we choose this fridge and why we think it is the best fridge for full-time travelers.
Dometic CFX Review
- Small is Good
- The Problem with 3-way Fridges
- Compressor Refrigerators
- The CFX 65DZ Power Draw
- The Perfect Temperature
- Internal Storage
- Fridge/Freezer Option
- Perfect Height
- Final Thoughts
Small is Good
Most of you reading this post have things in your refrigerator you have forgotten were in there. Maybe for more than a year. Many of the things we refrigerate do not actually need to be refrigerated in the first place. Multiple bottles of condiments anyone? Condiments only need to be refrigerated after opening them. Eggs? Most places in the world do not refrigerate their eggs. Although to be fair most Americans buy them refrigerated and those do need to be kept cool. Farm fresh eggs are the way to go if you can.
Either way, when living with a smaller refrigerator you are forced to buy fresh food more often which is a good thing. But, this is only one of the reasons why we love our Dometic CFX 65DZ fridge and believe it to be the best 12V fridge for a life of full-time travel.
The Problem with 3-way Fridges
To explain to you why the Dometic CFX 65DZ is so amazing I first have to tell you the story of the Dometic 3-way fridge that came installed in our camper. When Jennifer and I bought our used Palomino Bronco 1500 it had the factory installed 3-way Dometic fridge from 2009. 3-way meaning it could run off of propane, 120V (shore power), or 12V (DC). I would say sort of to all of the above.
The Problem With Propane
Propane is an issue when you are driving as you aren’t supposed to leave that stuff open just in case you are in an accident… be careful a lot of RVers drive with them open and on. Don’t hit those people! Propane also has an issue if the tilt of your vehicle becomes too much it can permanently damage the fridge (if it is on). Why would you want to be able to ever actually have the fridge on when traveling? Oh, yeah, to keep things cold.
The Problem With Shore Power
Next up is shore power (120V). This works great if you plan to stay in RV parks all the time. Again no way of running the fridge while you are actually traveling down the road and you can forget off the grid living. Campgrounds are surprisingly expensive. You can easily spend more in a month at a campground than a mortgage payment on a very nice home.
12V is Just Right, But Not On a 3-way Fridge
The holy grail is 12V power, right? That is what I thought when I started figuring out my Solar System, but not when it came to this 3-way fridge. I read the specs on the fridge and found that it could pull about 16A on a 12V system. I thought that would be fine because I assumed that it would do that while it was cooling down and then taper off once cool.
Testing the 3-Way on Our Solar System
I ran the 3-way on shore power for 2 days prior to switching it over to the new 12V Solar System and then continued to run it for another 8 hours. It never tapered. It sucked 15.5A constantly. 15.5A x 12V = 186Watts/hour. Meaning that this fridge needed two 100W Solar Panels running at optimal conditions to keep it operational during daylight hours. It then needed that equivalent stored in the batteries to keep it running at night. So this fridge at a minimum would need at least a 380Ahr battery system and 400W of solar panels just to keep it running… NOPE! We don’t have space for that kind of battery bank.
I was crushed when I came to the realization that the 3-way fridge would not work for us as full-time travelers. However, I knew by this time that other full-timers were running fridges on small solar systems and therefore there had to be a way to do it.
The Best 12V Fridge is a Compressor Refrigerator
It was about this time that I found the compressor fridges. These work similar to a full-size fridge in a home just on a smaller more electrical-friendly scale. Again, I’m not sure why the 3-way fridges even exist at this point. Even more of a mystery is why they come standard in most RV & Campers.
The Benefit of a Cooler Style
The sizes and styles vary, but after much research, I came to the conclusion that the most energy-efficient ones were the “cooler” style. That is because heat rises. So when the door is open they lose almost no cool air. Think about the cooler fridges at the grocery store that have no doors on them but still have ice cream sitting in them. The ice cream is still frozen. These cooler-style fridges work the same principle.
Fridge/Freezer – Dual Zone
These “cooler” fridges come in all sorts of sizes from half a dozen or more manufacturers. Because of our limitation on space, I had to stick to a certain size. After taking measurements on our space half a dozen times, I came to the conclusion that we could fit the smallest unit that still has dual zone capability. Dual zone means that it can refrigerate and also has a freezer section… ice cream!
We Have a Winner – The Dometic CFX
I narrowed it down to the Dometic and one other manufacturer. Because of all the trouble we had with our factory 3-way Dometic I was looking for any excuse to by the competitor’s model, but to no avail. Every review I read said the Dometic CFX 65DZ was the best 12V fridge for a full-time traveler. I also realized that the Dometic CFX 65DZ isn’t Dometic’s patent. They partner with an Australian company that designed this fridge and Dometic is the North American distributor.
Dometic CFX Review – Power Draw
After the nightmare that was our 3-way fridge, the Dometic CFX 65DZ is a godsend. We went from a 15.5A power draw on the 3-way to averaging 2.45A in 80-degree weather on the Dometic CFX 65DZ. The two fridges have almost the same internal cubic volume. The 3-way was only slightly larger. The biggest thing is that this fridge actually cycles off when it reaches its set temperature and drops to a zero amp power draw. AMAZING!
Here are some actual test results in 80-degree weather.
- Average of about 4.8A for the initial cooling period (55 minutes from 80-degree F to 12-degree F)
- Cooling cycles (80-degree weather): 7 minutes of cooling @ 3.5A (average) & 3 minutes in standby at 0A.
- Average power draw after initial cooling: 2.45A/hr in 80-degree weather.
Obviously, in warmer weather, it is going to have to use more energy than in cooler weather. 80-degrees seemed like a good medium for testing.
120V Auto Sensing
The fridge can be run off of shore power as well and defaults to it when it auto detects 120V power. This is nice for saving the batteries when plugged into the grid.
The Perfect Temperature
The 12-degree F listed above is my set target temperature for the freezer section. This can be adjusted in 2-degree increments. It can also be set to Celsius if that is your thing. The temperature of the refrigerator section is basically an offset value of the freezer. This works really well. We originally set the temperature to 8-degrees thinking the freezer would have trouble keeping our ice cream frozen. At 8-degrees fruit in the refrigerator section was frozen solid. So we backed it off to 12-degrees.
Internal Storage in the CFX 65DZ
There are 3 divided sections within the 65DZ – 2 for the fridge and 1 for the freezer. One of the fridge sections is half as deep due to the compressor. We keep meats in the lower section closest to the freezer as that seems to be colder than the raised section of the fridge. The depth of the raised section is really nice for condiments.
If the small plastic cover is removed from the freezer section the whole unit becomes a fridge. A nice option for when we aren’t craving ice cream or ice. The temperature should be adjusted up to just above freezing which has the added benefit of using less power.
The Perfect Height
Another consideration we took before landing on this unit was making sure that the installation height of the cooler fridge was right for the camper. We needed to be able to open the top of the fridge while the roof of our camper was down. This allows us to get to our food without having to crank up the roof. We have also found that the top of the cooler makes for great counter space in our tiny home. The cutting board gets placed here often while cooking and it works well as a dish drying area after meals.
The USB Port
The fridge also has a 1 amp USB port. This is useless for us. I guess the designer was anticipating people taking this unit to the beach with a portable battery. This fridge is heavy when loaded. I can’t imagine wanting to take this out to the beach and lugging a battery pack along with it.
Installing the Dometic CFX 65DZ
When “installing” the unit it is important to give the entire unit space to breathe. The manual actually says that it isn’t for permanent installations, but tons of people are using it this way. Click here to see how we “installed” this in our rig.
Final Thoughts – Dometic CFX Review
We love our Dometic CFX 65DZ fridge and truly believe it is the best 12V fridge available today. This refrigerator makes a life of full-time travel off the power grid possible.
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