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Review and Comparison of Whytner and Dometic 12 Volt Compressor Refigerators

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I told you in a previous post that I was changing the way I was eating and that required that I get a new, larger refrigerator. I bought a new Whytner 65 quart 12 volt compressor fridge. This post is a review of the new fridge and comparison of it with my old Dometic CF25. First let me give you my overall impressions of the Whytner: I love it! So far I consider it superior in nearly every way to the Dometic:
It is much better insulated than the Dometic so it stays cold much longer. For example, in the evening I turn down the thermostat to 34 degrees and once it goes down to that temperature I turn it off so it isn’t drawing any power over night. The next morning, after being off for 10 hours, the temperature has only gone up to 38 degrees. I then plug it back in and it drops down to 34 within an hour or two. It’s outstanding insulation means it only runs about 4 fours a day.

This is my new Whytner 65 quart 12 Volt Compressor fridge. You can see the exhaust vent right up front under the lid. The controls are just around the corner from it making them easy to reach.It has latches on the lid to hold it tightly closed.

This is my new Whytner 65 quart 12 Volt Compressor fridge. You can see the exhaust vent right up front under the lid. The controls are just around the corner from it making them easy to reach.It has latches on the lid to hold it tightly closed.

Because it run so little the Whytner ends up using aout the same amount of power as the Dometic. The one way that the Dometic beats the Whytner is that it uses less amps per hour. But, because of its inferior insulation and door seal, the net result is that it uses more power per day. I don’t know the exact draw of the Dometic because mine is 12 volt only (that isn’t a knock against the Dometic, mine is a low end model, all the others have 110 as an option) so I can’t measure its exact draw. But they claim it is only 36 watts (or 3 amps) and that seems right to me based on how easily I am able to power it on my 190 watts of solar on the trailer. Because the Whynter is both 110 volt as well as 12 volt I am able to test its draw using my Kill-a-Watt meter (it tests 110 volt items for their volts, watts and amps). Whytner claims it draws 4.5 amps and according to the Kill-a-Watt it draws 60 watts which works out to 5 amps. That is a more than the Dometic but it runs for less time so it still uses less power per day. My 190 watts of solar has no problem powering either fridge even through some extended cloudy days.
With the lid open you can see how thick the walls are. MUCH thicker than the Dometic!

With the lid open you can see how thick the walls are. MUCH thicker than the Dometic! Also notice that the lid opens on the short side not the long one.

The lid on the Dometic opens on the long side making it very awkward.

The lid on the Dometic opens on the long side making it very awkward.

The Whynter cools very evenly. My biggest complaint with the Dometic was the bottom area was always much colder than the top. So I might freeze food at the bottom trying to keep the top cold enough. I know that because I have a thermometer with a remote and I would put the remote on the bottom and the display on top which gave be two different readings. So with the Dometic, I had to be sure everything that had to be kept really cold went on the bottom. But the Whytner is within 2 degrees of top and bottom so I don’t have to give that a thought, I can just put things wherever is convenient for me.
The seal on the Whytner is about an inch wide and a high quality rubber. It seals tight enough to create a vacuum inside.

The seal on the Whytner is about an inch wide and a high quality rubber. It seals tight enough to create a vacuum inside.

The Whytner has an excellent quality lid, hinge and seal around the lid. The lid and hinge on the Dometic is a piece crap! It had these three terrible flaws: 1) It opened the wrong way, the length of the fridge instead of on the side. That meant it had to be longer which meant it needed more room overhead to open all the way. Although the Whytner is nearly three times larger, it doesn’t need any more overhead room that the Dometic. 2) The hinges on the Dometic lid only has little plastic pins that slide into a groove to hold it in place. If you lifted it wrong, it would pop out and be a pain to put back on. 3) The seal around the bottom of the lid was non-existent. It just has a tiny strip of tongue-and-grove plastic that did little good at all.
This is the seal on the Dometic. It is very poor.

This is the seal on the Dometic. It is very poor.

The Whytner solves all those problems! The lid runs the length of the fridge so it doesn’t need as much over-head room. The hinges are strong metal and well attached—they look like they will last forever! The seal around the lid is rubber and an inch wide. It also has latches up front to squeeze down even harder on the seal. The bottom line is that after it has been closed for a while and you go to open it, there is a vacuum established and you have to pry the lid open to break it–just like on any quality refrigerator. I think the superior seal around the lid and the thicker insulation are the main reasons it stays cold so much better than the Dometic.
This is the hinge on the Dometic, It is just a plastic  pin that sits in a groove in the body of the fridge.

This is the hinge on the Dometic, It is just a plastic pin that sits in a groove in the body of the fridge. On a regular basis it pops out and I have to fuss with getting it back in. You can also see the groove in the lid that is the lip in the picture above fits in to complete the seal. Again, very poor!

It’s much easier to find a safe place for the Whytner than the Dometic. All the 12 volt compressor fridges need a very good flow of ventilation to keep the compressor cool. The compressor produces quite a bit of heat and so they all have fans to blow the heat away from it. The result is that the exhaust area around where the fan blows the heat out gets pretty warm and if it doesn’t have enough room to move the heat out the compressor will get hot and fail prematurely. The Dometic puts the air outlet at the back side of the fridge. That means you have to leave the front of it open to have access to open the lid, but you also need to have the right side largely open so there is plenty of ventilation. Needing both the front and right side open makes it much harder to find a place in the van to put it. The exhaust vent on the Whytner is right on the front wall under the lid, so it is much easier to find a place with good ventilation. That may not sound like a big deal but in the very limited space of a van it becomes very important.
There is one reason to buy a Dometic instead of the Whynter, and that is because the Dometic uses a Danfoss compressor. The Danfoss has a reputation for excellence and reliability that almost made me choose it over the Whynter. Plus, the Dometic has proven itself to me after 4 trouble-free years of continuous use. Adding to my concerns about the Whytner was the fact it looks exactly like the Edgestar brand of 12 volt portable fridges that have been around a few years now. They are a cheap Chinese knock-off of the Engle and Dometic. Ultimately there were three reasons I took a chance and bought the Whytner.

  1. I have numerous friends with both the Edgestar and Whytner and they were all happy with them. Universally, they all said they were trouble-free and worked well.
  2. When I lived in a house I bought the cheapest chest freezer I could find which was a very cheap Chinese brand from Walmart called Haier. I owned it for 3 years and then gave it to my sister who owned it for another 6 years and in all that time it worked perfectly and was trouble-free. Making a quality compressor is not hard and the Chinese can do it just as well as anyone.
  3. It was so much cheaper than the Dometic and all the features I listed above were so compelling that I just had no choice but take a chance on it.

At this point I am extremely pleased with it and strongly recommend it over the Dometic. Only time will tell if it is as reliable and in a few years I will update you on it. Right now (August 8, 2013) has the 65 quart size (just like mine) on sale for the incredible price of $479! Here is a link to it. If you buy it through my site I will make a few dollars and it will cost you nothing extra.
Whynter 65-Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer
Whytner makes smaller models, but they are more expensive and not that much smaller so I recommend the 65 quart like mine. However, they do make a combination fridge-freezer combo that looks perfect! It has two lids and one opens to a fridge and the other opens to a freezer. I didn’t need that because I just turned my Dometic into a freezer, but otherwise I almost certainly would have bought it instead. It is also a total of 62 quarts but it is a lot more expensive!  Right now it is $757.
Whynter  Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator/Freezer, 62-Quart
IHere is a link to the Dometic 33 quart fridge on if you want to compare them. It is almost half the size but costs nearly $200 more than the Whytner.
Dometic WAECO 33 QT AC/DC with Touch Control Refrigerator and Freezer
I also recommend a Kill-a-Watt meter to help you in power management. It will tell you the amps and watts of any 110 volt item.
 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

With a Kill-a-Watt meter you just plug the appliance into it and it reads the amps or volts of the item. My new Whytner fridge is drawing 65 watts right now.

With a Kill-a-Watt meter you just plug the appliance into it and it reads the amps or volts of the item. My new Whytner fridge is drawing 65 watts right now.



  1. Cyrus A Palmer

    Very cool Bob! I just use a cooler and I’ve been really thinking about upgrading to a fridge. But I don’t have a solar set up like you do to adequately power one…. What do you think about the three way power fridges that can use propane?

    • Bob

      Cyrus, I’ve never owned one, so I’m not really qualified to speak about them. I have gathered impressions over the years so I will give them to you, but remember, they are only impressions. 1) They need to be pretty level to work work and to keep working for a long time. 2) They are very expensive. 3) Maybe I only hear about the bad ones, but it seems like they don’t last very long. Oddly enough the thing that fails most often is circuit boards. A friend here in camp has one that had a circuit board go bad on him and the new board is $350 and he doesn’t think he can install it, only a factory tech can, he figures that’s another $150. Fortunately it partly works so he is still using it. But he knows it is going bad so he is watching for a used one. I’ve known numerous RVers that had just that exact experience.
      I look at it this way, a 3 way is going to cost you close to $1000. For that much money you can buy my Whytner and a 240 watt solar power system to run it. then if the Whynter fails in a few years, it will still be cheaper to buy a whole new one than repair the propane fridge. Plus, in the meantime you aren’t buying propane every month.

      • Cyrus A Palmer

        Thanks Bob! Good info. Wow, my whole van was 1000, and it was cconverted and everything! There’s no way I’d sink that much into just a fridge! The way I keep my cooler cool is practicaly free, so that’s far more practical for now. I’ll wait on a fridge until a get a more accommodating class b.

        • Bob

          I understand Cyrus! My little Dometic cost me $400 and I had to gulp pretty hard to make myself spend that! Some people do without refirigeration, but I am not one of them! I need a cold-one on a daily basis (soda, that is!). However, I don’t have access to a practically free cooler. I figured I was paying at least $5 a week in ice, lost food because it got wet, and gas spent just to buy ice. So it payed for itself in about 1 1/2 years.
          You haven’t been blogging, are you guiding river rafts now?

          • Mara

            Great post! (I’m so far behind on my personal reading, I’m catching up a little today).
            The cost of lost food is a great point, and also the fact that if you’re eating fresh and healthy foods, that’s a whole lot easier to do with refrigeration.
            There’s a lot of areas in life I could skimp on, cut back on, and maybe do without…food refrigeration isn’t one of them. 🙂

          • Bob

            Yeah, I agree totally Mara! modern inventions have totally spoiled us and some are easy to do without, but refrigeration is not one I can do without either.
            Sounds like you are a busy little bee! keep up the good work!

      • Blars

        It cost less than $200 to have the circuit board on my 15 year old norcold 2-way (propane/120vac) fridge at Jackson RV in Medford, OR (recomended). The board was $85, labor $80/hour IIRC. I would have done the board replacement myself if I had known that was the reason the propane would not ignite.

        • Bob

          Blars, one of the advantages of having an older RV is an older fridge which is much cheaper to repair. From the people I have talked to the newer ones are much more expensive.

    • Cyrus A Palmer

      I sure am Bob! I’ve had about 20 trips so far since guide training, and have been having an absolute blast! I haven’t been able to blog about it much because I don’t always have access to a computer. It’s hard to blog on a smart phone. But I’ll post a new one soon, and it’ll be interesting! I’ll have a good story about how i broke my finger yesterday in a rapid, taped em up and went out and guided a second trip. I’ll be doing it with a splint on my hand today!

      • Bob

        That’s a great story Cyrus. I just wish I was as gutsy as you when I was your age! You are an inspiration!

      • ILDan

        Cyrus-Good to hear from you, too. Happy to hear you’re well. Although I have almost as much grey in my beard as Bob, I really enjoy reading/experiencing your approach to the lifestyle. You are the perfect compliment/foil to Bob, sometimes. Be well.
        Great info on the fridges, Bob! Thanks. Dan

      • Cyrus A Palmer

        Thanks for saying that guys! And for the man who inspired me to start van dwelling to say I inspire him is particularly touching. Mostly because of your guy’s comments, I just finished another blog. If you liked the last one, you’ll love this one.

  2. CAE

    Excellent comparison evaluation. Thanks. The construction of the Dometic is the one thing I really didn’t like about them. But most people report no problems. But I like things built to last. If I can’t get my fridge going again, I may change it out.

    • Bob

      CAE, they do have that wonderful Danfoss compressor, and they are extremely tough. Engle was the original and it was built with truckers and adventurers in mind like boaters and jeepers. They needed reliability above everything else and so they give it to you. The Dometic is a copy of it and they are both very tough and can endure most anything. The Whytner appears to be made with practicality, comfort and ease of use in mind first and foremost and it succeeded! It also appears to be very well made, in many ways superior to the Dometic. Only time will tell how reliable it is.

  3. Nemo

    I know my Edgestar has been nothing but good 🙂 going on 9 months now.

    • Bob

      You are one of the reasons I was willing to buy the Whynter!

  4. Mary

    To do a side by side comparison fairly, you really need to use the same interior space in the two units. The greater volume of cold food in the bigger unit helps to keep the interior colder and more even. The interior volume vs the exterior exposure is also better in the larger unit. Just some physics that makes a difference.
    Good review and the first in depth review of the Whynter I’ve seen. I thought the kill a watt only measured the AC usage and DC on the same unit can be better or worse. I have a Trimetric monitor that measures my DC use and I find that really helpful. Maybe you can do the math to convert the kill a watt reading to DC.
    I got a 33qt Dometic recently and noticed the unit freezing things on the bottom too. It was helpful for me but if I had it full of only veggies, that would not have been good. I got the Dometic because the form factor worked for me and few of the others would fit the space I had. Sometimes, that will be the deciding factor. Mine seems to be insulated pretty well but better insulation is always better.

    • Bob

      That is a good point about the two different sizes, Mary, but I could only do the comparison of the two I had in front of me. The walls on the Whytner are literally twice as thick as any size of the Dometics I’ve seen. I don’t know what is in them but I assume it is styrofoam insulation.
      The factory rates the Dometic at 36 watts (3 amps) and I am satisfied that is very close to right. The Whytner measured at 64 watts (5.3 amps). So it is nearly double the draw.
      The Engle-Waeco-Dometic were designed for adventurers (like Jeepers) and the form factor does seem to work well for them. If you have a space that requires that long form factor it’s perfect. One way many people get around the very long lid is by putting them on drawer slides to pull them out to open them. You just have to VERY careful they get plenty of ventilation! And it should be said that on the bigger units (80 quart and larger) they do put the hinges on the long side.
      Thanks for your comments, they are very helpful!

  5. Naomi

    This is such good information. Before I found your websites and the blog, I had no idea any of this was possible, and that others were doing it successfully.
    I *will* be doing this in the future, and all this information and encouragement is very empowering.
    Thank you,

    • Bob

      Naomi, I have two goals in all my websites and writing and that is to inspire others about the joy of mobile living and educate about the practical realities. It means so much to me to hear you say I am accomplishing that! Thanks you!

  6. stan watkins

    I have the dometic coolfreeze 18cf and put a review on youtube. I love it but thino I need one more battery to get through the night but I use mine almost exclusivly as a freezer. I am going to try insulating it and see if that helps. Funny thing is that mine freezes better in the top that the bottom.

    • Bob

      Stan, I loved my Dometic 25cf until I bought the Whytner! That’s very odd that it freezes better at the top. Since I turned mine into a freezer I set it at 10 degrees and everything on the bottom stays hard frozen, but the stuff on top just barely freezes at all. In fact, you know how there is a compartment above the compressor? That will not freeze on mine. I just fill it in with the blue-ice packs since it won’t freeze.
      Insulating it should really help! I am going to do a post very soon on how I insulated both of mine.

  7. stanw909

    I bought my Dometic from and noticed they sell an insulated case(bag) for the coolfreeze so they know they are not insulated well enough.I can’t decide to spend the $40 on the bag or $108 for another AGM battery.I will probably buy the battery and make a case with quilting material.I already have 2 batteries for a total of 110 amp hours.The Optima Blue tops I buy refurbed from Interstate battery are 55 amp hours.If I may suggest.Interstate has great deals on batteries.I bought my deep cycle 6 volts for my Bounder at half price.Ask about their Econo power line.I also bought a battery for my Honda for $44 with one year warranty.Same battery at Auto zone was $80.

    • Bob

      Stan, Whytner, Engle and Edgestar all make insulating bags to cover their fridge-freezers so that doesn’t mean they don’t have confidence in them. It means they want to make some more money!! The one for my fridge costs $74. I considered it but a 4×8 sheet of one inch Polyiso insulation at Home Depot only costs $20 and it will more than cover the fridge and has an R-value of 6.2 per inch (that’s very high!). So I did that instead. I’ll do a post on that very soon.

      • stanw909

        The pics above jogged my memory of you insulation solution but my wife would never allow that.I was thinking of doing like you and glueing a nice fabric to it which will be more palatable to female sensibilities.

        • Bob

          Stan, I may have a suggestion your mom can live with coming up.

  8. Alan Robinson

    I read somewhere that a refrigerator uses more power when just starting up than less after the compressor is charged. So if you can re-check your amps after an hour or two you might be able to run continually at 35-38 degrees. my two cents

  9. stan watkins

    Bob. The space above the compressor is where it freezes first on mine. I emailed you a link to my You tube vid. You may link to it if you see fit.

  10. Marshall

    Thanks for the review. We came close to buying the Edgestar when we were looking to buy our refer. However, we got really lucky and an Engel MT-35 came up on Craiglsit for $450.00. We were able to talk him down to $375 and he threw in the slide in base! It was two years old that was only used twice for trips to races in Daytona. We counted ourselves very fortunate! That was 3.5 years ago and its still going like brand new.
    I cannot stress enough how refrigeration revolutionized our life fulltiming out in America. That, and the 240W of solar has forever changed our lives. I would tell everybody to get these two things as they are not luxuries, but bonafide workhorses worth every sacrifice we made to get them and we made a lot! So very happy we did!
    Thanks again for the review. I always wondered about their performance. Thanks.

    • Bob

      Marshall I agree 110%! To me solar and refrigeration simply are not optional! That was a screaming deal on the Engle, I’d have jumped at that too!

  11. Michelle

    Hey Bob what do you think the smallest solar panel would be to run this. Now before you say I should just outfit it with the most I can afford,let me tell you I have a house battery wasting away here in my van. I don’t do electric. I charge my laptop and phone at work and use a 7 watt fan at night. No TV No radio. So back to the question what size solar panel just to run the fridge?

    • Bob

      Michele, the fridges are drawing about 25 amps a day and assuming you aren’t using any other power a 50 watt panel should be able to give you that much. It makes about 4 amps per house and if you get 8 hours of sun that would be 32 amps. Heres the problem though, you can almost certainly get a 100 watt panel for the price of a 50 watt so it wouldn’t make much sense to buy the smaller panel.

  12. Curtis

    Wonderful information Bob! Thank you very much.:)
    I am still in the searching for a van mode but doing my best to read and learn about everything else I need to know.:)

    • Bob

      I wish you the best in your search Curtis!

  13. Bob

    Glad to help Rob.

  14. Laura Joy

    I just bought the Dual Zone Whytner fridge and i love it. The price is down to $650 on Amazon plus free shipping. You really can’t beat that price for the quality and the options.
    I will be hitting the road in the next few months and am in the process of converting my new van into an RV. Thanks for sharing your information. This is the first article i read on your site, but i plan to see what other road wisdom you are sharing. Safe travels!!

    • Bob

      Laura, that is a great price! I had no idea they were that cheap! I have numerous friends with the Whytner and they are all happy with them. I still love mine! A couple have the dual-zone and love the flexibility they give them.
      I’m not sure the writing is all good, but I can say there is a LOT of it! just about anything you want to know about vandwelling, I’ve written about it!
      I’m always glad to answer questions.

  15. Felipe Bueno

    Hi Bob,
    Jus triying to decide between this two.
    The Whynter is 640 bucks the dometic is 748, my biggest concern is reliability because i will use this one in south america where there are no dealers of either. So basically if one of the break down it is almost impossible to fixed it. I am more concerned about quality and toughness than efficiency.
    Whats your call.

    • Bob

      Felipe, in your situation I would get the Dometic since it’s compressor has an excellent reputation. However, I would give serious thought to an Engle or ARB instead because they are simply the very best. I’d put the Engle a little above the ARB. They are more money but may be worth it to you.

      • Felipe Bueno

        First of all, thanks for your prompt response! awesome. engels are a dream but to pricey for my budget. I am really looking for a dual zone because I think is super important to have fridge and freezer at the same time, Arb does not give that option. ARB does not look to me much better than dometic. Engels are definetely in another lever o quality and price too.
        I think i will buy dometic. It is in sale.

        • Bob

          Felipe, the Dometic is a very good unit, I’m sure you will be pleased with it!

  16. LaMarr Harding

    I use the waeco/(now domestic) the same as you have. I bought it because it fits between the front seats of my minivan. Over the years it seems to make more noise than when I first got it.
    Norcold was the first chest type refrigerator I bought and it lasted just over a decade. Engle was what I

  17. LaMarr Harding

    I bought a Waco refrigerator because it would set between the front seats of my mini’s the 25cf just like yours.
    Waeco is now Domestic.
    My first Domestic chest type wad the turquoise 3 way. Used way to much power on 12 volts, didn’t care about 110, and had a place for a pound propane bottle that I never used. It’s plastic case with the molded in catch was hard to open, temperature control was not very reliable.
    My first chest type 12/110 refrigerator was a 1970 Norcold, it lasted a little over a decade.
    Replaced it with the 3 way, in less than a month replaced it with my Engle, which had the same lid, with the flimsy wire draw catch, pin hinge that always came off when I opened it, and the noisy vibrating compressor that the Norcold had but the Engle had a plastic bottom where the Norcold rusted.
    When I got the 25cf like your Domestic I was in heaven. One handed closing with a latch. A temperature indicator on the outside, and most of all a quiet compressor.

    • Bob

      Thanks for a very good review LaMarr!

  18. Henry

    Bob, what do you set the temperature level to? I just purchased the Whynter dual zone, and it’s great but I’m really concerned about power consumption. So I’m experimenting with the settings in an effort to save energy. Right now I have it on Eco.

    • Bob

      Henry, I added a lot of insulation around mine so it stayed cold really well. The important thing is the time of the day it comes on. I turned the temp setting down very low in the morning until it came on and got down to almost freezing, then I turned it up to around 39. I did the same thing again in the late evening about an hour or two before sunset while I was still getting some sun in the panels. When the sun went down the cooler was down to just above freezing. With all the extra insulation most of the time it didn’t come on again because I turned it up to about 42. That way it only came on when there was sun to run it and drew very little on the battery. If it’s really hot it will come on more at night, but the more it comes on during the day the better.

  19. LaMarr Harding

    When I wrote the other day, I was using my @**#? Smart phone. I used the speech input, cussed, tried to correct it, after it was corrected it came back and changed Dometic to domestic with it’s spell checker, then it disappeared.
    I couldn’t find it so I tried again. That’s to explain the duplication.
    I like Ice in my drinks. I like the Tupperware ice cube trays because the ice is enclosed and doesn’t take on the freezer taste. The CF25 doesn’t have enough room for them, so that gets used as the refrigerator, and the little tray over the compressor is where I store butter, lemons, limes, and loose eggs.
    (the egg carton takes up too much room in a small refrigerator.)
    I use the Engel MF27 for the freezer. It is just about a quarter inch short of letting the ice cube trays lay flat. Therefor I have jig sawed the end flange off, of the ends of the Tupperware ice cube trays. 6 trays just leaves room for one box of ice cream sandwiches, a bag of chicken nuggets or fish sticks, and some French fries.

    • Bob

      LaMarr that sounds like a great idea. Having a fridge and a freezer is just about ideal! It sounds like its working out really well for you.

  20. eric

    Going to Corpus Christi in March for 20 days primitive camping in van.
    Thinking about buying that compressor box u have, a 12 volt portable shower (or u know of a good 5 gallon pump sprayer to convert?), and a portable TV (100 watts).
    Do I need 200 watts panels? Would 2, 6 volt 75 ah batteries be enough?

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