Once the nighttime low starts to exceed 65 degrees while traveling – and depending on what time you sleep and let the morning sun warm up the interior of the vehicle – you need to be more careful with your cooler. The easiest way to save your dinner on an overnight trip is to simply bring your electric cooler into the hotel room and plug it into a power outlet for the night. Of course, this is not feasible if you are far from a point of sale, let alone a hotel.
The other option is to use an external battery, separate from your vehicle, which you configure to run the cooler. Goal Zero is a well-known brand in this field and I have used the Yeti 500X ($ 700) and, for camping trips when we weren’t driving the car every day, the higher capacity Yeti 1500X ($ 2,000) to power the cooler. Those lithium batteries were annoying, but Goal Zero’s new 12-volt X-series outlets work great with coolers and include USB-A, USB-C, and an inverter for utility power.
Dometic manufactures its own battery, the PLB40 ($ 850), which includes a 12-volt outlet as well as USB-A charging ports. This is a 500 watt hour battery, the same capacity as the Goal Zero 500X. While Dometic’s battery does not have USB-C and AC outlets, it does have a two-prong threaded 12-volt outlet to ensure the cooler plug doesn’t come loose when you bounce on rough roads.
The beauty of both of these battery systems is their ability to provide direct charging. This means that the cooler can stay plugged into the battery and the battery can stay plugged into the vehicle. So, after the portable battery is partially discharged overnight while keeping the cooler running, the car battery, through the alternator, can charge the battery the next day while you are on the road. Meanwhile, constant power from the car to the portable battery keeps the cooler running. One catch is that when you plug one of these external batteries into your car, you don’t benefit from the cooler’s battery protection system. Either the battery will continue to draw power from your car’s battery if you leave it plugged in. So make sure it’s plugged into an outlet that is only active when the ignition is on, or don’t forget to unplug the car’s external battery if you need to run the cooler overnight.
Tap the Dometic app
Along with the third generation of CFX coolers, launched in February 2020, comes a brand new CFX3 application. While the previous version of the Dometic app was worth avoiding, the company made some noticeable improvements this time around. Chillers can now connect to a phone over Bluetooth, directly over Wi-Fi, or over an existing Wi-Fi network. These chiller connection options are the remarkable upgrade from the app. The previous generation of cooler only emitted its own Wi-Fi signal, forcing the user to switch to the cooler’s discrete network in the phone’s settings.
The app has the same functionality expected of being able to see and adjust the temperature of the cooler. For energy consumption analysis, the new application displays the history of the temperature in the chiller as well as the energy consumption required to maintain that temperature. It is useful for longer term off-grid battery management to see how much power the chiller is drawing. This helps you calculate the size of a solar panel needed to keep the cooler powered on. I mainly check the app to make sure the cooler is working properly after stowing it in the back of our vehicle where the cooler screen may be obstructed. In addition, the reading of the new third generation of coolers darkens after a short while, making it more difficult to see if it is on and working.