This is my review of the Dometic CFX3 powered cooler, based on my purchase and real-world use of it while car camping with our tent trailer. The company calls this a powered cooler, but that is really an understatement. This thing is flat out a refrigerator and freezer. This unit has been trouble free in the two years I’ve owned it. I’m reviewing this specific model, because it is the one I own and have personal experience with. However, there is a wide range of comparable Dometic CFX3 coolers in different sizes, shapes and prices points that should operate comparably. Note that the CFX3 series, released in 2020, replaces the older CFX version and has updated technology and controls, compressor and software.
What is it?
This electric cooler provides an easily transportable and compact refrigerator that can be powered from a 110 Volt plug or the 12 Volt DC socket (cigarette lighter plug) in your car. I chose the 75 DZ (75 Liters) (Dual Zone) because it is the smallest dual zone cooler that Dometic sells. The dual zone designation means that it has two separate compartments that can be independently controlled at different temperatures. Either compartment can be set well below freezing (-7 degrees F) while the other can be used as a refrigerator. I have been familiar with this brand for years, and those who have RVs often have appliances and air conditioners made by this large company.
Who is it for?
This cooler is for the person who needs a portable refrigerator and freezer that can be carried by one person and transported in most cars, SUV’s, and pickup trucks. For campers and travelers who do not have an RV with appliances, this is a good solution. For off road and off grid camping such as overlanding, these coolers are the common choice because they can be operated by a battery that is recharged by solar panels. This cooler is also for people who do not have access to bagged ice or choose to have a dry cooler for more efficient food storage at very specific fixed temperatures.
How Does It Work?
The operation of this cooler is very straightforward. A temperature display with buttons allows you to make all of the adjustments to set compartment temperatures and make other adjustments. You can also link this cooler to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This allows you to both monitor temperatures and make adjustments from your device. This is very handy when the cooler is in a location where you cannot see the display or don’t have easy access to the controls. Once the cooler is set up it will come on when it senses power. Likewise, when power is turned off it will simply shut down, then come on again when power is restored.
This cooler comes with 2 cords and plugs. One is for a 110 Volt household type outlet while the other has a 12 Volt DC plug. The DC plug can be plugged directly into a standard cigarette lighter style outlet in your vehicle, or plugged into an external battery. The cooler can operate from either power source and can be plugged into both at the same time if necessary. In that setup it would power from the 110 Volt plug first then the DC plug if the 110 power is cut off.
On the top of the cooler, the lids have a release latch to open, and you firmly push to close. These lids are reversible so they can hinge on the other side. This is an easy change with a screwdriver. Inside the cooler, both compartments have removable wire racks, and the larger side has a removable partition in the center. Both sides also have a removable drain plug for cleaning or getting out spilled liquids. Cleanup is very easy by removing the wire racks and wiping the interior with a good non-abrasive cleaner.
Your Mobile Refrigeration System
Seldom would you buy a cooler like this and just plug it into your car. In most cases, you will want a system to make it work and keep it running under various conditions. This consists of the cooler, a portable power station (battery), and solar panels.
This brings me to the subject of the external battery. if you load your cooler in the back of your SUV or the bed of your pickup truck and plug it into the 12 Volt DC plug on your vehicle, power to that plug is provided while the vehicle is running. Therefore, your cooler will only be running while the vehicle is running. There are very few cars that allow the DC plug to continue to provide power while the vehicle is shut off, but there are a few. There are also aftermarket wiring solutions that you could do to wire a 12 Volt outlet that provides continuous voltage. However, this runs the risk of running down your car battery over time. If you are only using your cooler for refrigeration of drinks for example, you may not care if the cooler shuts off when the car is not in operation. However, if you need to maintain a certain temperature range or keep a compartment frozen, you are going to want to have continuous power to the unit. I use a smaller Goal Zero Lithium on the picnic table and around the campsite for lights, devices, and other portable power needs.
This is the Jackery 1000 Portable Power Station I use to power my cooler. This is essentially a big battery that can be charged by solar, 110v current, or a 12v DC plug. As a side note, you may have seen in product advertising that the Dometic cooler can be powered by solar. This is kind of misleading, because you cannot plug solar panels directly into the cooler. You can power your comparable battery by solar while the battery powers the cooler. I will cover that in more detail in another review. I keep the cooler in the back of my SUV on a slide out system I made, so the cooler is always in the vehicle. I also always keep the Jackery in the car as well. The Jackery power station is always plugged into the 12 Volt plug in my vehicle, which charges the battery whenever the engine is running. Meanwhile, the cooler is plugged into the 12 Volt plug on the Jackery power station. In this configuration the cooler always runs, as long as there is a charge in the power station. Depending on my temperature settings and the amount of food in the cooler, I have found that I can power the cooler for two to three days just off of battery power. I just finished currently a video test that I posted on YouTube to see how long it can run off the Jackery. You can see that run time test here. However, keep in mind that you will significantly reduce your run time if you frequently open the lids and add room temperature items to cool down or freeze.
Because this setup always stays in the SUV, we always have it with us during daily drives and get cold beverages and some recharging at the same time. In the event we are in place and not running the car for multiple days, I plug in my solar panels to charge the Jackery 1000 if I don’t have access to a 110 Volt outlet. I have the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase solar panels. Two panels hinged together fold up for storage in a case, with hinged legs for set up. As a general rule, on a sunny day, these panels charge the Jackery 1000 at about the same speed as plugging into 110v.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Dimensions? Outside, 37x21x21
How much does it weigh empty? 61.3 pounds
What is the wattage? 94A at 120VAC and 9.6 at 12vDC. In my test, it draws about 60 watts when the compressor is running, then a very small amount, 2 watts or less, with it idle.
How long will it run on DC power? It depends on what you have it plugged into, and if you are using the DC plug or a 110v Inverter (which draws more current to convert to 110v and run a cooling fan). I ran a video test using my Jackery 1000 from a full charge to see how long it would take to run it down to 30% remaining (so I didn’t damage my battery). Throughout the duration of the test, the cooler has been in my basement at about 60 degrees room temperature. Both compartments remain closed for the whole test. The cooler used about 1.5 watts per hour (remarkably low), and, the draw remained consistent throughout the test. At 52 hours, I had 30% battery remaining, so it will theoretically run 70 hours without recharging on the Jackery Explorer 1000. In real world use, opening and closing and adding room temperature drinks to replace cold ones we use, the run time is about two days. For a cooler as large as the Dometic 75 Liter, the Jackery 1000 is the smallest solar generator I would recommend, using it dedicated to the fridge.
How long does it take to get to set temperatures? I tested it empty and starting at room temperature on 12v DC current. With the freezer side set to 21 degrees and the refrigerator side set to 36 degrees, my test showed it took 38 minutes to get there from room temperature. I wouldn’t use it like that in a real setting. I pre-chill the cooler using 110v plug, load it on my slide out empty, then fill it with cold and frozen food. After it is packed, I then start running it in DC off the Jackery.
Pros and Cons
+Heavy duty and well made
+Dual compartments with independent settings
+Cold enough to make ice and keep things frozen
+Bluetooth and WiFi Connections
+Quiet operation and is barely heard when the compressor is running
+Efficient power consumption
+Dynamic battery protection system so it can shut off before totally draining battery
+Excellent display and waterproof buttons
+Removable wire baskets
+Drain plugs to get out spilled liquids
+Large company that stands behind its products. Good warranty.
-At $1378, it is expensive. But, the cost is comparable to other quality units from other manufacturers. That would buy a lot of bags of ice!
-It is heavy, at 61.3 pounds. It would be a two person lift full of food and beverages
-Water resistant, but not waterproof. Shouldn’t be left in the elements
Thoughts and Recommendation. I absolutely love this cooler. It is extremely convenient to travel without having to worry about ice every few days, or keeping things from getting wet and ruined in water. The storage capacity is very spacious. 75 Liters of storage is a lot. Because you don’t put ice in it, there is more room for food and beverages. We have packed this full with frozen food and refrigerated food and beverages for a week long trip, and come home with it still half full. Honestly, I don’t need this much space for the amount of time we are away from grocery stores and markets, but I really wanted both a fridge and freezer. As I mentioned before, this is the smallest Dometic unit that has dual compartments. In the times we have been off-grid boondocking, this has been fantastic. We have gone places we would not have gone, and stayed longer than we could have if relying on an ice chest. This is clearly one of my more expensive investments. But, it really brings our food storage to an entirely new level. On a few occasions, I have used this at home during power outages, keeping the important things that would spoil from going bad. It has also been handy for picking up large amounts of meat at the processor. As car campers, storage inside the SUV is prime real estate, and this cooler takes up about one fourth of my available room with the back seats folded. But, it is totally worth the room it takes up. Also a big plus that our food and beverages are secure from bears and wildlife, locked inside the car. Second to our car top tent, this has been the best and most significant camping purchase we have made. I highly recommend this brand and a dual zone system. There are competitors brands which are comparable, but I can’t review what I haven’t seen or tested myself. This is a great setup, based on real-world use and experience.
If you are interested in any of these items, I have placed links below. If you use these links to navigate to the seller and make a purchase, you will pay the same amount, but I will get a small commission from the seller. I hope you found this review helpful, and wish you the best in your food storage quest!
You can buy the Dometic CFX3 75DZ from Amazon here. The price is right about what I paid for mine two years ago. I struggled to find one in stock during the early days of COVID, and everybody going camping. They are more readily available now.
My Goal Zero Yeti Solar Panel Briefcase was $299 when I last checked. You can buy it from Amazon here.
You can buy the Jackery Explorer 1000 here. Prices on this have come down. I paid $999 for mine two years ago.
You can buy the same Jackery Explorer 1000 bundled with solar panels here. This is with two 100 watt panels, which is twice as much solar power as my 100 watt setup (and would obviously charge must faster).
Expensive, right? Yes, but for me, this setup solves one of the major shortfalls of not having an RV with appliances, and I was willing to pay it. I haven’t had any regrets. Could you get by without the solar panels? Maybe, depending on your need to always have the cooler running. I don’t think in most cases you could get by without a power station if using the cooler in a strictly DC environment.
If you enjoyed this review, check out my blog at http://www.tenttrailercamping.com