Simple solar set up to power 12v cooler?

Hi all! New to the group and excited to connect with folks!

So I’m just going to be sleeping in my Honda Civic, I’ve done this many times before so I have good set up for myself already :slight_smile: But this time I want to up my cooler game and get a 12v fridge I can use, rather than having to buy ice all the dang time haha.

So I’ve seen a few videos in which folks used the Yetti200x battery, and I think that’s what I want to go with as I think it should be able to keep my fridge powered, and be able to charge my laptop and keep a small fan going when needed. I want to be able to charge it with a solar power when I’m posted up, but I’m not sure how to go about choosing a solar panel. I know nothing about electricity and all this, so I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to look through all the resources online.

So, can anyone recommend a solar panel, and/or any resources for helping me to understand how to get started with a small, simple, solar set up?

Thanks in advance and looking forward to learning from you!


After having gone through 3x $1200+ 12v ice chest style compressor fridges in 3 years, I am not a fan of them. Even though the prices have dropped significantly, they’re still all cheap chinese junk. Sure, you might win the lottery and get a good one, but the odds aren’t in your favor.

I switched back to ice chests, totally reliable, require no power, and buying ice once a week is both cheap and easy. The biggest problem with ice chests is that people don’t understand how to use them properly. I put a block of ice in a container on one side of the ice chest, and the food on the other. A tiny fan circulates the cold air inside. The melted ice water stays in the ice container, and no food gets soggy. During the summer, I wrap the ice chest in a moving blanket, so it will still hold the ice for over a week. I typically go shopping once a week anyway, so picking up ice is no big deal. Many of the convenience stores with the big ice storage box out front have the ice blocks, which last considerably longer than cubes.

If you’re not going to be out much longer than a week, 2 or 3 gallon sized milk/water jugs frozen can work too. If you’ll need a freezer, dry ice works wonders.

While solar is highly promoted, and highly praised by newbies right after their purchase, most full timers avoid it like the plague. We’ve all tried it, learned to hate it, and made better choices. To make a long story short, no vehicle has enough roof space to build an efficient solar system. Relying on solar alone is foolish and failure prone. Solar makes a much better supplemental charging source than a primary one. The three top choices are to charge while driving, a generator, or shore power. Charging while driving is usually all I need, but I do have a generator and a battery charger for a backup plan. On a couple of rigs where an isolator wasn’t practical, the generator got me by just fine, still cheaper & more practical than solar, and a whole lot more reliable too.

Did I mention that being forced to park in the sun during the summer should be considered cruel & unusual punishment?


"Practical beats popular every time." ~ Truth Matters

I think you’ll just want to get a solar briefcase to start something with a controller attached. They list on their site charge time for each of the briefcases in the tech specs.

I don’t think that battery will power everything you are hoping it will. * Portable Fridge (25 Wh): 8 is only 1/3 of the day.

The thing about Solar power for vehicles is that you’re limited to a very small total surface area so you can’t install much in the way of solar panels. I have two, 100watt panels on the roof of my minivan for a total of 200watts and 10Amps. I only get that under ideal Sun conditions where the Sun is nearly overhead and perfectly clear, unobstructed skies. In latitudes further North than Orlando, Florida, it can be a challenged to get full power from your panels in the winter and if you add in ANY cloud cover or atmospheric obstruction, all bets are off and your output can diminish a LOT. ANY shade from a tree, for example, and output can drop from 8Amps to 1Amp or less.

So in summary for solar IMO, it’s good in the summer and on clear days.

I have a 12v DC fridge but I also have a Igloo Iceless brand Peltier cooler that I’ve used for a few years. The Igloo cooler is a power hog and uses 6.2Amps ALL THE TIME it’s running. That said, it has never failed and has kept my foods at about 40F no matter what. But I have to use my generator every day to recharge the batteries. It’s rare that I have access to shore power.

Like Van_Dweller said, and I agree, the under $800 Chinese DC refrigerators are not very reliable. I don’t often see people bragging that they’ve been using one past about two years continuously so I’m thinking that’s about how long they last. The ONLY reason I went ahead and bought one is that I do AC work and and electronics repair so I can change the compressor and probably repair it when it fails. I plan to put a much better compressor in mine when it fails.

An alternative few think of is Dorm Refrigerators powered by an inverter. I have one. It’s from Walmart and was about $80 new. I think they’re about $100 now. Anyway, that is a good alternative because it is cheap, uses much less power than the Igloo cooler (but a little more than a DC fridge) , and is reliable compared to the cheap Chinese fridges. I have one running in my office 24/7. Just don’t put it in a vehicle that goes off-roading. Also, it depends on your vehicle because it can be a bit boxy and bulky.

The Yetti200x battery only has 187watt hours. That’s very little. I have a minimum of 2000watt hours of battery capacity (not counting the vehicles battery) at all times when I’m on the road and I find that I can go through that fairly quickly if not careful.

Depending on your plans and desires you will likely need more battery capacity than that. Maybe if you describe a bit more where you will spend most of your time in your vehicle and what kind of expectations you have it would help. I would also recommend you go on YouTube and find videos by Foresty Forest and watch them from the beginning. You’ll learn a lot about van dwelling just keep in mind he’s in Canada.

All that said, Solar power “Can” be useful depending on your location(s) and the season but under less than ideal conditions you will need a backup plan as Van_Dweller mentioned.

Remember…knowledge IS POWER!
Good luck!