I recently Received my Sunfrost RF-12 refrigerator. I really like the refrigerator, but I can’t say much for the service I received from the altE store, altEstore.com.
I ordered the refrigerator on 8/25/09. I paid top dollar, $2,342 for the fridge, $50 crating fee, $160 Shipping, and $236 in sales tax, for a total of $2,788. They called me back immediately to confirm color, what side the door was to be hinged on, etc. So far so good.
On 8/31 I received an E-mail indicating that my refrigerator was ready to ship. On 9/1 I reconfirmed what side I wanted it hinged on and was told that the refrigerator would ship that same day. So far so good.
I was in no rush, so I didn’t call them back until 9/18 to let them know I hadn’t seen my refrigerator. That’s when they handed me off to the customer service department. It took the customer service department at altE until 9/21 to get back to me and tell me that my refrigerator would be ready to ship between 10/2 and 10/9. On 10/12 I contacted them again and was told that my refrigerator would be ready to ship in the next week or two (10/19 to 10/26). It actually arrived on 10/19.
I was never in any rush, and I don’t mind the delay, but I don’t like being lied to. Unfortunately I don’t know who was lying, Sunfrost or altE. The good news is that I now have the refrigerator and it looks and works fine.
It came very nicely crated, on a new pallet with a cardboard box over the top. The corners were reinforced, and the top had a diagonal wood brace to prevent crushing. It was well labeled and obviously well made. I know, I am gushing about a packaging job, but I paid $50 for that package, and more importantly it helps to give me a sense for their attention to detail.
The refrigerator itself is also nicely made. I immediately liked the clean and simple design approach. It appears to be a heavy plywood box with Formica and aluminum extrusions in the high wear areas. The hinge is a full length heavy duty stainless steel piano hinge. The hinge line is flush with the outside edge, in my case on the left side. Since the doors are so thick it means you need at least 4” of clearance on the left side of the hinge forward of the hinge line. In other words the doors need to stand proud of any cabinet walls in order to have room to open.
It’s very boxy with sharp corners, rather short, and wide. The short part is because it is meant to be mounted on a cabinet about 2 feet tall, which is more or less what I intend to do. I assume that the shape is a concession to efficiency. A square box has the least surface area per volume, at least for something with flat sides. The insulated walls are also very thick, adding to the width. Likewise the doors are very thick, and the walls around the freezer are even thicker. It has 8.07 cubic feet of internal space plus 2.05 cubic feet in the freezer, so it is not a really small refrigerator.
The compressor and radiator are all on top of the unit, just like they were 100 years ago when they first started making refrigerators, and for the same reason. Heat rises, and it makes no sense to put something hot under a refrigerator. The mechanics are mostly hidden behind a short fascia on the front and sides. I really like the way it is all right there, simple and accessible. It does require a minimum of 6” clear space above the refrigerator for proper airflow though.
They make them for 110V operation, but this one will automatically adapt to run on either 12V or 24V DC. The compressor is a conventional looking jelly bean shape, though on the small side, like you would expect for a tiny under the counter refrigerator. It is made by Danfoss and comes with its own manual, which I like because it has some nice technical details like fluid pressure, schematics, alternate circuits, etc.
It’s very quiet, with the loudest noise coming from the boiling of the internal coolant.
The manual for the refrigerator itself is short but complete. There isn’t much you need to know about a refrigerator that we don’t all already know from long experience. They do make a few interesting points though. For example, the compressor will automatically refuse to start for several minutes after it has been shut down to minimize the pressure difference and the starting load on the motor.
The external wiring has to be up to the task, but it only draws about 4.3 amps when the compressor is running. The thermostat actually controls the refrigerator temperature with the freezer a roughly fixed amount colder. Even that can be adjusted by changing the quantity of coolant in the system.
I powered it up with 12V and put an ice cube tray in the freezer. I was pleasantly surprised to find it frozen solid about 6 hours later. Usually, in my experience, it takes a while for a refrigerator to chill all of its internal mass before it can really chill what is inside. It was all but empty at the time, but I am still glad to see that it can make ice with authority.
I only have one small complaint about the refrigerator itself, at least thus far. The internal light is very dim. So dim that I suspect that they gave me a 24V bulb. They were supposed to give me both a 12V and 24V bulb, but I only got the one. Actually the idea of an incandescent bulb in a high efficiency refrigerator is contradictory to begin with. I will soon replace it with several LED’s that will use less current, make considerably more light, and never burn out.
They claim that this refrigerator is actually better for storing food than conventional refrigerators because it maintains a more humid internal environment that avoids wilting and freezer burn. I don’t know if it’s true, but it would not surprise me given the excellent insulation.
It may be a low volume craftsman built product, but they did a nice job. I like it.