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Author Topic: Fridges 12v/Mains/inverters...?  (Read 3649 times)


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Fridges 12v/Mains/inverters...?
« on: September 27, 2017, 02:57:49 PM »
Hi All,

So in the process of planning my first camper conversion (in the UK) and I've been researching fridges...

So i'm gonna be running everything off of a leisure battery with a mains hook up option as well when available.

When looking at fridges to buy (bearing in mind i don't need anything massive, just enough to hold a few beers, milk, bacon etc) even the very small ones sold from camper van stores seem ridiculously expensive (anything from 200-1000+!!). I see i can buy a normal (mains powered) mini fridge from amazon for about 60-80...

Can anybody see a reason why i couldn't just buy the fridge from amazon along with an inverter, then plug the fridge into the inverter and wire the inverter to my leisure battery? To me this seems like a logical and much cheaper way of getting my fridge, but am i overlooking anything glaringly obvious? or are there specific reasons why it would make sense to save a bit longer and buy one of the more expensive purpose built fridges?

Any advice or tips are greatly appreciated!

Cheers all,



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Re: Fridges 12v/Mains/inverters...?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 10:19:29 PM »
I can't think of any reason not to.

Many RV suppliers markup their prices like that because it has "RV" in the name, so it must be better right? /s

A lot of the fridges you see may also be three way fridges, meaning they can run off of 12v, 110 (or 220 in your case), and propane which is completely unnecessary unless you plan to be off grid for very long periods of time.

Just go with what you know you need, and upgrade later if you want. (make sure you get a powerful enough inverter, though I'm sure you know that)
Good luck Al


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Re: Fridges 12v/Mains/inverters...?
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2017, 01:09:20 AM »
Greetings & Welcome!

Fridges and freezers are a complicated subject, but I'll attempt to give you a fair review of your choices.

Most experienced full timers these days use either ice chests or absorption type fridges/freezers that can be run  on AC/DC/propane, or if you can find one, kerosene.  The 12v compressor fridges have fallen out of favor because any of the newer ones have too short a lifespan to justify their cost, plus they are power hogs.  It has been  reported that all of the formerly Dan Foss (Now Secop) compressors are now being made in China.  The last three I owned lasted only slightly longer than a year, and many others have reported similar issues.  Even if they're still under warranty, they will cost you hundreds of dollars in shipping to return them for repair.  Long story short, if you're using them for the occasional weekend, they'll probably last for years, but for full time use, not so much.

There is a new Sawafuji swing type compressor model available.  The jury is still out on those.

The RV type 3 way fridges are preferred by many, so they can be run on 12v while traveling, but propane while parked.  These will  cut your power needs considerably, and they are typically very long lived.  They do need to be level when in propane mode, but if you mount them using a gimbal like they do on boats, they will be self leveling.  I had one of these in an old motorhome and was very happy with it.  These are absorption type fridges so they are extremely reliable.

Many old boats used kerosene fridge/freezers.  A friend has one and he swears by it.  He has it gimballed and he's been using it for 20+ years.  These are also absorption type fridges so they have no compressor and are extremely reliable.

Most dorm fridges use compressors, and compressors just don't hold up well when traveling.  That being said, I have seen some dorm fridges that were actually12v and used a power brick to plug them into shore power.  Unlike the 12v fridges above, dorm fridges are cheap, and if you could find a 12v one that used a power supply for house current, I would definitely consider one.

There is also a second option for dorm fridges that some people use that seems to work well.  They use them with an inverter, but they hook them up with a temperature sensor that switches the inverter on and off when the fridge needs to run, so the  inverter isn't running and using power unless the fridge needs to run. Reportedly these use even less power than the 12v fridges that are so expensive and have short lifespans.

The thermo-electric type coolers are not suitable for full time use.

Our remaining choice is the old tried and proven faithful ice chest.  This is what I have switched back to.  I have one of the 5-7 day el cheapo ice chests from a big box store.  I use either the big blocks of ice, in a separate container from the food, or a couple of one gallon jugs.  A big block of ice will typically last me a week even on the hottest days of summer.  If it's really hot out, I will sometimes wrap my ice chest in a moving blanket for added insulation.  Ice chests have many advantages, the most important ones being  that they require no power, and there is nothing to go wrong with them.  I typically pay $0.99 to $1.99 a week for ice, if I can't get it for free.  If I'm staying in one location for a while, I frequently will ask at a convenience store if I can freeze a couple of 1 gallon jugs in their freezer and swap them out as needed.  I have had huge success doing this, and for free.  I do buy stuff there as well, and also occasionally use their microwaves.

Different people do different things with ice chests.  Some use dry ice to make a freezer, and then also use it to freeze jugs of water for the ice chests.  One fellow I know carries a tank to make his own dry ice.  So there are some interesting options for good old ice chests.

The final option is no refrigeration, and I actually use this in combination with my ice chest somewhat.  You can buy a lot of foods that require no refrigeration.  Canned, smoked, dehydrated, etc.  I try to keep 3-4 weeks worth of this type of food on hand at all times as back up or emergency plan.  Some people I know, just go buy their food fresh each day too.  So there are lots of options available.

I tend to look at overall cost, and power consumption, when it comes to refrigeration.  I no longer have or want solar panels, and near as I can tell an ice chest provides the best bang for your buck possible.  In all fairness though, I have never personally tried the dorm fridge option though.

Good luck, and hope  this helps...

« Last Edit: September 28, 2017, 01:13:14 AM by Camper_Dan »
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Re: Fridges 12v/Mains/inverters...?
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2017, 09:43:20 AM »
Awesome, cheers guys! Some interesting things to think about here - particularly the temperature sensor..

I'll keep you posted with any developments!