A Simple Budget Low Powered Fridge OR Freezer Set Up For Your Van

Updated: Feb 10

Hi everybody, this is going to be a very quick post as I have had a lot of people asking about this today so I will just cover the basics to get it up as soon as possible for everybody that is waiting for it.

So a low powered fridge for your van can be a very tricky subject to cover, there are a few options out there to choose from that are already low powered but can be very expensive or complicated to install

12v Compressor fridges are by far the best option for any full time van lifer who has deep enough pockets. Some of them only use 16ah in a 24 hour period to run, have separate fridge and freezer compartments (some even have built in ice makers) and best of all run straight from your 12v system without needing expensive power hungry inverters.

If you have deep enough pockets and think this might be an option for you please check out the post below...

Please do not mistake a 12v car fridge for a 12v compressor fridge, these are completely different and run in different ways. The car fridges are thermoelectric and use so much more power. This type of fridge should only be used from your 12v cigarette socket in your cab as you drive.

The next option is both expensive and complicated to install but can be useful for some situations.

Three way fridges run on 12v whilst you are driving, Gas when you are off grid and 240v hook up when you are on a camp site. They are however expensive to buy in the first place, hard to install as it needs to be vented to the outside or the van, you need a full gas system installed for it to work, gas costs money and you also need a 240v hook up point installed on your van.

If you are looking for a A Simple Budget Low Powered Fridge for your build then the best option for you isn't a fridge at all.

The best solution is a LOW POWERED chest freezer that is controlled by an INKBIRD thermometer.

This is how it works

The first thing you will need is a low powered chest freezer, You might already have one at home and if you do this set up has just become even more budget for you. I have checked out the specs on these freezers below so can do some ROUGH maths for you. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases

SIA CHF60W/1 36cm Freestanding Slimline Compact White Chest Freezer A+ Energy [Energy Class A+]

51 LITRE, 60W

17W PER HOUR = 34AH PER DAY (as a freezer)

UP TO 60W PER HOUR = 120AH PER DAY (as a fridge)


SIA CHF100W 48cm Freestanding Slimline White Chest Freezer | A+ Energy Rating [Energy Class A+]

78 LITRE, 100W

19W PER HOUR = 36.5AH PER DAY (as a freezer)

UP TO 100W PER HOUR = 200AH PER DAY (as a fridge)

OK so the last one is huge and will use quite a lot of power but it is big so will fit a lot in it unlike the very expensive compressor fridges and 3 way fridges where the small ones are expensive and the big ones are outrageously expensive.

So if you are wanting to use these as a freezer in your van they are already low powered as it is, it is essentially a cool cool box once everything in the freezer is frozen the food inside keeps the temp down so the motor doesn't have to work hard to keep it cool so it uses less power... simple

However if you want to use it as a fridge then we need to get the power consumption down a lot so we need to add an INKBIRD thermometer.

Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller Thermostat Dual Relays Heating Cooling 220V Plug


These work by keeping your fridge at a constant pre set temperature by turning your chest freezer on and off when it gets to and drops below the desired temp. As a chest freezer is essentially a giant cool box it keeps its temp quite well so it only needs to be on for about 15 mins out of every hour cutting your power consumption by roughly 75%. Please bear in mind though the hotter the inside of your van is the harder the freezer will have to work to keep cool, this means in summer its a good idea to make sure your van is as cool as possible inside, in winter don't turn your heater up unnecessarily hight and its best to leave a decent gap all the way around the freezer as it gets warm so needs ventilation.

With the INKBIRD only powering the chest freezers above for 25% of each hour that will drop the power consumption to

SIA CHF60W 51 LITRE, 60W = 40AH PER DAY (for a fridge)

SIA CHF100W 78 LITRE, 100W = 50AH PER DAY (for a fridge)

This maths is based on the fridge using their full 100w or 60w per hour, that wont actually be the case it will be much lower so I will do the maths on 40w and 80w per hour as that is closer to what it will be

SIA CHF60W 51 LITRE, 60W = 20AH PER DAY (for a fridge)

SIA CHF100W 78 LITRE, 100W = 40AH PER DAY (for a fridge)

This is looking so much better already as both of these amounts are doable on a single 110ah battery if you have a way to keep it topped up everyday this is enough to be off grid all year round.

In summer (if its not cloudy) then all you would need to keep your you battery topped up is about 100w of solar and a 10 amp solar charge controller and you are good go however I live in the UK so I am going to be realistic. A 100w solar panel will produce roughly 56ah of power for your battery a day.

Even in the summer in the uk you cant guarantee that there won't be a few cloudy days in a row at any given time no matter what the weather forecast says so you can't rely on solar alone, in the winter solar is pretty much next to useless with each 100w of solar topping your batteries up by about 8.5ah a day (if it's not cloudy) so you will need a back up plan.

The last thing you want is for your batteries to drop so low that nothing works and your food goes rank in the fridge. Not only will this ruin your food it will most likely cause permanent damage to your batteries!

So you could either add enough solar to keep you topped up in the winter but there are a few problems with this. First it will be expensive as you would need 400w of solar just for the fridge let alone anything else in your van, not everybody has room for 400w of solar on their van and it will still be useless if its cloudy.

The best thing to do is add a B2B charger to your set up. As you drive they charge your batteries and if you get the right size then you could have your battery bank topped up in less than an hour of driving. These can be expensive but it is a good thing to have in your van in general and most people will have one or be installing one anyway

There is another thing you can do to help keep the power of your chest freezer as ow as possible and that is putting frozen stuff in it.

As I have mentioned before they are basically huge cool boxes, these particular freezers will keep your food frozen for up to 30 hours if their is a power cut so this will show you how good they are at keeping the cold in. If every time you go shopping you buy a few frozen bits and pieces and leave them in your fridge to defrost before you eat them then this will help with the power consumption a lot. I can't do the exact maths for you as will need to test it myself but it will lower it by about half again. If you have access to a fried, family member or other random persons freezer and can get some freezer blocks that would be awesome but it works perfectly fine without one.

TOURIT Long Lasting Ice Pack


And the final thing you will need is a 500w inverter with a peak amp rating of 1000w to handle the large power surge when you turn it on. You can actually get away with a much smaller powered DECENT pure sine wave inverter as the peak will be about 500w and will only use 80w at the most once turned on however to keep the costs down and to be able to use a cheap inverter you should go for one that will power it at it's normal power and ignore the peak so.

For a cheap inverter you should go for one that is 500w with 1000w peak power

For a DECENT pure sine wave inverter you could get away with 300w with 600w peak power

Again if you already have one of these then it is a even lower budget set up for you

ERAYAK Power Inverter 500w


(don't use cables that come with it replace with 8 awg cable wired directly to your battery via in 40amp inline fuse)


US-TRONIC 300W pure sine wave power inverter to convert 12V DC to 240V AC (peak power 600W)


(don't use cables that come with it replace with 8 awg cable wired directly to your battery via in 40amp inline fuse)


And that is everything you should need for your set up, before you go I will leave you with a few more helpful tips.

If you are using it as a freezer make sure everything you put in it is frozen to start with, if you put food in it and expect it to freeze it it will have to work much harder and use more energy. Also plug it in somewhere for 24 hours before putting it in your van or run an extension lead to your van and run it for 24 hours before filling it with frozen food and switching it to your inverter.

where possible when using it as a fridge make sure all the food is cold before putting it in or it will need to cool it down and use more power.

You can use the INKBIRD thermometer when using it as a freezer and it will save you power too. I will try and do the exact maths sometime soon


Ok so thats about it from me for now, I hope you all enjoyed it and found it useful




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As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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