Updated: May 7
WARNING THIS POST CONTAINS MATHS
BUT IT'S OK IV'E DONE IT FOR YOU 🤓🧮👨🏻🔬
Summer is here and it's time to worry about your food and drinks getting warm and rank again...
Recently I have seen a lot of posts from people asking what the best 12v fridge is because the one they currently have is draining their batteries fast.
Here is my answer, in short it's a 12v compressor fridge. Decent compressor fridges use very little power at all to run so you will have no problem running them off of your 12v system all year round.
The emphasis has got to be on the word DECENT though, there are loads of cheaper compressor fridges on the market that use a lot more power than the better ones so if you want to save power go for quality. Also the good quality ones will also keep your food chilled for longer without any power like a cool box so they are defiantly worth the money.
That being said though if you can get away with a cheaper version because you have a huge battery bank and 1000w of solar then why not.
I will let you know how many amp hours (ah) each fridge will use in a 24 hour period so you can decide if you have enough power or not.
Lead acid batteries should NEVER be discharged lower than 50% so one 110ah lead acid battery will only give you 55ah of useable battery power before it needs charging.
The power consumption of the fridge will also depend on the ambient temperature of your van, the hotter the inside of your van the more power it will use. As Dometic list on their website the power consumptions at 25℃ and 32℃ I will do the maths based on 25℃ wherever possible (as this is a British blog where it's always cold) This also means the higher you have your heating turned up in winter the more power your fridge will use.
For example this fridge uses about 268w a day at 25℃ 268w ÷ 12v = 22.3ah in 24 hours
However this fridge uses about 557w a day at 32℃ 557w ÷ 12v = 46.4ah in 24 hours
That is over double for a 7℃ temp rise, its just worth keeping that in mind before whacking your heating up
In reality you would need a decent solar and B2B charge set up to keep these fridges powered day in day out. For a decent set up that would let you power your fridge and a whole lot more all year round please check out this post.
So the first fridge I am going to recommend is for the people who don't like the chest cool box style fridges because they want to build them into their van.
This cool little fridge can fit a lot in it it's bigger than it looks in the photos, It has a little freezer compartment and is made by one of the biggest names in the game, Dometic! As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases
This is the CRX 50 Version that I think is the perfect size for a Camper but they do make bigger sizes. This fridge is the example I used above for the maths so at 25℃ it will use 22.3ah in 24 hours.
DOMETIC COOLMATIC CRX 50 E 12/24V
41.20 L FIRDGE
4.80 L FREEZER
The next fridge I want to suggest is actually a fridge by Just Kampers!
It is extremely low powered and has the same capacity as the Dometic above but is quite a lot cheaper. This is a decent budget option and is also portable if you ever want to take it with you anywhere. It also has separate fridge and freezer compartments. This fridge freezer draws a tiny 0.9 amps and hour so in 24 hours will use an impressive 21.9ah
Just Kampers 45Lt 12v-230v Electric Portable Compressor Cool Box Fridge Freezer
If low powered is your main aim for a compressor fridge then this is the option for you. It is only 26L but that is more than enough for couples or solo traveler's.
In 24 hours this fridge will only use 15ah. For a fridge this is actually amazing, this means that you could run it on a single 110ah battery for nearly 4 days without any sort of charger needed at all. It is also extremely light and compact as it it made for adventures but can fit a lot in it. I read one of the reviews where a guy had managed to fit 16 racks of ribs and 4 whole chickens 🤷♂️it also has the bonus feature of a USB port for charging your accessories.
Dometic CoolFreeze CFX 28 12 24 V Volt Mains Portable Compressor Freezer Fridge
If you are the kind of person who likes to go big or go home then this fridge is the choice for you. It's all singing, all dancing, huge and awesome. It comes various different sizes from 32L to a whopping 88L. It also has a 46L version with an ice maker built into it... Wow! The unit I am going to suggest is the CFX3 55 48L
So these have lots of amazing features including being able to connect to it and control it via WIFI or Bluetooth. Theses fridges will use 26.4ah in a 24 hour period. This is more than the fridges above but it does have a lot more functions. With a power consumption like this a one 110ah battery you could run it for two full days without charge.
Dometic CFX3 55
So I have not had a chance to do the maths on these yet I am just waiting to hear back from them however it's looking good from what I can see.
Both of these fridge freezers are from a company called KITGARN and have LG compressors. One is 22L and one is 35L I will update the post when I know more. The top one is UNDER £250 (just)
KITGARN 22L Compressor Portable Small Refrigerator Car Refrigerator Freezer Vehicle Car Truck RV Boat Mini Electric Cooler for Driving Travel Fishing Outdoor and Home Use
KITGARN 35L Compressor Portable Small Refrigerator Car Refrigerator Freezer Vehicle Car Truck RV Boat Mini Electric Cooler for Driving Travel Fishing Outdoor and Home Use
FOR MORE BUDGET OPTIONS CHECK OUT OUR NEW POST...
So the fridge freezers above are what I would suggest for most van lifers, they are small, light, low powered and all very good products. They all come with excellent customer service and even though they are quite expensive you can be safe in the knowledge that if anything goes wrong you won't have any problems getting it sorted and it will last for years.
If you're thinking that a compressor fridge is way too expensive for you and wondering what your other options are, there are a few.
You could get yourself a normal 12v fridge and only run it from your cab lighter socket when your engine is running. This isn't a good option if you're parked up more than you're driving. If power these power hungry fridges into your leisure battery it will drain it very quickly. You could run it from your leisure battery with your engine running if you have a B2B charger or split charge relay.
Another option is a 3 way fridge. These are a very efficient way to keep your food and drinks cold as they run on 12v whilst you are driving, 240v via hook up and LPG when you're off grid. However the fridges are not particularly cheap either, you will need a split charge relay or B2B charger to power it as you drive, you will need an LPG system in your van, you will need to cut a hole in the side of your van to vent the fridge, a hole in the bottom of your van to vent the gas, install a 240v hook up on the outside of the van etc etc the list goes on and on. This is only really a good option if you already have all of the following installed.
B2B or Split charge relay
240v Hook up
If you don't have the above items it will cost you more to install than buying a decent compressor fridge.
However that being said if you don't mind spending a small fortune on tiny camping gas bottles or would only use it every now and again you could get yourself one of these amazing portable 3 way fridges.
Dometic RC1200EGP Gas Portable Cooler, 12-230 V, Silver
iceQ 42 Litre 3 Way Portable Camping Absorption Cool Box - DC 12 V/AC 230 V/Gas,
In my opinion the best, easiest and cheapest solution is just a normal cool box. There are some amazing cool boxes on the market that can keep your food frozen for 2 days and cool for 10 days, all you need to make this work is access to somebody's freezer. I did this for 2 years when I first started out in a van because I couldn't afford a fridge and it works perfectly. I was freezing my ice blocks at friends, families, local shops, pubs and anywhere that I could think of with a freezer. Im not going to lie I did get a few weird looks when asking people but I soon got over that.
If you think that this might be a good solution for you please check out this post for some amazing cool boxes.
Ok so thats about it from me for now, I hope you all enjoyed it and found it useful
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