When it comes to choosing a caravan fridge freezer, you need to look for more than just space for the beer and wine! Take a look at our top tips to get the right fridge for your recreational vehicle.
Today, there is a huge range of fridge-freezers designed especially for caravans, motorhomes, camper trailers, boats, horse floats etc. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming trying to find the right caravan fridge freezer for your needs. Here, we share the different types of fridges you can select from, as well as the key things to look for.
This article looks at the upright fridge freezers installed inside your recreational vehicle. If you are considering a portable camping fridge to move in and out of your vehicle, you can read this article: Camping Fridges Buyers Guide.
Types Of Caravan Fridge Freezer Models:
There are two main types of upright caravan fridges: compressor and absorption.
Compressor Fridges (also known as 2 Way Fridges):
Due to the rise in solar and lithium battery storage, compressor fridges have become the most popular caravan fridges. Like your household fridge, these fridges use compressor as a cooler and run on either 12/24V battery power or a 240V electrical hook-up from mains power or a generator. The big brands in this space are:
Absorption Fridges (also referred to as 3-Way fridges):
The original type of fridges used in motorhomes, caravans and other RV’s were a 3-way fridge. The benefit of a 3-way caravan fridge is that it has three types of power sources: 12/24V, 240V and LPG gas. It doesn’t have a compressor, but instead uses evaporating ammonia as a cooler.
The big appeal with this type of fridge for your RV is the efficiency you get from running on gas – you can free camp for around 2 weeks running on a standard gas bottle. With few moving parts, the three way gas fridges run with almost silent operation. One of the top brands in Australia for 3-way fridges is Dometic.
What To Look For:
There are lots of things to consider when buying your caravan fridge. Start by answering the following questions:
How Much Space Do I Need?
In terms of capacity, caravan fridges can range from 30-40 litres right up to 280 litres. If you’re planning on “going ‘round the block”, you want to look at the larger fridges with a capacity of between 140-280 litres. They tend to be designed as two-door fridge-freezers complete with a crisper section.
However, if you’re only using your caravan for long weekends and short breaks, a 60-80 litre compressor fridge provides plenty of room to chill your veggies, snags and beer. There are even compressor drawer fridge-freezer models which are great for internal or external compact spaces in your vehicle.
Remember, bigger isn’t always better – the best strategy is to choose the smallest possible fridge for your needs, as this will save on unnecessary power consumption and costs. Also, you obviously need to consider your interior recreational capacity and what sized fridge (in terms of dimensions) will fit with your vehicle – look for the ‘cut-out required’ dimensions in the specifications.
The 3-way fridge provides the option of three alternative power sources, including LPG. However, a 2-way compressor fridge will only have 12/24 volt or 240 volt options – but they will be more efficient when running on 12/24 volt power source.
A compressor fridge will continue to cool in very hot climates, whereas there is a maximum ambient temperature that an absorption fridge will adequately operate at. Modern compressor fridges are very efficient when running from a 12V battery. For example, Dometic advertise that their CRX110 Fridge & Freezer will draw as low as 1.2 Amp Hours at 25 degrees ambient temperature with the fridge at 5 degrees.
It is also important to note that the 12/24V power source for a three way gas fridge is only designed to be used when travelling from A to B. During this time, the battery running the fridge will be receiving high current charge from the vehicle alternator. It is not recommended to run a three way fridge from 12/24V while stationary.
The real benefit of a 3-way absorption fridge freezer is that they can use gas, and some models you can even take the fridge off the electrical system altogether and save battery power. As a rough guide, an absorption fridge typically consumes about 15-20g of gas per hour, so an 9kg gas bottle should keep the caravan fridge freezer running for up to two weeks (perfect if you’re travelling in the outback!).
For added convenience, some 3-way absorption fridges can automatically switch between power sources. The Dometic range from 95L and larger all include a Universal Energy Selection (UES) feature, which allows you to either set the fridge to automatic which will choose the best power source available. Or set the fridge to manual energy selection and you can choose the preferred power source.
Overall; if you’re heading up north into the hot, tropical environments then a compressor driven fridge will perform better. If you are free camping and only have a small battery and solar setup, then an absorption caravan fridge freezer is a good option.
What Are The Safety Features?
A caravan fridge that runs off LPG gas comes with the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. An odourless, tasteless, invisible gas, carbon monoxide is produced when LPG gas and other fuels (including oil, kerosene and wood) are burnt. The good news is Dometic 3-way fridges are fitted with an automatic flame failure device to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Also remember that Absorption 3 way refrigerators need to be installed and certified by a qualified and licensed gas-fitter, as improperly or illegally installed products will void the manufacturer’s warranty, and could pose a safety risk.
2 way compressor caravan fridge freezer units can be installed as per the product manual.
How Much Noise Is Generated?
Absorption fridges don’t have the working components like compressor fridges so they run silent. And that’s a definite bonus when you are living in a compact space! Compressor fridges will make a small noise when the compressor kicks in.
A fridge is probably one of the most important pieces of kit you will buy for your caravan – so be sure to do your research and choose wisely – Check out our full range of Caravan Fridge Freezer models for more info!
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.