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Caravan refrigerator: 12V, gas or 230V?

Personally, we don't want to do without our mobile home refrigerator . Because the possibility of freezing both cool water and leftovers in summer is golden in our eyes. However, especially those who are new to the camp are faced with many question marks when choosing. That's why we want to give an overview of how the devices work and what you need to operate them smoothly. We also take a look at the value for money.




Which refrigerator for mobile home?


If you want to equip your mobile home or caravan with a refrigerator, you are faced with a wide variety of camping refrigerators. Some run on 12V , others require a 230V connection , and still some run on gas . We would like to take a closer look at the various options in this guide, with their advantages and disadvantages, so that you can quickly decide on the model that suits you best without much specialized knowledge.


Note: The information in our article is always about an outside temperature of around 25°C.


Power the camping refrigerator on 12V Compressor refrigerators are most commonly installed in mobile homes and are then powered by 12V over the on-board network. The biggest advantage is probably obvious, since the mobile home already has 12V, so there is no need to boost or convert the power system. But that too has a price. Custom 12V camping refrigerators are probably the most expensive variety to install in a campervan. Power consumption compressor refrigerator Now if we want to determine how high the power consumption of the camping refrigerator with 12V is, we first need information from the manufacturer. Let's take the Dometic CoolMatic CRX50 to work with an example . Here the manufacturer states a power consumption of 0.26784 kWh in 24 hours . To convert this to Ah, we use the following formula:


  • Converting kWh to Wh: 0.26784 * 1000 = 267.84 Wh

  • Consumption in Ah: 267.84 Wh / 12V (battery voltage) = 22.32 Ah.

So the power consumption of 12V camping refrigerator is around 22.32 Ah per day.


Gas RV refrigerator


We use this variant. The absorber refrigerator can be powered by gas or electricity, but electrical operation should be limited to shore power (power consumption is very high). But since most RVs still have gas to run the heater or gas stove, it makes sense to run the refrigerator on gas as well.


In this context, however, it is important to note that the absorber responds somewhat more sensitively to high outside temperatures. We then supplemented ours with a fan so that even at an outside temperature of 40 degrees we still had cold water.


You should also avoid parking on an extreme slope with this refrigerator.


Operate the absorbers electrically


The absorber refrigerator can be operated on electricity as well as on gas. This is ideal if you are already at the campsite and depend on shore power. This way you can save some gas. However, working with electricity is not worth it if you want to do this independently with the help of the sun, since the power consumption of the absorber is very high. Accordingly, this camping refrigerator is only suitable for electrical operation to a limited extent.


Electricity and gas consumption absorber refrigerator


To have a comparative value, it also makes sense to look at how high the gas consumption of the absorption refrigerator is. As an example for calculation, we take the 141 l, 30 mbar Thetford N4145A absorption refrigerator . Here the consumption in the data sheet is given as 420 g of gas per 24 hours . The power consumption of the absorber is 4 kWh in 24 hours, which is significantly more than the compressor. This shows why the absorber is at a disadvantage when working with electricity.


Now considering that there is 11kg of gas in a regular gas bottle , you can manage for about 26 days if you just use the fridge .



Run a regular refrigerator with 230V in the mobile home


If you don't want a dedicated camping refrigerator in your trailer, you still have the option of purchasing a regular home refrigerator. The big advantage is that it usually offers much more space than the variant at the campground and the prices are much lower. However, 12V or gas operation is not possible, which means a 230V power supply is required in the mobile home. This requires some technical adjustments if not done before.




How to independently operate a regular refrigerator in a caravan?


Since we're on our property in Portugal , we've been playing around with the idea of ​​buying a regular household refrigerator and then running it on our 230V power supply in the mobile home. We decided on the Bosch KGE36AWCA with a 214 liter fridge and 94 liter freezer compartment .


However, when using it in a mobile home, you should consider a refrigerator lock so that it does not open while driving.

In order to be able to operate this domestic refrigerator independently, we have, among other things, installed the following power installation on our caravan:


  • 2200 watt pure sine wave inverter,

  • 200 Ah Lithium Battery ,

  • 1300 watt solar system.

Of course, the power system alone doesn't have to be that big for the refrigerator. You can use our solar calculator to determine how much solar energy you personally need to run your devices .






How much electricity does a normal refrigerator consume?


Since we've had our refrigerator running for almost a year, we have a pretty good idea of ​​how much electricity a home refrigerator needs. However, this depends on several factors. Since our model has a super function, that is, if you have just gone shopping or if you want to freeze a lot, you choose this option, which means that it increases the cooling capacity of the refrigerator. Freezing or cooling is much faster, but the power consumption is also much higher.


The manufacturer specifies the 230V power consumption of the household refrigerator as 149 kWh per year . This corresponds to a daily power consumption of about 408 Wh, which is about 34 Ah .


Our experience has shown that we can get by with a daily consumption of slightly more in Portuguese summer and a stated 34 Ah in winter. Our worries that the refrigerator would not survive the summer outside were unfounded. Even if it takes a lot more work than winter. But most people are more likely to run their home refrigerator indoors rather than outside the camper.


Thermoelectric cooler in camp


Another option for a refrigerator in a caravan is a thermoelectric cooler. This is ideal for anyone who only wants to be on the road for a short time and is away from home, eg. B. pre-chilled food. The cooling box, for example, does not cool as well as a conventional refrigerator. This isn't a problem as long as you pre-chill what you're taking with you, otherwise it may take a few hours for the warm water, for example, to cool down nicely. Especially the outside temperature plays an important role here, because the box can cool down to a maximum of 18-25°C below the outside temperature.


Now assuming it is 40 degrees in Portuguese summer, then the water in the cooling box can be cooled down to a maximum of 15-22 degrees.


Note: Cooling boxes can also heat, but this will likely be of less use.


Especially for short vacations or long trips, the cold box is definitely a price-saving option, as you don't have to take much with you or you always have the opportunity to buy fresh food. It is always popular for drinks as it can be operated with 12V via 230V mains or cigarette lighter.


Power consumption of thermoelectric cooling box


Of course, the cooling box also consumes electricity. On the manufacturer's side z. B. Dometic Tropicool TCX 14 with a power consumption of 63 kWh per year . This equates to a daily consumption of 172 Wh , which corresponds to 14 Ah when powered by 12V .




our personal experiences


With our absorbent refrigerator with a capacity of approximately 40 liters, we did not miss anything except perhaps the missing freezer compartment. We haven't bought a new camper fridge as it's already installed in our camper and works perfectly. However, it has always served us well and, as mentioned earlier, Portugal provided cold drinks even in the middle of summer. But capacity is a little tight, especially if you live in a camper like us. That's why we spent a lot of time thinking about the desire for a bigger refrigerator, which we later fulfilled when we bought our property.


If we had to make a new decision today, we would probably buy a regular refrigerator for the camper right away. A fridge and freezer would definitely be a necessity. You should definitely take a look at the power consumption when buying here.


We hope that our thoughts and experience with caravan refrigerators will help you finally decide on the right model.

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