How To Run RV Refrigerator On Solar Power?

RV refrigerators are an effective way to ensure that your food items and drinks are cold especially when you are on the go. However, this might drain the power supply of your RV. Operating your RV refrigerator using the energy provided by solar panels is widely becoming popular. However, it is not an easy task to do this right.

Many people who use an RV assume that their refrigerators directly operate on solar panels. However, this is not the case because these panels don’t directly instill energy in the refrigerator or other electronic appliances for that matter.

In the following article, we shall dissect the truth about operating your RV refrigerator using solar power as the energy source. You will also find the nine factors you should consider before purchasing the best RV refrigerator for yourself and your family.



9 Things To Look For In A Fridge For Going Off-Grid

In the section that follows, we will discuss the 9 things that you should look for in an RV fridge.

  1. Alternative Power Source Capability

    If you have an RV fridge with an alternate power source, it’s a viable option to travel. You have the privilege of using AC power, LP, as well as DC power in a single unit. In addition, you also have the option of dry camping or boondocking without stressing about the loss of power to your refrigerator. You can either opt for a 2-way or a 3-way power source. While a 2-way power source enables you to choose between propane or AC, a 3-way power source offers DC, propane power, or AC.

    If you are thinking of using your RV in places other than the kitchen, using any 3-way refrigerator will be an ideal option because you will be assured of power source backup when the batteries are being charged.

  2. Thick Insulation

    If you have ever had a refrigerator, you would know that they consume a significant proportion of energy. In fact, they are a reason why you get a huge electricity bill. Therefore, if you plan to go off-grid, you will have to be more cautious about the type of fridge that you choose.

    Opt for any refrigerator model which has thick insulation. Note that the thicker the insulation, the more efficient the fridge will be at maintaining temperatures. Therefore, it will make fewer uses of energy and won’t strain the off-grid power system significantly.

  3. High-Efficiency Cooling Technology

    If you are relying on solar panels, make sure you opt for a refrigerator that uses low electricity. There are several models out there which make use of less energy to maintain the coolness. You should, therefore, be on the lookout for such options. Furthermore, any high-efficiency fridge will have many features to ensure that the food stays fresh for a longer period of time like self-closing doors as well as temperature settings that can be adjusted.

  4. A Non-Freezer RV Fridge

    Now, if you are going to use your RV fridge off the grid, you should consider getting one that comes without a freezer. This is primarily because any RV fridge that comes with a freezer is bound to consume more energy. Therefore, if you can manage without a freezer, it is an ideal option to opt for a non-freezer RV fridge and purchase a separate ice maker.

  5. 12-Volt Refrigerators

    If you wish to save some money, opt for a 12-volt refrigerator. Since it can be directly connected to the house batteries at your place, you will not have to opt for a version with a large capacity. One more merit of the 12-volt refrigerators is their energy efficiency appliances, thereby allowing you to significantly save on energy.

  6. Size

    Size is an important factor when purchasing an RV refrigerator. Opt for a refrigerator that fits your needs such as the amount of food you need to store and the space that you have. While most of the fridges lie between 4 and 6 cubic feet, you can even purchase some which are two cubic feet or even 24 cubic feet.

  7. Buy Good Once

    Go for an RV fridge from a reliable brand. If you purchase a good quality refrigerator once, it is bound to last several years. Go for a fridge that has an impressive energy-efficient rating.

  8. Style Type

    The style of your RV fridge is a matter of personal choice. The most well-known fridge is a door-style fridge available in both single and double door models. You can go for a freezer with a drawer style or fridge if you have limited space.

  9. Price

    If you are purchasing a 12-volt refrigerator, your costs may go as high as $2000. You can go for a refurbished or used fridge if you are on a restricted budget. But make sure you look for fridges with the specific features that you need. This will help you to have a more detailed view of the prices. Although you can purchase online, do consider the shipping costs as well.

Does Solar Energy Truly Power RV Refrigerators?

Solar panels don’t power RV directly. On the other hand, these panels play the function of charging the batteries of your RV that provide energy to the fridge.

Any RV will have two distinct electrical systems: direct current i.e. a 12 volt DC and alternating current i.e. a 120 volt AC. Any battery that provides power to the water pump, fridge, and lights is a supplier of the 12-volt system. Your 120-volt system, on the other hand, is identical to an electric system in everyone’s home which powers things like the air conditioner and microwave.

The function served by solar panels is to transform the light provided by the rays of the sun into electrical energy. You use these panels to charge your batteries using their electricity. Thereafter, you can use these batteries to operate the refrigerator as well as several similar appliances. To ensure the efficiency of this system, however, you ought to place your solar panels in proper order to make sure the batteries are sufficiently charged.

By doing these things, you can make sure that the RV refrigerator does have a consistent source of energy.

How Much Solar Power Do I Need For My RV Refrigerator?

If you are an RVer, you would know that solar panels are a viable option for you to power your RV. They are environment friendly and work rather efficiently. However, before you use solar power to your advantage, you need to know the approximate amount of solar energy required to operate your RV.

Now watts are the units for measuring the capacity of a solar panel. To calculate the wattage of your fridge, all you need to do is multiply the volts by the amps. On average, any refrigerator would require 40 watts per hour which translates to 80Ah.

Therefore, a good option is to ensure that your solar panels produce a minimum of twice the electricity that your refrigerator would require. For instance, if your fridge makes use of 150 Ah of power, you need a 300-watt solar panel. This in turn will enable you to operate your refrigerator and several other devices without the need to drain your battery. In addition, remember that the RV’s battery acts as a reservoir for a specific proportion of power.

Therefore, it is important for you to opt for any solar panel which has the potential to produce more than the desired energy in order to avoid complete battery drain.

What Is The Best Battery Setup To Run An Rv Fridge?

If you were to ask me about the best battery to run the RV fridge, it would be the one that offers two deep-cycle batteries. The primary merit of deep cycle batteries is that they offer a consistent flow of power for a long period of time. This in turn makes them a suitable choice for operating the fridge. Furthermore, these batteries can be easily recharged using solar panels or generators.

For someone who is on the hunt for an efficient setup, three deep-cycle batteries are an ideal investment. This will ensure that you have sufficient power to operate your solar fridge even when the batteries have not been completely charged.

RV manufacturers made use of lead-acid batteries for a long period of time to provide energy to their appliances. However, these batteries do come with drawbacks. These batteries are relatively heavier and must be stored in an upright position. Additionally, these batteries have a shorter shelf life as compared to lithium-ion batteries.

In today’s world, lithium-ion batteries are becoming the most-opted for choice. There are several reasons behind this preference. For one, they have lesser weight as compared to lead-acid batteries. They have a longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries. They take less time to charge and don’t give off any toxic fumes.

Can I Run My Residential Fridge off Solar Power?

Yes, you can run your residential fridge off solar power. However, certain things ought to be taken into consideration.

Firstly, the solar panels should be large enough to produce between 200-400 watts of energy for your fridge.

Secondly, you must have a deep cycle battery to function as the storehouse of solar power generated during the daytime to ensure that you can easily use it to operate your fridge at night.

Last but not the least, you would also need an inverter for the conversion of DC power provided by the batteries into AC power which the fridge can actually use.

When you purchase an inverter, make sure you take into consideration the size and type of your fridge. You might need a single inverter or two or none if the fridge already has a separate inverter.

Final Thoughts

Refrigerators are a critical component of any off-grid kitchen. Once you have dissected the different options available to you, you can make a decision about the ideal purchase for yourself. Remember that solar power emerges as a rather effective way to operate your refrigerator and other appliances. You can in fact use a battery bank and solar panel to operate even some of the largest refrigerators. In fact, if you take care of your refrigerator, it will undoubtedly last several years.

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