Magazine, Tools & Home Improvement

12 Volt Refrigerator for RV

12V refrigerator for the motorhome – a new topic. A year ago, I also had to buy a motorhome refrigerator because my absorber fridge finally stretched its wings after 20 years. Before that, I have dealt in detail with the question: which camping to buy a refrigerator? Does it even have to be a camping fridge or does a table refrigerator with 230V for the house? There are so many different refrigerator models such as refrigerators 12V, Aborberkühlschränke, neat boxes for camping with 12V or gas. I am familiar with all models and I am also aware of the various advantages and disadvantages. That’s why I came up with the idea for this article.

Three different types of refrigeration

  • Compressor Refrigerator
    A refrigerant, in a closed cooling circuit, is compressed. The resulting heat is dissipated at the heat exchanger (the typical black grid behind it) and then the gas in the evaporator is relaxed again while the cold is created, or heat is removed. Nowadays the most economical way of cooling.
  • Absorber refrigerator GAS / 12V / 230V
    With a water-ammonia mixture, the addition of heat (generated by the gas flame, or electricity) and subsequent cooling – produces cold. Absorber refrigerators cool silently and find favorably in Hotel Minibar or RV because of different energy choices.
  • Thermoeletrische Kühlbox
    The cheapest alternative to get cold drinks, but unfortunately the worst. The bones cool very poorly and need a lot of electricity. Preferred area of ​​use is beverage cooling while driving.

Coolbox 12V or fridge

The difference between a refrigerator and cooler is essentially in the opening for filling. In the classic refrigerator, the door is on the side, while a cooler is filled from above. If you want to get to the lowest in the cool box, you have to clear the box first. 
Cold is denser than warm air, so the cooler remains cold inside, even when it’s opened. This saves energy! Ideal: cool box for car

Refrigerator 12V or 230V?

A 12V refrigerator is usually more expensive than a comparable model with the 230V connection. A 12V fridge can be connected directly to the 12V battery in the motorhome, while the 230V fridge still requires a 230V inverter. The inverter must always be switched on when the refrigerator is in operation, which ensures additional power consumption. Power in the motorhome is still a critical issue anyway.

Absorber refrigerator or compressor fridge?

The absorber refrigerator or often called gas refrigerator runs quietly with gas and does not consume valuable battery power. But an absorber refrigerator has less cooling capacity than compressor refrigerators. Especially at temperatures above 30 degrees, the gas refrigerator can quickly reach its limits. Perhaps this also raises the question of which countries or in which season do I drive my motorhome the most? 
The compressor refrigerator is technically definitely the better device. A 12v compressor refrigerator is energy efficient and powerful – the absorber refrigerator is the stark opposite!
Nevertheless, something crucial for an absorber refrigerator speaks: The absorber refrigerator can be operated with gas and despite the high energy consumption, it runs with gas forever. This is due to the top energy content of the gas.

1-kilo gas has an energy content of 14kWh an 11-kilo gas cylinder corresponding to 154 kWh 
90Ah GEL battery or Best AGM Battery with just under 30 kilos, it just brings it to 0.9kWh

Even if the compressor refrigerator needs only 0,6kWh / day, a gel battery is empty after just one day. By contrast, the gas refrigerator with its almost 3kWh energy requirement per day loosely 1.5 months running with only an 11-kilogram gas cylinder. Here it is obvious how expensive electricity is.

Mobile home self-improvement

For the motorhome self-builders impressive: The absorber refrigerator cools with a gas flame which requires ventilation to the outside. Behind the gas refrigerator, two large ventilation grilles are needed which allow the air circulation and divert the exhaust gases from the gas flame. Not everyone likes to cut holes in his side wall. The 12V compressor refrigerator can be vented into the interior; there are no exhaust fumes. Also, long-distance mobile homes are happy to be built gas-free because gas is not natural to buy in all countries. Here is the compressor refrigerator, or maybe even the compressor cooler because it works more efficiently.

Refrigerator does not get cold on gas – the solution

The standard problem of the gas refrigerator. Cools your gas refrigerator on electricity well and only on gas, it is due to the gas flame which is too small. The reason is usually a dirty nozzle due to harmful gas. Here only helps to remove the burner, and to detach the gas line from the stove and to clean the vent. The nozzle is located directly on the end of the gas line which is screwed into the burner. Never poke around with metal objects in the hole of the nose but only with a little wood trying to remove the contamination in the nozzle hole. If in doubt, install a new vent. 
In some cases, the fireplace, where the flame burns from top to bottom with small breasts must be cleaned.
After cleaning, the flame must burn blue and an excellent 5cm high. If the fire is yellow and small, your fridge does not get fresh appropriately on gas

Why I bought a 12V compressor fridge

My self-sufficient motorhome, which I equipped with lithium batteries last year, now saves a lot of gas, because I have opted for a compressor refrigerator.

After five years of living in a mobile home, I did not feel like having a warm beer in the summer just because the absorber fridge is just too warm again. My new compressor fridge now cools even at 37 degrees in the summer, inside down to 2 degrees. He uses only 0.50kWh per day. I operate my 12V refrigerator exclusively with solar power. Even in winter, this works well in Southern countries.

12V cool box as a freezer

Freezing stocks work best with an efficient 12V cool box with the compressor. The compressor-cooler can be in the rear garage or a storage box because I do not have to run every day. When buying a 12V compressor cooler you should pay attention to the cooling performance, the more stars, the longer the frozen food can be stored:

freezerThe temperature of the GerierfachesFreezer functionDuration of storage of food in the refrigerator
1 star<-6 degreesshort-term 
maximum of 1 week
Two stars<-12 degreesmedium term 
maximum of 3 weeks
Three stars<-18 degreeslong-term 
several months
Four stars<-18 degreesFreezing of 
several months

Use Ezetil cold storage to make your fridge quiet and save energy

Cooling batteries from Ezetil can be retrofitted in compressor and absorber refrigerators. The Ezetil cold storage tanks are filled with a particular medium, which freezes / thaws at +6 degrees. Cold storage releases the most energy when they change their state of aggregation, which is why Ezetil cold storage systems are particularly useful. The Ezetil cold storage exactly in the temperature range in which the refrigerator is operated normally. Weaco and Engel coolers work on the same principle. The advantage of the cold room is distinct: The Kopressoerkühlschrank can be switched off overnight, so no electricity, which protects your battery and is silent because it is cooled by cold storage instead of the compressor.


A camping fridge is not the same as a camping fridge – I hope I could convey that reasonably understandable. When it comes to high cooling capacity, then the compressor refrigerator is preferable to the absorber refrigerator. If you want to save energy, you have to make do with the absorber refrigerator. Compressor coolers by Waeco or Engel are indeed very expensive, but also very energy efficient and universally applicable.

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