While attending an RV show recently, I noticed some units have a Furrion battery-operated refrigerator. Do you recommend the battery-only power source? Thanks. —Norman, Looking for a new RV
The best RV refrigerator for you depends on how you plan to RV, as everyone is different. For years the absorption refrigerator, which heats a solution of ammonia, hydrogen, sodium chromate, and water in the burner vessel, has been the standard. It can run on 120-volt power with a heating element, or liquid propane (LP) for boondocking or dry camping.
This operation is done through the cooling unit pictured here. In my opinion, it has gotten some unjust negative press. When the solution is heated, it creates a vapor and rises inside the burner tube to the evaporator coil behind the freezer. There is a chemical reaction that I won’t go in depth with; however, the components form back to a liquid state and need to zigzag back down the tubes to do the entire process again. If the unit is out of level, the liquid can pool on one side and start to overheat, flake, and eventually block the operation.
Parking on slanted driveways not good for some RV refrigerators
Many owners park their units in the driveway prior to heading out on a trip, plug the unit in to get the RV refrigerator cold, pack, and then head out. The trouble with that is most driveways are slanted for runoff and typically more than the 6 percent limit stated by both Norcold and Dometic. So there has been a rash of cooling unit failures or inefficient cooling during hot weather. The campground fiction, as I call it, blames the absorption method and folks rushed to residential fridges.
The challenge with this type of refrigerator is you need 120-volt power, either from the shoreline or generator, or an inverter with a very large battery bank. If you don’t do much or any dry camping, which means you do not have a 120-volt power source, the residential version is fine.
12-volt DC refrigerators
Along comes the 12-volt compressor-driven models which run on power from the batteries and not through the inverter, such as the Everchill or Furrion. Mike Sokol did a test on a Dometic DMC4101 and was very impressed.
It seems in several of his tests, the Danfoss compressor is the key.
Recently, Dave Helgeson posted an article comparing the different models, as well. Dave is the leading expert in all things boondocking.
Need more info to answer the question
As you can see, it is not an easy question to answer unless we know more about what battery capacity you have, solar charging abilities, and how much you dry camp. According to Mike’s article on 12-volt refrigerators vs. 120-volt models running through an inverter, the 12-volt models run much more efficient and draw less battery power. Seems the inverter is the weak link here.
If you have traditional 12-volt lead acid or AGM batteries you only get 50 percent usage and won’t be able to run the 120 volt through an inverter or the 12-volt models very long before needing to recharge. If you have lithium batteries and solar charging, you will last much longer and the 12-volt model would be a good choice.
Again, this all depends on how much dry camping you will be doing.
You might also enjoy this from Dave
Can I run my RV’s refrigerator on 12 volts while driving?
Can’t I run my RV’s refrigerator on 12 volts while running down the highway and turn off my propane tanks completely? —Fil Patrick Peterson
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
Read more from Dave here.
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