IMG_3874Recreation vehicle absorption refrigerators have been around for decades.  Operating on propane or electric, these types of appliances have been ideal for off-the-grid camping. They do, however, have several shortfalls when compared to what you are used to at home.  First, they have a reduced interior volume due to the shallow depth needed for the absorption system located at the rear of the unit.  Second, this type of refrigerator must be relatively level while in operation. Failure to maintain this level positioning can cause crystallization in the cooling coil, resulting in possibly shortening the unit’s life.  Also, compared to your residential refrigerator at home, these units usually do not have self-defrost or in-door ice and water dispensers, and in general do not deliver the cooling precision you may be used to.

Full residential reefers have been standard on high-tiered coaches for many years and on“all-electric” builds (no propane onboard). These units required extra batteries and inverters to meet the additional off-grid electric load. Today’s home-type refrigerators, however, are far more efficient and require less power to operate than years ago. Residential refrigerators today operate at about one-third the power consumption they did in 1990.  Therefore, we are now seeing a growing popularity of these electric-only reefers, not only in new coaches but as upgrades to existing units.

The residential refrigerators offer some great advantages over the absorption type.  Here are a few:

  • Far more inside space with the same-size exterior.
  • Not as level sensitive.
  • Far more inexpensive to replace than high-priced absorption units.
  • More modern-frig features.
  • Better temperature precision and cooling accuracy.

So, if you are thinking about buying a new coach, check out the availability of getting a residential fridge.  If your current rig has an RV-type absorption unit, you may wish to consider joining the many who have opted for upgrading to a residential model.  Much, of course, depends on your RV application.  While the electric residential fridge is superior in many ways, it cannot necessarily deliver the endless off-grid needs of some die-hard dry campers.

Either way, it’s worth checking out. If you’re thinking of upgrading to a residential refrigerator in your current rig, be sure to add an appropriate-size inverter and battery bank, if needed.  This is not that difficult and in most cases can be a do-it-yourself project.

It would certainly be a cool project, no pun intended.  Enjoy.

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