Fridges and Fridge-Freezers for Motorhomes Caravans & Campervans

When you're travelling with your home, regardless of how temporary or permanent it may be, at some point you'll want either a mug of tea or a bite to eat. Regardless of your personal catering and/or dining preferences, the fact is that some foods simply must be kept cool. Milk and cheese are good examples, even if you're not into fruit-juice and bacon. Even bottled water tastes better out of the fridge on a hot day.

Caravan owners will generally connect their fridge to 230v mains power when on a campsite, and use 12v from the tow car to keep food cool whilst driving. Campervans and motorhomes are designed to enjoy more autonomous operation, however, and thus fridges are often more specialised still.

There are three main power sources for motorcaravan and boat fridges:

  • 230v mains: Connect to shore-power via an extension lead when you reach a campsite or marina, and your fridge will work just like the one you have at home.
  • 12v battery: This is the most common way of running the fridge whilst travelling because the vehicle's alternator can generate the necessary power to do so. It's not often used when the engine is switched off though because the drain on batteries can be substantial.
  • Gas: Odd though it may seem, a small gas flame can be sufficient to keep the refrigerant circulating when parked (whether in a car park on a day trip, or a campsite without EHU) and thus keep the contents of the fridge cool. This method is not recommended when driving for obvious safety reasons!

There are always exceptions of course, and (by way of example) the larger Concorde motorhomes dispense with the user-inconvenience of all the power changeovers entirely, by fitting a Dometic 12v compressor fridge and a large bank of leisure batteries. In this case, the motorhome fridge always runs on 12 volts (it has no choice!) even when connected to mains power, or parked up on a mountain for several days. Concorde can do this because their larger vehicles are designed up to an operating standard, rather than down to the artificial 3.5-tonne weight limit that many people are burdened within the UK and the knock-on design/convenience/durability problems that it causes.

Note that all fridges intended for campervan/motorhome/caravan use are built far more robustly than most domestic fridges, and if you try to use the latter (especially the cheaper brands) you should budget for frequent failures and replacements. It'll cost you more in the long run. And if you try to run a domestic mains-only fridge off batteries using an inverter, don't be too surprised if you wind up needing a trailer to tow your batteries.

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