Is it a good idea to replace an RV fridge with a residential fridge?
The whole point of the RV experience is to be able to get away from it all without sacrificing certain modern conveniences such as shelter, a clean bathroom, running water, electricity and a place to store, cool and cook our food. Otherwise, it would just e camping.
To place all these necessities into a mobile structure requires certain sacrifices, such as tighter spaces, bathrooms that double as the shower stall and smaller more compact appliances. Rv’s also lend themselves to family or group camping and therefore certain appliances such as the refrigerator get a lot of use during a trip. Many an RV owner have found their RV fridges to be too small, not able to keep cool enough or otherwise just not up to the task. As such we get a lot of customers requesting an upgrade to a standard “residential” refrigerator. And while this can be done, it does come with some sacrifices and drawbacks. Which is the topic for today.
First lets quickly cover the difference between an RV fridge and a residential refrigerator.
RV Fridge- “Absorption Fridge”
An RV refrigerator differs from a conventional fridge in that it uses heat, and a combination of ammonia, hydrogen gas, and water to cool the inside versus a conventional mechanical compressor and evaporator set up. In the absorption fridge, these chemicals react when heated and the vapor travels through various tubes, and the evaporation and condensation process of these chemicals are what cools the refrigerator. The neatest thing about RV Fridges is that they can run without using any electrical power. When electricity is not available, an open flame from the L.P. gas is what is used to heat up the chemicals.
Most modern refrigerators have this automatic feature: when there is no longer any AC electricity (shore power or generator power,) it will switch automatically over to using LP Gas to run. This way you do not have to remember to flip the switch, and your food stays constantly cold.
RV Fridge models are categorized into two types– 2-way and 3-way.
A 2-way, which is the most popular type, as it runs on AC power and LP gas.
A 3-way model can run on either AC Power, DC Power, or LP Gas.
Norcold and Dometic are the industry leaders in the RV fridge market. Both companies manufacture rugged, high quality units that are made to withstand the unique environment and the stresses from the road in an RV.
There are some sacrifices that you must make in order to have all the options you want in an RV Fridge. For example:
refrigerator working at it’s best!
When choosing a new refrigerator for your RV, here are some things to consider:
Size – RV’s are not unlimited in their kitchen sizes. Some smaller Travel Trailer style RV’s have very small and basic kitchens. Often all the appliances such as the stove and the fridge are very scaled-down. The space you have available in your RV will often dictate which models that can work in your space. When replacing or upgrading an existing RV fridge to a newer one, some cabinet modifications may be necessary, as replacement dimensions are not an exact fit in all instances.
Capacity VS. Options– Just like any household refrigerator, there will be differences in capacity from one model to another, even though they fit relatively in the same space.
Options such as an icemaker will eat up capacity and for most people are not necessary, while others find an onboard icemaker to be a requirement. You will trade capacity for options in most cases.
Replacing an RV fridge with a Residential model- things to consider
You can swap out your RV fridge for a standard household model but it will take a little work.
Power- A standard compact refrigerator needs a 120 volt AC outlet to get power. In most cases, there will not be a 120-volt plug in the cabinet where your current fridge is. So you may have to install a plug in the fridge cabinet. You will have to be careful when doing this as you do not want to overload a circuit in your RV.
Airflow- Your RV fridge does not need to consider airflow as it does not use a compressor. Your new Residential model will need airflow. Encasing a residential model fridge or even a smaller “dorm” style fridge in a tight cabinet will not only reduce the cooling capacity of the fridge, it will also shorten its life span.
Remote Power- If you do any type of off the grid camping or ‘boondocking’ you will have to run your generator at all times to power the fridge. It will not run off the RV’s batteries.
Lifespan and inconvenience- When not connected to power, your residential fridge will not have power. This will cause it to heat up and not allow for immediate cold storage. Plus we all know what happens to a household fridge that hasn’t had power in a while- it starts to grow mold and stink.
In addition, the constant jarring and powering up and powering down of a residential fridge will significantly shorten the lifespan of the unit. This type of appliance is meant to stay in one place and powered at all times. You could continually replace your fridge with a used one off of craigslist, but each fridge will have different sizes and the hassle might not be worth it in the end.
Have a need for a new RV fridge or a repair to your existing one? Click here for a free estimate.