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 your food. Otherwise, it would just be camping. Is it a good idea to replace an RV fridge with a residential fridge?
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. RVs also lend themselves to family or group camping. So, certain appliances like the refrigerator get a lot of use during a trip.
Many RV owners have found their RV fridges to be too small, unable to keep their food cool enough—or otherwise just not up to the task. Many customers end up requesting an upgrade to a standard residential refrigerator from a camper refrigerator. While this can be done, it does come with some sacrifices and drawbacks. Below, you will learn about the considerations of owning a conventional refrigerator vs. an RV refrigerator to make the best choice for your RV lifestyle.
Residential Fridge vs. RV Refrigerator Replacement: How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?
What is the difference between an RV fridge and a residential refrigerator? Well, an RV refrigerator differs from a conventional fridge as it uses heat with a combination of ammonia, hydrogen gas and water to cool the inside vs. a conventional mechanical compressor and evaporator setup.
In a small RV fridge, also known as an absorption fridge, these chemicals react when heated to create a vapor. The vapor travels through various tubes, and the evaporation and condensation process of these chemicals is what cools the refrigerator.
The beneficial feature of RV fridges is that they can run without using any electrical power. When electricity is not available, an open flame from the LP gas heats up the chemicals. This means you don’t have to worry about gas and electric power.
Most modern RV 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:
- A two-way, which is the most popular type, as it runs on AC power and LP gas.
- A three-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 of the road in an RV.
RV Refrigerator Replacement Options: What to Consider
There are some sacrifices you’ll need to make to have all the options you want in an RV fridge. When choosing a new refrigerator for your RV, here are some factors to consider.
Size: RVs are not unlimited in their kitchen sizes. Some travel trailer types of RVs have very small and basic kitchens. Often all the appliances, such as the stove and the fridge, are relatively 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: 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 unnecessary, while others find an onboard icemaker a requirement. You will trade capacity for options in most cases.
Can You Put a Regular Refrigerator in an RV?
You can swap out your small RV fridge for a standard household model, but it will take a little work. Here are the factors you need to account for.
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. 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 will not need to consider airflow as it does not use a compressor. A 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, but it will also shorten its lifespan.
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.
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. A household fridge that hasn’t had power in a while can run the risk of developing a mold problem.
Lifespan: 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 be powered at all times. You could continually replace your fridge with a used one from Craigslist. However, each fridge will have different sizes, and the hassle might not be worth it in the end.
Is the refrigerator for your RV not working? Need an RV fridge or camper fridge replacement? Or simply want to chat with one of our experienced technicians about your options? Please feel free to get in touch with us. Click here for more details.