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Is a 12V Portable Refrigerator Better Than a Cooler?

Is a 12V Portable Refrigerator Better Than a Cooler?

Posted by Heatso on 29th Aug 2022

To keep your food fresh on the road, you may be tempted to buy a cooler. In this blog, we'll cover why a 12V RV fridge is a much better decision.

IS A 12V PORTABLE REFRIGERATOR BETTER THAN A COOLER?

IS A 12V PORTABLE REFRIGERATOR BETTER THAN A COOLER?

When you’re on the road, keeping your supplies fresh is crucial. Campsites can be a long way apart, and on a hot day, food can spoil in a matter of hours. A good 12V RV fridge will prevent that from happening, and so will a portable cooler. But which one is better?

An RV refrigerator is the most important part of the 5 RV Essentials, so you want to make sure you have a good one. Your fridge has to suit your living needs, travel style, and fit within your budget.

Continue reading to find out if a 12V RV fridge is better than a portable electric cooler. We’ll cover the basics of RV refrigerators, and how to choose one that suits you best.

HOW DOES A 12 VOLT RV REFRIGERATOR WORK?

Portable refrigerators can be split into two categories: absorption fridges and compressor fridges. Generally, compressor fridges are better all around and are the go-to option for most vanlifers, and here’s why.

Absorption refrigerators

Absorption refrigerators rely on a gas (LPG) heat exchange system. As gas circulates, it absorbs heat from the inside of the fridge, thus cooling it down. They’re also known as 3-way fridges for the ability to run on 110V AC, 12V DC, or LPG.

Unfortunately, absorption fridges are terribly inefficient. Additionally, they need to be perfectly still and upright to operate properly. Their ability to run on gas makes them good for vans with no electric system, but that’s about it.

Compressor refrigerators

Compressor fridges are the most popular option for life on the road, as well as at home. Well suited for travel, these 12V refrigerators can reliably operate on the move. The variable compressor cooler is highly efficient, drawing 3-4 times less energy than absorption systems.

A compressor fridge like the Indel B Cruise lets you set the temperature and doubles as a freezer. The cutting-edge Danfoss compressor is nearly silent and uses minimal power while providing powerful cooling for your road supplies.

IS A PORTABLE ELECTRIC COOLER ENOUGH FOR VAN LIFE?

Most regular coolers are meant for short road trips and weekend picnics. Ice-filled coolers are a small and temporary solution, as the ice only stays frozen for up to 24 hours before you need to refill it. And when you’re off-grid, ice is hard to come by.

Thermoelectric coolers can be powered by 12V electric systems, but are still of little use long-term. These portable electric coolers are unable to efficiently cool below ambient temperature and are only good for storing a few cold drinks.

When it comes to life on the road, a reliable 12V RV fridge with a compressor is your best option. It’ll last you for years with proper maintenance and will provide a quality of life equal to that of a full-size fridge.

HOW TO CHOOSE A 12V RV FRIDGE?

There are four points you need to consider when choosing which compressor refrigerator to get. As always, your budget plays a primary role, but there are other aspects such as portability and capacity to keep in mind.

Price

Compressor refrigerators are expensive. But with the price tag, you’re getting security and peace of mind that your food will stay fresh. These fridges last for years, use little energy, and provide high-quality comfort in your motorhome.

Indel B has been manufacturing refrigerators for 55 years and is a leader in the industry of portable cooling. Their fridges come with amenities such as LED lighting, temperature control, and even a separate freezer section.

Power source and draw

Most car and RV batteries are 12V DC, and that’s what you probably use to power your appliances. Popular variants also include 24V DC power or shore power at 120V AC. Although we suggest a 12V RV fridge, all Indel B fridges are 12/24V DC compatible.

You also want to make sure that your batteries are big enough to support the refrigerator. Although compressor fridges are highly efficient, they’re still large appliances. Otherwise, you may end up with a dead battery and a non-functional fridge.

Portability

Do you want the fridge to stay mostly indoors, or would you like to carry it around? Both Cruise and Travel Box series Indel B compact refrigerators are cooled by cutting-edge compressors.

Portable and stationary fridges vary mostly in weight, design, and capacity. We suggest choosing based on your lifestyle.

Capacity

Capacity comes at a trade-off of weight and space. This depends on how many people are living together, how many days you’ll go between restocking, and what sort of produce you plan to store.

On average, somewhere between 65 and 90 liters (17-23 gal) is enough for two people for several days, but this is highly personal.

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RV REFRIGERATOR MAINTENANCE

For any type of fridge, you generally want to help it by opening the door as little as possible. Try to limit the amount of time the fridge door is open.

Additionally, you want to make sure it’s not overstuffed so it can cool efficiently. It’s also smart to have spare refrigerator parts and accessories on hand.

Also, be sure to take the RV in for refrigerator service. An airflow check will keep your refrigerator running smoothly. This is especially important if your RV is stationary for long periods of time.

OTHER TYPES OF REFRIGERATION

Residential-Style Refrigerators

You can find a residential-style refrigerator in some large travel trailers and Class A RVs. They’re popular because of their massive capacity and because they cool more evenly. They’re also generally less expensive than an RV refrigerator because they’re made for a bigger market.

Residential refrigerators are “one-way”, since they only work using AC power. You can keep them running using shore power, a generator, or with an inverter.

Chest Refrigerators

With vertical refrigerators, the cold is preserved thanks to the insulation seal around the door. That’s why every time the door opens, the fridge loses cold. Vertical fridges are also easier to install in your kitchen, and they take up less space.

With ice chest refrigerators, the door is at the top, which means that the cold air will accumulate at the bottom of the refrigerator, where it has nowhere to escape. This makes them slightly more efficient, at the cost of having to stack items on top of each other for storage.

RV REFRIGERATOR VS. PORTABLE COOLER

Refrigerators are an essential part of any motorhome, so it is important to choose a good one. In conclusion, compressor fridges are the go-to for most vanlifers, because they’re the most efficient and reliable, and are made for use on the road. Coolers on the other hand are meant for short-term use and are not well suited for full-time vanlife.

RV REFRIGERATOR VS. PORTABLE COOLER

Refrigerators are an essential part of any motorhome, so it is important to choose a good one. In conclusion, compressor fridges are the go-to for most vanlifers, because they’re the most efficient and reliable, and are made for use on the road. Coolers on the other hand are meant for short-term use and are not well suited for full-time vanlife.

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