10 Pros and Cons of a Residential RV Refrigerator

Last Updated on April 21, 2023 by Jess

A residential RV refrigerator has many pros and cons. But if you’ve just been told by an RV technician that your RV absorption refrigerator is broken, you might want to consider one.

For some families, the 8-cubic-foot two-way refrigerator just isn’t enough space to enjoy a week’s worth of meals.

So if you’re considering switching to an RV refrigerator, know the pros and cons before you decide.

Buying an RV refrigerator is expensive. You don’t want to waste your time or money. Let’s dive in!

What is an RV refrigerator?

There are several types of RV refrigerators. One of them is a home refrigerator. This is when you install a normal refrigerator, which you can find in any home, in your RV.

This type of appliance also requires a constant supply of electricity. A compressor cools the food and runs on AC power. So what is the difference?

How is an RV refrigerator different from other RV refrigerators?

What makes an RV refrigerator different from others is the power source. As mentioned earlier, these RV refrigerators run on AC power because they work the same way as the refrigerator you have in your kitchen at home.

Other RV refrigerators can run on propane at least some of the time.

However, the power needed to run an RV refrigerator is supplied by an electrical outlet at a campsite, a generator, or a battery bank with an inverter.

It consumes a lot of energy, which is not ideal for outdoor camping. Most people who like dry camping prefer a two-way refrigerator that runs on propane and electricity.

These two-way refrigerators for RVs are powered by AC or propane. It depends on the owner and the situation as to what is best.

You can also buy a three-way refrigerator for RVs that can run on AC, DC or propane gas. This is also useful for RV owners because they can use propane instead of house batteries.

How much does an RV refrigerator cost?

A built-in four-door, 14-cubic-foot refrigerator from Furrion with a wine cellar costs over $2,000. Another option from Furrion, a 12-volt RV-style refrigerator, costs over $2,200.

Compared to a smaller 6-cubic-foot absorption refrigerator from Dometic, the difference is not great. This option costs over $2,200. A four-door 13-cubic-foot absorption refrigerator from Dometic costs about $6,000.

So you don’t necessarily have to spend more on a home refrigerator than an RV refrigerator.

Can you install an aftermarket refrigerator for RVs?

If your RV is not equipped with an aftermarket refrigerator for RVs, you can retrofit one.

Whether you want more storage space for food and beverages or a more consistent cooling temperature, you can find an RV refrigerator that meets your needs.

Maybe your absorption refrigerator is getting on in years, and instead of spending $6,000 on a replacement, you’d rather pay just $2,000.

However, this is not an easy project. Most people enlist professional help when installing a retrofit refrigerator. You need serious carpentry and wiring skills to get the job done.

But connecting the refrigerator and getting it up and running aren’t the only problems. One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to get that huge refrigerator into your RV.

5 Advantages of a refrigerator for motorhomes

RV refrigerators have several advantages over their two-way and three-way counterparts.

You should consider these when deciding if a household refrigerator is right for you.

1. more space for food

Full-time travelers need plenty of room for food. Sometimes they are 45 minutes or more from a grocery store, so it is important to stock up on a week or two’s worth of supplies.

Most two-way and three-way refrigerators for RVs are smaller than those for homes. With a household-sized refrigerator, a family can have enough room for food and beverages.

2. Consistently cold temperatures

RV absorption refrigerators such as two-way and three-way do not have a constant temperature. An RV refrigerator is much better at maintaining cold temperatures so that food does not spoil.

Also, the outside temperature has no effect on refrigeration. You can even freeze ice cream!

3. cools down faster

Because an RV refrigerator uses a compressor, it cools much faster than absorption refrigerators. Most campers need to turn on their two-way or three-way RV refrigerators at least 24 hours in advance to allow them to cool to a safe food temperature.

Please note: Are you having problems with your Dometic RV refrigerator? Let’s take a look at how you can fix them!

4. less maintenance

An RV refrigerator needs frequent defrosting to cool properly because these units use absorption technology.

Occasionally, you will also need to clean the fan to ensure adequate airflow. RV refrigerators, however, don’t require as much maintenance. If you keep them powered and clean, they will function without any other necessary maintenance.

5. more energy efficient

When a household refrigerator is powered by a battery bank, the inverter needs to run constantly to convert the energy from DC to AC. So this situation is not ideal for a household refrigerator.

However, when connected to shore power, an RV refrigerator uses less electricity than a standard RV refrigerator. So for campers who like to stay at campsites, it is more energy efficient than its counterparts.

5 Disadvantages of RV Refrigerator

On the other hand, RV refrigerators are not perfect. In fact, they’re not ideal for some types of RVs. Let’s take a look at a handful of disadvantages.

1. can not run on propane

In the event of a power outage, an RV refrigerator has no alternate power source. An RV refrigerator cannot use propane as a backup source.

This makes it more difficult when it needs to be repaired. You will either have to remove it from your RV or ask the shop to connect your vehicle to a power source for diagnostics.

And when dry camping, you need a large battery bank to keep the refrigerator running.

2. boondocking requires more power

This leads to the second drawback: you have to spend a lot of money to expand your battery bank and solar panels to power an RV refrigerator when boondocking.

Since it can’t run on propane, it requires a lot of power from the house batteries. Many RVers prefer a propane refrigerator because of this disadvantage.

3. takes more space inside

The size of a home refrigerator is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You can certainly store more food, which is helpful for families or full-time travelers. But that also means it takes up more space inside.

The kitchen can seem smaller because this huge appliance only takes up half the space. A smaller two-way or three-way refrigerator is a better choice for campers who need more countertop space.

4. installation is more difficult

If you choose an aftermarket RV refrigerator, installation can be difficult. For many RV owners, it may be necessary to remove the windshield to install a refrigerator of this size in the RV.

Other RV owners may have to remove an entire slide to get the refrigerator into the kitchen. A smaller refrigerator will fit through most entry doors, but that is not the case with an RV refrigerator.

Please note: Which RV refrigerator is the best? Let’s dive in!

5. not so willing to travel

An RV refrigerator is designed to be installed in a home. It is not suitable for a mobile home. Shifting back and forth in the motorhome could cause problems in the long run.

If you are stationary, this may not be too much of a problem. However, if you travel frequently, it’s important to know that these parts can become more damaged and worn.

Should you switch to an RV refrigerator?

So should you switch to an RV refrigerator? If you like to dry camp often, probably not. The high power consumption of these refrigerators can drain your batteries.

If you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in a large solar array, you can probably take advantage of a household refrigerator.

An RV refrigerator can be a great solution if you take week-long camping trips to the beach with your family several times a year. It offers plenty of storage space and cools evenly.

Unless you move weekly or monthly, it can’t do too much damage. So only you can answer this question, depending on how you travel.

Is a refrigerator for RVs right for you?

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