RV Fridge vs. Residential (The Ins and Outs of RV Refrigerators)

You’re going on an RV trip, but you need something to keep your goods cool so they don’t go bad. You obviously wouldn’t take your standard sized fridge along with you on your RV trip – it wouldn’t fit! So you go with a more suited sized RV refrigerator. Their goals are the same – to keep your food and drinks cold. But are they wired the same way? Is there anything specifically different about an RV fridge from your standard residential one? Let’s talk about all the things you need to know about RV refrigerators.

Quick Answer

A fridge is a fridge, right? Minus the obvious size difference, is there really a whole lot that differs between the two? The biggest difference in the RV fridge is that there are no moving parts, meaning less jostling when in motion.

Let’s find out what makes an RV refrigerator different from residential, and how you can make the best choices when it comes to refrigeration during your RV trip.

RV Fridge Vs. Residential: The Difference Between the Two

Let us begin with examining the RV fridge. There are many components to this version of a refrigerator, and we will look at a variety of them all.

RV Fridge

The biggest difference in the RV fridge is that there are no moving parts, meaning less jostling when in motion.

Mechanics (How refrigeration works): The RV fridge operates by using something called “absorption refrigeration”. This simply means there are no moving parts inside the fridge, which makes this the best option for handling the rigors of travel.

How efficiently energy is used:  RV fridges use absorption refrigeration, which is gravity fed. This can be considered a con, as not being level can result in a malfunction in the fridge.

Power sources: One of the cool features of the RV fridge is that they do not always need to be plugged into a power source in order to operate. Alternative sources of power can come from battery, gas, electricity or LP.

Cost: Because of the make-up of how a RV fridge operates, they tend to cost more. Extra insulation and limited moving parts make them more ideal for travel.

Safety: RV fridges are smaller in nature. This makes them relatively safe when placed in their desired storage spaces. As with anything, making sure everything is connected properly to prevent fires or other problems is good to think about.

Versatility: The RV fridge is usually manufactured to be smaller in size. This allows more flexibility for where campers can place in within their RV.

Storage: RV fridges are created to be smaller. Average sizes tend to be around 4, 6, or 8-cubic feet. This may be the perfect option for some campers who only need a small amount of storage for food and drinks.

Residential Fridge

Mechanics (How refrigeration works): A residential fridge is powered mainly by a stationary plug-in electric source.

How efficiently energy is used: In the residential fridge, energy is more efficiently used during the warmer months. This means that in the colder months of the year, this type of fridge does not use energy as efficiently as it could.

Power sources: The residential fridge is mainly powered by electricity, although gas can be an option for some. Gas tends to take up too much energy and is not the most efficient method for powering.

Cost: Residential fridges tend to cost less than the RV fridge. This is because they are relatively more common to find, and additional hookups tend to cost less.

Safety:  As with any large appliance, make sure it is securely attached and does not risk falling over during travel. This is especially important on bumpy roads, or if you have children or pets traveling with you.

Versatility: The residential fridge can be fairly versatile in size, as well as the features they come with. Some people like being able to make ice at the push of a button. This fridge allows for that to happen. Others might like being able to set timers for certain things. Some residential fridges are equipped for that as well. Still others may want to be able to control things from their smart phone; having a special feature for this makes their lives much easier.

Storage: Residential fridges are created to be much larger than RV fridges. Most are around 18, 20, or 21- cubic feet. This allows for greater storage of food and drinks than the RV fridge.

Pros and Cons of RV Fridge

As mentioned earlier, the RV fridge does not have to necessarily be plugged into a power source in order to operate. Alternative power sources prove to be a major benefit if campers are in a location that does not offer ample sources of plug-in electricity.

One con of having an RV fridge is the small size. While it may be convenient, the lack of storage may pose a challenge to campers that may want to bring along more food and drinks than the RV fridge will allow.

Another con is that you must be level in order for your RV fridge to work. This is because it operates via “absorption refrigeration”, and gravity is a big deal in this process. If the RV is not level, your fridge may not work properly or at all. Be sure to park and level your RV to ensure your fridge works at an optimal level.

Lastly, something that may be considered a con is the lack of features some RV fridges have. Some RV fridges do not include ice machines or timers, so that is something to consider. There are also newer designs that can be connected to your smart phone, and some RV fridges may not have these.

Pros and Cons of Residential Fridge

The residential fridge also has many benefits. In warmer weather, they tend to run more efficiently. Because their sizes are generally larger, they can store more food and drinks. They also tend to be less expensive than the competing RV fridge.

Another pro to having a residential fridge is that they contain more modern features, such as an ice machine or connection to your smart phone. This can prove to be convenient, depending on where you are and what you want to accomplish.

The cons of the residential fridge are that they are not as versatile as the RV fridge. They need to be plugged into an electrical power source in order to operate. This can be limiting to the camper, depending on their needs or traveling destination desires. It is possible to power a residential fridge without it being plugged into a stationary power source, but it is extremely expensive. Campers would need extensive bundles of batteries, or a large inverter. This would take up space, which many campers may not have.

Having a residential fridge may prove to be bulky, and take up too much space in your RV. It’s important to measure everything and make sure you can fit one inside your RV before getting one.

Can You Put a Regular Fridge in an RV?

Yes, technically it is possible to put a regular or mini-fridge in your RV to keep your food and drinks cold. If you are considering going this route, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind.

  • The space you have to work with will need to be considered. Do you have enough space for a regular or mini fridge? If so, where do you plan to put it? It may need to be plugged into a power source, so making sure you have space near an electric plug-in will be helpful.
  • The size of the fridge will need to be considered as well. Be sure to measure the space and fridge you plan on putting in there to make sure they all fit.
  • One pro is that a regular fridge may be more dependable. One con is that they may have limited power options in order to operate.

Why Are RV Refrigerators So Expensive?

There are questions as to why an RV fridge is more expensive than a regular one. There are a few reasons for this:

  • They are meant to be specially designed for efficiency. Additional insulation helps make this happen.
  • Additional features can make them cost more. Features such as USB ports, or connections to a smartphone make them more costly.
  • Their active cooling system makes them cost more. The efficiency of the design makes them better, but the camper pays more for it.

Does RV Refrigerator Work Better on Gas or Electric?

While most would think that RV appliances need to run fully on electricity, using propane has enabled campers to have options when it comes to powering their fridge. Is one better than the other? Here are some important things to note:

  • Some appliances rely only on electricity, such as lights, TV and microwave. Others rely only on gas, such as oven, stove and furnace (if applicable).
  • Another thing to consider is something called “shore power”. If your location has a stationary source of electricity, it’s more efficient to use that. If, however, you are not near a stationary power source, gas is a better option to use.
  • Some RVs enable you to switch back and forth. This is an added bonus that not every RV has to offer.

Will My RV Fridge Work if Not Level?

Perhaps campers may be wondering if their RV fridge will function properly if the RV is not completely level. Below are some important things to remember:

  • Having a level RV is more important than campers realize. Many appliances may not work if the RV is not level.
  • It’s especially important to have a level RV if you want your RV fridge to work. This is because of the way the RV fridge is designed.
  • Because the RV fridge uses gravity to help power the “absorption cooling” process, the RV fridge is not likely to function well if the RV is not level.

Should I Replace My RV Fridge With A Residential Fridge?

This is going to be totally dependent on your needs, and what they have to work with. If you already have a RV fridge and are considering replacing it with a residential fridge, consider the following:

  • Size- Do you have a large enough space in your RV to accommodate a residential fridge? Residential fridges tend to take up much more space. This is great if you have a large camping crowd and will need to store more food and drink.
  • Power- The larger the fridge is, the more power it is going to need to operate. Consider your power sources, and whether you have enough to support a residential fridge.
  • Features- Typical RV fridges may not have the features that a residential fridge does, such as an ice machine or a timer. If these are important to you, you may consider going with a residential fridge.

Wrap Up

Part of modern RV trips usually includes the convenience of having something to keep your food and drinks cold while you travel. This is also a great way to save money on things like ice, and reduce going out to eat multiple times per day. Whether you decide to go with an RV fridge or a residential fridge will all depend on your needs, but it’s good to know you have a couple varieties to choose from!

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