Switching to a more efficient fridge for the motorhome.

The default fridge/freezer in most motorhomes is a 3 way one that can use either gas/lpg, 12v (whilst driving) or mains 240v electricity. It is however in most cases an absorption fridge, meaning it does not have a compressor and pretty much makes no noise.

However, it’s not very efficient, and can consume a lot of power – which was exactly the case with the fridge that came with my 2019 Burstner motorhome, it was a Dometic model and whilst pretty good and quite suitable for occasional use, it was not suitable for full-time, off-grid living. It demanded 180w pretty much all the time and would really eat into my lithium batteries overnight.

So, it had to go! I’ve had this project on the cards now for some time but finally got round to it with the help of a local carpenter and now I have this slim Vitifrigo fridge/freezer that has a 12v compressor, and consumes less than 50w when it’s actually running, which is only when it needs to top up the cold air again.

It’s slighly narrower than the previous fridge but a lot taller, and the compressor itself is seperate. I therefore lost the drawer space underneath the previous fridge and had to make the cupboard above a bit smaller but all in it looks great.

We cut a hole underneath the fridge to allow the hot air from the compressor to cirulate out.
The old absorption fridge, now sold!

Initially I wired it up to what I thought would be sufficient power but the distance in the wiring from the batteries, combined with the wiring not being thick enough, meant the compressor could not get enough power. This took some figuring out but I re-wired it to a temporary piggy-back off the TV/sat system’s power whilst I have arriving soon proper, thick and long wiring that I will put in direct from the batteries to the compressor.

When I did the research on this some motorhome owners we warning me about compressor noise and being a nuisance in a motorhome … so I was a bit worried about this. However these fridges are specifically made for boats and motorhomes and the gentle little “purrr” that it makes only when the compressor runs, hardly bothers me. It even has a “night mode” button that will make it run even less infrequently (and hence quieter) but thus far I’ve had no need to use that.

I can immediately see the improvement in power consumption – whilst initially it drew a of power, now that the fridge has cooled down it maintains it with very little power. So much so I reckon my batteries will hardly drop below 80% overnight, I will be testing this all soon and see if that’s the case!

The motorhome is currently just on solar/lithium power and I can see when the compressor kicks in, it demands around 50w max, which my Victron system happily matches with solar:

So far, I can absolutely recommend making this change if you’re struggling with keeping your power hungry absorption fridge happy whilst wild camping.

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