how much power does it pull

RV Residential Refrigerator – How Much Power Does It Use

Deciding between a Residential Refrigerator or an RV “2-Way or 3-Way” Fridge in a motorhome is a no brainer…at first glance. But if you plan on doing any off the grid boondocking, battery power will be a concern.

You open those big residential fridge doors and there is no comparison! Who doesn’t want more efficient cooling and all that space for fresh and frozen foods!?! In fact, most new RVs are coming directly from the factory with a residential fridge installed, so it must be good…right?

We were so excited when we got the Excursion and it came equipped with a shiny new stainless steel residential refrigerator. However, our minds changed a bit when we hit that first wild camping spot and we decided to park under a canopy of trees. With no power coming in from our flexible solar panels mounted on the roof we were forced to…gasp…run the generator! We began to second guess if a residential fridge was really a good option for an RV or not.

When the time came to build our custom designed Bounder we had the choice again. After deciding to install lithium batteries and the solar AE kit we felt we’d have no problem running that power hog residential fridge in our RV. Sadly, even with all this technology on board we’ve still had to run the generator a couple of times after too many cloudy days in a row.

For the past two years we’ve known the Residential Fridge in our RV uses a lot of power, but we’ve never really monitored the numbers. Today we decided it was time to run the test and educate ourselves so we could better understand our personal power needs.

To be perfectly honest, we also did this test as a way to help us decide how much power we’ll need for our big switch to the sailboat later this year.  So, lets dive in to the results.

How Much Power Does a Residential Fridge Use?

Equipment we’re working with:

Here are the numbers from our test:

  • BMK Reading: 200 amp hours in 11 hours
  • Kill-A-Watt Reading: 1.530 kwh in 11 hours

If you do the math of converting kilowatts into 12v amp hours you’ll see our fridge only used about 130 amp hours of battery. My answer to this discrepancy: Power is always lost when using an inverter and there are parasitic draws from our battery we cannot control (such as vent fans, LED lights, radio, etc).

I did run a separate test while plugged into shore power with the A/C set to 74° and the fridge pulled 2.392 kwh in 24 hours (1.097 kwh in 11 hours). This tells me when temperatures are a little cooler the fridge doesn’t have to work quite as hard.

I personally think the conditions were perfect for our off the grid RV Fridge Test as it wasn’t too hot and we were in shade (or it was night) for half of the testing hours. The temperature was a mild 80 degrees and there was a slight breeze to keep the air moving inside the motorhome.

It’s also good to note we spent the entire day outside of the RV as we wanted to test only the refrigerator power usage. Our TVs were still plugged in but they were off and the only other thing using electricity was the overhead LED lights for the few minutes while filming inside the coach. We did open the fridge a few times to get stuff for lunch and the occasional beverage, but that’s “real-life use”.

Factory Installed Batteries Won’t Cut It

When installing a residential refrigerator most RV manufacturers will come stock with four 6-volt batteries with 400 amp hours and 200 “usable” amp hours (because you should only drain standard lead acid batteries to 50%). Dealers and salespeople have told us “you can run that fridge for days on these batteries”. Baloney! On our Excursion, before adding solar, we were required to run the generator for a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the evening to keep our batteries from dipping below the 50% mark.

Our Real World RV Battery Power Experience

While living full time in an RV you will burn through power more quickly than you ever expect. We’re pretty used to managing our power even though we use more than the average camper! Even though we’re accustomed to balancing our power use, sometimes we get caught off guard when a storm rolls in, or the smog cuts the amount of solar power we’re bringing in.

If we have one day of bad weather, we know to be more conscious of our power usage and monitor it more closely. If the sun sets and we’re at 80% battery, we know we’ll wake up to 65% battery power in the morning. If we get a second day of thick clouds, then we know we’ll be forced to run the generator at night for a couple hours to keep the fridge from bringing the batteries down too low.

You can’t stop the residential fridge, it’s like a freight train that’s always using your power. When Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with sunny skies we really wish we could turn this power hog off, but we can’t.

Pros and Cons of the RV & Residential Refrigerators

You’ll find your own pros and cons but from our experience with both the two-way RV fridge and the residential fridge here’s our personal opinions:

Residential Fridge

  • Pros: Way more capacity. More efficient at maintaining temperature and staying cool under any conditions. Generally, less expensive. Better built in ice makers. No propane flame to worry about catching fire. No drip tray to worry about freezing and clogging. No vent cut-out on the RV exterior sidewall. Less humidity inside the fridge. No pesky “fridge aerator” needed.
  • Cons: Most refrigerator manufacturers require a pure sine wave inverter. Inverter must always be left “on” to supply power. Inverters are not 100% efficient, so there will be some ‘lost’ power when inverting the power from 12v to 120v. Needs a lot of battery and solar power to compensate for the power draw.

RV Fridge

  • Pros: Technology in conventional RV LP/Electric refrigerators allows you more flexibility because you can switch them to “propane” mode to drastically reduce the power consumption.
  • Cons: Not as efficient in higher elevation, humid or hot climates. Takes longer to get cool again once doors have been opened. You have to defrost both the fridge and freezer once every month or two. Have to fill up the RV propane tank more often. Propane flame can be dangerous when the RV is not parked level. Need to regulate internal air flow to ensure the gravity-fed system can keep things cold.

Minimum Power Needed for a Residential Fridge

Again, this is just my opinion based on our experience. When people ask me “How much power do I need to run a residential refrigerator in my RV?” My go to answer is this:

The minimum power for running solely the residential fridge for 24 hours is six AGM batteries totaling 600 amp hours (300 ah usable). PLUS you need 600 watts of solar power on the roof to replenish the batteries during the daylight hours. Remember that is just for the fridge and it doesn’t include other devices you may use in your RV such as kitchen appliances, computers, TVs, Radio, Lights, etc.

Best Power Setup for Off The Grid RV living with a Residential Fridge

If you don’t want to be forced to run a generator I’d say go for 800 amp hours of lithium, or 1200 amp hours of AGM and a solar array like our 960 watt All Electric kit from GoPower!.  This should provide enough power to make it through 3 days of “normal” living (6 days if we are conservative) during cloudy weather without being forced to run the generator.  Of course if there is full sun then we would be able to run almost anything as if we were plugged into the grid (we could even run our rooftop Air Conditioner for a couple of hours).

Here’s the gear we recommend:


Our Verdict – Residential Fridge vs. RV Fridge

Residential fridge all the way with one big ol’ caveat! Upgrade your batteries! If you are adding solar and a beefier battery bank you shouldn’t have much issue keeping up with the power hog that is the residential refrigerator.

I hope us tracking the numbers (and sharing our experiences) is helpful with your decision on whether or not to outfit your rig with a residential fridge or a propane powered RV fridge. If you have any questions, concerns or you want to share your RV fridge (or Tiny House, Sailboat, etc) tips and experiences please do in the comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!


Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (80)

  • Preferred Customer

    If you change your inverter input voltage from 12 volts and just double to 24 volts, you’ll achieve a higher efficiency rating; and a 48 volt inverter is almost perfect. Seriously though, just double the input voltage and notice that small efficiency boost over time. It really adds up. Also, consider adding a small portable wind turbine. Even a small one can be awesome.

  • Ellen White

    Hello! Thanks for this information is is very helpful. I’m guessing you probably installed the system yourself, but I’m not that handy and it’s kind of scary. Do you have any recommendations as to who might be able to install something like this on my RV? I have a Class C Coachmen Leprechaun 311FS.

    I hope your sailing adventures are going well!

    • Curious Minion

      The fridge or the solar? If fridge, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. They’re so big that they are literally put onto the chasis first and the RV is built around them. You might be able to remove a window from your Class C and get one through, but that’s a lot of work. If you’re referring to the solar setup that’s much easier to tackle. If you want it professionally installed, you just need to do your homework and find a reputable dealer/installer near you. Read reviews and see what other folks have to say on RV solar forums. Do your research first though so you have some input on your power needs, etc. If you’re really not sure, have the installer put in a controller and heavy gauge wire that could handle another solar panel or two in the future. That way you could pretty easily install another panel without having to change your solar controller or upgrade the wiring. The solar for the Bounder was installed at the Fleetwood factory. You can see the process and there are links to the components in this post:

  • Tom Abrahamson

    Have you ever thought of testing one the Danfoss BD50F 12v compressor units? Unfortunately the RV major brands don’t carry something the would fit my current 4 door 2 way unit cabinet hole.

  • Alberto Alvarez

    Thank you so much for this post and video, it has helped a ton. From your artical of running the fridge for 24 hrs, if I only wanted to run the fridge for 12 hrs just in batteris, would my assumptions of halving the AGM batteries to a 150 usable Ah be correct?

  • Ron Alexander

    Would it be possible to run the test again without the ice maker on? I have heard that it uses more power with it on.

    • Curious Minion

      Hi Ron. The Wynns are sailing on a catamaran these days and don’t have a residential fridge. If you wanted to test it out on your own fridge there are devices you can buy (a well known one is the Kill-A-Watt Electricity Monitor) to plug in-line that will monitor how much power an electrical device is using. You could run it for a few hours with the ice maker on and then a few hours with it off.

  • Mark

    Time to install a mini split air conditioner/heat pump and run cold air 24/7 when needed all while off grid.

  • M.l. Scott

    how do you keep your doors from opening while traveling down the highway with a Residential Refrigerator

    • Curious Minion

      You can buy latches for that, but can also go low-tech with Velcro straps or bungee cords.

  • Dave

    Hi I have in my home here in Costa Rica a Panasonic Inverter residential refrigerator.
    These use about half the electricity and are super quiet. The idea is the compressor is variable and doesn’t have just 2 levels a huge suck of power to come on and then completely off. I’ve found the food stays fresher longer also because I believe they maintain a more even temperature then “binary” on/off arrangement. I’ve heard about a “soft start” modification for RV air conditioners that kind of works along the same principle of the inverter – which should work for a fridge as well. All the split ACs I intstalled are also inverter units.

  • Sandy Emert

    Very newbies and very nervous. Picked up RV Monday and now just sitting in yard. Has a residential frig. So it doesn’t use the propane? Should our propane tank be off when just sitting there. We will not be traveling until September 7 and don’t need anything on right now. This is a Newmar and we are so lost even after the walk thru. A lot to learn in a little time. The inverter is very complicated. Don’t know where to go for info. Have to join the Newmar club to get better manual then the big package that came with the rv

  • Brian Miller

    . Purchased a 2018 Coachmen Leprechaun class C 31foot long with a residential refrigerator. The inverter is 1000 watt and we have a 80 watt 10 amp solar panel. This is our first time having an rv with an inverter and residential refrigerator. We boondock once a month with a camping club. Our first time boondocking, on the second day, our coach batteries lost power. We were unable to start our generator and had to jump start the generator in order to charge the batteries.In reading this article, it appears our rv is under powered to dry camp. Any suggestions on how we can make this work ?

  • Sharon Witt

    Hello we are getting ready to buy a nitro 36T15 5th wheel with the decision to make on the refrigerator…. I can’t decide if it is worth the money to pay extra to get this fridge or to just stay with the standard one …. One dealer says to us you would not want the residential fridge with the converter because they are not made to go down the road and bounce around. Also you don’t have the option to power it with gas …. with that said having the regular RV refrigerator that runs on gas which was another camper we were familiar with and kept the gas on most of the time when we were off the grid. Our question is what do you really think is the best as you’re traveling down the road to your grocery stay cold with the newer type refrigerators if in fact you don’t have everything running on battery I’m confused on how they keep all of your stuff cold…does that mean when you’re driving the five and six hours to get somewhere or maybe even 9 to 10 that your refrigerator is running off your batteries while you’re driving? If there is sun is it running off the sun does it convert ?
    Any info is appreciated thank you so much I have read through a lot of this but I am still confused.

  • AL Romaker

    When travelling with propane on to keep the fridge cool, does the DC power need to stay on and how about when you stop for the night boondogging. Does the DC power still need to stay on to?

    • Curious Minion

      Older fridges (like 20 years old) may not need DC power, but newer ones are wired into DC power to operate the controls and without power it will shut off.

  • Frank Mabrey

    We are considering buying a travel trailer with an AC / DC refrigerator. Which in your opinion would be better a traditional 2 way, 3 way or an AC/DC. We will be camping mostly at state parks etc. where there is electric available. However we would also like to have the option of going off grid. Thank You.

  • Michael Hesterberg

    Hi, again. I just keep liking your video’s, and just coming up with more questions. When you were out “boon-docking” in the hot weather and checking on your fridge power requirements, were you also taking into account your A/C usage? Can your 500 watts run both?

  • The mantra has been repeated so many million times over so many years that I wonder if we’ll ever be able to get it corrected, but the old-school notion that batteries should *never* be discharged below 50% is no longer true and all the major battery manufacturers agree. Personally I don’t think it ever was true. That number was a design variable for early solar system design which somehow got stuck in our collective craw and we now seem to require cosmic assistance to UNlearn it. In the real world, there is absolutely ZERO economic advantage to only discharging your batts to 50%. They can safely be discharged to 11.8 volts (80% discharge = 20% state of charge) with absolutely no “damage” whatsoever to the batteries. It’s true that if you permit your batts to do twice the work, they’ll only last half as long — no different from anything else. Please help to dispel the urban myth! If you permit your batts to do the work they’re designed to do, you’ll find much less need to run your gensets (the bane of RV living IMHO). And it makes no sense at all to top off your batts after sundown — you’re simply wasting fuel to do the easy part of charging the batteries which your panel(s) will do for FREE = next morning long before the sun is high in the sky. Our batts are often fully recharged by 10:30 AM (noon at the latest) and we’ve never used our genset OR the grid to charge our battts in 14+ months of fulltiming in our 33′ RV. No doubt that will change when we add our 3,000 watt inverter in a few days but we currently have a single 420 watt panel, 100 volt/40 amp MPPT controller, four RV/Marine batts, and a 300 watt pure sine wave inverter. We are seriously committed offgridders and run our original RV reefer on propane. It’s a Norcold two-way — 20 years old and still running strong.

  • Lee

    Old Rasputin in the fridge. Nice one.

  • brad

    You probably didn’t own it long enough to learn, so this is directed at your readers. DO NOT buy a Samsung refrigerator if you plan to use it for more than 4-5 years. We learned the hard way. If you don’t believe me, ask any reputable appliance repair person. They look slick and have great features. Downside is the components are low quality so after 4-5 years you start to get failures. Fix one thing, the next thing breaks. And on and on…

  • CJ

    My experience (Winnebago Forza, Whirlpool Fridge, 2000W-Inverter, 6 Group 4D Batteries (gel) with 1200Ah, 280W solar panel on the roof): 5 Days on the ferry Bellingham – Whittier (no light on the deck, no power hookup). 6 days on a parking-lot in Chicago in July, no power hookup, no shade: no problem to keep the fridge/freezer cool (the fridge was never opened). The generator never run. Dry camping (Oregon Coast, 2 sunny days with some fog and one rainy day): 3 days are no problem even if you use the fridge, a Nespresso-Coffee-Machine run twice and some charging devices for mobile phones, notebooks and tablets and the 4G/LTE Receiver. All from the battery, no problem. Day 4: the generator started automatically.

  • Tim Harned

    Comment about CPAP use at night. CPAP runs on 24 volts and is powered through 12 volt adapter with built in 24 volt inverter supplied with the unit. I installed 12 volt outlet near bed. Of note to CPAP (or BiPAP) users: if you do not have a unit that can be powered by 12 volt adapter, in addition to 110ac, contact your healthcare provider for a new machine, if insurance balks, file an appeal. No insurance? Can buy new machine on internet (with prescription from your healthcare provider) for under $400.

  • Tim Harned

    I would like to share our experience. Your article was the most helpful in our research decision to purchase new unit with residential frig, thank you: 2016 Thor, Outlaw, class a, toy hauler, 4 – 6 volt batteries, 1800 watt inverter, auto gen start. My wife loves the refrigerator, 11 c.f. (I think she still loves me more). First weekend out (no solar and we live in Southern California) Day 1 – batteries adequate. Day 2 and 3 generator ran about 6 hours each day. Out most of day and do not use much other power. Since then, had 3 panel Go-Power system installed (480 watts). At home or out for weekend, solar powers the frig and had enough power in am to make pot of coffee (I turn off frig while doing this). After 3 days of dry camping, batteries lower in am, but still okay. I have seen panel read about 25 amps and up to 30 someting. We dry camp about 3-4 days at a time, this set-up should be fine for us. I will be interested to see how we do during winter sun. By my calculations of our use, the solar should pay for itself in under five years on gas and genset wear and tear. We did not turn off frig at night, but may try this during winter dry camping as night temps down here get into low 40’s, on average.

  • Pedro Romero

    Thank you ! Very instructive ! Two comments I´d like to make. First: you could use a smaller residential refrigerator. Yours (acording to Samsung) consumes 594 KWH a year. Two: dont use an ice maker in the fridge.
    Currently building a 40 feet Trawler in Margarita Island (Venezuela). Planned electrical sources: Go Power 480W Solar System, NextGen 3.5 Kw Generator, 30 Amp Shore Power, 800 AH House Bank. Major usages: Webasto 16k BTU (Only Shore or Gen Power), LG 11 Cubic Feet Refrigerator ( 75 AH Day), Total usage 325 AH Day gross. Including lighting, plumbing, TV, etc.

  • JC Webber III

    500AH LI Batteries, 790W of solar, 3000W Hybrid Magnum inverter, Samsung RF18 refer. Boondock for days on end. Only run generator if we experience overcast day. Life is good! 8^)

  • Mark

    Another great article! I am in the process of purchasing an RV and struggling with the fridge decision. Based on your 200ah in 11 hours you would use 436ah/day. The rule of thumb I read for 100w solar panel is they would provide 30ah/day so with 960w you could provide 288ah/day. You would still have a deficit of approximately 150ah/day (my math could be wrong). Are you finding that even with your 960w of solar you are still finding that you need to run your generator every few 3-4 days? With my desire to dry camp without using the generator I am leaning towards a 2-way fridge but still doing research. Any advice from anyone would be appreciated.

  • Hey guys!

    Super helpful video. Thank you, I’m only slightly depressed at the low amount of time we can off grid camp with our residential fridge. But at least now I feel more informed!

    Thanks again and hope the boat is treating you well 🙂

  • Jim Gell

    Our set up is similar. 700 Ah lithium battery, 1060W solar, 3000w hybrid inverter, and about 19 cu’ residential fridge. We removed the ice maker to leave more room for frozen food and still put a 12vdc/120v ac fridge/freezer (we use as freezer) in basement of 5th wheel. What we don’t have is an auto start generator. Rather we have one 2000w Honda pull start. Weight is an issue for us, so we probably should swap the freezer for an auto start generator.

    I have not done all the Kill a Watt measuring you (Niki) have done, but overall our experience is similar and I would concur with your equipment recommendation. That said, someone reasonably technical inclined and willing to research the details could get a lot more juice (AH storage) for their money reconfiguring a used Chevy Volt battery to a 48V system. In hindsight that’s what I would do next time.

    One thing that surprised me, was how much power our DTV receivers and dvr draw. I hope to do some testing and measure actual draw under different circumstances. We don’t have the national east or west coast feed for “locals” and it seemed when we set up outside the beamed area for our sevice address locals, it consumed a lot more power. That was with numerous series set to record on those channels we were not getting. The receivers actually get very warm to the touch even when “off”.

  • Mark Munley

    Thanks for the great information. We have a 2016 Sore Palazzo with a whirlpool residential fridge. Factory installed along with a modified sine inverter and four 6 V deep cycle batteries, 850 watts of solar. On a number of occasions when the batteries drop to a certain level ( this morning at 4am they were at 12.1 volts. Auto gen will start at 11.9) the compressor kicks into defrost cycle then shuts down. Then goes thru the 24 hour restart cycle. This does not happen on shore power. The whirlpool tech has replaced the electronics and believes this is a power issue. Aside from the battery what role does the inverter play in this? I’m hypothesizing that the modified sine and low batteries is affecting the performance of the fridge. Any thoughts on this?

    • You are on the right track! A residential refrigerator is not going to like the broken power that a modified sine wave inverter supplies. I know at fleetwood (and I am sure others), Samsung is their fridge supplier and by contract they have to put in a pure sign wave inverter…because a modified wont work. modified sine inverters are also bad for most microwaves and computers too.

  • Pete Halsted

    We are restarting our Fulltimer life this week, after taking a 6 year break. In fact we will be splitting our time between a 5th wheel and a 36 Power Yacht. However we are in a slightly different situation, I can’t see us doing much boondocking in the 5th wheel, and will mainly be spending 1-3 months in a single location, with amenities. So residential fridge would be fine for that (in fact that is what we have put in the Boat).

    My concern is the traveling to a new location. I could see us being on the road 2 or 3 days between locations, and possibly doing the “walmart campground” at night on the trip. I don’t want to run a generator going do the road to keep the fridge happy, and I sure don’t want to invest in the level of battery/solar you have since we won’t be doing that type of boon docking.

    So what would be your suggestion for keeping the fridge “happy” for say 8 – 10 hours of travel time, assuming I could run a generator for a few hours when we stop for the night to top everything back off. I guess part of that question is how long can you safely leave fridge with no power, I am assuming 8-10 would be to long to be safe and I will need to power it for the day.

    Thanks for any thoughts or advice!

    • Jim Gell

      Pete, you may want to consider charging the fifth wheel using the alternator of the truck. I met someone who does this and they thought it worked well. They had a semi with a large alternator that fed an inverter in the truck. They were able to use reasonably size wiring at 120v ac through a plug in cable between the truck and trailer. He set this up specifically to run his residential fridge while traveling.


  • André Downer

    Another awesome article from you guys.-thanks! We have the same fridge as you in our Renegade Verona, and Thanks to your recommendations we are now up to 800ah of deep cycle AGM batteries. As soon as the tax return gets here, I’ll be copying your solar rig as well!

    Thanks Steve and Nikki!

    André and Patti

  • Tim Lefler

    Has anyone investigated the use of 12 volt compressor type built in refrigerators? Like Norcold or Engel? They work well off of level up to 30 degrees and use little power. No need for an inverter loss will run off of 120V shore line when available. Curious

  • As you know, we have the identical Samsung fridge you do. And you’re right on the money with the love-hate relationship, particularly because we HATED our RV fridge and LOVE our residential fridge… except that we still have the standard bank of four 6-volt batteries (except upgraded to AGM) that came with the rig. An RV that comes from the factory with a residential fridge (ours was a retrofit) has a big advantage, since they usually come with at least a couple of additional batteries to help run it. We really need to upgrade our batteries and solar so that we can have a love-love relationship with our Samsung, vs the unrequited love situation we’ve got from a basically stock battery bank. :-/

    • We love our Fridge, but like you need to do some battery & solar work.

  • Fred Selah

    Fred in Florida
    I have been following your adventures and I enjoy the video’s. This great information for me getting ready to buy a motor home this summer. Enjoy your stay in Florida.

  • Van

    Have exactly the same Samsung RF18 refer. Turning off the ice maker significantly reduces its energy consumption. My 600 Ah of AGM’s would be boondocking minimum with gen running thru float stage 1-2 hr morning and 2 hrs at nite. Planned 800 Ah of lithiums with 1,400 solar should provide unlimited boondocking with no gen. However if gen only, a much larger bulk charger could pump up lithiums faster and reduce gen run time. After enjoying this refer would NEVER go back to old “ice cream melter”!

  • Why is the comparison point small 3 way fridge vs, huge residential fridge? Why not have a fridge the same size as an RV 3 way that just happens to use a compressor instead? I’d bet that would use half as much power as the full size one you guys have. Do manufactures not provide that option?

  • Frank

    I don’t know if the fridges discussed here ar inverter fridges or not, but in Australia many are installing these and reporting 60-80A per 24 Hours.

  • Caren Leggett

    Where did you install your extra batteries, we have a bounder and the batteries are in the stairs and there is no more room to put more. Thx.

  • We switched over to a GE 15.5 cubic foot, energy saver. It’s very efficient, and if you shut it off at night for 6-8 hours the temperature barely drops. This can solve a lot of problems.

  • My husband and I have been researching RV living full-time and I had no idea how many little details there are to consider.
    I live in Indiana, and a lot of motor coaches are manufactured here. We’ve looked at all types of models, including one with a residential style fridge similar to yours. I know one of the local companies is working on an RV fridge with a compressor so it’s more residential. I don’t think its nearly as big as a residential one, but it functions as one.

  • Ashlyn

    Maybe a smaller more efficient fridge combined with a decent sized premium cooler (Engel/Yeti/Grizzly, etc.) and rotate items as needed (i.e., as ice melts), trying to consume items from the cooler first, when possible. That’s what I’ve done: Grape Solar fridge (5.2 cu ft, 120/12v), with a cooler of about equal size. I have a 10kw Balqon LiFeYPo battery (48v), 1200w flexible panels and a large Magnum inverter. The Grape Solar fridge seems to average about 25 watts/hr of power usage through a 24 hr period (looks like your Samsung is using about 100w/hr: 1.097kw (corrected)/11hrs), so that would be about 1/4 of the power usage — multiple your normal time w/o generator or shore power x 4, if there was no sun. You guys could probably go 10 days without needing to replenish ice or run the genny. Still no propane/flames/need to level RV and find propane fills (just ice, which is everywhere there are consumable supplies).
    The “premium” coolers are great. The ice may not last as long as the manufacturers claim (7-10 days) of keeping things cold, but they are usually good for 5 days. There are also lots of rectangle, thin, plastic containers to arrange within the cooler to keep food from getting wet as ice melts. You (especially) could probably find a way to let the melted ice drain straight through to the outside.
    Some variation of this would probably also work on your future catamaran.

  • Great article with a lot of facts. We aren’t interested in boondocking so we are fine with a residential refrigerator. We had a Norcold 1200 that was only 4 years old when it died. We had already decided to switch to a residential when it happened and in fact it was set for delivery. We always ran the Norcold on electricity. We usually stay at our rv sites in GA, the Keys, or Tampa so we pay a monthly electric bill. We never could figure out why our electric bill was so much higher than others around us. We finally discovered it was because of the Norcold. Since we got the residential, our electric bill went way, way down.

  • Kevin

    Your Samsung refrigerator is beautiful but has a poor Energy Star annual usage rating of 594kwh (or 1,627 watts/day)… There are many similar sized refrigerators that are much more efficient that use 40% less than your model…

  • Tara

    I have the exact same residential fridge in my RV. I was hoping you would show how you keep it closed while driving. I have tried tying dish towels & bungee cords. Thanks.

  • Raivyn

    I ‘m with Jerry here, the residential fridge off solar seems to be a very expensive option vs running it off a generator. You’re still biondocking when using a generator, so is it the noise that motivates using solar?

    While I love the size of a residential fridge, I will stick with my Norcold and deal with the size. Even with a family of 4, for a weekend it is plenty big for us.

  • Andrea Clerkin

    Great video! Love the way you two take the time to do everything so well. We can only imagine the amount of time and effort it takes. We are from Ireland so cloudy weather has a big impact on solar power 🙂 We have been living in our Mercedes Hymer for 6 months now. It has a 3 way fridge which is small and easy to run but we hope to upgrade to an American RV in the near future so thanks for all the useful info!

  • Terry Apple

    Little Dears: I enjoy your work very much, but there is one more thing on this subject and that is the Norcold fire like the one that destroyed our Country Coach. The fridge was running on electricity at the time. No warning; it was working perfectly, keeping proper temp, etc. All three recalls at the time had been attended to by authorized service.

    The absorption coils are unevenly cast (made in China since at least the year 2000) and the chemicals corrode and leak through thin areas in the coils and onto the wiring below the fridge, dissolving the covering over the wires and shorting the wires. The chemicals can kill you before the fire (they say you have about 30 seconds to get out). The fire will turn the ceiling into a broiler. Then, there are the “normal” heat created by the absorption fridge and the charred wood people have discovered when replacing their RV fridge – Surprise!!

    I believe that the RV absorption fridge is the most dangerous appliance in the RV. Even an engine fire is only likely to occur while traveling and, then, you are awake and have a great chance of escaping. Water heater and space heater problems will be detected by gas leak detectors, and routine smoke detectors will detect smoke from those fires. You must add a detector that sniffs ammonia, ion changes, etc., if you insist on keeping an absorption fridge in your RV.

    So there you are trapped in the back of the RV with the fridge chemicals or fire between you and the exit door. You probably have not practiced getting out the bedroom window. You probably do not have an extra large fire extinguisher in the bedroom and another up by the driver’s seat. You probably have not attended a fire safety course, so you probably do not know you need combination detectors.

    I’ll take the residential refrigerator any day and I would never advise others not to….

    • Jim

      There’s arguably good and bad to both absorption and residential types of refrigeration systems, and no offense intended towards anyone, but now that the common cause of specific to absorption fires and explosions is known and is so preventable with the ARP controls so that even off level operation is no longer a problem, I’m not sure why there seems to be such a backlash on here regarding absorption type safety – seems like any backlash should be directed towards the RV manufacturers for not demanding that a basically proven vital and inexpensive control isn’t included as a necessary standard if/when the absorption unit is preferred.

      Don’t condemn the absorption technology itself for something that’s so simply fixed…if I as a consumer (and I didn’t know about it until last year myself, but I sure implemented those controls as a preventative myself once I found out and they’ve been flawless) and/or manufacturer or even a regulatory entity know of the fix and refuse to implement it or even demand it, who’s really at fault?

      But as I said, no offense intended…with any luck conversations like this might bring more attention to the preventable problem. 🙂

  • Troy

    One advantage of propane is that’s dead silent, yes?

    My dream RV would have a CNG-converted engine and CNG supply to the frig, on-demand water heaters, genset, and range, too . . .

  • Mike

    Slightly off topic, but where did you find that cool 50 amp plug? The easy lever action release seems like a great idea.

  • Scott Helmann

    Great job on presenting real numbers and I am intrigued that you showed that the power usage label on the refrigerator is not real life use. We have a 3 way fridge in our camper, 440 amp hours of batteries and 700 watts of flat mounted solar panels on top. Our fridge runs on propane except for when driving (Just use battery/solar/vehicle power) and when camping if the batteries are fully or nearly fully charged (usually about 11am on sunny days) we switch over to Solar/Batteries/2000watt inverter to use the excess power available and often make ice in the ice maker during the afternoons home to refill the freezer. Excellent presentation in your video and once again a job well done!


    • Scott Helmann

      oops- I forgot to include our test numbers. Our camper refrigerator and freezer draws 30 amps (at 13.8 volts) from the inverter when running on 120 volts (300-310 watts on the kilowatt meter). The duty cycle depends on the temperature of the day and seems to run anywhere from 40-60% usually which give you a daily power usage of 2.9 – 4.4 kWh for a much smaller refrigerator (without an ice maker). There is a lot of energy in buying propane! Your residential refrigerator is more efficient but you can run a couple of weeks on a bottle or two of propane…

  • Excellent Video and test, I am an electrical engineer and I am running the numbers , you are right on. I also have an 2015 Georgetown XL and have the big residential fridge , love the size and the ice and water in the door. but it needs 8.5 amps when cooling, I have a 2000 watt inverter which can handle the load and more but it can kill batters fast, we plan to dry dock a lot as we are retired now and plan to see North America , but we are Canadian and can only do the US for 6 months less a day per year. So I have been looking at solar panels, and better batteries, nuclear fusion well not really , lol but maybe some day. I like the fact that I am not using propane for my fridge, its something scares me when I have a flame going in my fridge as I am driving down the road.
    Again great video, and thank you for sharing your findings.

  • Amy

    Hello Wynns!
    First off, my partner and I are celebrating our one year anniversary of living on the road full time! It has been a dream life that we would not be living if isn’t wasn’t for you guys inspiring is to go for it…so thank you!
    We are rolling in a 2014 Excursion with the residential fridge. Prior to going FT we upgraded our power setup with 600 AH (AGM batteries) and 640 watts of solar panels. AM Solar did the install and did a wonderful job. Our experience is identical to your experience in the Excursion. We were able to dry camp all summer with very minimal generator use. Only needed it with multiple days of bad weather or smoke from forest fires.
    I love the residential fridge. The large freezer is wonderful. Although there is a lot of room in the refrigerator section, we try not to over stuff it and always removed and excess packaging since both of these things make it work harder. If possible, we avoided shopping on cloudy/stormy days. Filling the fridge with warm products really pulls a lot of power for it to get back down to a safe temp.
    Overall, we are really happy with our setup. Thanks again to you both and good luck with your boat shopping!

  • Jerry Cope

    We lived on a sailboat for a number of years. We built a chest-type fridge/freezer combo. We used the Fridgoboat 12 Volt system Amp draw for 24 hours was around 60 amps. It was an excellent system that used keel-cooled technology. We live in our RV now. Has anyone looked at the SunFrost 12-volt system for RVs? For a full-size refrigerator at 90 d temperatures, it uses less than 100 amps per 24 hours.

    We would recommend solar power over the use of a wind generator. The wind does not blow consistently. Sun power was far more reliable.

    Also, do not rule out cruising throughout the inland waterways of America. The west coast of Florida, all the out-islands like Cayo Costa, is not to be missed. It is wise to get your sea legs by doing a trip to the Dry Tortugas to see if you really like sea cruising. Stateside, we enjoyed the Tenn-Tom Waterway to Chattanooga, TN and the lakes of Tennessee. The intracoastal waterway was sheltered and incredibly diverse. We loved spending time in places like Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. We considered a trip through the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes but logistics were harder to deal with, weather-wise. Your RV experience will come in handy. ENJOY YOUR BLOG! Jerry and Becky aboard Traveling Shoes II

  • We did find on our sailboat that we used the generator a lot less than we do in the RV. And our RV does have the residential fridge and a cooler down in basement so your video really made sense. Downside when we were sailing we could only carry a week of food and packed it very carefully so it was only open briefly; i.e. All meals were planned and we packed it with the next meal ingredients on top. Thanks for doing the test!

  • Joe the computer guy

    Well that kinds sucks. Haha. I have the same refrig and was counting on the yellow energy label of 1.62 kWh per day (594 per year) being correct. I was sizing my solar/lithium system for 400ah of lithium and 600 of solar. Looks like I will be running the genset more often on cloudy days.
    Thanks for the info though. Happy boat shopping

  • Excellent review. Its a big investment for the perks of running a residential fridge. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of keeping it simple. If you want all the comforts of home keep your wallet open.

  • Brian

    My situation is a little different. Most of my travelling is done alone, with the exception of my dog, Sam. I have an 04 Fleetwood Revolution Diesel Pusher and it has the original 4 door Norocld. The Norcold has worked flawlessly, in the two years that I’ve owned the coach. I have plenty of room for my needs and the ice cream is hard as a brick. I’ve never had a residential Frig, so can’t speak to the plus or minus side of having one. I know in my case I would never consider one. The cost of the unit, plus extra batteries wouldn’t be worth it to me. The only thing I don’t like about the Norcold is the possibility of fire. In doing research into this area, I discovered they are few and far between, and even less likely if the equipment is periodically visually inspected. I have taken the precaution of installing an ARP 2.0 Refrigerator Failure prevention device and a fire extinguisher at the rear of the unit. I don’t dry camp a lot, but when I do, running the generator a couple hours a day to keep my four, six volt batteries charged up is not an inconvenience for me, you can hardly hear it running inside and a group of us have spent several hours sitting only a few feet from it without the noise being a bother. I do use a genturi so the exhaust fumes don’t bother us.

  • Robert Lighton

    I have a small three way frig that is about 7 cu ft. I leave it on all the time during the season…April thru October.
    It doesn’t use much propane….my 13 gallon tank gets filled up about three times maybe four for the season so it is not too expensive to run.
    I am also curious about the difference of outgassing between a residential frig and a propane one…maybe someone can comment on the difference. My propane one is silent.
    I have wondered what you guys do with all that power from the lithium system you have. I have a 160 watt solar and now two six volt AGM batteries, it meets my needs for dry camping without a problem.

  • I guess I am thecweirdo here because not having a behemoth fridge was one of the things I most liked when we moved into our RV. I never liked our fridges in our houses because things get lost. I am in love with being able to choose whether to be on propane or AC. We have only 600 Amp hours og AGM batteries and we teeter at our weight limit so having more, plus more panels would just not work and we have stayed in too many places (mostly state parks) where generators are not allowed so I think we’ll stay with what we have. But thanks so much for this info because it will help the next time some sales guy tries to convince us we need a residential fridge.
    How’s the boat search going? I have some peoples names for more info, if youre interested, about living FT so email me if you’d like it.

  • Danie Sears

    Great video. We are at hour 36 on the RV experience. Since we just picked it up we decided to use a local (close to home) camp KOA (if you are in the Washington DC area let me just say these people are SO NICE and helpful for us new users). We have a residential fridge and we are reading to figure out how to thoughtfully use the limited power we have. Thanks for the situational awareness.

  • Patrick

    We have the same fridge in our bounder. What type of fridge lock do you have for when you’re on the road? We were told by Lazydays that there is no fridge lock that will work on ours. Their solution was for us to use a bungy cord on our new bounder.

  • bob Lantinga

    Hello Happy Easter guys. I am running 6 6 volt deep cycle batteries. I have 6 14 watt solar panels on the roof of my 36 foot American Dream. I have a 3 way RV fridge. 12 volt, propane, and 110 volt. I am running a 3500 built in inverter. The fridge will kick to 12 volt when driving and back to propane when stopped. Then it will kick to 110 when plugged in. I thought about going to 240 solar panels and getting a wind generator so I have power charge at night when its windy out. I like having the thee way fridge but they stop making the 12 volt powered option i hear. I also have a one side fridge and freezer on top. Would like in my next RV to have a double unit.
    Great video. thanks. Wish i was where you guys were. Looks like a nice place to park. Take care Bob and Anchor from Surrey, BC Canada

  • J Lewis

    I have same refrigerator I installed last summer. I have been running solely on 120Vac because my new 3000 Magnum Hybrid is. it installed yet. That also means I don’t have actual Ah battery drain. I did one Kilowatt test last month for a week. Temps were in the high 60’s-low 70’s. The results were 111 Ah average for 24 hrs.

    When I installed my Samsung, I lined the compartment with 2-1/2″ layers (1″) of foil-sided Polyisocyanurate . I also sealed the outside vent and roof vent air tight.

    I ran a 2nd week-long test last week. Temps were higher in upper 70’s. Those results were 100 Ah average for 24 hrs. While it is true these tests did not use 12Vdc to produce the power, watts is watts; force behind the current doesn’t matter. Therefore, I expect about the same readings when I start living off the inverter. I suspect one of the reasons your Ah are higher is my extra insulation.

    I am VERY shocked you lost 31% from the battery bank through your system. I’m going to be disappointed if I experience worse than 11%, which is what Magnum says to expect.



    If you can find a residential fridge that is the most energy efficient in its class i would go for that. Use the energy guides to determine whats best. The samsung that Jason and Nikki have uses 10 to 15% more energy than a compareable whirlpool french door, and at least 20% more than a standard bottom freezer or top freezer. Yet a side by side would use 5% or so more than the samsung. But the whirlpool wouldn’t be as durable or nice so that factors in

    I wouldn’t want an Rv fridge because they seem to be way more of a fire hazard than needed. Read many rv fire stories onlins

  • Kyle

    The main reason for the installation of these large residential fridges is that people want large fridges and they are MUCH MUCH cheaper then a large 18cu/ft or 12cu/ft 2 way (propane/electric) as in 1/4-1/3 the cost. Most people dont dry camp, and those who do generally don’t seek out a residential fridge. Those that do get duped into the residential fridge rely on heavy generator usage or install >1000watts of solar and 800AH of battery capacity to get by for a few days.

    You guys say you love your residential fridge, but if you had something like a 12 cu/ft 4 door dometic 2way fridge with built in ice maker you would be loving that even more, you could even run the thing on AC during the day with your massive solar array and propane at nighttime.

    – thoughts from a dry camper!

  • A big part of the story relates to the power consumption of your individual fridge. The Samsung you have is rated as using 68 watts ( whereas we have a Whirlpool 11 cu ft WRT111 that almost cuts the power draw in 1/2 (39 watts). We thought long and hard about whether we needed something larger, but in our case the 11 cu ft unit fit right in the space of the old one with room to space and it sipped electricity rather than chug-a-lugging it.

    • Paul

      Good comment, makes sense and still have the residential fridge. Go with a more efficient fridge, no worries about fires from the propane fridge.

  • illya

    Excellent video! very informative. I am currently debating on a second fridge for my camper cargo build since all i have is a tiny one in my suburban.
    John S- you can get a 12v actuator that would work perfect for lifting panels, very common, or be creative and use a power seat motor, pretty much anything that moves back and forth could be made to work.
    I think as much as you guys do for all of us readers and followers you should make a donations gauge for your boat.
    while you have some amazon and advertising i know its like pennies in real life. Like set a goal for the budget of the boat 250K? and see what us readers can do to help. I really can appreciate the hard work and time that goes into all of this and you ask for nothing really. Having a graphic that rises with each donation towards the boat would inspire and give us something to shoot for to help you for once.
    Great work you guys do.

    Thanks, illya

  • Cary

    We had a smaller residential refrigerator in our last RV. We had a good size battery bank but no solar. One way we managed the power was to turn the fridge off when we went to bed. It could go eight hours without getting warm inside when the doors weren’t opened. We had to run the gen set in the morning anyway, so the fridge had plenty of power available to get good and cold again. Then we would set the thermostat back to normal cool for the rest of the day. I can’t wait to get rid of that RV fridge we have now.

  • John S.

    Thanks, this is good information.

    It looks like residential fridges ought to be sold in combo with a good solar package. All the boats I’ve been on (not counting cruise ships) have had yacht-sized fridges. But with your solar expertise perhaps you will be able to power a residential fridge on your Cat. Next problem: find a Cat big enough for a big fridge.

    Speaking of solar: Ever since your earlier solar panel videos I’ve been looking for the gifted do-it-yourself mechanic to come up with a powered tilt mechanism. Something you can operate with a switch and not have to climb on the roof. Have you heard of any motorized tilting system yet?

    John S.

  • Jerry

    Wow, eight thousand dollar upgrade just to run the res fridge. Really must love that built in ice maker. You know they make portable ice makers now for around a hundred dollars. Sure the size of the fridge is huge but you two eat like birds. Even for a res mini fridge it is said to dedicate a 100 amp hour battery just for it. The rest of the camper is on a separate bank. The only upside I see with using the res fridge is that it doesn’t have to be completely level to work. And it’s not running on propane while driving down the road.


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