A caravan fridge can turn your caravan into a five-star motel on wheels. It will keep your beer chilled, milk fresh and margarine from going soft. But with models coming in so many shapes and sizes, how do you work out which one is the best for you? Here’s our caravan fridge review.
Compressor or three-way?
Many caravan fridges use a compressor for cooling, just like the one in your kitchen. These compact portable models can run on either 240V mains or 12V battery power.
A popular alternative is a three-way absorption fridge, which can run on LPG or natural gas in addition to 240V/12V electricity. Gas consumption typically maxes out at around 20g an hour, allowing an 8.5kg gas bottle to keep the fridge running for up to a fortnight – a bonus if you’re travelling across the outback with limited battery power.
For convenience, some three-way models include an Automatic Energy Selection (AES) feature, which allows the fridge to automatically select the best energy source available. To prevent carbon monoxide (CO) escaping, make sure it has a safety device that shuts off gas flow if the flame is extinguished, and keep your caravan ventilated.
Choosing between three-way gas and compressor fridges is always a trade-off. Three-way fridges can keep running when you’re out of electricity, but compressor fridges usually consume less electricity when running from a 12V source.
All caravan fridges can be a drain on power, especially on hot days. If you’re going bush and plan to run your fridge off a battery, it’s recommended that you pair it with a solar-panel kit or portable generator. Make sure you use a that can deliver sustained power with low current draw over extended periods. Whatever you do, don’t run it off your car battery as it can drain it very quickly.
Bigger isn’t always better. The larger the fridge, the more power it will consume because more cool air needs to be circulated though the compartment. Try to find the smallest model that suits your purposes, and store perishables in neatly stackable containers.
Some models have a freezer compartment that can be unclipped and taken out – a nifty feature for when you might need a little extra space.
The expression ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ certainly applies to caravan fridges, so don’t settle for a cheap imported model if you can avoid it. Be wary of great deals on used fridges: they might still do the job, but older models can be power hungry.
A high-quality caravan fridge usually costs at least $800 to $900 new, but if looked after, it should be good for many trips.
Caravans usually come with an alcove that can house a compact or low-profile fridge. For the fridge to be both efficient and effective, there must be adequate ventilation around the unit, which will allow warm air to escape. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have the fridge installed by a professional.
Electric or gas? If you’re thinking the latter, make sure you are familiar with relevant caravan gas safety regulations.