We all undertake cross-country travels at some point and hence, know the importance of a mini-fridge while craving for good food on the go. Whether you want to stock up the healthy home-made tortillas or your favorite cold snacks, a mini-fridge is what makes your travel most convenient. That said, the portable mini-fridges for camping aren’t the same as meant for our dorms.
But why can’t the typical dorm-like fridges be used in camper vans? This is because the dorm-style mini-fridges aren’t designed with portability as their main feature. If kept in a moving vehicle, their parts may quickly fall off leading to permanent damage to the unit. Hence, only special portable mini-fridges must be used for camping. Let’s know about them more.
Can you use a mini-fridge for camping?
If you aren’t an avid camper and camp just once in a while and that too for shorter durations, like many others, you can very well use your regular dorm or mini-fridge for camping. That said, the best appliance to keep your food fresh for the longest is the portable fridge and freezer. This is because the portable fridges are meant to run off your car’s battery without draining them. And the regular mini-fridges are designed to run from the main power supply.
So, all you need to do is find a way to make them function well to keep your food fresh during your camping:
- Power your mini-fridge well, either with the car battery or from the solar source. This will help to keep your food fresh by maintaining it at a set temperature.
- Fasten it well inside your camper van so that it doesn’t topple and get damaged on the way.
Can I use a mini-fridge in my camper?
The mini-fridges that are meant to be kept inside our home offices and dorms are delicate vis-a-viz constant motion. This makes them unfit to use in a camper van. The constant motion makes their parts to dislodge soon and the unit becomes practically unworthy of use. That said, if there is no other option than to carry a mini-fridge along on your next trip, ensure the following tricks to make the most out of your mini-fridge while on-the-road:
- Fasten the fridge to keep it from sliding while the camper van is on the move. You can do this by putting velcro strips under the feet or bracing the unit inside small wooden blocks.
- Make sure to leave some room for the air to pass from the side vents as this is from where the mini-fridge removes all its heat. Covering this area by placing the fridge in a congested place would mean the fridge drawing more power of your car’s battery.
Can you put a mini-fridge in a van?
As explained earlier, you can put a mini-fridge inside a van. Contrary to the belief that it doesn’t work well while onboard a van, mini-fridges work just fine even out of our dorm or home offices. That said, do not expect them to work as a portable freezer. They are good to keep your food fresh and cold. All you have to do is to ensure some safety measures before putting it onboard:
- Fasten the fridge securely as these fridges aren’t specifically designed to be kept aboard a moving vehicle. The more the movement. The higher are the chances for them to get dislodged.
- Ensure a steady power source to run them during your journey. A car’s battery or a solar source are great alternatives.
- Leave enough space for the side vents to give off the heat as this helps the unit to function properly.
Do mini-fridges use a lot of electricity?
Unlike the fridges at our homes, the mini-fridges do not run on and off much. They are comparatively more constant in consuming power than home refrigerators. But this does not mean that they consume more energy. These mini-fridges generally range anywhere between 1.7 to 4.4 cubic feet and consume around 30 kWh in a year. And with a high-quality brand and best technology, a 4.4 cubic feet mini-fridge can cost you as low as $27 a year as tested by Consumer Reports.
Apart from the cubic feet, the energy consumption depends on various factors like size of the fridge which determines the cooling lost every time you open it; placing of warm items inside that subsequently makes the fridge work more to maintain the set temperature; the fact that how high you set the temperature of the fridge; the type of defrosting namely, automatic or manual; placement of the fridge like having it near the heat source would make the unit consume more power to keep its inside cold; and the age of the unit as older fridges tend to start consuming more power with falling efficiency levels.
How can I make my mini-fridge more efficient?
If you also happen to be one of those whose mini-fridges are more of a liability than an asset, it’s time to bring back some efficiency to your unit. It becomes all the more important to make it efficient if the unit is a few years old. Ensure the following steps to make your mini-fridge more efficient:
- Place the mini-fridge around 3 inches away from the wall or any other huge blockage. This will let the unit dissipate heat faster and reduce the pressure on the unit in a bid to keep it cool.
- Do not place your fridge on a carpet. This will make the unit retain heat and make it consume more power for cooling the interior.
- If your mini-fridge does not defrost automatically, always defrost it manually to clear all the ice from the coils that might be blocking the unit to cool less and consume more power.
- It may sound irrelevant but organizing the food sections inside your fridge helps a great deal in increasing the efficiency of your mini-fridge. When you know the placement of all the items in your fridge, you pick them quickly and shut the door, thereby preventing less cooling to escape.
- Always pack your leftover food in Tupperware as it will prevent the heat from the food raising the inner temperature of the unit, thus, helping the unit consume less power.
- The coils of the condenser of your mini-fridge are responsible for keeping the unit cool. If they are covered with dust, your mini-fridge is consuming more power than usual to keep the inside cool. Cleaning them up quickly increases the efficiency of the unit.
How long will a mini-fridge run on a deep cycle battery?
To find the time for which your mini-fridge will run on a deep cycle battery, you would need to know two things beforehand:
- The size of the deep cycle battery in amp-hours; and
- The average power your mini-fridge would consume per hour.
Having known both these figures, simply put evaluate them in the following formula:
Size of the battery in amp-hours X 24 hours = Run Time in hours
The average consumption of the fridge
That said, you generally can have around 50% of the full potential of any deep cycle battery. Say, if a battery claims to run for around 50 amp-hours, take it as just 25 amp-hours. Now let’s learn the calculations.
Example- Your fridge consumes an average of 2 amp every hour, multiplying it by 24 will give you daily consumption, i.e. 42 amp-hours and you are running it off a 100-amp deep cycle battery (take it as only 50 amp-hours). Putting it in the formula:
50 amp-hours X 24 hours = 25 hours run time
How many solar panels does it require for running a refrigerator?
When running your mini-fridge through solar panels, it is always wise to charge the car battery via solar power rather than powering the fridge directly. This is because if it gets cloudy, the voltage would drop quickly risking damage to the unit. Powering the car battery instead would mean a constant solar charging even on a cloudy day and a constant power supply to your mini-fridge.
Now talking about the number of solar panels to run your mini-fridge, again you would need the average daily power consumption of your mini-fridge and your car battery’s capacity. If your car’s battery can give off 50 amp-hours effectively, multiply it by the 12-volts battery power. It gives you (50 amp-hours X 12-volts) 600 WH.
Now divide this by the solar charge time in hours. Say the sun is up for 6 hours in your area, divide 600 WH by 6 hours to get 100 watts. Hence, we would need a solar panel of 100 watts to power your unit every day. Since most of the solar panels would give around 250 watts a day, it is sufficient to have a single solar panel to power your mini-fridge.
Though mini-fridges aren’t a preferred appliance for most of the camping enthusiasts, it is not impossible to have it along and serve your purpose of keeping your food fresh. All you need is to follow some safety guidelines of loading, unloading, and carrying the unit along. And to power it up, calculate the energy consumption along with the best power source alternative out there. There is no stopping to let you enjoy your next camping trip now.