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Old 12-01-2023, 05:48 PM   #1
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12v fridge, or the gas absorption fridge?

We are looking at campers and one we really like has the propane gas absorption type fridge.

We have the 12v fridge in our current camper.

Can some of you school me on the pros and cons of the propane fridge?
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Old 12-01-2023, 06:10 PM   #2
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2 way frig is awesome for those that camp off grid. They take a little longer to initially cool down. But a small fan really helps. They just sip 12v and propane.

12v frig you already have so you should be familiar with them. To me who like to camp off grid, I would be afraid of the drain on the battery. My understanding a 12 v frig can drain a battery in a single day. Solar can be helpful, if you do not camp in the trees.
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Old 12-01-2023, 06:10 PM   #3
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I think you will find that people thats upgraded to a camper with the 12 volt system will profess to like the 12 volt frig, or this is my read from reading over the past couple of years. I think it has a lot to do with the frig size . You are somewhat limited with the propane frigs, depending on the rv that you have or considering purchasing in the future.

Of course I like to minimize my need for additional batteries, or fancy ones with my minimal type TT by comparison to a lot of people camping these days in rv resorts, where they have frequent access to shore power. Of course generators reduce the need for rv resorts for camping extended times off the grid.

I lean towards proportionate power derived from solar, matched with matching amount of batteries that I have found that works for me. And my consumption of propane with my propane frig and water heater has met my needs. I think I have found a good blend of both.
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Old 12-03-2023, 09:14 PM   #4
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If you always camp with electric hookups or you have a good solar/battery system, go with the 12v fridge. If you boondock without power, consider the 2- way fridge. I have a 12v fridge and love it but I always camp with electric hookups.
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Old 12-04-2023, 11:08 AM   #5
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We have always had the gas absorption fridge and it works fine for us. Takes a little while to get cold and the temp does fluctuate a bit. A small fan inside the fridge helps a lot. We don't boondock a lot, but we do it often enough that I'm glad to be able to run the fridge on propane when we do. Battery capacity is especially important when running the furnace a lot and we also camp in cool weather pretty often.

From what I've read, others like their 12V fridge and think it keeps the freezer colder than absorption. But it uses a fair amount of battery power so you've got to plan for that when boondocking.

Bottom line, I think either can work fine but you'll probably have to make some mods to optimize your choice.
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Old 12-04-2023, 12:30 PM   #6
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Absorption cons are speed of cooling, interior size for exterior space used, and some instances safety. 12volt cons are power hungry, still not reliable. In my opinion might as well get a residential fridge, 12v use about the same amount of power
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Old 12-04-2023, 03:51 PM   #7
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I've converted the last two absorption reefers I had. The 12v works great. It is ultrareliable. I can make ice in about an hour. These conversions took about 2-3 hours to do. I bought aftermarket conversions from JC Refrigeration. A year after I did the first conversion, the refer worked sporadically. I contacted them and we found a solution and it worked fine ever since. Their customer service is excellent.
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Old 12-04-2023, 09:31 PM   #8
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If you only dry camp some I would go 12 volt if you have an auto start Gen. The problem with propane fridge they are cheap feeling and expensive. On hot days if fridge side is in the sun it will run all day and temp will rise. Three campers with them and never really pleased with performance.
Only have used the new MH for four days but the 12v fridge works excellent. Just received another 200watt panel for the roof. 400watts should be good for off grid. Next year I will change out the batteries to lithium. I like the fact that I can set Gen auto start for temp and battery. So a dead battery should never be a dry camping issue.
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Old 12-05-2023, 02:55 PM   #9
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If you only dry camp some I would go 12 volt if you have an auto start Gen. The problem with propane fridge they are cheap feeling and expensive. On hot days if fridge side is in the sun it will run all day and temp will rise. Three campers with them and never really pleased with performance.
Only have used the new MH for four days but the 12v fridge works excellent. Just received another 200watt panel for the roof. 400watts should be good for off grid. Next year I will change out the batteries to lithium. I like the fact that I can set Gen auto start for temp and battery. So a dead battery should never be a dry camping issue.
Except if your somewhere with generator quiet hours and your auto start is calling for generator to start
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Old 12-05-2023, 04:54 PM   #10
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Thanks to all for the feedback. We typically camp only with full hookups. Our bunkhouse had the 12v and it was never a problem, so we opted to stay with the 12v fridge.
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Old 12-05-2023, 04:58 PM   #11
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For anyone checking this thread later a thought . .

I can carry way more energy in the form of propane than electric. With batteries already being taxed with the various loads being placed on them, increasing the demand seems like a poor energy management strategy.

But if you are always on hookups it's not an important consideration.
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Old 12-09-2023, 01:03 PM   #12
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Owning 3 rigs with absorption, we had enough! Went to 12V, best upgrade & decision we ever made!-

Unless you’re a diehard boondocker and you do more than the occasional night or 2, absorption is just not worth it in my opinion!
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Old 12-09-2023, 01:17 PM   #13
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I'll throw another option/question into the mix.
What about a 120v residential (10-12cu ft) with a pure sine wave inverter.
120v fridges are about half the price of a 12v.
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Old 12-09-2023, 01:49 PM   #14
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You will need a good size battery back and inverter plus a large solar system to run a residential fridge if you ever boondock. Lots of money to set up just to run the fridge. Side benefit, vacuum cleaners, tvs, washer dryers, but then... You might as well get a house.
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Old 12-09-2023, 01:55 PM   #15
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My only real issue with propane fridges is they are not repairable if the cooling system fails. We have a 2019 motorhome and have approximately 160 nights in it. The Norcold 1210 gas absorption fridge bit the dust. The ammonia leaked out and only option is replace the entire cooling unit. Cost of cooling unit on Amazon was over 2K dollars.... I checked with RV shop in town and they wanted 1500 to install it. I don't trust the reliability of this Fridge....Maybe because it's a larger size... 12 cu. ft. I think. I don't want to be in this exact situation 3 years from now with another dead gas absorption fridge. I went with the JC refrigeration 12 volt system and installed it myself. It took me about 6 hours for the install but I was really going slow being careful. I added 1 additional solar panel and an upgraded solar controller. I will never go back to gas absorption fridge. We mostly camp off grid.... One benefit I hadn't considered was the propane fridge burner was really loud. It was as loud as the water heater. I could deal with the water heater because it rarely ran....but the fridge was running almost all the time. The compressor system is super quiet....It will be nice to sit out under the awning again without all the noise.
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Old 12-09-2023, 05:00 PM   #16
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I'm glad your conversion to a 12v fridge has worked out so well. A moot point at this time, but there's a couple of places on the web that have replacement cooling units for under $900. Didn't look into what shipping charges would be.

I did replace a cooling unit on our MH many years ago, for $750, and about an hour of my time. It came with everything needed, and good instructions.
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Old 12-09-2023, 11:46 PM   #17
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One additional thing to think about is how long you haul your trailer between hookups. When I take long trips, I can spend as much as 16 hours between leaving one hookup and arriving at another (yes, I'm the exception and definitely not the rule on driving time). With absorption, I never have to worry as it uses so little propane and 12v during that time everything stays cool. Doing that with 12v would require a decent size battery bank for the amount of energy the 12v would use during that time.

Because I use my RV in that manner, I just replaced the cooling unit on my absorption fridge (Norcold) when it leaked out the ammonia and quit working last year. Another vote for the guys at JC Refrigeration. I considered their 12 conversion and the absorption. Did the work my self and the unit was about $900 with some upgrades I decided to do, including shipping.

I will say, I've never had an issue with my absorption fridge/freezer staying plenty cold, even during the summer when it's 107 in Texas. My fridge stayed around -2 and fridge between 35 and 38 without any additional fans. With fans, it'll stay closer to -5 freezer and 34-35 fridge. I have had better luck with my Norcold than the Dometic I had in my previous trailer. I also use my 5er in the extremes of winter (ie. Colorado/Utah with lowest temps in the -30F range) and never had an issue with my Norcold either. Dometic was a different story. It worked, but took more effort than my Norcold has.

Everyone has their own needs and ways to use their stuff. So, a lot just depends on how you are going to use it and only you can know that. Either way, you'll figure out how to make it work for you.

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Old 12-10-2023, 09:43 AM   #18
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Have had both and love the performance and extra room in our 12v fridge. We camp mostly off grid and have invested in solar and advanced battery power. I think the bottom line is if youre going to 12v, be willing to upgrade your charging system.
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Old 12-10-2023, 10:55 AM   #19
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I'm glad your conversion to a 12v fridge has worked out so well. A moot point at this time, but there's a couple of places on the web that have replacement cooling units for under $900. Didn't look into what shipping charges would be.

I did replace a cooling unit on our MH many years ago, for $750, and about an hour of my time. It came with everything needed, and good instructions.

I did some searching and nobody was selling New cooling units for $900. The $2000 was from amazon.... Local dealer was more expensive. Possibly a refurbished cooling unit....I'm not sure. I was told to stay away from refurbished ones. I did see $1000 units that were for smaller fridges. The Norcold 1210 is basically two normal RV size fridges side by side. A replacement 1210 fridge is $5000....basically twice as much as the normal size fridge you find in most RV's.
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Old 12-10-2023, 12:25 PM   #20
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We almost exclusively boondock and dry camp, so a propane absorption refrigerator is a must. I have never had one fail yet (knock on wood).
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