Can You Put a Residential Fridge in an RV?

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Most RVs come with an RV fridge that is specifically built for RVs. As a result, it is slightly different from your typical residential fridge. With that in mind, you might ask the question, Can You Put a Residential Fridge in an RV?

You can put a residential fridge in your RV but there are many things to consider such as power, size and the life of the refrigerator.

When you’re living in an RV one of the most important appliances in your vehicle is the refrigerator. Having a good RV fridge gives you the ability to stay on the road for longer and pack a larger variety of foods.

Without the fridge to keep things cool, you would be forced to eat nothing but non-perishable foods for the duration of your trip. Having canned food would get old quick, so having a fridge is essential for anyone who goes on trips in their RV regularly.  

What’s the Difference Between an RV Fridge and a Residential Refrigerator?

An RV or recreational vehicle is essentially a tiny home. Some people use them for trips, but others live in them all year round. As a result, they’re built so that people can live in them if need be. However, they are obviously much smaller than a regular home, so a lot of the appliances inside are smaller. This is true for RV fridges. An RV fridge is built to fit in a more compact space. As a result, they are smaller than residential fridges. However, the gap has narrowed in recent years.

Additionally, many RV fridges don’t have the extra features that are present in residential fridges. For example, French doors and ice makers aren’t common in RV fridges. However, as the years have gone on, more and more RV fridges have adopted these features.

Furthermore, how each type of fridge runs is different. RV fridges will use liquid propane or 110 volt to run, whereas a residential refrigerator will use 110 volt exclusively. Additionally, residential fridges use a compressor, and conversely, an RV fridge uses absorption refrigeration along with proper ventilation.

Finally, more maintenance will be required of an RV fridge than a residential fridge. This is because RV fridges are designed with the knowledge that they’ll be moving down a road a lot. As a result, the installation process provides a secure placement, but they’re heavier. So, when you need to do maintenance, it will take a lot more effort.

Can I Replace my RV Refrigerator with a Standard Refrigerator?

If you purchase your RV and you don’t like your RV fridge you can replace it with a standard refrigerator. However, you need to consider your options before you make this decision.

When you decide you want to replace your RV fridge, there are a lot of factors you need to consider. Firstly, you will need to factor in the size of the refrigerator. You will need to take measurements to see how much space you have for the new fridge. RVs obviously have a lot less space than a regular home, so you won’t be able to install the biggest fridge available. The last thing you’d want is to go through the hassle of purchasing a new fridge and bringing it to your RV only to find out that it doesn’t fit. So, make sure you know exactly how much space you have to work with.

When you are taking your measurements, make sure you are measuring the height and not only the length and width. The height is a measurement that’s often forgotten because you don’t usually need it. However, RVs have lower ceilings than a normal home, so you need that information as well.

If you decide you want to replace your fridge with a new one, you’ll need to remove the old one and install the new fridge. When you’re going through this process, you’ll want to make sure that you have help. Trying to perform this task on your own can be extremely dangerous. Fridges are heavy and trying to move one on your own is just asking for something to go wrong. So, wait for a friend or family member to be available before you take on the project.

man installing a residential fridge in an RV

How Much Power Does a Residential Fridge Use?

When you’re living in an RV you should know that you don’t have access to as much power as you do in a regular home. You are limited by the power of your personal generator. As a result, if you decide to install a residential fridge, you will need to make sure you have the power to accommodate it. If you don’t, you’ll notice that a lot of the perishable food that you’re keeping in it will go bad very quickly.

The minimum amount of power you need to run a residential fridge for 24 hours is six AGM batteries. This adds up to be 600-amp hours. You will also need 600 watts of solar power on the roof so that you can replenish the batteries during the day. However, you should keep in mind that that is only the power you need for the fridge. You certainly have other appliances in your RV that need power, so you’ll need to make sure that you have enough power to accommodate all your appliances.

Will I Need Bigger Batteries if I Install a Residential Fridge in My RV?

When you install your residential refrigerator most RV manufacturers will come stocked with four 6-volt batteries. These batteries will have 400-amp hours, 200 of which are usable. Only half is usable because you should only use a lead battery to 50%. Many manufacturers will tell you that this is enough for your fridge to run. Unfortunately, this will not be the case a lot of the time.

If you stick with the batteries that the manufacturer provides, you will need to use the generator in the morning for a few hours and at night for a few hours to keep the batteries from dropping to below 50%. Not only is this tedious, but it puts a lot of strain on your generator and it can get quite expensive. To avoid this, you should purchase more powerful batteries to power your residential fridge.

How Long Will a Residential Refrigerator Last in an RV?

Refrigerators are meant to have a long life span. As a result, even the models that last the shortest will still last around 10 years unless they break in some unforeseen way. However, you can generally expect a residential refrigerator to last somewhere from 14 to 17 years.

However, your fridge will only last as long as you put in the effort to maintain it. Without proper care and maintenance, you can expect the life expectancy of your residential to drop drastically. This is especially true when it’s in an RV because it’s more at risk of damage while you’re driving.

Simple things you can do to maintain your fridge include keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from appliances that produce a lot of heat. You should also ensure that the coils on the back of the fridge are several inches away from the wall, and you should clean those coils regularly. Additionally, you can clean the door seals regularly to help prevent them from drying out and cracking.

Finally, you should empty and clean your fridge once a month. While you’re doing this you should check the internal temperature. A residential refrigerator should be between 37- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. If it isn’t in that range, you will need to get it fixed.

Can I Boondock with a Residential Refrigerator?

Many RV owners are interested in giving boondocking, also known as dry camping, a try. However, for many there are questions around the ability to boondock with a residential refrigerator. Luckily, it is possible to boondock with a residential fridge. However, you can only do so if your system is suitable.

The biggest problem for boondocking almost always comes from energy consumption. Since a residential refrigerator takes more energy to run than a regular RV fridge, this can be an issue. However, if you have a bigger power supply and you go on your trip prepared there’s no reason that you couldn’t go boondocking with a residential fridge. It will require more work and preparation to get everything to work, but it is certainly possible.

Residential Fridge vs RV Fridge

Now that you have a lot of information on residential fridges and RV fridges, it’s time to compare the two. When it comes to power, and an RV fridge can be two or three powered. Conversely, a residential fridge will work with the 110-volt electrical supply. If you are plugged into an electrical supply at a campsite will be better off with the residential fridge. However, if you don’t have access to that electrical supply you might run into power issues with a residential fridge. In this situation, an RV fridge will be more suitable.

When it comes to size, it isn’t really a contest between the two. Residential fridges are larger, have more features, and are more reliable all around. Although RV fridges are closing the gap, residential fridges are better in every way when it comes to size.

Additionally, efficiency can be a problem for RV fridges compared to residential refrigerators. They can take a longer time to cool down food and they sometimes struggle to keep food cold. Residential fridges have no problems in this area.

Furthermore, RV fridges require more maintenance than residential fridges. Failing to do this maintenance can cause harm to its efficiency.

One of the biggest downsides to using a residential refrigerator is that turning them off is a bad idea. Conversely, RV fridges are designed to thrive in these situations. As a result, you may run into power issues with a residential fridge.

As you can see, residential fridges are better in most areas. However, the biggest problem they run into is that they take more power to run. As a result, you need to assess how much energy and power you can put into your fridge. If you don’t have the power to run a residential fridge, switching to one is inadvisable.

side by side residential refrigerator with an ice maker in an RV

Is a Residential Fridge a Good Fit for You?

After reading, we hope you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether you should switch to a residential fridge or not. We know that there’s a lot of information to take in but absorbing all that knowledge is important. Otherwise, you could be making a decision you’d regret.

When deciding whether to switch to a residential fridge, make sure you know how much space you have to work with, and how much power you have access to. Without these two pieces of data, you won’t be able to make the switch. If you purchase a residential fridge without that information, you may find that you’ve wasted a lot of money on a fridge that you can’t power or doesn’t fit.

With that in mind, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with your RV fridge or switching to a residential one. The decision is completely up to you. No matter your preference, as long as you do the proper research, you shouldn’t have any issues.

What type of fridge are you using at the moment? Will you be switching to a residential fridge? Did you find the information we provided helpful? Let us know in the comments below!


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Maybe a 3-Way Fridge is the way to go rather than buying a residential fridge for your RV. Click Here to check out our article called What is a 3 Way RV Fridge and Should You Buy One? for more info.

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