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Why Invest in a Solar Fridge over a 3 Way Fridge?

Ammonia fridges have traditionally been very popular in motorhomes and caravans, with their original design dating back as far as the 1890s. However, they require heat to generate cold, which makes them inefficient compared with the modern solar alternative and the use of gas has inherent risks and costs.

Below we draw a comparison between ammonia and solar fridges, highlighting some key advantages and disadvantages to consider before making this investment:

Advantages of 3 Way Fridges:
  • They are quiet, and that is why they are popular in motor-homes and caravans. There are no moving parts in them, the operation is virtually silent except for the slight hiss of the gas burner. Apart from that, we cannot think of any other advantages.
The disadvantage of 3 Way Fridges:
  • 3-way fridges require servicing on a regular basis.
  • Since they use a combination of gravity and heat to operate, they must be level to work properly. This is not always possible or practical in a motor-home.
  • They can be hard to ignite, especially if left unused for some time.
  • The 12-volt operation of the fridge relies on a heating element which draws about 8 times more energy than the latest compressor fridges. This means they can only be run on 12 volts, while the engine is running.
  • The 12 and 240-volt heating elements burn out and need replacing regularly.
  • Due to the inefficient nature of 3-way fridges, plugging into your homes 240 volt AC supply and leaving the fridge on will rack up the power bills substantially.
  • When fitting a new 3-way fridge to an existing motor-home or caravan, new gas regulations have to be met and the vehicle will be required to undergo GAS CERTIFICATION. This requires a gas practitioner to check over the whole vehicle and all appliances, ensuring the vehicle meets the 2013 Gas Standards.
  • The additional cost of fitting a gas fridge to meet the new regulations are substantial due to the vent and exhaust locations being predetermined by the 3-way fridge manufacturer. The location may not be altered or the warranty will be void and/or the gas practitioner will not certify the installation.
  • When purchasing a 3-way fridge the correct vents must be fitted. The fitting and supply of these vents come at an additional cost to the appliance.
  • Whilst traveling, there is always a potential fire risk associated with running a 3-way fridge on gas. The fire risk is especially concerning while filling up with fuel at a fuel station.
  • Existing installations may in some cases cause carbon monoxide fumes to rise into the sleeping compartments of the vehicle. If occupants experience headaches at night then the vehicle should be checked immediately or fitted with a CO2 monitor.
  • A new installation is often more expensive than a complete solar system and solar fridge combined.

Advantages of Solar Fridges:
  • Requires little or no maintenance.
  • Are very easy to start; just flick a switch!
  • Solar fridges will work at an angle of about 30 degrees from level.
  • Available inefficient 12 or 24-volt operations, which require approximately 1 to 2 amps per hour to operate, depending on the size of the fridge.
  • When plugged into your homes 240 volt AC system, the solar fridge will use less than the home fridge and draw energy both through the solar system as well as the built-in charge system of the vehicle.
  • Since the solar fridge runs on the 12 or 24-volt system of the vehicle, it does not require certification. Therefore, solar fridges do not incur certification costs.
  • Although fridge ventilation is essential, a more flexible approach to venting can be applied. A simple convection flow is required behind the fridge but there are no predetermined vent locations prescribed by the manufacturers.
  • There are no open flames required to run a solar fridge. Consequently, there is no potential risk of fume inhalation or fire associated risks.
  • A new installation is significantly less costly than a 3-way fridge. A solar system will need to be fitted which will not only run a fridge but also maintain the batteries, as long as it has been designed for this purpose.
Disadvantages of Solar Fridges:
  • Since they have a compressor pump, there will be a small amount of noise. However, this will be no more than the house fridge in your kitchen.
  • The installation wiring used for fitting must be of a high standard, with suitable cabling, good quality solar system and batteries, otherwise, the fridge will not function properly.