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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Any recommendations on a refrigerator?

I don’t think I need a freezer. Don’t see the need for frozen meat.

Top or front load?

1-5 day trips

I have a goal zero 1000 Core that will be charging off the van for now then solar in the future.

thanks!
 

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You will get comments with religious zeal about the choice of a top loader or front opener. You will get the story about all the cold air falling out of a front loader or who wants to dig down into a top loader to get what you want.

Inadvertently I think I found out why a front loader is usually less efficient than a top loader. Had a 80 liter Dometic refrigerator in the Sprinter conversion with evaporator coil on back of the refrigerator. Bought a 85 liter Vitrifrigo refrigerator for the Transit build because it had the compressor mounted at bottom back instead of the normal top back location. Low mount more than doubled the freezer size in the same size refrigerator.

Was very surprised to learn that the Vitrifrigo used about 1/3 less power than the Dometic. About same size refrigerator, same extra 2 1/2" of rigid insulation installed around the refrigerator, same compressor, same house battery and same charger. Question was why the difference in efficiency? The only difference was the type of evaporator. Dometic had coil on back of the refrigerator and Vitrifrigo had a small radiator and fan instead of the coil. The radiator and fan is the same design used for top loaders since they can not have a coil on outside of the refrigerator.

Personally I prefer a front loader mounted up high so I can see into the refrigerator with contents easier to add/remove. My 300 watts of solar easily provides enough power for either style of refrigerator so even if there was a difference in efficiency that is not important.
 

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Yeah, the "all the cold falls out" trope is nonsense. The specific heat of air (even moist air) is so low as to make any such effect insignificant. Just do the math. In addition to what @orton said, front loaders tend to be a tad less efficient because the doors are often not that well-insulated compared to the sides. We strongly prefer front-loaders anyway.

I would reconsider skipping the freezer, though. We don't freeze meat, but we DO like to cook up stews, casseroles, chili, etc at home, store them in blocks in the freezer, and pop them in the microwave in camp. One of our favorite things. And then there is ice cream...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You will get comments with religious zeal about the choice of a top loader or front opener. You will get the story about all the cold air falling out of a front loader or who wants to dig down into a top loader to get what you want.

Inadvertently I think I found out why a front loader is usually less efficient than a top loader. Had a 80 liter Dometic refrigerator in the Sprinter conversion with evaporator coil on back of the refrigerator. Bought a 85 liter Vitrifrigo refrigerator for the Transit build because it had the compressor mounted at bottom back instead of the normal top back location. Low mount more than doubled the freezer size in the same size refrigerator.

Was very surprised to learn that the Vitrifrigo used about 1/3 less power than the Dometic. About same size refrigerator, same extra 2 1/2" of rigid insulation installed around the refrigerator, same compressor, same house battery and same charger. Question was why the difference in efficiency? The only difference was the type of evaporator. Dometic had coil on back of the refrigerator and Vitrifrigo had a small radiator and fan instead of the coil. The radiator and fan is the same design used for top loaders since they can not have a coil on outside of the refrigerator.

Personally I prefer a front loader mounted up high so I can see into the refrigerator with contents easier to add/remove. My 300 watts of solar easily provides enough power for either style of refrigerator so even if there was a difference in efficiency that is not important.
Good info!! How about the size of the unit and do you have a specific model in a top and front loader you recomend?
 

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This is one of the things where you do you. Top loading, front loading, size, color. Don't go with I got it because someone said this one was best. You need to decide where you want it first then go from there.
 

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We're also a fan of the front loader mounted a couple feet off the floor. We had the Dometic CRX 80 in our first van and had no real qualms with it. We stepped up to the Isotherm Cruise 130 in our current van and really love it. Both of these models have a small freezer section that we find useful occasionally.

Food Kitchen appliance Product Refrigerator Bottle
 

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It kind of depends on how you travel and how much you like to just leave food in the fridge and freezer.

Sometimes it is very handy to have pre-cooked frozen food along that just needs to be warmed up. Especially for breakfast.

I vote for both a large freezer and large refrigerator.

Any excess volume can be used for storing spices and food prep items away from rodents and insects.

There is no downside to storing bread, chips, crackers, etc in the freezer.

I view a van as part of a way to make life easier during power outages and small localized disasters, so slightly over doing the food and power capabilities seems reasonable to me.

Perhaps because I do some volunteer work related to disaster prep and response work this aspect has more meaning to me than to others.
 

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It kind of depends on how you travel and how much you like to just leave food in the fridge and freezer.

Sometimes it is very handy to have pre-cooked frozen food along that just needs to be warmed up. Especially for breakfast.

I vote for both a large freezer and large refrigerator.

Any excess volume can be used for storing spices and food prep items away from rodents and insects.

There is no downside to storing bread, chips, crackers, etc in the freezer.

I view a van as part of a way to make life easier during power outages and small localized disasters, so slightly over doing the food and power capabilities seems reasonable to me.

Perhaps because I do some volunteer work related to disaster prep and response work this aspect has more meaning to me than to others.
@harryn Apologies for reactivating an old thread. Which units did you select?
 

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This is one of the things where you do you. Top loading, front loading, size, color. Don't go with I got it because someone said this one was best. You need to decide where you want it first then go from there.
I really like the "you do you" comment and think that is critical to any DIY van build.

For me my whole design will be around a fridge/freezer and an oven/stove. 3 reasons. One a freezer will allow me to continue to fish and bird hunt without going over any possession limits as frozen fish or birds do not count against those limits. And two I hate doing dishes. I enjoy cooking but hate doing dishes. So when cooking I tend to prepare a lot and then freeze them in single serve containers. Burritos (especially the breakfast ones), tacos and fajita's are my go to but I also do a lot of casseroles and enchilada's. An oven compliments this nicely and also allows for cookies, dump cakes and especially pizza! And three this is how a normally roll anyways.

I am going to order an Isotherm 160 light fidge/freezer which has a separate drawer for each. From my research this is by far and away the most expensive option but the size is right and as noted it's critical to my whole build and planned usage of the van. This unit can also be used as fridge/fridge or freezer/freezer so may be a good option for someone like the OP who is not quite sure if they will need a freezer but also have money to burn.

So many of these DIY van build discussions remind me of the "best hiking boot" question. No two feet are the same so the boot that works best for me may be the worst possible solution for you.
 

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@Coulee I like your approach. The combo fridge freezer makes lots of sense. Being able to freeze some stuff but yet be able to have a larger fridge at times too gives options for time of year and what you are doing. I think I need to spin circles during my build phase before I make my final choice on which one.

If we happen to cross paths and you have to much meat I'll help you out with that and then we can discuss which boot and backpack is best. ;)
 

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@NW_Freedom I hadn't really thought thru the off season versatility. During winter or summer it should be easy enough to set one drawer at it's warmest setting and turn it into a pantry. Or after a long trip and the freezer has been emptied of pre made meals just dial it down to fridge/fridge mode. I do think this is the perfect unit for me but understand it's probably not for most.

I do love to barter! Whether your a drinker or not it's never a bad idea to carry a bottle of nice whisky for those times and places where cash has same value as tp. Catch me with a full freezer and no whisky and you'll make a killing ;)
 

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Diggin' the "what works best for you" approach. Much healthier than some of the discussions of what is RIGHT. 😄

Putting in our take - on van #2 - for food storage and prep. More counter-top for prep is better. More cooking options are better. Bending over for anything is bad (just too narrow - especially if two people or more).

We ran the oft-used top-loader-on-the-floor (as a seat for the dinette) in our last rig. Wasn't awesome, functionally. But the option to have a huge amount of fridge or freezer or split was super nice - especially for big group trips where we'd be storing all the frozen stuff for everyone and just use ice-chests for the typical "fridge" stuff. So we were looking for one of the "split" options whatever we went with.

Looked like this in use (table top removed for the photo):
Vehicle Motor vehicle Car Automotive design Mode of transport


So we went with the same fridge in this rig but raised it up to counter-top level to be more functional (dining / seating is in the front on this rig). Space underneath is a little bit of pots-and-pans and all of our electronics gear - including the batteries. Pull out the fridge, set it on the bed or in the garage and have great access to work on the electronics.
Wood Comfort Interior design Automotive design Motor vehicle


We also went from a 2-burner induction in the last rig to a single-burner induction, a microwave, and a 3-burner-plus-oven propane stove. Full-on RV style crammed into a small space.
 

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@harryn Apologies for reactivating an old thread. Which units did you select?
No problem activating an old thread - I prefer it myself.

My plan was to purchase a 48 volt refrigerator / freezer to match the battery pack in that van, which limits the options to a small number.

The van ended up getting totaled (like really totaled) by a pick up truck running a red light so right now I am sort of starting again from scratch.

We did retrieve the power system though since it was modular but it isn't currently in use.

I don't have a suggestion for you, but I did like the Truck fridge I think 130 ? series for 24 volt applications.

Others have more experience with specific refrigerators for 12 volt applications.
 

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When comparing upright vs chest, bear in mind that chest can hold a lot more per unit volume.
Why is that?

My front opener has similar wall thickness to a chest type and both have to have space for the compressor. How is the additional capacity obtained?
 

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Because it's easier to load a box from the top than from the side. For example, consider the upright in post #8 of this thread. See all that empty space in the door? No wasted space like that in a chest fridge.
 
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