Interested in hearing from anyone about their experience replacing the original refrigerator with a residential unit from the big box stores.  What are your suggestions???  Thanks

Steve Spencer

'77 Travco 270


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 If you are content having but ONE choice and opt for a 120 VAC powered fridge, there are some excellent and energy efficient units out there,,,,,,,, PROVIDED you're either plugged into shore power often or else have enough solar panels and/or batteries and inverter capacity (NONE of which are cheap)

 However 1, if you want long term dry camping capability WITHOUT THE NEED FOR EXPENSIVE solar panels or inverters or heavy batteries and want the ability to run a fridge for weeks and weeks and weeks absent shore power, then an LP Gas fired fridge would be the obvious best choice.

 However 2, if you want the freedom and more choices, then opt for a 3 WAY COMBINATION 120 VAC orrrrrrrrrrrrr 12 VDC (No inverter4 needed)  orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr LP Gas Amonia Absorption  Fridge with no compressor or mechanical moving parts . Those cost more BUT you don't need expensive solar panels and batteries and inverters remember. 

 Any of the above are good choices subject to your needs and the solar and battery and inverter equipment you may have. Since we do so much long term dry camping we have to go with running our fridge on LP gas, which doesn't require solar panels and inverters and can run for weeks n weeks n weeks absent shore power

 Now we report, you must decide lol what suits your needs and pocket book???

 God Bless all and again, Happy Easter  


 In addition to a straight 120 VAC Compressor Motor type of fridge (if hooked to shore power often or plenty of solar panels and batteries and inverters) ,,,,,,,,,,,,,and a Combination 120 VAC or LP gas fridge (good for when hooked to shore power but if none available can run on LP Gas) ,,,,,,,,,,DONT FORGET THEY MAKE THERMOELECTRIC COOLERS many of which run on either 120 VAC or 12 VDC and aside from a small fan theres no bulky compressors or mechanical moving parts HOWEVER they can only cool approximately x degrees down from the ambient temperature.

 Also don't forget if you're sizing solar panels to run a fridge or charge batteries, their output depends on the sun,,,,,,,,,,,and the angle of the sun to the panels. If its cloudy or rainy or night time they obviously are NOT producing much if any at all energy.

 Also if sizing solar panels and 12 VDC to 120 VAC Inverters and if you're using an AC Compressor Motor type of fridge, its takes much more energy and capacity TO START such a motor then it does to run it. IE if the panels or battery storage energy or inverter etc are sized ONLY for capacity to run the motor THEY MAY NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO START IT.

 Lots of choices and options and considerations, more then a lay person may realize!!!!

 John T

Concerning solar panel usage,, John t is right,,,, it takes DOUBLE the ooooomph to start up the compressor then it does to run it. (I always equate this when looking at what I plan to run off a solar panel. If the appliance says 300 watt, calculate it as being 600 watts), Its better to have to much then to little. Plus figure in the time there is no ambient sunlight and reserve battery storage capacity.

I was going to hire a gerbil to run in a fan generator but with new laws, the gerbils are now Unionized.

 Hey there Wolf Man, a typical (NOT all and subject to type of starter and load etc) AC Motor can take 4 to 6 times the initial starting current as it does for running. I've seen so many Billy Bobs and Bubbas (NOT engineers or technicians) that look up the current it takes to run their AC units and buy an AC Generator near that size and WONDER WHY IT DOESNT WORK LOL

  Also Solar Panels don't produce much (to nothing) in shade or cloudy or rainy days or nigh time, so when you compute necessary battery energy storage capacity and solar panel total watts PLUS an Inverter to power an appliance, you need to keep operating, THAT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. 

 BOTTOM LINE if you opt for an 120 VAC ONLY fridge (and dont get one that also runs on LP Gas PLUS 120 VAC like mine) and aren't gonna be connected to shore power often, you need to make all the correct and necessary calculations before investing a ton of money in an Inverter and Battery Bank and Solar Panels.

 Very fun chat, 120 VAC fridges sure keep getting better if you're content with only one choice of energy to operate them and don't do much dry camping

 John T 

The "surge" starting current along with normal motor-draw has already been taken into account in the figures I gave. So has solar down-time, along with inverter loss. Start-surge has little to do with the total watt-hours used in a day.  It can be a concern with the type of inverter used.   The 12 volt DC Danfoss compressors are "slow start" and have very little starting surge.


  That's right, the initial surge starting current (higher then normal running current) is related to the load,,,,,,,,,,,the type of starter,,,,,,,,,,the type of motor. Its also correct the Inverter quality and design makes a difference, which is why if one chooses a 120 VAC ONLY fridge (that does NOT also have the ability to run on LP Gas like many RV units do) and he isn't going to be connected to 120 VAC shore power often, the rating and design of his Inverter and his Solar Panels and his Battery Storage Capacity (none of which are cheap grrrrrrrrrr) is very important.

 Very very fun chat and informative for people who are selecting an RV fridge....

 God Bless and Happy Easter to all

What IS cheap?  A three-way refrigerator certainly isn't.    A decent 1200 watt mod-wave inverter can be had for $100. Not a big expense when compared to other RV components.  A new 5 cubic foot 3-way refrigerator is $600-$700.   A new 5 cubic foot AC fridge WITH an inverter can be had for at total of $220. Less then half the cost of a 3-way. The biggest problem I've seen with high-draw appliances (like microwaves) - when used with inverters is the batteries - not the inverter.  Inverters shut off the second input voltage drops below 10.5 or 11 volts. Put a 1200 - 1500 watt draw on a battery and it's very hard to keep voltage from dipping below that "trip" threshold. If it even happens for a fraction of a second the inverter trips off.  I've found that to handle a 1500 watt surge- a pair of 120 amp-hour 12 volt batteries are the minimum (or a pair of 6 volt Trojan T-105s in series). I've got a pair of T-105s right now and have tested with a inverter. I can draw 1350 watts and keep input voltage always above 11 volts. Once I draw over 1400 watts - it can dip now and then below 11 and shut down.   I remedy this by starting the RV engine.The extra charge current sent back to the RV batteries makes up the difference. 

 We agree, a 3 way fridge costs more then a 120 VAC only. That's a no brainer. If someone is satisfied with having ONLY ONE CHOICE of power to run his RV fridge, then a 120 VAC ONLY would be my recommendation. GO FOR IT

 1) However, if he is willing to spend more and buy say a 2/3 way, then he has the choices and options (which the above DOES NOT HAVE) of running on 120 VAC (Same as above) ORRRRRRR LP Gas.

 2) Next, if he's usually on shore power and doesn't do dry camping, then he can get by with only one choice and use the 120 VAC unit AND THAT WOULD BE CHEAPER and I would recommend it.

3) However, if he wants to be off grid,,,,,,, and do a lot of dry camping with no AC power available, and still has an AC only fridge (NOT LP Gas plus 120 VAC like mine and most RV's),,,,,,,,,,,,,THEN he has to have sufficient battery storage  PLUS  an Inverter  PLUS  Solar Panels (not cheap) or else run his AC Genset to charge his batteries or run his fridge at direct non inverted 120 VAC (and they use gas at $4 a gallon mind you)

4) BUT if he simply opts for the 120 VAC PLUS LP Gas fridge (best of both worlds, but YES more expensive initial cost) he can run for weeks and weeks and weeks on LP Gas WITH NO NEED FOR THOSE EXPENSIVE SOLAR PANELS         ORRRRRRRRRRR     EXPENSIVE INVERTER ORRRRRRRRR  A LOT OF BATTERIES  (subject to time and use and load etc)!!!!!!!!!

 So it all boils down to a persons needs and if he dry camps often and his free choice THERES NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER HERE.

 For your or other persons needs, only having the choice to run on 120 VAC if you're usually plugged into shore power is fine,,,,,,,,,,,, and if you need to dry camp but only have a 120 VAC fridge, then having to buy expensive Inverters and either expensive Solar Panels (or run your AC Genset) is also fine if that's your choice.

 However, for my and most others RV use where we do considerable amount of dry camping with no 120 VAC shore power available, I find it best to buy the more expensive 2/3 way fridge which I can run on EITHER 120 VAC (like you) ORRRRRRRR LP Gas. Because I can run for weeks and weeks and weeks on LP Gas (before a 30 # tank would run dry) WITHOUT an expensive Inverter and WITHOUT Solar Panels since it hardly uses any electricity on LP gas operation yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy 

 EITHER CHOICE IS GOOD (no right or wrong here) IF IT SUITS YOUR NEEDS but I just prefer having more options and more choices and the ability to run my fridge on 120 VAC (same as you) ORRRRRRRRRRR to run on LP Gas which doesn't require the Inverter and Solar Panels as the 120 VAC fridge does for extended dry camping.

 If I didn't do dry camping and was almost always hooked to 120 VAC shore power Id sure consider one of the cheaper 120 VAC ONLY fridges you listed, they sound great and would do the job, but with a lot of dry camping, I just prefer having the freedom and choices to run my fridge on EITHER 120 VAC or LP Gas, since on LP gas I don't need an expensive Inverter and Solar Panels (and hope and pray there's sunshine and not rain and clouds lol) or having to run my AC Genset when needed grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr lol  I just like to have BOTH 120 VAC plus LP Gas options.......I love having the extra freedom the LP gas option affords me WITHOUT the need for an Inverter and/or Solar Panels and/or running my AC Genset..........

 To each their own is my motto, to be or not to be lol. I just like having the option to run on 120 VAC or LP Gas where I can get by WITHOUT the Inverter and/or Solar and/or Batteries and/or my AC Genset, but I understand and respect those who want only an 120 VAC fridge as they are so much cheaper to buy nowadays.

 God Bless all here, thanks for the great information and specs on the fridges, now yall pay your money and make your own choices, I made mine and am happy with it REGARDLESS. However, what's right for me and my choice may be OPPOSITE then others here, wouldn't it be a boring world if we all chose the same things lol

 Ol John T  Retired Electrical Engineer and RV user and dealer of 40 + years


I don't wish to beat this discussion to death - but . . .  Why do you say an AC fridge only gives "one" choice of power.  Obviously if used with an inverter - there are two choices.  12 volts DC or 120 volts AC. Many of the 70s Winnebagos came OEM with a Norcold fridge that had a small built-in DC to AC inverter making it 2-way.  Also if doing long-term dry camping - or maybe better put "living off grid" . . a couple of 120 watt solar panels, an inverter, and a two 120 AH batteries to power a fridge are not a huge expense ($500-$600) when compared to using a gas absorbtion refrigerator on propane or kerosene that also costs $600. Especially if getting gas refills is expensive.   No right or wrong here but certain equipment suits certain people better in certain situations.   I've had my solar powered fridge for 10 years now - in the Adirondacks woods.  A pair of 120 watt panels and a pair of batteries.  It has never needed a generator to supplement and the camp is in the middle of the woods - not a clearing. That's why I've got two panels. One faces the morning sun and the other faces what there is of the afternoon sun.  Note I only camp there in spring, summer and fall. If was there in the winter the solar alone would not be enough. I had started out there with a Dometic 3-way - which is still there as a back-up.  Just got tired of getting propane refills that are very expensive in that area.  I will note that this thread began as a question about using a cheap AC fridge.  Not DC and not absorbtion.   Back to that point - I've got two RVs with cheap AC fridges and love the setup. It would NOT be suitable for long-term off-grid camping. But for a camper that does "stop and go" it is a great setup.   I can leave my camper parked all day with the AC fridge on and a couple of fans to keep our dog cool and two batteries works fine. One BIG bonus for us is no need to level the RV for the fridge to work.  One slight downside is that any inverter I've used messes up AM radio reception.  I happen to like AM. No effect on FM or TV signals.

 Good morning, welcome back and God Bless you John. You're vey helpful and I appreciate your opinions.  Let me answer your question. No problem in beating a good informative discussion to death when we can help educate the good folks here, I'm here to help and enjoy every minute of it. Here are a few basic definitions that may help you and thanks for your question.


 1) When I say an AC only fridge, I mean one that requires 120 VAC for operation and DOES NOT have the capacity to operate on its own on LP Gas or 12 VDC. That's an AC only Fridge which are cheaper then a 2 or 3 way. If you wanted to run it from a 12 volt battery bank because shore power wasn't available, you would need an expensive Inverter and sufficient  battery energy storage and when the battery ran down you would need either expensive adequate Solar Panels or else run an AC genset. I MEAN A FRIDGE THAT ON ITS OWN LEAVES YOU BUT ONE CHOICE TO OPERATE I.E. 120 VAC.  A 120 VAC ONLY fridge doesn't operate on LP Gas. To operate a 120 VAC fridge from 12 VDC, YOU NEED AN INVERTER (changes 12 VDC to 120 VAC) and it doesn't operate on LP Gas.


 2) When I say a 2 way Fridge, I mean one that ON ITS OWN can operate on 120 VAC (like the above) orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr on its own can ALSO run on LP Gas.


 AND DOES NOT,,,,,,,, I REPEAT DOES NOT,,,,,,,,,,, REQUIRE AN INVERTER AND AS MUCH BATTERY POWER AND SOLAR PANLES OR GENSETS for extended dry camp periods. It can run weeks and weeks and weeks on LP gas WITHOUT the need for the expensive Inverter.


 Its simply a matter of choice and lifestyle and budget and whether you're usually hooked to shore power or want the ability to live off the grid for extended periods and if you're satisfied having ONLY ONE CHOICE (120 VAC absent an Inverter ) to operate your fridge




                         Two choices (120 VAC  or   LP Gas)


   The extended dry camping choices are EITHER to run a 2 way fridge on LP Gas (NO INVERTER OR SOLAR OR GENSET REQUIRED only LP gas which RV's generally already have and a fridge can run weeks and weeks and weeks on 20 or 30 # of LP Gas )




 Run an AC only fridge WITH an additional expensive Inverter PLUS sufficient battery storage PLUS possibly the need for expensive Solar Panels and/or an AC Genset


 Again, if a persons lifestyle and RV use and budget and his choice is for an AC ONLY fridge and he is satisfied with only one choice (on its own) to power his fridge THEN A CHEAPER AC FRIDGE IS A GOOD CHOICE.


 Again, if a person does a lot of dry camping off the grid and doesn't choose to invest in an expensive Inverter and expensive Solar Panels and adequate Battery power, then a fridge that can on its own run on LP gas WITH NO NEED FOR INVERTERS OR SOLAR OR A LOT OF BATTERY POWER, then a 2 way fridge (but costs more then AC only) that can run on 120 VAC orrrrr LP Gas is a good choice.


 There is no right or wrong answer here, it’s a persons own choice based on his pocketbook and  his lifestyle and if he's hooked to shore power often or does a lot of dry camping. Its NOT my way or the highway lol. If a person chooses a 120 VAC only fridge THAT’S FINE AND HIS CHOICE, if he's willing to add an Inverter and Solar Panels and sufficient batteries and/or use a Genset if he wants to camp off the grid extended periods, THAT’S FINE AND HIS CHOICE, and if he wants more choices and options so gets a fridge that can still run on 120 VAC  BUT ALSO run on LP Gas  (NO Need for Inverter and Solar and Genset generally speaking) THAT’S FINE AND HIS CHOICE.


 Whewwwwwwwwww lol I hope this helps you and answers your good question about an AC only fridge (its operation and options) and helps others make their own choice based on their lifestyle and pocketbook and how much dry camping they do. EITHER method, a 120 VAC only fridge or a 120 VAC plus LP Gas, is a choice each must make. For extended dry camping, the choice of a 120 VAC fridge PLUS and Inverter PLUS Solar Panels is fine, and likewise, the choice of a fridge that can run on LP Gas (NO Inverter and Solar etc generally needed) is also fine. Now yall pay your money and make your own choices, neither of which is right or wrong, its your money and your call NOT ANYONE ELSES………For my lifestyle and use, the 120 VAC PLUS LP Gas is a good choice, for others the 120 VAC only may be a good choice.


  God Bless, best wishes, thanks to all for great questions, hope this answers the questions and can help in choosing what type of fridge is best for your individual needs. For my needs I LOVE a fridge that allows me more options and choices then if I had a fridge that on its own ONLY ran off 120 VAC grrrrrrrr no way Id go that route, I like being able to run on 120 VAC  PLUSSSSSSSS LP Gas, so much more freedom and the ability to dry camp in the mountains for weeks and weeks on end WITHOUT the need for and having to worry and mess with expensive Inverters and Solar Panels lol……….BUT I can run on 120 VAC also, two choices are better then one in my book, but I acknowledge that may NOT be best for someone else and I'm happy for and respect them and know they in turn respect my choice.


 Ol John T,  Retired Electrical Engineer and 40+ year RV user and dealer

I owned a 2 way fridge once that had about a 50 volt DC compressor.If you could use AC it rectified the incoming power and used a transformer to drop the voltage.Using DC it reversed the same transformer to change 12 volts to about 50 volts.No leveling problems and reliable.

  "Cool"  (Pun intended) Jimco YET EVEN MORE CHOICES LOL

  Of course, straight DC isn't subject to regular Transformer action, it needs to be chopped kinda like the old car radio vibrators did, remember that loud buzzing???

 Best wishes n God Bless for all the help n fun you provide here

 John T




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