12V Fridge/Freezer



Do you have a plan for how to keep your fresh food cold in the event of a power outage?

Part of my plan is to use this 12v fridge/freezer that I purchased 13 years ago for camping and off-roading. It’s an ARB 40 liter model, but similar units are available in the Engel and other brands, they’re all very similar. They can run off either 12v DC or 120v AC power. More information below on current models:

I wanted to determine how much current and power this fridge requires to stay cold for 24 hours. For the test, I pre-cooled the unit with 2 gallons of liquid inside for ~5 hours. Then I reset the power meter and recorded the amp- and watt-hours for 24 hours of operation. The fridge was outside in 55-75 degree temperatures for that period.

I found the overnight (16 hour) consumption was 12 amp-hours for 24 hours, it was 18.35 amp-hours and 218 watt-hours.

For comparison, my Energy Star refrigerator uses about 1400 watt-hours in 24 hours. And I looked up what an Energy Star mini-fridge uses and that is about 600 watt-hours per day.

Now this 40L (1.4 cu.ft.) fridge is at the low end of mini-fridge size, but at 1/3 the energy consumption, it makes an attractive off-grid solution.

I was able to run mine continuously on about 90 watts of solar panels and a couple of 35AH batteries. One other reason for doing this test is that I wanted to see how much capacity I would need if I wanted to set up a portable {solar lights} system for use in my truck. That way I could set up some folding panels and charge a battery during the day to run the fridge at night for extended camping. A 100W folding {solar lights} runs about $200, add in a small charge controller and battery and a decent portable system would cost under $300.

I would not classify myself as a “prepper”, but if I can do some basic preparation to be a little more comfortable in a power outage situation, by all means I’ll do them. I now know I can plug in the fridge into my solar power system and just leave it on if I need it. That makes it just like my house refrigerator, I never think about it, it is just there and works all by itself, same with this 12V fridge. That is one less thing to worry about in case the power is out for an extended time.

Anyone looking for an off-grid refrigeration system might consider something like this. There are also the 3-way powered RV refrigerator/freezes, that run off 12V, 120V and propane/LPG. I don’t have LPG at home, so that was not an option for me. One advantage of these 12V fridges is that they tolerate running at extreme angles, unlike the propane models that need to be fairly level.

Hope you enjoyed the video and found it informative. Stay tuned for a followup video where I’ll brine a turkey breast in preparation for smoking it on Thanksgiving.

Thanks for watching!

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{solar lights} & Wind EBooks
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11 Comments on "12V Fridge/Freezer"

  1. anglia22 says:

    Thanks you so much for sharing this precise information.it's very helpful for the people who want to buy a solar panel kit.Now they can buy the right size of solar panel for such a set up and save money.

  2. Me and the guys are going on a festival next weekend, and i love that you went through how much AH you need to be able to connect it straight to the battery instead of connecting it to the carkey on/off surcit. im ganna buy one of those and let it run while we sleep in the car, and wake up with Ice cold beer <3

  3. Pop's Shack says:

    That's a little more than my fridge uses. I converted a 145 litre/5 cu ft chest freezer to a fridge by swapping out the thermostat and, empty, is uses 190Wh per day.

  4. bill767667 says:

    thanks for a great video I have been eyeing ARB for a while now I'm new to Solar I have 400 watts with a Morningstar Prostar 30 charge controller its PWM and 4 6 volt golf cart batteries I'm going to be adding a new set up soon that will be made up for 24 volts I will keep my existing 12 volt system in operation to run lighting router modem and things of this nature the ARB unit really looks sweet and I like how you broke down and powers and power consumption I would like to have one for refrigeration and then save up and get another for freezer once again thanks for a great video very insightful good information there thank you

  5. I believe the ARB has switched from the swing motor to the danfoss (Chinese version) motor.

  6. Billy says:

    people…buy a chest freezer and then a external thermostate for it so u can run it as a fridge ,,mine uses 170 watts a day

  7. Jason Miller says:

    Can you use them as an everyday fridge/freezer? I enjoyed this video & look forward to learning from future video's :).

  8. Great info. Monotone voice is so annoying are you reading off a script.. sound like one of those annoying sales people on the phone reading off a script..

  9. Spectacular and precise video, this is very informative for us newbie when choosing what best portable refrigerator/freezer we will purchase. Great idea/concept to the owner. Looking forward for your next video.

  10. Hello thanks for rekindling my search. Please I need help to get infor for a cooler that is solar powered that can freeze or cool drinks on the go. Do you know where I can buy one or even buy this your protype and how much is the estimated cost?

  11. Roland Tama says:

    Are you directly connected to the charge controller with fuse or to  the battery?

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