Can a Solar Panel Run a Camping Fridge?


One of the main challenges of living in a camper van is figuring out how to set up a reliable energy source. This is especially important if you have a fridge in your van that you use to keep your food fresh. So, you may have been wondering whether you could use solar energy to power it.

Solar panels can be used to run a camping fridge. There are a few different ways to use solar energy to power your fridge, including foldable solar panels and a fixed solar panel. You’ll need panels that match your fridge’s power consumption, and you may want a solar-powered generator too. 

In this article, we will go over the various ways you can use solar energy to power your camping fridge. 

Ways to Get Solar Energy for Your Fridge

In this section, we will talk about the different ways you can get solar energy to power your fridge and other appliances, including your phones. 

Use a Foldable Solar Panel

One way to get solar energy is by using a foldable solar panel. The benefit of foldable solar panels is that they are easy to take around, do not require a lot of storage space, are lightweight, and can be directed towards the sun to get as much energy as possible. 

foldable solar panel on the grass

For example, this DOKIO Foldable Solar Panel Kit only weighs 9 lbs (4.1kg) and comes with a free solar controller. It folds flat, allowing you to store it anywhere, and it has a handle that lets you easily carry it around. It uses Monocrystalline solar cells, which are the most efficient at providing energy from the sun. 

Use Built-In Solar Panels

The problem with foldable solar panels is that they are not usually the best option for long-term travelers and campers. They are perfect for those who go on weekend trips or occasional longer trips, but if your entire life is on the road, you might want something that is more durable and which provides more energy. 

built in solar panel van roof

In that case, you might want to get solar panels fixed to your roof. This way, you can get constant energy at any time. These tend to be a bit more expensive, but they are worth it if you often travel, as they will allow you to get more energy, more often. 

A good option is this ECO-WORTHY 200 Watts Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit. It has two panels that provide up to 100W of energy each, with a total energy output of up to 200W. Each panel comes with a 3ft cable for easy hookups, and the kit comes with mounting brackets so you can easily mount the panels on your roof. A charge controller is also included. 

Use a Portable Power Station

To get even more power in your van, you might want to use a solar-powered portable power station or generator. There are different types of portable power stations and generators. Some are strong enough to fully power your fridge and all of your appliances, while others are more for emergencies, phone charging, and tiny refrigerators. 

portable power station

For example, this EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station has 6x 1800W AC outlets with a total of 1260Wh capacity. It can be charged via foldable or fixed solar panels and go from 0% power to 80% power in just one hour, allowing you to get power quickly to your van even if you make an impromptu trip. 

It can power not only your fridge but your TV, microwave, and other appliances, too; it is designed to be a full replacement for all of your appliances. You can use your coffee machine, charge your laptops, and watch the morning news at the same time, as you can connect up to 13 devices at once. It comes with three types of charging cables and has a two-year warranty. 

If you are looking for something on the cheaper side and don’t need something as powerful, you can get the Rockpals 250-Watt Portable Generator. It has a 110V AC Outlet and can be used to power a small refrigerator of about 60W for around four hours. 

It can also be used to charge your phone and power your other appliances. However, it is only good for emergencies or when you need to keep food fresh or drinks cool for a few hours. 

Get a Solar Fridge

If you are only interested in keeping your drinks cool and your food fresh, you can definitely get a solar-powered fridge instead of a portable generator. For example, this GOSUN Chill Solar Cooler can be powered by solar tables, foldable solar panels, and even a power bank. It has wheels, which makes it easy to take around even if you venture out of your van and go camping for a night or something. 

solar fridge

It does not require any ice as it is entirely solar-powered, giving you more room to store your food and drinks. Not only that, but it has special technology that allows you to power your mobile devices in addition to keeping your food fresh. 

Another option is the ACOPOWER LiONCooler Fridge and Freezer, which is also on wheels and easy to transport. The smart mobile app can control it for additional convenience. 

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

There are two types of solar cells used by solar panels and tables: Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. The panels that use monocrystalline tend to be a bit more expensive, but they are also more powerful and last longer. They are cut from one piece of silicone instead of multiple pieces of silicone. However, they are also less sustainable to produce. 

Polycrystalline solar panels are a bit less expensive, but they are also less efficient and require more space to provide the same amount of power as monocrystalline solar panels. Since they are cheaper, however, they might be for you if you are on a budget. 

For RVs and camper vans, the third type of technology is also common: Thin-film solar panels. These are very flexible and very cheap to produce. They are also very sustainable. 

However, they are not very efficient and do not provide a lot of energy. That is why they are not commonly used in residential settings, but since they are flexible, foldable, and cheap, they come in handy for camping purposes. 

How to Choose the Right Solar Panel

It is important to check the power output of your fridge before you get a solar panel. If your fridge uses a lot of power, you will need a solar panel that produces enough power to match that. Other things to consider are how often you go on a camping trip and how often you actually use your fridge. 

Here is a great video on the best solar panels for RVs:

You will need a charge controller so that power runs smoothly to the battery without drastic fluctuations; this is included for free with some solar panels, as mentioned above. You will also need an inverter to convert the direct current to alternating current; this is also often included. 

Conclusion

Powering your fridge with solar panels on a camping trip is entirely possible. As shown in this article, there are many ways to do so, and you can also use that same solar energy to power your other appliances and charge your electronic devices. Whether you need a fridge to keep your beer cold during the hot summer days or to keep your vegetables fresh, you have many options.

Hivan Team

As an independent team of travelers, we do share positive and negative observations as we find them and make our best to help and inform other vanlifers around the globe.

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