RV Refrigerator Replacement – Time For A Residential Fridge?

RV refrigerator replacement - RV fridge or residential fridge?

What happens when it’s RV refrigerator replacement time? Should you just replace the old fridge with the same or similar RV refrigerator?

Well, these days you have more options to choose from, including residential refrigerators.

So let’s talk about RV refrigerators vs residential refrigerators for your RV.

And first of all, it has to be said that RVs present unique challenges for keeping your food cold!

There’s no question about that. Or at least a lot more challenges than you would experience in a regular home.

So at some point a lot of RVers start thinking about replacing that RV refrigerator, or gas absorption refrigerator, with a residential fridge instead.

Watch my video on RV refrigerators vs residential refrigerators

And let’s see what are the pros and cons of going either way. Because there’s no one right choice for all RVers.

Listen to my podcast on RV refrigerators vs residential refrigerators here

Table of Contents

RV Refrigerator Replacement – Gas Absorption Pros

So let’s start with the pros of going with a normal RV, or gas absorption refrigerator.

Gas absorption refrigerator
An example of an RV gas absorption refrigerator

And the first pro is that they are versatile. In fact, they can run on multiple power sources, and that’s great!

Because if one power source is not available for any reason, you can run it on a different one instead.

Then the second pro is that they are a low power draw on the electric side of your RV. And that’s always a good thing for power management.

Pro number three, and this is a big one, is that they are very good for boondocking. And that’s great for all of you folks that like to dry camp.

You know, maybe you like to go out and camp in places where nobody’s around.

Well then, a gas absorption RV refrigerator is made for that scenario. Because they can be run on propane , and not just electrical power.

Download my R V guidebooks

And you’re going to really love that! Because you can run your refrigerator as long as you’ve got enough propane on hand.

More RV Refrigerator Pros

Now the next pro is that RV refrigerators are lighter than residential refrigerators. So they save weight in the RV.

And remember everything comes back to weight in an RV eventually. So it’s important to save as much as you can.

And RV refrigerators do that well. Especially if they happen to be installed in an RV slide.

That’s because you’ve got to make sure you don’t overload the slide mechanism. And too much weight can easily do that.

Now the other point is that RV refrigerators already fit right in to your RV if it was installed at the factory.

In fact, in many cases, it sort of seems like they put the refrigerator in and built the rest of the RV all around it.

But the point is that once it’s installed in an RV from the factory, RV refrigerator replacement is fairly straightforward.

It’s located in a place that’s made for it. So all you’ve got to do is just replace it when it becomes unusable at some point. And that’s a pro to consider!

The last pro is that there are no moving parts in an RV refrigerator.

In other words, let’s say that you have a gas absorption RV refrigerator. And you go down the road in your RV jostling along as you go.

Most likely it will usually handle RV travel on the road very well without anything breaking. Because that’s what they’re made to do!

So all of those are pros for RV gas absorption RV refrigerators.

RV Refrigerator Cons

But there are also cons with them when it comes to RV refrigerator replacement too.

And let’s start with the number one con. In fact, it’s the biggest one for a lot of people.

How To Avoid Buying An RV Money Pit

And that is that they are usually fairly small. In other words, you have less cubic feet of of actually storage space for food in an RV refrigerator.

So suppose you have an RV refrigerator. And you put one right next door to it that’s a residential refrigerator the same size.

Well then, you’re going to usually have many more cubic feet of food storage in the residential fridge. And that’s huge!

I mean we all would like to have maybe a little more area than what we have in our RV refrigerator, right?

The second con to consider is that it costs more to replace when it’s RV refrigerator replacement time.

And that’s especially true when we’re getting into the larger gas absorption RV refrigerators.

In fact, they can cost three thousand dollars or more just for the refrigerator itself. And then the installation has to be figured in as well.

Now for con number three. RV fridges are just more sensitive to hot temperatures and to temperature changes.

A lot of people notice this in the summer time. That’s when all of a sudden that ice cream just isn’t really hard anymore.

And in really hot weather, the refrigerator compartment doesn’t always stay in the most desirable range either.

That’s because they are sensitive to extreme temperatures changes. And that’s a con that must be considered!

More RV Fridge Cons

Another con is that RV refrigerators take a long time to initially cool down.

So when you want to go camping, you had better take about a day to get that RV refrigerator up and going.

Because it takes many hours to do that, especially in hot weather.

Moving along, the next con is that almost all RV refrigerators will require some kind of defrosting.

RV Gear

Yes, there really isn’t any kind of automatic defrosting mechanism with these kind of fridges.

So if you’re in a humid area, you could be defrosting your RV gas absorption refrigerator almost every month.

And that means taking everything out of the fridge first. Then actually defrosting it manually before putting everything back in again.

And it can take a bit of time and effort to do that. Time that could be spent doing other things.

Watch my video on how to defrost an RV refrigerator

The final con is that RV gas absorption fridges need to be pretty much level to work properly.

Of course, there is some give and take on that. But you don’t want to get too far off of level.

And that’s because a gas absorption refrigerator works on chemical reactions. So to facilitate that, it has to be in a more or less level state.

And that is certainly not as versatile as most a residential refrigerators can be.

All right, those are the pros and cons of gas absorption rv refrigerators. So now let’s start on residential fridges.

RV Refrigerator Replacement – Residential Refrigerator Pros

RV residential refrigerator
Example of an RV residential refrigerator

And the number one pro for them is having more food storage. That’s really the big one, isn’t it?

Number two is that they’re much cheaper to buy. Remember, we talked about how gas absorption fridges can cost three thousand dollars or more.

Well, if you get a residential fridge about the same size, you may be only spending a few hundred dollars. Or at the most maybe a thousand or so.

And that’s definitely a big difference in cost.

Pro number three is that residential refrigerators cool down quick. Usually just a few hours after you plug it in, you’re going to notice the difference.

It should be nice and cool in your fridge, and really cold in your freezer.

Now the fourth pro for residential fridges is they work much better in hot weather. And they’re more consistent with temperature changes in general.

In fact, a lot of people even put them out in a shed or garage at home. And they can then use them for storage of extra things they want to keep cold.

That’s because they can be out in temperature extremes and still function rather normally in most cases.

More RV Residential Refrigerator Pros

Now the next pro is that they often have a longer life span.

In fact, most residential refrigerators will probably last between 18 to 20 years.

RV repairs - don't pay for them

Whereas RV gas absorption refrigerators are usually known to only last somewhere between 10 to 15 years instead.

And now the last pro for the residential refrigerator is it’s frost free capability.

That means that there’s so little maintenance that is needed for a residential fridge.

Especially as opposed to having to manually defrost gas absorption refrigerators on a regular basis.

Well now, let’s talk about the cons too. Because there are cons for residential fridges as well.

RV Residential Fridge Cons

And number one is that you probably will need to make changes to your RV to get a residential refrigerator to fit in it properly.

That’s because RVs were made to have an RV fridge. So to put a residential fridge in, very often you’ve got to make some extensive modifications.

And that means you may lose storage in your RV when you do. Because the extra room for the residential refrigerator often comes from an available storage area.

The next con to consider is that residential refrigerators are often heavier. And sometimes by quite a bit.

So that means it’s going to contribute more toward the overall weight of your RV.

And if you’re already at the limit of your gross vehicle weight rating, that’s going to be an issue.

Also, if you have your refrigerator in an RV slide-out, you’ve got to be extra careful about adding weight.

And that’s because you have to make sure that the slide-out mechanism is able to handle it.

And that is a real consideration to make before an RV refrigerator replacement takes place.

More RV Residential Fridge Cons

The number three con is that you most likely are going to need a bigger battery bank to run a residential refrigerator too.

Especially for times when you are boondocking or dry camping.

That’s because they only run on electric. And most battery banks in RVs are not really going to be up to the job.

So when you buy that residential fridge, very often you’re going to need a bigger and better battery bank too.

And maybe even a bigger and better inverter as well. Because that’s what converts 12 volt power to 120 volts to run that residential refrigerator when you’re not plugged into shore power.

Now for the fourth con. And that is that just to get a residential refrigerator into your RV may be a real challenge.

In fact, in many cases they won’t go through the door at all. They’re just too big.

So a lot of times, RV techs will take out a window to get it inside the RV.

Or if it’s a motorhome, they may have to even take out the windshield to get that refrigerator in or out of the RV.

And that’s quite a process to watch. But it’s something that’s a lot more work to do for an RV refrigerator replacement.

Now the last con is that a residential fridge is not designed to be jostled around going down the road in an RV.

It was designed to sit on a flat stationary floor in a residential home.

Of course, to be fair most people don’t have a lot of problems with that.

But some people do. And they have issues with things coming loose regularly. Things that just have to be repaired from time to time.

Which Kind Of Refrigerator Should You Choose For Your RV?

All right, those are the pros and cons of both RV gas absorption refrigerators and residential fridges.

Now what kind of RVer would be best for each type of fridge? Well, here’s my take on the subject:

I feel that an RV gas absorption refrigerator is really best for part-time RVers. Or maybe vacation travelers or weekend warriors.

Also they can be a good choice for boondockers. People who like to be out and away from everything and are going to be unplugged while camping.

In those situations, an RV fridge works very well for that due to its versatility.

Also, for those who like to stay in more moderate temperatures.

That means that you’re not seeing a lot of extremes that could affect the way your refrigerator cools.

Now for a residential refrigerator, it would be a good choice for fulltime RVers. For people who are actually living in their RV for a long while.

In this case, having a residential refrigerator just makes everything more easy, simple and comfortable.

And it works especially well for those who like to spend almost all their time in campgrounds or RV parks.

Since they’re going to be hooked up to the grid anyway, that extra power draw for the residential fridge will not mean anything to them because they’re hooked up to shore power.

Also, residential fridges work well for those who could be camping in hot weather for a while.

In that scenario they’re going to really see the benefit of having a residential fridge.

That’s because as I mentioned earlier, residential fridges just handle temperature extremes better.


Now let me say that either kind of refrigerator can work very well. And there’s no one choice here that’s a good solution for everybody.

So consider the pros and the cons that I’ve covered in this article.

Then compare them with your personal RV travel and camping habits.

And if you do, I’m sure that you will make the decision that is best for you.

Have safe and happy travels my friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get My FREE Camping Guide

“The Top 5 Ways To Save Money On Campground Costs”

Get My Newsletter

Save on RV repairs

Get the best RV gear

Learn about RV life

RV tips and tricks

And get my free guide – The Top 5 Ways To Save Money On Campground Costs”