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Old 08-25-2011, 05:36 PM   #1
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Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

Hello all,

Forgive me if this has been discussed before. We're in the planning stages of a new SMB, probably an EB Sprinter, and are looking at a 4 CF refer. SMB has told us they usually use all electric models (12V & 120V) that use a compressor. We're more familiar with the gas refers (propane & 120VAC) that we've had on previous trailers and that have served us well. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to either type? I know you need to pay attention to leveling the gas refers. I've also seen comments on the forum about noise from the compressor on electric refers (my wife's a light sleeper) and I'm concerned about battery drain. We plan on having propane on board for cooking and hot water anyway. Thanks for any advice.

BobD
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Old 08-25-2011, 07:25 PM   #2
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

Having had both, I wouldn't want to go back to the three way fridge.

- The electric on holds temp better. I don't adjust it when ambient changes.
- No leveling needed, so I can park anywhere and hike.
- No need to go outside to change from electric to gas.
- My fridge is quiet. I'm also a light sleeper and no problem.

Not everyone agrees with me.

Mike
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Old 08-25-2011, 10:12 PM   #3
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

If you camp for more than a few days at a time without moving the van (charging the battery) i would say go with propane. Unless you have enough solar to keep it running and tend to camp in sunny places. The new fridges use so little power it is usually not worth messing around with propane units.
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Old 08-25-2011, 10:47 PM   #4
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

If you are concerned about noise from the fridge, try an Engel fridge. These use a compressor with only one moving part and are very quiet as well as energy efficient: http://www.engel-usa.com
The compressor is based on a coil and takes very little energy to get started unlike a standard rotary compressor. The 'swing' compressor as they call it is also a lot more robust. Trucker's in the Australian outback love Engel fridges!

I recently heard that the newer propane fridges don't need to be level like the old one's. However, this is just a rumor at this point. I would go with an electric fridge, particularly the Engel. Another disadvantage of the propane 'fridges are those ugly vents (IMHO) that have to be installed along with the fridge. Electric fridges don't require outside vents.

HTH,

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Old 08-26-2011, 12:00 AM   #5
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

I've never used an electric RV fridge, but have had several propane ones. The newer 4 cubic foot models have remote controls, all located above the door inside. We have parked in some fairly sloped areas and not had a problem losing our cooling. Some of the models (most of the 4 cubic foot ones included) have thermostats. I agree if it doesn't have a thermostat you have to adjust the temperature manually, which can be touchy.

We are choosing a propane frig to allow extended camping without solar or a generator, and to enjoy silence.
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Old 08-26-2011, 08:24 AM   #6
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

When our SMB-installed 12/120v Norcold gave out, we installed an Isotherm frig with the ASU. It is very quiet and, if you install solar, you won't need to worry about battery usage since the Isotherm freezes a cold plate so, when the house battery drops to 12.2v, it shuts off the compressor and stays cold via the cold plate. Search the archives for "Isotherm" for more information on these refrigerators. We are very satisfied with ours.
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Old 08-27-2011, 09:39 AM   #7
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

Thanks to all for your advice. As I suspected, there is no right answer, it pretty much depends on how you intend to use your SMB. We don't plan on a lot of dry camping in one spot for days and we usually do a lot of driving during the day to keep the battery charged. The advantage of not having to level makes the all electric refer look better. We'll probably go with the one SMB recommends since they have the most experience with that one.

Thanks again, folks.

BobD.
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Old 09-04-2011, 05:31 PM   #8
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

Having had both I would say the other downside to the propane is the physical dimensions required for the venting is much larger for the Dometic prpane I have now vs the norcold in my previous unit.Does SMB vent vertically or out the side?
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Old 09-04-2011, 06:15 PM   #9
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

You are right, I had forgotten that aspect of a propane fridge.

Propane cuts a big hole in the side of your van for venting.

12V needs no vent and does not cut into the body of the van.

Mike
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Old 09-04-2011, 09:46 PM   #10
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Re: Propane vs. Electric Refrigerator

Another nice option of the 12v units with solar is you can run it for as long as you want. I've stocked mine up weeks ahead of a trip with some items so I'm ready to go at anytime.
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