There are many opinions and preferences on what the best refrigerator might be for a DIY RV van. Some people like the chest style refrigerators, while others prefer an upright fridge with a standard door. For us, the more standard RV fridge with a door on the front seemed to work best with our van layout and galley cabinet design. The chest fridge usually requires a slide out design with drawer type guides in order to access it. Others put it under a lift up counter top. Some argue the chest style design loses less cold air when opened, but for a fridge that is relatively full, this seems to be less of an issue. Both styles are available with a 12 volt Danfoss compressor. This is a true compressor fridge and not the older absorption style in many RVs. It can be run on 12 volts and uses much less power than the older style when running on batteries.
Once we decided on a front door style refrigerator, we began our search for a model that would suit our needs and not break our budget. We ultimately decided on the TruckFridge TF-130 model. This is a 4.6 cubic foot (cu ft) fridge that measures 29.5 inches high by 20.75 inches wide by 20 inches deep. We ordered the refrigerator and had it on hand before building our galley cabinet. We wanted to fit the galley cabinet to the refrigerator exactly and not waste any space. The power specifications for the fridge indicate it would use about 34 amp hours every 24 hours. This would not be a problem for our electrical system in the DIY Ram Promaster RV van.
We did not use the side and top frame as shown in the above photo. We used 1 inch aluminum angle to make top and bottom mounting brackets to mount the fridge to our galley cabinet. The white (painted) bracket on the top of the fridge above the door was mounted using existing trim screw locations. Also, you can see that the compressor and coils are all at the upper right back corner of the fridge. This was convenient for us to design a galley cabinet that vented air directly across the coils but that also had extra insulation around the other faces of the refrigerator.
We designed our galley cabinet to allow for 1 inch and 1/2 inch polyiso foam board insulation on all sides of the refrigerator. This extra insulation should reduce the amount of time that the compressor needs to run, especially in hot weather.The photo below shows our galley cabinet with the extra insulation foam board added. The holes in the cabinet allow fresh air to enter from the back of the cabinet, which is open to our slider door. The hot air from the coils is then exhausted into the sink area under our galley cabinet. The cabinet is designed to allow warm air to flow out of the cabinet at the end under the bed.
The photo below shows the compressor area of the refrigerator after it has been installed in the galley cabinet. Fresh air enters through the grille on the back of the galley cabinet, which is near the slider door. The fridge includes a small fan to force fresh air across the compressor and coils. Our cabinet design with extra insulation on top of the fridge forces the warm air to exit the side of the refrigerator compartment into the rest of our galley cabinet and then out under the bed. You can also see edges of the foam board on the side and back of the fridge.
We also added a 1 inch foam insulation panel on top of the fridge, just under the counter top. This will keep any warm air from the compressor from heating up the outside of the fridge metal cabinet. The 1 inch aluminum brackets attach the fridge to the galley cabinet on the top and bottom of the fridge.
We are happy with the size and performance of the TruckFridge TF-130 refrigerator in our Ram Promaster RV van. In the winter, our daily power use is closer to 30 A-H. In warmer weather, the power use is more like 40 A-H. Our 430 A-H battery bank is often still at 90% state of charge (SOC) when we wake up in the morning. The fridge handle latches securely, and we are not concerned it will open unexpectedly when driving. Our recent Colorado trip was a good test for this refrigerator, and we were quite happy.
The refrigerator will cool down MUCH faster than the older 3 way RV fridges. It also holds the temperature fairly constant, regardless of the outside air temperature. The 12 volt compressor allows us to go propane free in this RV van DIY design. Whether you choose a traditional front door fridge or a chest type refrigerator, we wish you all the best on your RV travels.
Products and tool used in this project:
|TruckFridge TF-130 Refrigerator||4.6 cu ft, 12 volt compressor|
|6″ x 6″ Grille||On back side of cabinet to allow fresh air in|
|8 AWG Wire||Our longer run required 8 gauge to prevent voltage droop on startup|
|1″ x 1″ Aluminum Angle||1/16 inch thick, used to make top and bottom mounting brackets|
|Bosch Jig Saw||Used to cut rounded corner holes for venting|
|Jig Saw Blades||Smooth cut wood blades|
We also have produced a YouTube video detailing the Promaster RV 12 volt refrigerator install that provides more detail. Click the image below to view the video.