Whether you are looking to go on a weekend wilderness adventure or raise your family on a fully off-grid homestead, we’ve found the eight best off-grid refrigerator models to meet everyone’s needs. You can even use one fridge to heat your food!
8 Best Off-Grid Fridge Models
When looking for the best refrigerator for off-grid living, the choices can be overwhelming. You have propane-powered refrigerators, DC fridges, regular iceboxes, and even thermoelectric coolers.
How do you know which one is suitable for your refrigeration needs?
Just like there are the best washing machines for off-grid living, there are the best off-grid refrigerators as well, and we found them for you.
Check out this handy chart to see all your options.
Smad Propane Refrigerator 3 Way Fridge Gas/12V/110V 3.5 Cu.ft for Outdoor Caravan Propane Refrigerator with Freezer Off Grid with Reversible Door for Dorm, Office, Apartment, BlackView on Amazon
SMETA Propane Chest Freezer 3 Way Refrigerator Freezer Electric LPG AC/DC Propane Gas Absorption Compact Silent Freezer Off Grid 2.4 Cu.Ft, BlackView on Amazon
HCK 5.12 Cu.Ft 161 cans Indoor/Outdoor Refrigerator, Built-in Beverage Cooler with Reversible Door, Stainless SteelView on Amazon
Propane Refrigerator 3 Way Camper Gas Fridge 120V 12V LPG 2.1 Cu.Ft RV Refrigerator for Outdoor Caravan Motorhome Off-Grid Cabin Boat Apartment Office Kitchen, BlackView on Amazon
Galanz GLR10TRDEFR True Top Freezer Retro Refrigerator Frost Free, Dual Door Fridge, Adjustable Electrical Thermostat Control, Red, 10.0 Cu FtView on Amazon
SMETA 110V/Gas Propane Refrigerator Fridge Up Freezer Propane Fridge Large Storage for Off Grid, 9.4 Cu.Ft, WhiteView on Amazon
Smad Propane Refrigerator 1.4 Cu.Ft, 3 Way Mini Fridge, 12 V/110V/LPG Gas, Small Compact Refrigerator for RV, Truck, Camping, Motorhome, Off-Grid Cabin, BlackView on Amazon
SMETA 12V Compact Fridge Camper Refrigerator, Propane Fridge for RV Camper Truck Trailer, 110V/12V/Gas Mini Fridge, 1.4 Cu.Ft, BlackView on Amazon
Last update on 2022-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images, Product Titles, and Product Highlights from Amazon Product Advertising API
Off-grid can refer to many different situations – from a small off-grid forest cabin that gets weekend use to a sustainable prefab home. Heck, even RVs and tiny homes may need an off-grid fridge.
And each of these situations is going to have different refrigeration needs.
We’ve reviewed DC solar fridges, propane fridges, Thermoelectric fridges, and even included a cooler – so there is something for every situation. We’ll examine the difference between the types of refrigeration and how the installation, cost, maintenance, efficiency, and size can affect your buying decision.
You may be thinking to yourself, installation? How much can there be to installing a fridge? You just unbox it and plug it in, right? Well, not exactly.
DC fridges like the Unique Solar Refrigerator run directly off your solar batteries, so you will need to connect them to your solar system rather than run them through an AC inverter. On the other hand, propane fridges need to be connected to a tank or propane line and need a regulator. You may need professional installation if it’s your first time using a propane-powered fridge.
Fascinating how something flammable like propane can power a fridge to cool/freeze things, huh?
With coolers, you just unbox them, wipe them off, and they are ready to go.
Off-grid refrigeration doesn’t come cheap. Ice chests are going to be your most affordable option, followed by a thermoelectric cooler.
But what about solar and propane?
At first glance, solar-powered refrigerators, like the Unique solar refrigerator, seem less expensive than an equal size propane fridge. However, that’s only true if you already have a solar system large enough to power a fridge. (And even energy-efficient refrigerators are power hogs). Plus, on average, you need to replace your solar batteries between 5-15 years.
Even if you have a solar system, you may need to buy more panels and batteries, or even a backup generator, to power a refrigerator.
Propane fridges like the EZ EZ-19W Propane Refrigerator can be some of the most expensive fridges out there. However, once you factor in additional solar costs, propane may wind up being the more affordable choice.
When it comes to fridge maintenance, coolers are the easiest since they are small and don’t have mechanical parts. However, you want to be careful with hinges, handles, and wheels, as these are the weak parts. If they do break, the chest can still keep things cool.
The same can be said about thermoelectric coolers.
“A thermoelectric cooling system has few moving parts and no filters or oil, so it is virtually maintenance free, with the only moving parts being the fans used to circulate the air across the heat sinks.”
Just wipe it down with a cloth, paying attention to the fan area. That’s all.
With a solar-powered fridge, you will want to clean the condenser coils periodically and make sure the gasket stays clean. Condensation occurs more often in a stationary solar refrigerator. So, be prepared to clean more.
On the other hand, propane fridges require attention around the flue. And since it is powered by a highly flammable material, it’s always best to make sure there are no leaks. You can also grab a propane detector alarm.
If you don’t already have a solar power system, it can seem like a large upfront cost to power a solar fridge. But once you get past the initial investment, there are no further energy costs accrued – All your power comes from the sun, a completely renewable resource.
“The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year.”
While we can’t harness all the sun’s power, we can store plenty of it in DC batteries. You can also run thermoelectric coolers from a DC power source, but they are less efficient than proper solar-powered refrigerators.
A propane fridge is a good option if you don’t budget to invest in a solar array. However, when you factor in the long-term costs of propane, you will find that it isn’t as efficient as using the sun.
Since ice chests don’t use any power source, you’ll have no other choice but to purchase ice and refill to keep the ideal temperature range. They are good in a pinch or for a few days, but they aren’t a good long-term solution.
It can be hard to decide how big you need your off-grid refrigerator to be. Step one is to honestly evaluate how much food and drink you think you will need to be storing there.
Ice chests and thermoelectric coolers will hold a lot less than a stand-up refrigerator with a freezer. A cooler is good for the weekend but probably won’t cut it if you want to feed your family on your off-grid homestead.
It can be confusing when comparing the capacity as some fridges are measured in liters and others in cubic feet.
With some simple math, you can be comparing apples to apples. One cubic foot is equal to 28.3 liters. So let’s convert the Unique Solar Fridge to liters as an example. It has a capacity of 10 Cu. Ft., so it makes the math super easy.
10 cu ft X 28.3= 283 liters
Now, let’s compare that to something measured in liters. The ICECO refrigerator is 60 liters. So the Unique Refrigerator is more than four times larger than the ICECO.
What Is The Best Off-Grid Refrigerator If I Don't Have Power?
The best off-grid refrigerator if you don’t have any power is a propane-powered refrigerator. Solar-powered refrigerators are also an option, but they require that you purchase solar panels, batteries, and a charger controller to run.
Does a Solar Powered Refrigerator Require an Inverter?
No, a solar-powered refrigerator does not require an inverter. DC refrigerators run directly off your batteries rather than running off AC power. This makes them more energy efficient than an AC refrigerator, where the power is being converted through an inverter.
Can I Plug A Thermoelectric Cooler Into An AC Outlet?
No, you can not plug a thermoelectric cooler into an AC outlet. This type of refrigeration only works when connected to a DC power source. You can run a thermoelectric cooler off your car battery or your solar batteries.
Are Solar Refrigerators Safe?
Yes, solar refrigerators are safe. Most solar refrigerators are fitted with safety protections and only use solar power to maintain cold temperatures. They are also safe to install and run in a residential home because you don’t have to tamper with your house’s electrical system. You just have to make sure that you connect it with solar panels and a battery backup.