Of all the appliances in a typical home, the refrigerator and freezer rank the highest in terms of electricity requirements. But what if you could replace the conventional fridge with one that fulfils the same functions for free? That’s exactly what a solar-powered refrigerator can do for you.
At present, most fridges that work on solar power are relatively small and not necessarily suitable to replace their more-traditional counterparts in an average-sized home. However, they make perfect additions to any off-grid boat, RV, cabin, and more.
WHYNTER FM-45G 45 Qt Portable Refrigerator/Freezer
ENGEL AC/DC Portable Dual Voltage Fridge/Freezer
COLEMAN 40-Qt Portable Cooler
What Are the Best Solar Powered Refrigerators in 2019?
The hallmarks of a good solar powered refrigerator include durability, efficiency, and the ability to double as a freezer in order to save space. All items on the following list meet these requirements and have additional useful features to boot. If you find yourself considering buying one of these refrigerators, take a look at these solar coffee-makers as well!
- 0.1 1. WHYNTER FM-45G 45 Qt Portable Refrigerator/Freezer
- 0.2 2. ENGEL AC/DC Portable Dual Voltage Fridge/Freezer, 84 Qt
- 0.3 3. ACOPOWER P40A Portable Solar Fridge Freezer, 42 Q
- 0.4 4. SUNDANZER Solar-Powered Refrigerator
- 0.5 5. COLEMAN 40-Qt Portable Cooler
- 1 How Do Solar Powered Refrigerators Work?
- 2 What You Need to Run a Solar Powered Freezer/Refrigerator?
1. WHYNTER FM-45G 45 Qt Portable Refrigerator/Freezer
This solar-powered refrigerator by Whynter has a capacity of 45 Quarts (60 cans) and weighs just under 45lb. Its high portability makes it perfect for camping and fishing trips, but also for weekends spent in an off-grid cabin or RV. In addition, the fridge can double as a freezer and is built with a “fast freeze” option to rapidly cool contents to -8ºF.
The solar-powered freezer/fridge is ETL approved and can be connected to either a 110V outlet or a 12V power source. To charge this refrigerator using solar panels, you need a PV input of no more than 200W and a decent-sized battery for nighttime functions. In case of bad weather or poor lighting conditions, you can also connect it to a car’s battery or a conventional power source.
- Reliable solar-powered refrigerator that doubles as a freezer
- Can be charged in multiple ways to ensure it always stays cool, regardless of the weather
- Adjustable temperature and LED temperature display
- Requires regular cleaning in order to function at peak efficiency. May break down after only one year of use otherwise
2. ENGEL AC/DC Portable Dual Voltage Fridge/Freezer, 84 Qt
Engel’s solar-powered freezer/fridge is definitely more expensive than most other options presented here, but it is also worth the difference. It has a generous capacity of 84 Quarts (115 cans) and weighs just under 100lb, while its extraordinarily efficient compressor makes it the ideal candidate for solar electricity. To keep this fridge working throughout the entire day, a solar panel with as little as 80W in terms of PV input is sufficient.
The fridge can be connected to both an AC and a DC power source at the same time. When this is the case, it prioritizes AC power, but can automatically switch to DC if necessary. The compressor is quiet and vibration resistant, so you can take this unit on most RV and boat trips without worrying about its condition. The outer case is coated in steel for additional durability and the heavy-duty removable handles can be used to transport it with ease.
- Reliable and durable solar-powered freezer/fridge
- The compressor is highly efficient, which means that, given the right battery, the fridge does not require an extensive solar panel to function
- Can be connected to both AC and DC power sources at the same time
- Significantly more expensive than other options
3. ACOPOWER P40A Portable Solar Fridge Freezer, 42 Q
Unlike other manufacturers mentioned here, Acopower focuses predominantly on solar-friendly products, which presents a number of advantages when it comes to this portable fridge/freezer. With a capacity of 42 Quarts (or 60 cans) and a weight of 33.4lb, the fridge can be easily moved from one location to another and is therefore perfect for off-grid excursions.
In addition, this solar-powered refrigerator comes with an in-built 173Wh Lithium battery already included in the initial cost. To charge it, you can connect it to a 120W solar panel, as well as to a 120 AC port such as the car battery or a conventional wall outlet.
- Solar-powered refrigerator that doubles as a freezer
- Lighter than most other portable fridges and easily transported thanks to its integrated trolley and wheels
- Includes a battery that can be recharged with solar panels or conventional AC electricity
- Fairly expensive compared to other options
4. SUNDANZER Solar-Powered Refrigerator
This solar-powered refrigerator by Sundanzer is much more spacious than other products presented here. With a capacity of 8 cubic feet (or just under 240 Quarts), it’s also significantly heavier, but can still be moved given the right equipment. Overall, it is the perfect option for an off-grid cabin or even a boat, if enough space is available.
The minimum setup required to run this fridge includes an 80W solar panel, a 110Ah battery, and a 15A charge controller for battery protection. The motor is highly efficient, which means the fridge is not likely to run out of electricity overnight when properly charged. Otherwise, during days when the solar panel is not exposed to enough sunlight, the fridge can be connected to a car or boat port.
- Considerably more spacious than other solar-powered refrigerators
- An efficient motor that requires no more than 80W PV input from solar panels
- Can be charged in multiple ways
- No freezer function
5. COLEMAN 40-Qt Portable Cooler
Although this model by Coleman is technically a cooler, rather than a refrigerator, it can nevertheless keep beverages and perishables at a low temperature when used properly. At the same time, it is much more affordable than other products on our list, so if you’re on a tight budget, it might just be the best option for you.
With a capacity of 40 Quarts, this cooler weighs no more than 17.4lb, so it is quite easy to transport during road trips, as well as camping and fishing trips. When used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it can keep its contents up to 40ºF cooler than the surrounding environment. The door of this unit opens from either side to allow for more flexibility in terms of placement, while the 8ft power cord is long enough to facilitate a good connection to a remote solar panel.
- Much more affordable than other options
- Much lighter than other options
- Can keep contents cool if placed in an environment with average to low temperatures
- Cannot cool/freeze contents as well as a refrigerator
How Do Solar Powered Refrigerators Work?
Like with solar cookers and ovens, the technology behind solar-powered refrigerators is essentially the same as with the traditional fridge. A vapour-compression cooling system is used to condense a type of refrigerant gas, like ammonia or sulfur dioxide, which then absorbs all the heat around it as it cools down and travels to a lower-pressure area.
There is, however, one crucial difference having to do with where the power comes from. In the case of a solar-powered freezer, a PV panel setup provides the energy, rather than the connection to a grid. Like solar grills, these types of refrigerators are quite common in areas where electricity is inaccessible and they are frequently used for the conservation of medical supplies and vaccines in the field.
What You Need to Run a Solar Powered Freezer/Refrigerator?
Unfortunately, and unlike accessories like solar dehydrators, solar-powered refrigerators don’t usually come with everything you need to plug and play. The technology might be affordable, but it’s not yet ideal. There are several things you will need to keep track of or purchase separately in order to get your solar powered fridge up and running.
The Right Refrigerator
Because maintaining a refrigerator takes a lot of electricity, the best product is usually the one that can deliver the most amount of cooling with the least amount of power. Just like with solar attic fans! Therefore, ensuring that your freezer is as energy efficient as possible is the only way to guarantee you’ll be able to keep your items cool and in mint condition.
The Solar Panel(s)
You’ll obviously need a solar panel to go with the solar fridge. The former needs to be capable of generating at least 80W to 100W. Generally, as with a solar air conditioner, the more watts, the better. A higher PV output offers an increased efficiency per exposure time to light, which translates into more cooling time for your drinks and food.
A Powerful Battery
Ideally, if you find yourself living off the grid (and if you’re doing this, consider these solar curtains as well), it’s worth building a battery bank with several accumulators wired in parallel, ready to store precious sunlight into electricity. Once full, excess sunlight can be directly fed into the fridge. Also, don’t forget about the charge controller, as it will help maintain the longevity of your batteries by preventing overcharge.
Although slightly more complicated than a normal fridge, solar-powered freezers are a viable and affordable alternative for those who either live off the grid or who want to cut down on their electricity costs. With this information in mind, you are now ready to choose the best solar fridge, PV panel, and batteries for your needs. And make sure to keep an eye out for new uses and designs, like this solar refrigerator that uses salt during off-hours or this one that keeps mangoes cold in Kenya.