Understanding RV Fridges

Understanding RV Fridges

Understanding RV Fridges: A Guide to Three-Way and Compressor Fridges


If you’re in the market for a new caravan or upgrading your existing one, choosing the right fridge is an important decision. At Adelaide RV, our Supreme range comes standard with a Dometic 188 litre three-way fridge, while our Leader range includes a 199 Litre Thetford model. But we also offer upgrade options like compressor fridges.


In this blog, we’ll cover the key differences between three-way and compressor fridges to help you decide what’s best for your travel style and needs.

How Does a Three-Way Fridge Work?

A three-way fridge can run on 12V power when connected to your tow vehicle, LP gas, or 240V power. This versatility makes it well-suited for caravanning. Here are a few key things to know:

– The 12V power acts only as a “holding” power source to maintain temperature while driving. It does not cool down the fridge itself. Be sure your tow vehicle wiring is equipped to handle a three-way fridge.

– LP gas provides primary cooling by heating up a small chamber inside the unit. This process is slower but more efficient in hot or humid weather compared to compressor models.

– 240V lets you plug into power at holiday parks. The fridge will default to use 240V when available via its Automatic Energy Selector.


Tips for Using Your Three-Way Fridge

– Cool the fridge down fully on gas or 240V power first before switching to 12V holding power for travel. This ensures contents stay chilled.

– There’s a built-in 15-minute safety delay if switching from 12V vehicle power to gas. This prevents ignition while refueling. To override, turn the fridge off/on again.

– In hot weather, set the thermostat to maximum (typically “5”). In our Supreme and Leader caravans, there is a switch to turn on a fan behind the fridge. This will help keep the fridge motor cool and in turn, improve your fridge performance.


The Benefits of a Compressor Fridge

Compressor RV fridges work more similarly to a standard home or vehicle fridge. The compressor unit provides primary cooling, powered by the RV battery bank rather than gas.


Reasons you may want to upgrade to a compressor fridge:

– Cools down contents much faster – full in under an hour! Great for spur of the moment trips.

– More efficient in hot/humid climates compared to the heat-based cooling in three-way fridges.

– No need to carry LP gas just for fridge – one less thing to worry about.


Tips for Compressor Fridge Use

While compressor fridges have fantastic benefits, they do rely solely on your 12V battery bank for power. Some tips:

– Consider upgrading your RV batteries and solar panels to handle compressor energy demands, reducing risk of complete discharge.

– Lithium batteries can provide an even more resilient power source. Talk to us about solar and battery upgrade options.

– Remember the fridge will not work if batteries fully deplete. Plan charging sources accordingly when staying off-grid.

Your caravan also needs to be level for best performance of your fridge. Ideally no more than a 5 degree angle.


We Hope This Fridge Guide Has Been Helpful!

Understanding the differences between three-way and compressor fridges allows you to choose your perfect fit. Both can be great options – compressor fridges just require a bit more planning for off-grid power. Chat to one of our team members if you’re considering a fridge upgrade in your new or existing RV. We’re happy to help assess solar, battery, and wiring needs to make your travels seamless. Safe travels and happy camping!