We’ve had the ARB Fridge Freezer for almost two years now, and it has performed very well for us.
We bought the ARB for our first DIY campervan (a Ford E-350 conversion) and planned on taking it with us to the Sprinter DIY conversion.
Traditional camper fridges are a fine option as well, and this post isn’t about swaying anyone to buy an ARB or cooler type fridge if a traditional fridge works better in your design.
We needed a cooler type fridge for our first campervan. We ended up buying the ARB based on design features and good reviews.
ARB is primarily an off-road products company. They produce a variety of products from skid plates to compressors to winch bumpers (and fridge freezers). The ARB fridge is designed primarily to be used as an off-road fridge and is capable of running at the steep angles of off-road vehicles.
We have the 50-quart size. They are available in 37, 50, 63, and 82 quarts. You can read about all the features and specifications on the ARB website.
We’ve found that the 50 quart is perfect for 3-4 days of refrigerated food. (We eat tons of veggies so have bulky food in our fridge).
Integration into our work in progress
Like many people, our DIY campervan is a work in progress. We are building it in stages and still trying to have fun in it as well.
For a temporary location (until I build the final cabinets). I located the fridge behind the driver’s seat on top of the house battery (a 245ah AGM battery). The “cabinet” is built mostly from scrap lumber with an Ikea countertop.
Although it sits at countertop height, the plan is to build it into a cabinet behind the sliding door on a sliding track. The idea is to be able to access the fridge from outside or inside the van. We rarely cook or eat inside on our camping trips so outside fridge access would be great.
Here are some of the pics of my fridge. Lots of pics on the ARB website. The cover has faded in a couple years, but it’s functional.
According to ARB, the power consumption of the fridge is 0.7 to 2.3 Amps Per Hour
(16.8 to 55.2 Amps Required Per Day). These are total amps per hour, but the fridge doesn’t run constantly of course. 55.2 amp hours/day seems excessive, and I suspect that is running it as a freezer (at minimum temp in hot weather) and not at fridge temps.
I haven’t geeked out on tracking the actual power consumption. What I have noticed through my Victron Battery Monitor is that the fridge uses 70-75 watts (5.5-6 amps) for initial startup of the compressor and then settles in to 30-40 watt range when running. In other words, there is a short power spike when the fridge turns on. Once it reaches the set temperature, it doesn’t run very often during normal use.
The only issue we’ve ever had with the fridge is when we’ve been camped in the shade for a few days without running the van (no solar charging). We were using a Goal Zero Yeti 1250 for our power source (100 amp hour battery). When the voltage dropped on the Yeti 1250, the fridge compressor would click but didn’t have enough power to turn on. Otherwise the fridge has run perfectly.
The ARB has a metal exterior case. I could feel a bit of cold “bleed” through the metal siding. Cold on exterior parts of a fridge, equates to energy loss. We hadn’t planned on buying the (expensive) fridge cover, but I bought it as part of a plan to bump up the insulation of the ARB. I lined the inside of the ARB cloth fridge cozy with double layer Reflectix.
I have no actual data, but the fridge seems to cycle less with the cover and Reflectix.
- Works great!
- Lots of features including low voltage safety features.
- Ice Sucks! No more food swimming in melted ice water.
- 120V and 12V compatibility. You can plug the fridge in via shore power, or even use as a backup fridge at home.
- It’s quiet.
- Top opening fridges don’t dump all the cold out of the bottom the second you open them like front swinging fridges.
- In the event of a power failure, you can go back to ice as a last resort.
- Easy to clean. It has a removable drain plug and can be washed out.
- Top removes easily for cleaning.
- The feet are designed to be able to bolt down, or to bolt to ARBs optional slide tray.
- Loading isn’t as easy as a fridge with shelves.
- The upper shelf (where the compressor is housed) isn’t as cold as the rest of the fridge.
- The cooler lid can fall if you aren’t careful.
- Not convinced that the temperature gauge is totally accurate.
- It’s one of the more expensive cooler type fridge/freezers.
- Doesn’t have a separate freezer compartment for your Klondike Bars.
Overall we’ve been quite happy with the ARB. Hoping that it gives us years of service.