A blog about outdoor adventure and Vanlife

ARB Fridge/Freezer- Long(ish) term review

We’ve had the ARB Fridge Freezer for almost two years now, and it has performed very well for us.

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Miss Daisy is excited about a fridge full of dog snax!

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.

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The ARB in our first campervan (a DIY Ford E-350 conversion).

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.

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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.

Pics

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.

Power consumption

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.

Insulating

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.

Pros

  • 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.
  • Portable.
  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

3 Responses »

  1. How did the combo of the ARB fridge and goal zero 1250 without solar work for you? I’m looking at just that combo, given that our electric needs are predominantly the fridge, LEDs, Garmin charging, and water pump.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our experience with the ARB with the Yeti 1250 was okay, but we had a 150 watt solar panel. We did have a few problems wit it when camped in the shade for a few days. (The startup electrical usage of the ARB to turn on the compressor is higher than it’s running voltage).

      Here’s a simple way to get the Yeti 1250 to work better with the ARB without risking a dead vehicle starting battery.

      – Install a 12V ignition switched outlet installed in your vehicle (You’ll want this 12V outlet to only come on when the vehicle is running). It’s a pretty basic job as far as 12V electrical is concerned, but ignition relays are just outside my comfort zone.
      – Buy a cheap, small 120V inverter (I used a 150 watt inverter from Amazon for about $20)
      – Plug in the Goal Zero 120V charger to the switched 12V outlet. and into one of the input ports of the GZ.
      – The GZ 120V charger charges at only 68 Watts, but will charge anytime the vehicle is running. This isn’t perfect, but will definitely extend the usage time of your Yeti dramatically. I vaguely remember that the charge time of the Yeti via the 120V charger is 18 hours- very slow.

      This is hugely inefficient but works. (Going from 12V to 120V back to 12V via the GZ charger seems ridiculous). But you’ll be recharging the Yeti anytime the vehicle is running, and not having to remember to unplug or turn off the inverter. I tried to use one of the high power charging ports on the back of the Yeti but didn’t have much success (I even bought a 150watt 12-24V step up adapter).

      Because we often camp off grid and well off the beaten path, I am very careful about not using the vehicle starting battery for camping usage. Many 12V outlets in vehicles stay on when the car is off, which can kill your starter battery in a hurry if charging your Yeti of running the ARB (even with the low voltage cut out).

      The other option is to install a battery isolator and play with charging the GZ from one of the back input ports. Then again, the beauty of the Yeti is it’s plug and play simplicity, and you might as well go for a true house battery system at this point.

      Hope that helps.

      Like

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