Caravan Fridge: Compressor vs. 3-Way Refrigerator

A caravan fridge is one of the most important appliances for your leisure vehicle. Since food is a common necessity while caravanning, it’s crucial to have a fridge where you can store your food supplies to keep them fresh. When shopping for a portable caravan fridge, you will often see two popular options: a compressor (also known as a 2-way refrigerator), and a 3-way refrigerator.

Common Types of Portable Caravan Fridges

Here are the common types of portable caravan fridges, what they are, how they work, and the benefits and drawbacks of each type:

Compressor Refrigerators

What They are and How They Work

The majority of portable refrigerators are compressor refrigerators, which are also known as 2-way refrigerators. A compressor refrigerator has a small compressor unit that generates its cooling power, and this is where it gets its name. It is also called a 2-way refrigerator because it usually has two ways of providing power to the compressor: through a 12-volt battery or through the 240-volt mains power.

Portable refrigerator with AC and DC power options, ideal for home and camping use
Pros of Using Compressor Refrigerators:
  • Compressor refrigerators can operate efficiently using a 12-volt battery.
  • They can operate well on any types of terrain, whether flat or on an incline.
  • Compressor refrigerators have a more powerful compressor motor; hence, they have the ability to cool more consistently and chill down to lower temperatures.
  • Their powerful compressor motors allow the 2-way refrigerators to work as freezers.
Cons of Using Compressor Refrigerators:
  • Some compressor fridges produce audible noises when the compressor is running.
  • Extra equipment is necessary so you can use your compressor refrigerator while not connected to the mains power. You’ll need a battery and solar panels or generators, so you can charge your battery.
  • If you plan to go on a long holiday, you’ll need to recharge your battery from time to time to keep your compressor fridge running.
3-Way Refrigerators
What They are and How They Work

Another type of portable caravan fridge is a 3-way fridge. 3-way refrigerators have three ways of generating power: through a 12-volt battery, a 240-volt mains power, or an LPG gas cylinder. Unlike compressor fridges, 3-way refrigerators do not have a compressor unit as a means of cooling. Their cooling power comes from a gas flow exchange system, which is located at the back of the fridge. The gas flow exchange system extracts heat from the back of the fridge and uses it to cool the internal temperature.

Compressor refrigerators provide reliable cooling for various uses
Pros of 3-Way Refrigerators:
  • Since 3-way refrigerators can work using a standard 9-liter LPG gas bottle, it’s not really required to invest in batteries and other charging equipment.
  • A 3-way refrigerator will operate for weeks using a standard 9-liter LPG gas bottle. This is an affordable and efficient way of providing power to your portable caravan fridge, which is ideal for a long caravanning getaway.
  • Unlike noisy compressors, the gas flow exchange system does not make noise when running.
Cons of 3-Way Refrigerators:
  • The gas flow exchange cooling system requires the 3-way fridge to remain level at all times. Thus, this type of caravan fridge is not recommended for those who plan to constantly move around, especially those who plan to travel on rough roads and uneven terrains.
  • Storing the 3-way fridge in a place with good ventilation is required for safety purposes. It is not recommended to store in an enclosed place because it usually operates on gas.
  • If you plan to run your 3-way fridge using a 12-volt battery, it may not be as efficient as a compressor fridge operating on the same battery power. Also, 3-way refrigerators tend to drain batteries faster.
  • Unlike compressor fridges, 3-way refrigerators are usually affected by the ambient temperature and cannot chill down to lower temperatures. They can only cool down to a certain level below the ambient temperature outside.
Which Type of Caravan Fridge Suits You Best?

Deciding which type of caravan fridge is best for you actually depends on several factors, such as your budget, usage or purpose, personal preferences or priorities, and travel plans.

Spacious Bushman fridge for your caravan, featuring efficient cooling and convenient storage
  • Compressor Refrigerators are Best for:
    • People who prioritise heavy-duty and consistent cooling. Compressor refrigerators are able to cool down to very low temperatures consistently, regardless of the outdoor ambient temperatures. This means a compressor refrigerator is the best option if you intend to carry frozen perishables while travelling.
    • People who plan to travel to remote areas. Compressor fridges do not require level ground to function efficiently, making it the best choice for those who plan to go to remote areas, and drive on rough roads and nasty terrains.
  • People who are willing to invest in batteries and equipment as a means of charging. Since compressor fridges need to use either the mains  or a 12-volt battery power, you should be willing to invest in battery and charging equipment. Also, you should be willing to recharge your batteries repeatedly, especially if you plan to go on a long caravanning holiday.
3-Way Refrigerators are Best for:
  • People who plan to spend long periods of time travelling. 3-way refrigerators can operate using a standard 9-liter LPG gas, which can last up to three weeks.
  • People who don’t want to spend for charging equipment. With its ability to run on LPG mode, using a 3-way fridge means you don’t need to invest in batteries and charging equipment, such as a solar panel or generator. An LPG gas bottle is all you need (and a few refills), which is not extremely expensive.
  • People who don’t need heavy-duty cooling. Because 3-way fridges operate based on the outdoor ambient temperature, it’s not recommended for caravanners who plan to bring highly perishable supplies. If you don’t need heavy-duty cooling, this type of caravan fridge is perfect.
  • People who plan to travel on smooth roads and stay on level grounds. This is the major drawback of using a 3-way refrigerator — it doesn’t work efficiently on uneven terrains. In fact, it needs level ground to function properly. So it is best for caravanners who plan to mainly stay on level-ground campsites rather than travel on the road.
Caravan FridgCaravan refrigerator interior showcasing adjustable shelves, compartments, and LED lighting for organized food storagees
Caravan Fridge Maintenance

Once you have chosen and bought the type of caravan fridge that’s best for you, make sure to have it checked and maintained regularly together with your entire caravan, to ensure that it’s always in its best condition. When it comes to caravan maintenance, only trust the experts.

For inquiries about caravan fridges and other caravan parts, equipment, and accessories, call AllBrand Caravan Services and our skilled professionals will be happy to serve you.

Get in touch with us today at (07) 3869 2969, visit our workshop in 113 Connaught Street Sandgate, QLD, 4017, or send a message.

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