8 Best Refrigerators for Off-Grid Living
Whether you are looking to go on a weekend wilderness adventure or raise your family on a fully off-grid homestead, we’ve found the eight best off-grid refrigerator models to meet everyone’s needs. You can even use one fridge to heat your food!
8 Best Off-Grid Fridge Models
When looking for the best refrigerator for off-grid living, the choices can be overwhelming. You have propane-powered refrigerators, DC fridges, regular iceboxes, and even thermoelectric coolers.
How do you know which one is suitable for your refrigeration needs?
Just like there are the best washing machines for off-grid living, there are the best off-grid refrigerators as well, and we found them for you.
Check out this handy chart to see all your options.
Still unsure which is the best off-grid fridge for you? Continue reading for everything you need to know about each model on our list.
Finding the right fridge for full-time off-grid living is hard. Often, you’re limited to awkward designs or incredibly expensive solar refrigerators. But not the Unique UGP-275L Solar Fridge.
Say bye-bye to awkward chest-style fridges. With retro styling and bottom mount freezer, you would never guess this wasn’t a regular old AC refrigerator. Plus, this solar refrigerator features everything you would expect from the most energy-efficient refrigerators and more, which is why it tops our review roundup as the best solar refrigerator for off-grid living.
With ten cubic square feet of space, you will never be wondering how to fit your carrots and broccoli. The fridge and freezer combo has adjustable shelves and drawers, making it easier and faster to find your food – you aren’t wasting valuable energy generated by your solar panel system!
But even if your kid (or you) likes to hang out staring into the fridge, don’t worry. A state-of-the-art DC compressor and thick insulation mean that your fridge gets cold and maintains cold temperatures without using too much battery power.
Now, if your batteries do get low because of lack of sun or overuse (it happens to the best of us), it has a safety feature that will turn the device off. That way, you don’t have to worry about damaging your solar power system.
Once the sun is out and the battery voltage gets higher, the fridge will automatically turn on.
The last thing you want after a long day on the road is to arrive at your off-grid cabin and have to wait for the fridge to get cold. With the ICECO VL60 Off-Grid Refrigerator, you don’t have to.
This compact solar fridge is an affordable option if you are looking for a battery-powered fridge.
You can even take it to your next outdoor adventure. You can throw the ICECO into the back of your truck bed (it’s specially designed to fit there) and turn it on as you head out into the wilderness.
Don’t worry about spoiling your packed food. The ICELO has a SECOPS compressor, which is designed for mobile refrigeration. This fridge can even function at a 40-degree tilt!
Use the heavy-duty handles to unload it into your cabin. It’s ideal for a short stay in the woods. With dual zones, you can pack the fridge side full of beer and cold drinks and keep the meat frozen separately.
While this is perfect for an off-grid adventure, you may find that it is not large enough for full-time use.
Off-grid living comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do off-grid refrigerators. The EZ-19W Propane Off-Grid Refrigerator is the largest fridge on our list and also the most expensive. But don’t let the price fool you!
This best propane refrigerator with fridge freezer combo connects to your propane line (or tank) rather than being battery-powered like a DC refrigerator. So, while it doesn’t require the investment in solar panels and batteries, it does require that you continually purchase propane. Luckily, propane refrigerators are energy efficient, making them perfect for energy-saving homes.
Other than the difference in cooling technology, you would never know this wasn’t a regular refrigerator. It has a large top freeze with the capacity for 50 lbs of ice, and the fridge doors can hold five one-gallon jugs. That’s enough for a large family or a homestead that produces a lot of food!
Off-grid adventures sometimes call for portable cooling options. I mean, really, who wants to lug a fridge down to the river for a fishing trip?
If you want the portability of an ice chest combined with the cooling power of a battery-powered fridge, check out the Bouger Solar Refrigerator.
While it looks a lot like an ice chest, this “cooler” features a compressor just like the other solar power refrigerators out there. You can connect it to your car batteries, hook it with your solar panels, or directly plug it into AC power.
With both a fridge and a freezing zone, you can bring in plenty of food and drink to fish for days. Then pack it full with your catch when you head home.
If you don’t have luck fishing, don’t blame the fridge. The super quiet compressor isn’t scaring the fish away. And with three-stage battery protection, your food stays cold, and your car will always start when you are ready to return home.
While having a portable refrigerator is cool, it can be expensive. If you want to keep your food cold but can’t afford the high-tech options, sometimes an old-fashioned ice chest will do the trick. Don’t worry. Ice chests nowadays have pretty high-tech cooling technology in them.
For the best cooler, we gave the award to the Coleman Rolling Cooler – it is not your grandfather’s ice chest! It has an insulated lid and extra insulation – way more than coolers had when you were a kid. So much so that the Coleman Rolling Cooler can keep your food cold for up to five days!
And it uses zero power. There are no cables to connect, no fuss, no muss. Just pack it full of ice, and you’re ready to be on your way.
Even if you are heading into the deep woods, its telescopic handle and robust wheels make it easy to bring this cooler off the beaten path. And you can scratch one chair off your packing list because this cooler doubles as a seat.
Propane is an excellent choice if you aren’t looking to make a large investment in solar. But large propane fridges can be expensive too. Luckily, the Smad XCD275- Propane Off-Grid Refrigerator can help you get started in propane-powered refrigeration without putting a dent in your bank account.
It has a small footprint, but it still manages to feature both a spacious fridge and freezer. It is even tall enough to fit large bottles. And those are not even the best quality of this fridge!
While you can run this fridge on propane, you can also hook it up to either DC solar energy or conventional AC power. This power source flexibility is convenient if you’re thinking about getting some solar panels in the future or you want a backup in case you forgot to refill your propane tank!
- Capacity: 49L
- Type: Thermoelectric
- Consumption: 48W
- Temperature: Cools up to 40℉, Warms up to 149℉
At first glance, you can mistake the Kooltron Krusader P85 Thermoelectric Refridgerator for a plain old icebox. But don’t let its looks deceive you. This best iceless cooler has the power to turn you into a hero.
While not the most energy-efficient cooling system out there, thermoelectric provides more versatility than your standard refrigerator. You can use it to heat and keep food cold!
Think how impressed your family will be when you show up with a hot dish at the family picnic. You pull up, and they see the cooler in the car. They’re expecting cold potato salad – again.
But surprise! Out comes a hot potato casserole, and everyone stares in wonder!
That’s not all. After you serve dinner, you can switch it to cold. You can stock it full of drinks and have cold beer and soda late into the night. And because it doesn’t require ice to keep it cold, you can keep more drinks for everyone!
Seems too good to be true? Check out this video to see how thermoelectric cooling works:
While SunDanzer is known for the chest freezer-style solar refrigerators, the Sundanzer DCRF290 model resembles a traditional refrigerator with a fridge and a freezer.
It also has a sleek stainless steel finish and a top-mounted freezer, adding style to your kitchen.
But this fridge isn’t just about looks. The DCRF290 is way easier to use than SunDanzer’s chest-style fridges. You don’t have to dig around into the dark unknown depths hoping to find a carrot. Everything is right there, easy to see. That means your fridge will stay open less, and you waste less power.
Not that you need to worry too much about that. Despite the change in style, you will still get the same energy efficiency that SunDanzer solar refrigerators are known for.
While this fridge freezer combo doesn’t have the same capacity as other solar refrigerators we’ve reviewed, it is an excellent choice for a weekend cabin or a small home.
Your Buying Guide to the Best Refrigerator For Off-Grid Living
Off-grid can refer to many different situations – from a small off-grid forest cabin that gets weekend use to a sustainable prefab home. Heck, even RVs and tiny homes may need an off-grid fridge.
And each of these situations is going to have different refrigeration needs.
We’ve reviewed DC solar fridges, propane fridges, Thermoelectric fridges, and even included a cooler – so there is something for every situation. We’ll examine the difference between the types of refrigeration and how the installation, cost, maintenance, efficiency, and size can affect your buying decision.
You may be thinking to yourself, installation? How much can there be to installing a fridge? You just unbox it and plug it in, right? Well, not exactly.
DC fridges like the Unique Solar Refrigerator run directly off your solar batteries, so you will need to connect them to your solar system rather than run them through an AC inverter. On the other hand, propane fridges need to be connected to a tank or propane line and need a regulator. You may need professional installation if it’s your first time using a propane-powered fridge.
With coolers, you just unbox them, wipe them off, and they are ready to go.
Off-grid refrigeration doesn’t come cheap. Ice chests are going to be your most affordable option, followed by a thermoelectric cooler.
But what about solar and propane?
At first glance, solar-powered refrigerators, like the Unique solar refrigerator, seem less expensive than an equal size propane fridge. However, that’s only true if you already have a solar system large enough to power a fridge. (And even energy-efficient refrigerators are power hogs). Plus, on average, you need to replace your solar batteries between 5-15 years (1).
Even if you have a solar system, you may need to buy more panels and batteries, or even a backup generator, to power a refrigerator.
Propane fridges like the EZ EZ-19W Propane Refrigerator can be some of the most expensive fridges out there. However, once you factor in additional solar costs, propane may wind up being the more affordable choice.
When it comes to fridge maintenance, coolers are the easiest since they are small and don’t have mechanical parts. However, you want to be careful with hinges, handles, and wheels, as these are the weak parts. If they do break, the chest can still keep things cool.
The same can be said about thermoelectric coolers (2).
“A thermoelectric cooling system has few moving parts and no filters or oil, so it is virtually maintenance free, with the only moving parts being the fans used to circulate the air across the heat sinks.”
Just wipe it down with a cloth, paying attention to the fan area. That’s all.
With a solar-powered fridge, you will want to clean the condenser coils periodically and make sure the gasket stays clean (3). Condensation occurs more often in a stationary solar refrigerator. So, be prepared to clean more.
On the other hand, propane fridges require attention around the flue. And since it is powered by a highly flammable material, it’s always best to make sure there are no leaks. You can also grab a propane detector alarm.
If you don’t already have a solar power system, it can seem like a large upfront cost to power a solar fridge. But once you get past the initial investment, there are no further energy costs accrued – All your power comes from the sun, a completely renewable resource (5).
“The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year.”
While we can’t harness all the sun’s power, we can store plenty of it in DC batteries. You can also run thermoelectric coolers from a DC power source, but they are less efficient than proper solar-powered refrigerators.
A propane fridge is a good option if you don’t budget to invest in a solar array. However, when you factor in the long-term costs of propane, you will find that it isn’t as efficient as using the sun.
Since ice chests don’t use any power source, you’ll have no other choice but to purchase ice and refill to keep the ideal temperature range. They are good in a pinch or for a few days, but they aren’t a good long-term solution.
It can be hard to decide how big you need your off-grid refrigerator to be. Step one is to honestly evaluate how much food and drink you think you will need to be storing there.
Ice chests and thermoelectric coolers will hold a lot less than a stand-up refrigerator with a freezer. A cooler is good for the weekend but probably won’t cut it if you want to feed your family on your off-grid homestead.
It can be confusing when comparing the capacity as some fridges are measured in liters and others in cubic feet.
With some simple math, you can be comparing apples to apples. One cubic foot is equal to 28.3 liters (4). So let’s convert the Unique Solar Fridge to liters as an example. It has a capacity of 10 Cu. Ft., so it makes the math super easy.
10 cu ft X 28.3= 283 liters
Now, let’s compare that to something measured in liters. The ICECO refrigerator is 60 liters. So the Unique Refrigerator is more than four times larger than the ICECO.
The best off-grid refrigerator if you don’t have any power is a propane-powered refrigerator. Solar-powered refrigerators are also an option, but they require that you purchase solar panels, batteries, and a charger controller to run.
No, a solar-powered refrigerator does not require an inverter. DC refrigerators run directly off your batteries rather than running off AC power. This makes them more energy efficient than an AC refrigerator, where the power is being converted through an inverter.
No, you can not plug a thermoelectric cooler into an AC outlet. This type of refrigeration only works when connected to a DC power source. You can run a thermoelectric cooler off your car battery or your solar batteries.
Yes, solar refrigerators are safe. Most solar refrigerators are fitted with safety protections and only use solar power to maintain cold temperatures. They are also safe to install and run in a residential home because you don’t have to tamper with your house’s electrical system. You just have to make sure that you connect it with solar panels and a battery backup.
- How Long Do Solar Batteries Last? Retrieved from: https://www.paradisesolarenergy.com/blog/how-long-do-solar-batteries-last
- Getting To Know Thermoelectric Cooling Technology – Part 1. Retrieved from: https://www.eicsolutions.com/thermoelectric-coolin/
- A Guide To Refrigerator Maintenace. Retrieved from: https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/repair-maintenance/guide-to-refrigerator-maintenance/
- How Do You Measure Refrigerator Liters? Retrieved from: https://kitchenseer.com/how-do-you-measure-refrigerator-liters/
- How Does Solar Work? Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/how-does-solar-work
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.