Let’s be honest, for most people that are touring around in an RV, a fridge is an absolute necessity. In fact, for many, it may be the only electrical necessity that they need to be running.
As a result, a lot of people wonder whether a 100-watt solar panel i.e. one of the smaller solar panels that you can buy, will be enough to run that fridge. That is what we are going to take a look at on this page.
So, can a 100-watt solar panel run a refrigerator? No. A 100-watt solar panel cannot run a refrigerator permanently. Even the fridges that have been designed specifically for RVs tend to be over 100-watts. 100-watts solar power would only ever provide about 5-amps of power an hour, and that is only when it is in direct sunlight.
Can a 100-Watt Solar Panel Run a Refrigerator?
Maybe. Although, probably not. It depends on the type of refrigerator that you are running.
Perhaps the easiest way to tell whether your 100-watt solar panel will run that refrigerator is to actually just check the fridge. It will list the wattage on it. If it is over 100-watts, then the solar panel won’t run the fridge at all.
If the fridge doesn’t list the wattage, then it will list a voltage and an amperage. Multiply the two together, and you have the wattage for the refrigerator. We are certain that no matter what you do, it is always going to be over 100-watts.
So, even if the fridge claims that it is under 100-watts, you do have to remember that the solar panel is not going to be able to provide all of the power that it needs at all times.
This leads us neatly onto the next section.
Read also: What Size Solar Panel To Charge 100ah Battery? (Explained)
Do I Need a Battery?
You will always need to have a battery for your fridge. Remember, a solar panel is only going to be able to provide power for 6-hours of the day. There may be a couple of hours a day where it is not performing at the peak, but still providing a small amount of power.
However, eventually, that power is going to stop. When that sun sets or the clouds get a bit too much coverage, then the solar panel wouldn’t be enough to power the fridge at all.
This means that there may be upward of 16-hours a day where your fridge can’t draw all of the power that it needs from the solar panel.
Solar panels, nor fridges, can store power that they aren’t using. Therefore, if you don’t have your own way of storing the power, then it is going to be lost. Thankfully, batteries are there for you. They are going to be able to store the excess power.
So, when the sun goes down, your fridge can continue to be powered. The batteries will also be there to help ensure that the fridge has a constant source of power if the solar panel is struggling with generating the right amount.
The fact that a battery needs to be charged is another reason why a 100-watt solar panel is not going to be able to power a fridge.
Even if the fridge is rated for 100-watts, the fridge would be consuming all of the power from the solar panel, and the solar panel wouldn’t be able to store any excess power for later on.
Once again, this means that when the sun goes down, the power will die.
Read also: Should an RV Inverter Be Left On? Does it Hurt the Battery?
Do I Need an Inverter?
Do I Need an Inverter? Yes. If the fridge is a 110V fridge as opposed to a 12V/24V fridge, then you will need to use an inverter. The power produced by the solar panel won’t be the right power for the fridge and, as a result, it will need to be converted over.
When you are looking for an inverter for a fridge, you need to make sure that the inverter that you select is 15x higher than the wattage of the fridge. This is because the fridge is not going to be constantly operating at the stated wattage.
When it gets turned on, and when it is cooling down, it is going to be a massive power draw. You need to know that your inverter is going to be able to draw the required power. Again, another reason why you should be using a battery.
The solar panel may not be able to cope with this massive power draw, but the battery will probably be able to do so.
If you have a standard 12V or 24V fridge for your RV i.e. one of the smaller ones that have been designed for camping, then chances are that you probably do not need to have an inverter. It can be plugged straight into the battery power.
Read also: How Many Batteries Do I Need for My Inverter? [Incl. 8 Examples]
What Wattage of Solar Panel for a Fridge?
Hopefully, you will have a rough idea about the wattage of the fridge in your RV. If you don’t, then look at the label. We are positive that it will be listed there. If it is not, then multiply the amps by the volts and you have the answer. However, for this section, we want to focus mainly on the amps.
The amps will be the amount of power that the appliance draws per hour. So, if it is 5-amps, then the fridge will need to have 5-amps of power being sent to each hour. Incidentally, this is the amount of power that a 100-watt solar panel will provide.
So, since you know the fridge requires 5-amps of power an hour, you can multiply this by 24. After all, your fridge will be running for 24-hours a day. In this example, the fridge would require 360-amps of power over the course of the day.
Your fridge may require a little more, or a little less. Look at the amps listed on the fridge and multiply this by 24. However, we will be sticking with the 5-amps per hour example here.
As we said before, a solar panel is only going to be able to effectively work for around 6-hours per day. So, in this example, you would need to be able to get 360-amps produced over those 6-hours.
30-amps will be powering the fridge in this time, and 330amps will need to be stored. This means that we need a solar panel that is able to produce 60-amps an hour.
Finally, since we know that every 100-watts of solar power produces 6-amps or so, this would mean that you would need 1000-watts of solar panels to power a fridge that draws 5-amps an hour. You would also need a couple of 200-amp batteries.
Chances are that your fridge won’t be anywhere near the 5-amp mark, though. Most RV fridges are going to be between 2 and 4 amps. They may have a lower power consumption during the day, though. If you want to work out how many watts you need, then here is some guided instructions for you:
- Find out the AH of your fridge. This will be listed as amps or ah on the fridge.
- Multiply this by 24
- Divide this number by six
- Divide by 5
- The number that you get is the number of 100w solar panels you need or, at least, can produce multiples of 100-watts of power.
So, let’s say it is a 2-amp fridge:
- 2-amp fridge
- 48-amps per day
- 8-amps per hour required
- 160-watt solar panel required
Of course, this is without factoring in the fact that other items in your RV will likely need to be powered too. However, we are willing to bet that your fridge is going to be the biggest power drain in the RV. After all, it is the fridge that is going to be turned on the vast majority of the time, if not all the time.
This is also assuming that you are using newer lithium-ion batteries as opposed to older lead batteries. If you are using lead batteries, then they cannot be drained by more than 50%.
This means that you will need to increase all of the numbers up there by 50% to ensure that you are not damaging your battery.
Remember, it is in your best interests to try and ensure that the fridge is constantly powered. If the power cuts out, then it is going to require a huge amount of power to turn back on again.
This is going to mess up all of those calculations. We know that it seems complicated, but it really isn’t. All you need to know is that the RV fridge is probably going to require a whole lot more than a 100-watt solar panel unless you are running a cheaper RV fridge, some of which may only require 50-watts of power.
However, even then, you are still going to need to be storing that power at some point, and thus you will need a higher wattage solar panel than 100-watts, combined with a battery. if you don’t, then the fridge won’t last the night.
Will It Solar? – Mini Dorm Fridge >> Check out the video below:
Running a Mini Fridge on Solar Power
What kind of Mini Fridge I can run on solar power? The Dometic CFX 40W 12v Electric Powered Portable Cooler can be run on solar power. It is highly flexible and can refrigerate or freeze up to -7oF (-22oC).
The cooling temperature in the compartment may be monitored and controlled by the WiFi app (except the CFX28 and CFX65D). It comes with a 2-year warranty and 3 stage battery protection.
Power Consumption For Electrical Appliances
Here in the chart below you can see the average power consumption for electrical appliances:
|RV and Camping Appliances||Rates Watts (running)|
|RV Roof-Top AC (15,000 BTU)||2,000 W|
|RV Roof-Top AC (13,500 BTU)||1,500 W|
|RV Roof-Top AC (11,000 BTU)||1,010 W|
|Electric Water Heater (6 Gal.)||1,440 W|
|Clothes Washer||1,150 W|
|Electric Blanket||80 W|
|Space Heater||1,800 W|
|Coffee Maker||800 W|
|Electric Grill||1,650 W|
|Toaster||850 – 1,250 W|
|Dorm Size Refrigerator||350 W|
|12″ B&W TV||30 W|
|27″ Color TV||500 W|
|Satellite Dish & Receiver||30 W|
|Battery Charger (Cell Phone)||25 W|
|Inflator Pump||50 W|
How Do You Buy a Solar Panel?
By now, you should already have a rough idea about the wattage that you need. You should also know the amperage that you need to be able to generate per hour.
To start with, you can narrow your choices down by the wattage that you need. For example, if you know you need a 300-watt solar panel, then you will know that you only need to be looking at 300-watt solar panels.
As you go through them, you will notice that each of them offers a slightly different AH. So, make sure that you choose a solar panel that is able to pump out the amount of power that you need per hour.
In fact, you should try to go a little bit above this. After all, the power from solar panels can be inconsistent at times and you probably want as little downtime as possible with your fridge.
If you are wondering whether a 100-watt solar panel can run a refrigerator, the answer is that it probably cannot.
Even if the fridge is rated to run at 100-watts, there will be times that it is drawing a whole lot more power than this.
You also would not be able to store enough power to keep that fridge running when the solar panel isn’t running.
In an ideal world, the wattage provided by the solar panels should be at least double, even triple, the rated watts of the fridge.
If it is not, then there may be times where the fridge isn’t getting all of the power that it needs, causing it to shut down.
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