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Power a mini fridge with solar; Can it be done?

If you had the opportunity to have a chat with an over the road truck driver you’d discover that one of the most useful appliances that they keep in their sleeper area is a mini fridge. But having enough energy to power a mini fridge can sometimes be an issue. 

Power a mini fridge with solar

Here’s a crazy thought; Can you power a mini fridge with solar power?

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A refrigerator is an appliance that is taken for granted at home, but a true luxury out there on the road. 

There is no substitute for instant access to fresh food, or the ability to store awesome re-prepared meals so you can save money. 

Now, before you get any ideas, you won’t be able to lug around a full-sized fridge with you. Not only are they dreadfully heavy, but they are energy guzzlers. Stick one of those in a semi truck or RV, and you won’t be able to power anything else. You can use a mini-fridge, though.

Can I Run a Mini-Fridge With Solar Power?

Yes, but each mini fridge will have its own specific power requirements. Consult the owner’s manual of your device before purchasing and using solar power equipment. 

This means that while one solar panel will keep a mini-fridge fully powered, another may not. In theory, all fridges (including the ones that you have in your kitchen) can run on solar panel. It is just a case of giving them enough power.

The fridge will tell you the amount of power that it requires. This will be listed as watts. So, if your mini-fridge said it needed 100-watts of power an hour (listed as W/H), then you know that the solar panel needs to be providing at least that per hour. To keep it running all day, there would need to be 2,400-watts of power. If you have solar panels and a battery system capable of generating that sort of power, then the mini-fridge will run. It is simple…sort of.

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Things do get a bit more complicated as a mini-fridge requires more power to turn on than to run. So, if you are constantly turning your mini-fridge on and off, then the power requirements will be higher. You should also remember that the solar panel can only produce power when there is sunshine (peak production times for a solar panel only extend to around 4-5 hours a day). This means that all of the power that your mini-fridge needs should be generated in those 4-5 hours.

So, long story short. You absolutely can run a mini-fridge on solar power…assuming you have large and efficient enough solar panels. 

How Many Solar Panels Will It Take To Run a Mini-Fridge?

This is where things get complicated. It could take one solar panel to keep a mini-fridge running, or it could take dozens. It will all be dependent on how much power the solar panel is able to produce per hour. You can find out more here.

You are going to need two pieces of information here:

  • The wattage of your solar panel
  • The power requirements for your mini-fridge. This will list power requirements per hour.

Now, there are some websites that make things needlessly complicated here. They will have you carrying out all sorts of complicated calculations. I am going to try and keep things simple.

Start by multiplying the wattage of your solar panel by 5. This is because there is an average of around 5 hours per day of peak sunshine for solar panels, so we can expect that solar panel to generate at least that amount of power. Chances are that it will generate more power daily, but you don’t want to ‘over predict’. Let’s say you have a 200W solar panel. This means 1000W per day.

Install a battery monitor before you hit the road. It will give you your power consumption as well as give you how many amp hours were used by your battery.
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Divide this figure by 24. This is because we are going to need to store some power to keep that fridge running even when it is dark. In this case, the 200W solar panel, assuming the power is being stored, will give us around 40W an hour.

If your fridge uses 40W an hour of power, then fantastic! If it uses more, then you would need to add some more solar panels to the mix.

Things can get a little bit more complicated when you throw voltages into the mix, but I suggest you don’t worry too much about that. Most solar panels will tell you the exact number of watts per hour they are capable of producing, and that is all that you need to pay attention to.

Remember, solar panels can be combined. Sometimes multiple small solar panels will be more efficient than a single large one. The exact number of solar panels you require will be dependent on the energy requirements of your mini-fridge (the number of watts they consume). 200W of power can easily be supplied by a single 200W solar panel or 10 x 20W solar panels.

Will a 100W Solar Panel Run a Mini-Fridge

Perhaps. It will be highly dependent on the power requirements for your mini-fridge. On average, a 100W solar panel will produce 500W of power per day. If your mini-fridge requires under 500-Watts of power per day, it will run. If it requires more, it won’t run.

Somewhere on your fridge (or in the user manual), it will tell you the number of watts that the fridge requires to run per hour. You need that number to be lower than the total amount of power produced by the solar panel.

You have to remember that a solar panel will only be producing power for 4.5 hours a day. This means that all of the power requirements for your fridge need to be generated in around 1/6th of the day. Most 100-Watt solar panels will give you around 400-500W of power per day. This means that the single panel will produce enough to give you 16-watts of power per hour. If the power requirements for the mini-fridge are higher than that, the solar panel wouldn’t be able to generate enough power to keep it running.

Remember, you can’t just connect a solar panel up to a fridge. It would only power the fridge during sunlight hours. Instead, you will need to have a battery hooked up to the solar panel. This way excess power is stored. This will allow you to keep the fridge running, even when the sun has long since set.

Should You Have a Separate Solar Panel System For Your MIni-Fridge?

While it isn’t 100% necessary, I suggest that you do. With most appliances in your RV, you can probably make-do if they are down for a few hours. It isn’t a massive deal. A mini-fridge having the power cut off for a few hours? Say goodbye to all of your food.

I find that setting up separate panels and battery systems for your mini-fridge work wonders. It means that you don’t have to plan for other appliances in your RV sucking away the power. You will always know that the mini-fridge is going to get the power that it needs.

One of the major benefits of planning a separate power system for your mini-fridge is the ability to choose the exact system to meet your mini-fridge power requirements. You will know how much power your mini-fridge consumes. You will know how much power your solar panel system can pump out each day. You will know how much power you need to store in those batteries.

Setting up an individual solar panel system shouldn’t take too much effort, nor is it all that expensive. It will benefit you a lot, though.

Power a mini fridge with solar… Final Word

You absolutely can power a mini-fridge with solar. However, you have to ensure that the solar panel is able to meet the power requirements for your mini-fridge. You will also need to have some way to store excess power so that the mini-fridge can continue to be powered, even if the solar panel is no longer generating power. 

Thankfully, working out how much power you need per hour is dead simple. The fridge will tell you. Find a solar panel that can meet the hourly power requirements, and you are golden.

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