When working on putting solar panels on your home or campsite, there are a few numbers you should know before you jump in with both feet. These numbers let you know how much power you are using and what you will need to generate to get them working in the correct functioning order. How much solar power do you need to run a refrigerator?
A single home solar panel generates about 30 kWh per month. An average household refrigerator requires about 60 kWh to run for a month.
Finding out just how many watts are needed to keep your refrigerator going can be a difficult math problem that gives you headaches and could lead to several installs of the wrong type of product. Don’t sweat it! Read on and learn just what you need to know about running your fridge off of solar panels.
How to Calculate Wattage for the Refrigerator
People think you can charge and operate any electronic device without interruption once you have a solar panel. That’s not even close to being true. One of the things you must know out of the gate is that a charging system, especially for the home, is another large piece of the puzzle to get off-grid.
There are battery systems and other considerations that must be put into place before deciding how many panels you need. A simple search will tell you how many panels are required for the home, but a general rule of thumb is that between 20 and 40 panels must be used to power a home around the clock at all times of the year.
The steps to learning how much wattage your fridge needs are:
- Amps & Watts – Multiply amps times volts to get the watts needed to run the appliance. The initial result will give you running watts for the fridge. These are the watts required to make the machine function correctly. Another number shows how many running watts are needed to make the machine operate properly.
- Starting Watts – These are the number of amps and watts needed to make the machine turn on. A good rule of thumb is to take the result of amps and watts and multiply them by 1.5. Since a fridge is more extensive, it takes more power to get it going than to keep it going. Make sure you check these numbers before beginning any job.
Once you have the power ranges down, you will know what kind of charging system and batteries you will need to make the fridge work. You should note that a refrigerator will not run on solar panels alone. Panels are used to keep batteries charged. Not power the machines as standard electricity.
How to Run Your Refrigerator with Solar Power
Some people shy away from using their fridge on solar power. To keep cool, it requires constant power. Panels only produce energy during daylight hours. A refrigerator on solar panels could stop working at regular intervals, which means that the food inside isn’t going to be kept as cool or fresh. Having the proper solar panel set-up is critical to the process.
There are batteries on the market that will allow you to maintain power during a weather emergency or natural disaster. However, an oversized and gadget-friendly refrigerator could be a constant drain on the entire solar-powered system. Leave ample room on the grid for all the other appliances you will need.
The solar system parts used to run your refrigerator are:
- Batteries – You must have a larger sized battery if you are going to place the system inside your home. A smaller battery system will work great for the campsite, but you need to break out the big guns when it comes to keeping your family’s food safe from spoiling.
- Charge Controller – This piece keeps the power at a constant wattage throughout the life of the system. It keeps wild spikes in energy from damaging the system. When the power is metered, it preserves power inside the batteries and allows for weather changes, like rain and clouds, without losing energy.
- Inverter – An inverter is where the magic happens. The power goes from DC or direct current to AC or alternating current. AC is what it takes to make appliances that you use with an outlet work on the campsite. Once you have a steady flow of AC power, you can hook up the fridge and see if it turns on.
- Panels – The most essential part of the process is collecting the sun’s rays. The panels are becoming more widespread and innovative, with companies like Tesla leading the way. They have a series of panels that replace the existing roof with tiles that can charge your home battery for later usage.
Solar panels need constant sun to make them charge the batteries and power the inverter. If there are days of bad weather or cloudy skies in the forecast, save energy by cutting off what is capable and move items from the fridge to a cooler if necessary to keep the food fresh. Always be prepared for weather situations by using the stored electricity less often.
How Much Power Does Your Refrigerator Use?
Let’s be honest when you say a refrigerator, three or four different kinds of appliances pop into your head. That’s understandable! There are so many other brands, and sizes of fridges that finding something that fits your particular needs shouldn’t be a problem. It should be understood that if going pure solar is your desire, some models might be out of reach.
The largest and most tricked out appliances should be reserved for homes with a top-notch solar plus storage system. If the fridge has a wifi connection or LCD panels on the front, it could require much more energy than your standard freezer/refrigerator combo. Shoot for machines that fit your needs and don’t rely heavily on gadgets and upgrades.
The types of refrigerators are:
- French Door – These refrigerators have double doors on the top and a freezer drawer on the bottom. They have come into fashion over the last few years and are more expensive and require more energy to operate. A French door machine is excellent for homes but could be a bit consuming.
- Side By Side – The side-by-side has doors on the left and right that open the fridge from top to bottom. Lots of power is exerted when the doors are open as cold rushes out and takes a while to refill the fridge area with cool air. These work best inside homes and cabins.
- Bottom Freezer – The bottom freezer is just like it sounds, with the freezer residing in the lower portion of the fridge. Bottoms are great for camping as the cool air on top aids in making the freezer work more efficiently and save energy over the machine’s life. These are also made in smaller sizes, meaning more power for other appliances.
- Top Freezer – The top freeze was the predominant model made in the late ’70s machine’s life and early ’80s. Back before in the door, ice makers began to steal a large portion of the market; this was what you got. They work well off-grid because they are cheap and easy to find while still working perfectly well.
- Undersized Fridges – There is all manner of shapes and sizes for refrigerators. Each will have a single door and could only hold a few can drinks at its maximum capacity. While these are energy efficient, they couldn’t be used as a single-family home refrigerator.
Now that you know what door type of refrigerator you have, you can check the information to tell you how much power it will use when it is in service. If you have an Energy Star rated appliance, there will be a large bright yellow sticker somewhere on the machine that tells you how much you can expect to save in power usage each month.
Going with Energy Star rated machines is vital because it gives you a safe parameter for pairing with your other appliances. Knowing what wattage range the fridge operates in will allow you to have enough power to run everything you need on the solar-powered system. Remember, the refrigerator is just a small piece of what the system is capable of doing.
Best Refrigerators for Off-Grid Living
Many models of refrigerators are geared towards solar power and off-grid living. They have different set-ups and will have a lower threshold for powering. Choose something useful and durable for off-grid living and select a high-tech wifi capable fridge if you are living with the Tesla Solar Roof and Powerwall.
A Smeta is an Excellent Fridge That is Easy to Power
Smeta makes some awesome appliances that work great for powering with solar energy. The 3.5-foot model would work great for any camping situation but lacks the freezer section. It also can be run with propane for those times you could be without the sun to charge the machine. Having multiple ways to power an appliance is always valuable for a camper.
Smeta’s can be found in most main-line campers. They are often custom made for the type of camper you have and will be small and powerful. Space is everything when it comes to camping or living off-grid. The Smeta line of portable and mini-refrigerators are easy to transport and always keep your food from spoiling while on the campsite.
If you have a camper purchased from a dealership, more than likely, there is going to be a Smeta style refrigerator. It comes in three different sizes, all while keeping the wattage used down to a minimum. It is portable and works with little power, which is the recipe for a perfect camping fridge if there ever was one.
A Liebherr is one of the Most Eco-Friendly Solar Refrigerators on the Market.
Not only does this company make an appliance that is barely a blip on your solar system’s radar and it has been free of HFC/CFC’s since the company began in the 1990s. In fact, each part of the machine’s design is conducted with environmentally friendly concepts at their core. The streamlined processes make the appliance a great addition to a solar-powered system.
One of the most striking parts of the Liebherr line is how the insides are compartmentalized. They have drawers and shelves that are specifically tailored for certain types of food. These compartments allow the food to stay fresher than other models and are a cinch to clean when things get messy.
Liebherr is a relatively unknown company in the US. They have a large portion of the German market and produce some quality machines that customers are devoted to. Their effort to keep the process as eco-friendly as possible is something to be admired when compared to gigantic corporations who still use CFC/HFC, which are harmful to the environment.
Daewoo makes a Stylish and Energy Efficient Refrigerator.
You wouldn’t think that a 50’s style fridge would have a place in the modern home, but the Daewoo Retro could change your mind. The single door design is often associated with letting lots of cold air out as the door opens, but this model is full of shelves and compartments that keep the food sectioned away and fresh.
While most refrigerators for off-grid living are filled with cheap shelving and sticky drawers, the Daewoo is sturdy on the inside and has a smooth gliding drawer that is great for veggies. The design is short and squat but allows for storage in the smaller freezer and racks inside the door.
The Daewoo is a much-needed bit of design flair in the practical world of solar-powered refrigerators. It can be bought in several different colors and sizes, with the smaller fridges being used for dens or man caves across the country. It has an average yearly cost of under $30, which is significant for a home operating on solar panels.
Frigidaire is a Household Name Brand That Can be Trusted
When it comes to buying a fridge in the US, you know what kind of name Frigidaire has. They have been building quality machines that are stocked in department stores across the country for decades. Chances are that you or someone you knew grew up using these machines as they were once a gigantic piece of the market.
The double door design of this model of fridge is one of the most common styles you see. They are often bought in bulk and installed in apartment complexes or garden homes. They often, they will usually come with a small ice machine located on the inside of the freezer. Through the door ice machines are known for energy inefficiency, but this one breaks the mold.
Buying a name brand can cost a bit more than the other options on the list but keep in mind that the most prominent and eco-friendly models will be outrageously priced as a cheap way to cool the appliances without CFCs hasn’t been invented. The savings on your power bill could offset the price of more expensive models.
A Summit Appliance is a High-Tech Efficient Appliance Great for Any Home
Summit makes a great bottom freezer fridge that works well off-grid. Bottom freezers are much better at keeping cold as most of the cold air from the bottom keeps the upper section colder than other models. When running off-grid, you need every cold air advantage you can get.
The readout on the front of the appliance gives you information and lets you know if there are fluctuations in energy. These alerts are essential for those living off-grid or with the Tesla Solar Roof, as surges can knock out breakers that need to be adjusted before the batteries take over.
A Summit is a fantastic looking machine that is sleek and perfect in its design. The stainless steel on the outside doesn’t just make it look great but aids in keeping the appliance cool as it operates throughout the day. The compressor on the inside works overtime to keep your food cold, and the steel is just a way to help it cool off.
Using solar power to operate a refrigerator can be an excellent option for the home or off-grid cabin. When buying for the house, make sure that you buy a machine that doesn’t overtax your existing system. Choose something that fits your needs but doesn’t have tons of upgrades or options that rely on large amounts of power to operate.
Large corporations are beginning to see a demand from their customers for more eco-friendly and green refrigerators. These companies have responded by filling the market with some of the most efficient models ever produced. These models can come with a hefty amount of sticker shock, so be prepared to sink extra dough for energy-efficient modeling.