As solar technology has improved, so have solar-powered products. Many appliances that used to be difficult to power with solar energy have been reinvented to make them more energy-efficient and solar-friendly. Refrigerators are a great example of this.
Refrigerators used to be one of the most difficult appliances to run solely on solar power because they often use too much electricity, but that is no longer a problem. Whether you’re just looking for a small refrigerator to take camping or you want to take your entire home off the grid, there is a solar fridge for you.
We have done some research and compiled a list of the five best solar refrigerators of 2021, so take a look and see if one of these will meet your needs. If you’re still not quite sure what you’re looking for, then read on for more information about how you can find the best solar refrigerator for you.
Top 5 Best Solar Refrigerators of 2021
- Alpicool Portable Refrigerator
- Unique 13 cu. ft. Refrigerator and Freezer
- Whynter 90 qt. Dual-Zone Portable Refrigerator
- ACOPOWER Solar Refrigerator
- ICECO VL74 Solar Refrigerator
Reviews of the Best Solar Refrigerators
If you’re not quite ready to go for a full-sized solar refrigerator, check out this compact portable model from Alpicool. The Alpicool Portable Refrigerator has a 21-quart capacity, making it the perfect size for camping or picnicking. This would also be a great choice for your garage or workshop.
Taking your solar fridge out on the road? No problem, it can be powered with a solar power station or individual solar panels. For cloudy or rainy days, you can also power it via the cigarette lighter in your car. Don’t worry about it killing your car battery, it comes with built-in battery protection.
Built with heavy-duty materials and dense insulating foam, this cooler is designed to keep your food and drinks well-chilled. You can set the temperature to as low as -4℉, so you can use this portable refrigerator as a freezer, meaning that you can finally add ice cream to your list of camping necessities.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
Unique is pretty well-known for their off-the-grid refrigerator designs. They make solar refrigerators and freezers of all sizes, so it is no surprise that a couple of their products made our list. With the Unique 13 cu. ft. Refrigerator and Freezer combo, you will hardly believe that this is not a traditional refrigerator.
Both the fridge and freezer have adjustable thermostats so that you can set the temperature to best fit your needs. Inside the fridge, you’ll find four sturdy glass shelves and a large vegetable crisper drawer. The door has four shelves as well, allowing you to keep your fridge well organized. The fridge interior also has a bright LED light for easy late-night snacking.
This unit comes with an 8’ electrical wire, cut end included. It also comes with a very user-friendly installation guide, for those who have never set up a solar refrigerator before. This model is well insulated and designed to last for years.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
For those who want freezing and refrigerating capabilities, but still need portability, check out this 90-quart solar refrigerator from Whynter. This fridge offers two compartments, both of which can function as a refrigerator or freezing, giving you the versatility you need.
This unit comes with an 8’ AC power cord and a 10’ DC power cord for flexible setup options. You can have the unit plugged into both AC and DC power at the same time if you need to. Under these circumstances, the refrigerator will run mainly on AC, but will automatically switch to DC if the AC turns off. This feature is especially helpful if you have frequent power outages.
This refrigerator is heavy-duty and durable, making it a good choice for those who like to go off-roading or camp rough. The handy “fast-freeze” option will rapidly cool your drinks while you set up camp. The top and sides are well insulated and it comes with an internal LED light to help you find what you need no matter what time of day it is.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
Longer camping trips require extra food and more storage space for that food. That is where this solar fridge from ACOPOWER comes in. This unit has a 42-quart capacity and can be used as a fridge or a freezer. The easy-to-read LCD thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature by degrees, so you can ensure that the food stays at exactly the temperature you like best.
Although you could use this model at home or in the workshop, it is especially good for travel. It has heavy-duty wheels and a trolly handle, making transporting your food a breeze. The rechargeable battery will last up to 15 hours on a single charge, making travel even easier.
This unit comes with multiple charging options, so you can power it up wherever you are. You can charge it at home using a regular AC outlet, through your car’s cigarette lighter, with a solar power station, or you can purchase a portable solar panel made specifically for this refrigerator. With all these options, you’ll never have to worry about running out of power.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
ICECO is the brand you look for when you’re looking for a high-quality portable fridge that can withstand the ups and downs of road life. And in the case of the VL74, they literally mean ups and downs. This fridge comes with a SECOP/Danfoss compressor that will keep running smoothly even when set at a 40° angle.
This single-zone unit can be used as a refrigerator or a freezer with a temperature range of 0℉ to 50℉. It comes with both AC and DC cables, perfect for use at home and on the go. It comes with an easy-to-read temperature control panel that allows you to set the temperature by degrees and choose between multiple energy settings including rapid cool and energy-efficient.
This unit comes in industrial gray with an anti-fingerprint metal shell and impact-resistant corner guards. It also has steel handles and locks to ensure easy transportation. Other handy features include two removable wire baskets and an internal LED light.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
How We Chose The Best Solar Refrigerator
In our search for the best solar refrigerators, we looked for elements like style options, energy efficiency, and ease of use.
Solar appliances are not just for people who are trying to transition to an off-the-grid lifestyle. Many camping enthusiasts depend on solar power for things like cooking, charging their electronic devices, and keeping their food cold. That is why we looked for a variety of units, both stationary and portable, to show you the full range of what is available.
Energy efficiency is paramount when it comes to solar-powered appliances, so we looked for stationary refrigerators with energy-efficient motors and compressors. We also looked for models that were well-insulated since more insulation means more consistent cooling with less energy use.
For the portable refrigerators, we looked for models that were energy-efficient enough to be used with any average solar power station. We also looked for models that were well built and well insulated, so they would require even less energy to maintain cold temperatures.
Ease of Use
As you would probably expect, most solar refrigerators are pretty straightforward. Simply connect them to a power source and they keep your food cold. That being said, we looked for stationary models that offer easy set-up with user-friendly installation instructions.
We also used specific criteria when looking at portable solar refrigerators. These fridges can be used at home, but in many cases, they will be used for camping which is why we looked for durable models that were designed to go with you on even your most off the road adventures. We also looked for multiple power options and wide temperature ranges because these features allow you to use a single unit for every situation instead of needing multiple units.
What You Need To Know About Solar Refrigerators
When looking for a solar refrigerator, there are a few key things that you should know before making your purchase.
Power Not Included
If you are new to the world of solar-powered appliances, it is important for you to know that unlike many smaller solar products, solar refrigerators do not usually come with a power source, meaning that the solar panels are not included.
There are a few simple reasons for this. Firstly, even though these refrigerators are designed to be super energy efficient, they still use quite a bit of electricity compared to other common solar products or lights or water pumps. This makes it difficult and costly for manufacturers to provide solar panels large enough to power a stationary refrigerator. Secondly, most people who are looking to purchase a solar refrigerator already have a solar system set-up in their home, so there would be no need for them to pay extra for solar panels they don’t need.
When it comes to portable solar refrigerators, these can easily be plugged into your portable solar power station or solar panels. Some manufacturers sell models that come with detachable solar panels that plug directly into the solar refrigerator, but this will increase the cost of the unit.
Solar Versus Propane
For those who are researching and comparing other off the grid refrigeration options, you may have run across propane refrigerators. Propane-powered refrigerators were the best off the grid option up until about 15 to 20 years ago because solar power technology was so expensive and inefficient.
Thankfully, solar power options have changed a lot over the last couple of decades. This has caused solar refrigerators to quickly overtake their propane-powered counterparts as the best option for off the grid homes. Propane-powered refrigerators are within a similar price range as solar-powered models, but they cost substantially more to run. The average propane refrigerator can cost up to $30 to $35 per month, making free solar power a much better option.
Beware The Extras
With many of the products we review, the extra features section just contains a few fun features that you may like. In the case of solar refrigeration, extras are not a good thing. Features like automatic defrost and ice makers can use a lot more energy than they are worth. When it comes to solar refrigeration, simplicity is your best choice.
Also, be conscientious when considering how much space you need in your refrigerator because extra space is not always a good thing either. More room in the fridge means more space that has to be cooled and there is no sense in wasting energy to cool space that you aren’t using. When choosing your solar refrigerator, be realistic about the amount of space you need so you don’t end up wasting energy.
How to Choose The Best Solar Refrigerator For You
Choosing the best solar refrigerator for you is a fairly simple process. The first step is to determine the style you need, then move on to power requirements.
Choosing a style is pretty straight forward, but there are a few things you should know about each style to help you choose between models.
When it comes to stationary models, you have a few options to choose from, just as you would with a regular fridge. Do you need a freezer or just a refrigerator? Are you looking for an upright model or chest-style? If you do want a model that includes a freezer, choose one with the freezer on the top. Just as heat rises, cold air will drift down. The cold air from the freezer will settle into the fridge, helping to keep the refrigerator cold without the need for an extra fan to move the air.
Portable solar refrigerators are basically like coolers, but without the need for ice. They are compact and usually fairly easy to move. This is another situation where you can decide which model is best based on your preferences. If you do plan on traveling and carrying your solar fridge from place to place, you may want to choose a more lightweight model that has wheels and a sturdy handle. If you are traveling in an RV or just want to use your solar fridge at home, then you may want to choose a more heavy-duty model. These usually have a larger capacity but are heavier, making them less portable.
Once you have determined the style you need, it’s time to talk about power again. If you have gotten to this portion of the article, you already know how important it is to look for an energy-efficient model, but here is a quick tip to help you do that. If you’re looking for a stationary solar refrigerator, just look at the EnergyGuide sticker. It should show the number of kWh that the unit uses per year. As long as that number is under 365 kWh, you should be able to run your refrigerator with approximately 1000 watts of solar modules, even with higher ambient temperatures.
Portable units are much easier when it comes to powering them because most models are 12/24v and are simple enough to plug into your solar power station. Just remember that they do not come with a power source, so plan ahead and make sure you have a proper power source available.
Portable solar refrigerators are basically like coolers, but without the need for ice. They are compact and usually fairly easy to move. This is another situation where you can decide which model is best based on your preferences. If you plan on traveling and carrying your solar fridge from place to place, you may want to choose a more lightweight model that has wheels and a sturdy handle. If you are traveling in an RV or just want to use your solar fridge at home, then you may want to choose a more heavy-duty model. These usually have a larger capacity but are heavier, making them less portable.
How To Get The Most Out of Your Solar Refrigerator
We’ve already given you a fair number of tips on how to get the most of your new clean energy fridge, but here are a few more details that may help.
Keep It Cool
This may be obvious to most people, but it is still worth mentioning: Keep your solar refrigerator in a cool place. Most of us travel during the warmer months when it is easy for RVs, trucks, and trailers to heat up. Be sure to keep your solar refrigerator out of direct sunlight and do what you can to keep it in a cool, well-ventilated area.
For stationary refrigerators, this can be a bit more difficult since you don’t always have a lot of options for where you can fit a fridge. With that in mind, do try to avoid direct light or tightly enclosed spaces.
We know what you’re thinking, what’s this about no enclosed spaces? Well, these refrigerators operate using a compressor, like a regular fridge, which can generate heat. The compressor will work more efficiently and stay cooler if your fridge is in a well-ventilated area.
Keep your fridge upright at all times. It can be easy to forget that these fridges are not coolers. Your empty cooler can be tossed in the back of the truck any which way, but that is not a good idea for your solar fridge. Models like the ICECO VL74 can still operate at an angle, but in general, all fridges should keep their feet on level ground.
Tilting or storing a fridge on its side or at an angle can damage the refrigeration system and potentially break internal parts. Don’t risk turning your fridge into a very expensive cooler, keep it upright.
Last, but not least, you may want to consider pre-chilling your solar fridge. The initial cooling process is what uses the most energy, so if you want to cool your fridge without using extra electricity, fill it with already chilled products.
If this cooler is just for traveling now and then, you may want to consider using the AC option to get the fridge down to the proper temperature and then switch to DC or solar power to maintain the chill.
Thank you for choosing solar power! Not only is it better for your budget, but it is better for the environment, meaning that every time you use solar energy you’re helping everyone. When it comes to refrigeration, solar power may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but thanks to many brands like Unique and Alpicool, it is now a feasible option.
Choosing the best solar refrigerator for you is as simple as choosing a style and then ensuring that you have the right power source to keep it going. If you already have a solar system in your home and want a permanent solar refrigerator, make sure you choose a simplistic model that uses less than 365 kWh per year. If you want a portable unit, just make sure you don’t forget to pack your solar power station when you’re loading up the camping gear.