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Refrigeration: Built-in vs. Portable (or, Why You Need to Switch)

It's been a long day on the road. You've put plenty of miles beneath the tires of your Vanagon, and you're ready for an ice-cold beverage. As luck would have it, your camper has a built-in refrigerator. You stop, pop the top, and open up the fridge door, eager to pop another top... and, wait, lukewarm beer? What the...? Lady Luck rears her ugly head: yes, you have a fridge in your camper; no, it doesn't work very well.

At GoWesty, we have a lot of experience with Vanagon and Eurovan refrigerators. We have dedicated hundreds and hundreds of hours trying to get these units to work consistently, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. The original fridge in the Vanagon never worked well right from the get-go. The one in the Eurovan Winnebago is much, much better—but both are difficult to fix and keep fixed. After years of trying to fix a fridge that just doesn't work to begin with (Vanagon) or is becoming increasingly expensive to fix (Eurovan), we've decided to deep-six the original, built-in refrigerator. Instead, we're moving in the direction of an all-electric, swing compressor-type, portable unit.

Why, you ask? Read on, GoWesty Faithful.

1. The original Vanagon fridge just does not work, and the one in the Eurovan is just not cost-effective to continue fixing. 

2. When not in use, you are simply hauling around a fridge that is not needed (and one that doesn't work that well anyway). It adds weight all the time. And it takes up space that could be used more efficiently as cabinetry. Check out the GoWesty GVW-FRIDGE-B-GONE kits we offer for Vanagon and Eurovan to convert the space to a useful cabinet (see below).


3. When you're traveling (and in need of refrigeration), it is much more practical to be able to put the fridge outside. At night, when you want the inside of your camper to be warm and cozy, the fridge can be outside in cooler ambient temperatures (using less energy). This is especially true in campers with built-in furnaces: fuel is being used to keep the inside of the vehicle warm. Even if you don't have a built-in furnace, the inside temperature is elevated simply due to body heat. Also, the fridge can double as an extra seat outside the vehicle, and any noise generated by the fridge is where you want it: outside of your camper.

Folks sometimes ask, "What about the floor space that we're losing by installing this new fridge?" Honestly, the space that the fridge occupies isn't particularly useful while you're moving anyway. Once you've stopped to camp, it takes only about 15 seconds to remove the fridge and put it right outside the passenger door (still plugged in). At that point, you have all your floor space back, plus the additional cabinet space where the old fridge was.


4. A built-in refrigerator, with its vertically-oriented door, allows the (rarely present) cold air to dump out every time the door is opened. Our replacement refrigerators utilize a horizontally-oriented door. Thus, the cold air stays inside the fridge when the door is opened.

5. When not in use in your vehicle, our electric fridge/freezers can be used at home or inside a motel room (on 110v).

6. The original built-in fridge just doesn't work and is not cost-effective to fix.

7. The horizontal refrigerator is more space efficient. In other words, the interior-to-exterior volume ratio is much better.

8. Our fridges are more energy efficient—they utilize an energy-saving "swing" compressor. Quite simply, the Engel fridges are the best we've found, and we've tried a lot of them. There are all-electric fridges on the market with a vertically-oriented door that can be fitted with some effort. But none are as efficient as the Engel units—they tend to use more power, offer less usable interior space, typically cost more, and do not have the added benefit of being able to be placed outside the vehicle. 

9. Portable refrigerators tend to be more reliable; their mobile design means that they are manufactured to be more rugged.

10. Did we mention that the original refrigerator does not work and is really expensive to repair?

Check out our line of electric refrigerators below. We promise that you'll be a much happier camper.

And now... proudly introducing... The GoWesty Solar Kit! Power your fridge (and other items) using only the neverending energy of the sun. That's right, GoWesty Faithful. Hard to believe, but true! See related items below.

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