When you’re boondocking in the wilderness with your batteries and solar panels as your only power source, energy efficiency is a prime consideration. And chest car portable fridge freezer are generally more energy efficient than upright fridges.
Why is this the case? Part of the reason is that cold air naturally sinks. With chest fridges, the door is at the top, which means that cold air will pool at the bottom of the fridge where it has nowhere to escape. But with upright fridges you’re relying on the insulation seal around the door to keep cold air in when the door is shut, and any accumulated cold air will spill out whenever the door is opened.
Since food has a higher thermal density than air, most of the cold in any fridge is actually “stored” in the food (or beer) inside the fridge, so fridges that are packed full are much easier to keep cool than fridges with a lot of empty space. And with the interior shelf arrangement of upright-style fridges, it’s likely that you’ll end up with wasted empty space on top of your food items.
All of this means that upright fridges have to run longer to keep your food cold, which equals a bigger drain on your batteries.
Chest Fridges Hold More and are Easier to Organize
If you’re used to a standard front-open refrigerator in your house or apartment, then this may come as a surprise. How can a front-open fridge with shelves and drawers be tougher to organize than a chest fridge that forces you to stack items on top of each other?
The front-open fridges in stationary dwellings are huge, and give you plenty of space to spread out and organize your food items. But in a smaller van fridge, empty space is wasted space that just makes your fridge’s compressor work harder (and draw more power). Even with shelving, you still need to stack items on top of each other and you still need to shift items around to get to others. And you’ll likely end up with a ton of empty air between the top of your food and the bottom of the next shelf. All of this means wasted space without any real gains in organization.
The top-down layout of chest fridges allows you to tightly pack them to fit more stuff and eliminate any wasted space. Most chest-style fridges also come with dividers and dairy compartments, which help a lot with organization.
And if your food shifts around inside the fridge while you’re bouncing down those gnarly backroads, with a chest fridge you won’t have to worry about your eggs flying out at you when you get to your campsite and open the fridge to grab a cold one.
Chest Fridges Are Portable and Can Double as Coolers in Emergencies
Chest fridges are shaped and configured like coolers, and include handles for easy portability. This allows you to move your fridge around your van, bring it inside and plug it into 110V AC if you’re stationary somewhere, or stow it outside in cool weather for greater energy efficiency. All of this is more difficult with an upright fridge.
Many chest fridges also feature drain plugs at the bottom. These plugs make cleaning easier, but they also allow your fridge to double as a cooler if for some reason you lose electricity. Just dump ice in your car electronic refrigerator like you would a standard cooler, and pull the drain plug as needed to remove ice melt. This is something you just can’t do with a front-opening upright fridge.