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Compressor or absorber fridges for caravans and camper vans, such as the Engel CK, Dometic CoolMatic or Dometic RM, can be used to keep food fresh and drinks cool on the go. Some even have an additional 12V compressor cooler on board. Here too, Dometic is the leading supplier with its CoolFreeze series, available at Intercaravaning.shop.
Let’s talk about the difference first. Compressor fridges such as those from the Dometic CoolMatic CRX and Dometic CoolMatic MDC series run exclusively on electricity, and absorber or gas fridges, such as those from the Dometic RM and Dometic RMD series, mainly on gas. But not only, because most of them can keep continue running on electricity while the vehicle is being driven. Which means that you are much more independent with one of the popular Dometic RMs from the 5000 or 8000 series, while you are dependent on mains power with a Dometic CoolMatic CRX 80 or even an Engel CK.
Designed specifically for camper vans, this Dometic CoolMatic MDC series of fridges is available in 64 l and 90 l versions. The names CoolMatic MDC 65 and CoolMatic MDC 90 therefore do not quite correspond to their capacity. The Dometic CoolMatic CRX series is technically a little more sophisticated, as it has three power levels and automatically adjust to outside temperatures. The control panel and the smart electronics of the CoolMatic CRX fridges also help save electricity; the manufacturer advertises savings of up to 25%. The Dometic CoolMatic CRX is available with gross capacities of 45 l, 65 l, 80 l 110 l and 130 l. The latter is the Dometic CoolMatic CRX 140, which can also be connected not only to 12- and 24-volt sockets, but also to 100-240-volt sockets.
While Dometic CoolMatic compressor fridges are designed for larger vehicles, Engel have specialised in small spaces with the Engel CK models CK-47 and CK-57. They have a capacity of 40 or 55 l and are both supplied with an alternative power supply unit with priority switching for the additional 230-volts connection. They are usually operated at 12 or 24 volts.
As with purely electricity-powered refrigerators, Dometic dominates the gas fridge market for caravans and camper vans with its Dometic RM, Dometic RMV and Dometic RMD models. The Dometic RMD 8 series and the Dometic RMD 8555 are built as a two-door units, meaning that they have a separate freezer. With a gross capacity of 160 l, the Dometic RMD 8555 shows its true size. In addition, it can be powered with electricity at both 12 and 230 volts. The Dometic RM 8 series fridges for caravans and camper vans are significantly smaller in comparison. There are also differences between ignition systems. The 90 l Dometic RM 8401 has an MES, the Dometic RM 8500 has a battery-powered ignition system and the Dometic RM 8505 has an AES ignition system. Of course, gas consumption varies depending on size. A Dometic RM 8505 absorber fridge with a gross capacity of 100 l and a freezer compartment consumes an average of 18.3 grams of gas per hour, while the large Dometic RMD 8555 with its 160 l capacity consumes 22.5 grams of gas per hour. On current mode, the power consumption of the Dometic RM 8505 is 2.2 kWh/24h, while the Dometic RMD 8555 requires 3.2 kWh/24h. Just for comparison, a good A++ home fridge consumes 0.5 kWh/24h.
The alternative to gas-powered fridges from Dometic? A Thetford N3000 fridge. At a weight of around 27 kg with a gross capacity of 90 l, a fridge like the Thetford N3100 is on par with the roughly similar Dometic RM 8401. At 18.2 g/h, the gas consumption of the Thetford N3100 is not noticeably lower; however, at 2.8 kWh/24h, its alternative power consumption is slightly higher. Both are available either with or without a freezer compartment, and both boast illuminated LED displays. The only thing that makes it easier to decide is the variety offered by the Thetford N3000 series. Between the Thetford N3080, 80 l gross capacity and a size of 52.5 × 57.8 × 82.1 cm (WxDxH) and the Thetford N3175 with 175 l gross capacity and a size of 52.5 × 62.8 × 124.5 cm (WxDxH), there are 8 other fridges of different capacities and different dimensions. Dometic offers its tall fridges under series names different to those used for standard camper van and caravan fridge sizes. That makes things complicated. Ultimately, of course, the partitions available inside are decisive. If you want to stow more drinks, you need fewer drawers. If you want to mount the fridge on a wheel well, you need the corresponding cutout. Thetford only offers this cutout on its smaller 96 l Thetford N3097.