Truckfridge 130 – cavernous and cool

The Truckfridge range of 12/120v fridges uses the same compressor as the more expensive Norcold/Vitifrigo/Isotherm units with a slightly lower build quality. The TF130 is their largest option, and it’s got more than enough space for a Sprinter build.

Lots of 12v fridges use thermo-electric cooling. That includes the coolers that you can plug into your cigarette socket. Those tend to be able to cool around 30 – 40 degrees below the ambient temperature. In other words, on a hot day they won’t keep things well refrigerated.

A better option is a true compressor-based fridge. These use the same technology as home refrigerators, but running on a 12v supply. They are more expensive than the thermo-electric version, but they can keep food frozen in pretty much any temperature.

The top fridges in this category tend to use Danfoss/Secop compressors. Manufacturers include Dometic, Norcold, Vitifrigo, Isotherm, Engel, ARB, and Truckfridge. A dirty little secret is that Truckfridge and Vitifrigo are both made by the same company (Indel). One brand is aimed at people who want posh stainless steel looking appliances for their RVs, the other is aimed at people who live on the road and haul cargo.

There are also two styles of 12v fridge: chest style, which look a bit like a cooler, and upright style, which look just like home refrigerators. The chest style ones are marginally more efficient, but need access across their whole top face to open the hinged lid. People also complain that it’s harder to find food items in the chest style fridge because some packages will be stuck under others.

We chose to use an upright style fridge from Truckfridge. It’s the TF130 model, which has a 130 liter capacity (4-1/2 cubic feet). It fits well in our cabinet space, with room for a drawer above it at a 36″ counter height.

12v TruckFridge in cabinet

All of the compressor style fridges need ventilation so that their fans can pull warm air away from the fridge elements. We built in a rear and side vent, as well as ensuring that the space under the fridge is free to suck air up and back.

Side fridge vent
Penn Elcom perforated metal dish vent.
Rear fridge vent
The rear vent is a piece of decorative punched aluminum from a local hardware store

The fridge door comes with a black plastic panel, but it’s easy to add a trim panel in any color and material you want. You can buy trim kits to secure these fridges in place, but we just used two 1/8″ thick aluminum plates screwed to the sides of the fridge and then to the inside edges of the cabinet. It’s a cleaner, narrower fit than the trim flanges.

In retrospect, there was no need for us to choose a 12/120v unit. The 120v input is just a power adaptor brick wired into the circuit. If we spent a lot of time on shore power it may be marginally more efficient to use that adaptor than to draw directly from our battery, but I doubt it. The 120v cable is sticking out of the back of our fridge cabinet, but it’s never been plugged in.

The best thing about this fridge is its low power draw. Although it’s possible to run a dorm-style fridge in a van, it works on 120v and pulls a lot of power. Instead, our solar panels can keep up with the Truckfridge on even the greyest Pacific North West days.

Actually, that’s the second best thing. The real best thing about this fridge is getting back from a mountain bike ride and knowing that there is a cool beverage waiting for us.

Assorted cold beverages in the TruckFridge

17 Replies to “Truckfridge 130 – cavernous and cool”

  1. Hi! Thanks for all the good info, it’s been a great resource for us! Can you tell me where you found the replacement door panels for the refrigerator? Thank you

    1. Hi Anne,

      We made the door panel ourselves. It’s really simple. The Truckfridge manual tells you how to unscrew the door handle and the base of the door surround, then you can just slide in a panel on top of what’s already there. We used a piece of Formica. You could use any thin material – wood, metal, or plastic. You could even remove the existing panel and glue fancy paper or fabric on to it if you wanted.

      There’s plenty of room for an extra panel. I know some people even add a layer of foil faced foam to improve the insulation.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks so much. We haven’t received our fridge yet but that sounds pretty straight forward, thanks for the tips- fun to add some color!

  2. Great job on the website and the build. Thanks for all of the guidance.

    I picked up a TF130 from TruckFridge in Kentucky but I haven’t yet installed it. I’m currently trying to size my battery system and the fridge will be my main power draw. Do you know how much power this fridge draws in a typical day and the max draw you’ve seen it pull?

    1. Hi Paul,

      To be honest, we’ve not specifically measured the fridge’s draw with everything else turned off. The Truckfridge site claims 24 watts/hour and we have no reason to doubt that. We see higher power draw than that on occasion, but the fridge doesn’t have a 100% duty cycle (more like 33%) so it probably averages out to around 24 W/hr. That equates to 48Ah per day.

      There are times when the fridge works harder – hot weather, frequent use, and so on – and we may even modify our cabinet to give it more airflow and more insulation. Overall though, we’ve been really happy with its efficiency.

      I’m going to do some tests and get some real figures for you, but that should be a good starting point for you.

      Edit: Sitting in our driveway at this time of year (temps in the 40s and 50s) I was seeing 50W consumption for about a 25% duty cycle. So 12W/hour. 24Ah per day. Obviously different conditions will mean different loads on the fridge.

    1. Taylor, we’re glad you like the Formica we used for the fridge. It came from http://www.cabinetmakerwarehouse.com and it is vertical grade Tangelo Halftone color.

      Vertical grade is thinner, lighter and cheaper than standard/surface grade. Unfortunately the Halftone pattern was discontinued a while back. You may find somewhere with old stock still, but it’s unlikely.

      Cabinet Maker Warehouse had good prices on shipping, and they rolled the Formica up so it could be packaged into a UPS-able box. It doesn’t look like they have the exact pattern we used any more.

    1. We didn’t secure the fridge using 80/20. The cabinet it’s in is made of wood. Our technique would work for 80/20 too though.

      The fridge has three mounting points down each side. We made 4″ wide strips of 1/8″ aluminum that lie flat against each side of the fridge from top to bottom, extending almost as far forward as the front of the door. We screwed the aluminum into the three mounting points and then, with the door open, screwed into the wood at the sides of the cabinet.

  3. Do you think the Truckfridge 130 is still the best value? Come across anything slightly bigger?

    Our two-way fridge burnt out and there’s a same-dimensioned Norcold Danfoss compressor replacement, but it might cost as much as $1,100 more than the TF130. It’s 1 cu ft bigger, but that’d be an insane price to pay for a slightly bigger freezer!

    1. Aaron, sorry to hear your fridge burned out. I’ve not seen anything new on the market that beats the value of the Truckfridge range of fridges. Nothing bigger in that price range either. We’re still happy with the TF 130. I guess it comes down to how much you value the extra freezer space.

      Do you know why your fridge burnt out? Might be worth making sure the one you replace it with has sufficient ventilation to the coil so that it’s not working too hard.

      1. Could be the 30k miles and half a year of nearly continuous use. Or maybe the fact that we never leveled when stopping for the night. Or possibly the Camco 42149 Flying Insect Screens I installed last spring, although the fridge worked fine for two months with those screens. Also I’d still install them again to seal up a possible mouse entry point. Hard to say.

        Either way, I’m looking forward to a compressor fridge. No more frozen veggies. Plus the old one used 240 watts, so I was constantly manually switching between 110 during the day (inverter, alternator, solar) and over to propane while we sleep.

        1. If you’re moving from a propane stove to a 12v electric compressor one, you’ll notice a world of difference. And a massive reduction in power consumption, too! You could run two Truckfridge units for less power consumption.

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