DIY 12V Fridge: How to Convert a Fridge to 12V (Guide)

This seems to be a very popular project to take on. People are just not satisfied with the standard 12 volt Fridge in their RVs. So they take matters into their own hands and create their own solutions.

The simplest way to do this is by buying an inverter and hooking it up correctly. Once that is done, you can power your 120-volt fridge with a 12-volt power system. The only drawback is that it is not the most efficient use of power. Inverters are known to lose power along the way.

To learn more about this important topic, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know to be able to do the task yourself. Take a few minutes and see how you can add more fridge power to your RV.

Can a Fridge Run on 12V?


It is possible and the original RV fridges were designed to work on 12-volt power. Unfortunately, this system was not very powerful and the fridge did not get enough power to last through a camping vacation.

Over the years RV makers upgraded their fridges to run on regular 110-volt power as well as propane. This made fridge operation a lot easier to do as all you had to do was plug your RV into a power source and you had enough power.

Then these fridges were given a secondary backup, propane, to make sure your food was not spoiled as you drove to your next destination. Once the power was disconnected the fridge needed a backup system to maintain food freshness and quality.

While that system is convenient, there are RV owners that want to run their fridge solely off of 12-volt power. This meant converting the system which added quite a few more components.

That addition meant that more parts could break or malfunction. Converting a 120-volt fridge to run on a 12-volt system is not always the best option to try.

Can you Convert a Domestic Fridge To 12V?

Yes, this is possible and many RV owners have done just that. They want the convenience a 120-volt fridge offers and the power savings of the 12-volt system. One reason why RV owners take on this project is that it is cheaper to convert a 120-volt fridge than it is to buy a new 122-volt model.

Then they also prefer the layout the 120-volt fridge comes with over the layout of the 12-volt model. Plus, the size of many mini-fridges equals the size of the standard 12-volt option.

Finally, one of the attractive features of making the conversion is that the mini-fridges often come with a separate freezer section. This is something that most standard RV fridges do not have. If they do, you are paying a lot more for that added feature.

The benefits are there and justify the effort, time, and expense to convert a 120-volt fridge into a 12-volt model. The latter option is not designed for full fridge use. They are designed to work within a certain power grid and that is about it.

DIY 12v Fridge Conversion Options


The first conversion option you have is the simplest. This is where you simply buy an inverter that will change the DC power into 120 AC power. This option just needs you to be able to plug in the fridge and power source and you are done.

There are what are called 12-volt compressor conversion kits you can buy. These run in the neighborhood of $200 approx., and they should come with all the instructions you need to make the conversion a success.

Then, you can find an old but usable regular fridge that has had all of its Freon removed and use that. The key to using this appliance is that you have to remove all the AC components and replace them with a DC system.

Also, you will have to remove the freezer section components and possibly any lights that run on AC power. if you have trouble finding all the parts and compressors you need, different appliance stores do sell kits.

The kits are not that expensive and they require some assembly. You may have to do some internet searching as well but those result pages may have more useless websites than constructive and helpful ones.

DIY 12v Fridge Kits

The main one we have come across is called the Danfos BD 50. That name may be attached to the kit or it may only say Danfos conversion kit on the packaging. There is at least one parts store that sells this kit and you can locate it by clicking on this link.

Other companies you can try are Novakool and Norcold and their options provided you with different cubic foot sizes so you have some choice in how big you want your fridge to be. The good news here is that you may be able to cut the weight down some.

The biggest problem with these kits is their cost. There are cheaper options out there and they will run between $200 and $300. However, if you want a good conversion kit, you may be spending approx. $1200 in total.

Some people will go solar which will add to the $1200 price tag but it is a convenient system that can be used for other appliances or expanded if you want to use more than one at a time.

Can you Convert a 240v Fridge to 12v?


Yes, this is possible to do as well. The process is the same as it is for a 120 or 110 appliance. You will have to remove all the 240 components and replace them with a 12-volt system.

The same conversion kit, the Danfoss BD50, will be needed if you want to do a very good job of the conversion. This will be expensive as well as time-consuming. The cheapest and easiest way to do this project would be to buy the right inverter.

However, many people do not like the inefficiency that comes with these devices and they look for alternatives. Also, some people recommend against making the conversion. Not all inverters are the same and they can be expensive for the service and quality you get.

Another reason why they recommend against making the conversion is that there have been fridges commercially manufactured that can use either 12 or 240-volt power sources. You really do not have to go to the expense or the effort to achieve your project goal.

The price of these appliances should be reasonable and affordable and some have said on par with what a conversion kit costs.

DIY Car Fridge

If you are up to the task, this may be a nice project to work on. Having a car fridge along for the ride can spare you those unneeded stops for refreshingly cold drinks. But the problem is that it will take time, some money, and some very handy DIY skills to build one of these fridges.

There are many parts involved in the construction and you need to be able to handle wiring if you want the result to work right. To build right, you will need a jigsaw, a Dremel workstation, Dremel rotary tools, soldering iron, and a glue gun.

There are 16 individual parts involved and they are not large parts so your hands will have to be able to handle smaller components without damaging them. You can get kits to simplify the process but the cost may or may not be the same.

The instructions to make one are very long and detailed which makes it impossible to put here. What we can do is provide the link to the instructions so you can follow those as well as view the many photos that highlight each stage of the build. Just click here.

Convert RV Fridge to 12 Volt


The first option you have is the same as all the other conversion projects already mentioned. You can go with a nice invertor and solve your problem with little work, time, and money invested in it.

These inverters do a good job of changing the power to meet your electrical needs. Some are better than others and to get the better options you may have to pay a little extra money.

Since there are no approved conversion kits that allow you to add a 12-volt heating element to an existing 2-way fridge. Part of the problem that would come if there was one would be welding the heating elements correctly. This is not an easy task to do.

It is possible to remove the 2-way system and components and replace them with proper 12-volt ones. That would be the second easiest way to go in converting your RV fridge to a 12-volt system.

Technology has changed since the early days of RVs. Those old 12-volt fridges were just the start and as technological advances occurred, you really do not have to convert an old fridge into a 12-volt appliance.

You can just buy one. They are already commercially being made and Amazon has quite a few good options to select from. While you may like working on DIY projects, there are better ones to spend your time on than converting an older fridge into a 12-volt appliance.

12-volt Fridge Compressor Kit

These should not be that hard to find as Danfoss and other brand names do make quite a few of these kits and then sell them through their website. Often, you have to search the marine supply stores to find them.

What do they cost depends on where you make your purchase. Each company will have its own pricing list and you just have to do some comparison shopping to get the best deal. As you shop, you can ask for some advice from the experts to make sure the conversion goes smoothly.

Some of the top names that came up in our search were Keogh marine, Astor AL, Ozefridge, Danfoss, and Seafrost. Any one of those outfits should be able to help you find the kit that will work best for your DIY fridge project.

Compare prices with buying a fridge already designed for 12-volt power. They may be comparable or the commercially built 12-volt fridge may be a bit cheaper. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Buying a premade 12-volt fridge may not be as satisfying as converting your own but at least you get more time to focus on other projects.

Convert Dorm Fridge to Freezer


The first key to this project is to check the power setting. Not all mini-fridges have the electrical set up to handle the cooling power needed to convert it into a freezer. Then check those mini-fridges that do come with a small freezer section to see if it will work with your plan or not.

The next key is to look at the cooling system. Most fridges come with a compressor but mini-fridges tend to have cheaper and different technology that replaces the compressor. Those alternatives may not be re-wired and used for a freezer operation.

If you have a mini-fridge with a compressor and the electrical system will handle the extra workload, the main part that needs to be changed will be the thermostat. The replacement thermostat has to be able to get to sub-zero temperatures with ease.

Sometimes, you may need a technician to make the change. That may hold for replacing all the connections and controllers that need to be done for the mini-fridge to act as a freezer.

Make your own judgment call on this as while it is not complicated to make the conversion, you need to know wiring, relays, and connections. Don’t worry, you will not be shocked if you touch the wrong spot.

That is because you will not have the fridge plugged in as you work on it.

Can you Build your Own Refrigerator?

Yes, you can, as long as you have all the right tools and parts to go inside your DIY project. The good news is that if you attempt this project you should be saving money over buying a new fridge.

The first step in this process is to find a non-working fridge. You can usually get those for free if you look in the right places. The parts do not need to work as you will be replacing them.

The important part is salvaging the interior cabinet as it is already made into a fridge interior. It is also well insulated and has the molded shelving you need. Do not worry if the outside is a bit beat up or not in new condition. You can deal with that at a later date.

How to Build a 12v Refrigerator


We have given you the first step in this process in the previous section. You do not need to waste a good fridge to make your own. Find one that isn't working as you will be giving it all-new working parts.

The second step is to remove the doors and all the components. Do not leave one of the old components behind, take them all out. This includes all the wiring, compressors, and so on.

Step three usually has you removing the freezer section. This is done by making a chalk mark all the way around and using a skill saw to cut the freezer section off the fridge. This is not a mandatory step and will depend on if you want a freezer in your homemade fridge or not.

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