Adding A Refrigerator To My Van

I purchased a portable AC/DC electric cooler/warmer thermometric Mini Fridge for my van back in April from Amazon. It holds 15 Liter/18 cans, it’s large enough for my needs like a weekend vamping trip.

Battery usage

Depending on the settings this unit uses different wattage.

  • 12 volt DC Cold 48 Watts
  • 12 volt DC Hot 40 Watts
  • 120 volt AC Cold 58 Watts
  • 120 volt AC Hot 52 Watts

I currently have 2.5 kilowatts of battery in my van. If nothing else is running in my van I can run the refrigerator for about 70 hours before totally draining my batteries.

Mini Fridge 15 Liter

One challenge with this type of refrigerator (thermometric) is that the running temperature inside is 30 degrees below the ambient temperature in the air. If it is 90 degrees in the van then the temperature inside the refrigerator is about 60 degrees, which isn’t idea for preserving food.

What I really like about the box is that I can use it with 120 volt AC shore power or 12 volt battery.

Unboxing my new refrigerator.The back view.

Making it colder inside

There is one fan on the back that pulls air in to cool the aluminum heat sink inside. The side vents are where the heat dissipates. The fan is really quiet and does a good job pushing the air, but that heat ends up inside the van. It works great for those chilli nights, but not when the temperature is above 65 degrees.

To decrease the inside temperature of the refrigerator and keep the van cooler I had to increased the air-flow around the unit so that it thinks the ambient temperature is cooler and direct the heat out of the van.

Supplies/Equipment

  • Three 3″ duct
  • Gorilla duct tape
  • Foam board
  • Computer Fan
  • Potentiometer
  • Switch
  • Gutter Filter
  • 3 to 4 inch

Make a fan

This 4-3 inch reducer’s diameter is a perfect fit for cooling down the unit.

I purchased this reducer from Lowe’s. My duct is 3 inches and the computer face is about 4 inches. A perfect fit.

I cut this pc fan down so that it fits right into the reducer.

I removed the processor fan from a old computer. Processor fans usually run at a higher rpm than other component fans so this was the best choice.

I drilled a hole for the wires, then hot glued the fan permanently to the reducer. I used Gorilla duct tape to hold the wires down.

I used foam poster board to make a case for the fan.

I used Gorilla duct tape and foam poster board to make a box to control the air flow into the tube.

Then I attached it using duct tape to the refrigerator.

I attached the blower to the vent on the right side of the refrigerator and blocked the other side so that air flows into the tube.

I attached the blower to the vent on the right side of the refrigerator and blocked the other side so that air flows into the tube. Next I ran the wires to a potentiometer to control the fan’s rotation speed.

To control the rotation speed I added a potentiometer to the circuit.

Controlling the speed

I extended the control panel by designing and building a new face plate for the fan’s speed controller.

Built a control face-plate for the fan.
Cut a hole for the fan controller.

Exhaust

The fan will now push hot air through the tube out the other end. So I cut into the window vent and added an exhaust vent.

Gallery

Kitchen light project 2020

I wanted to add lighting to the kitchen. Since you may customize your van differently I’ve only included materials to get the lights working.

The light is a kit of 6 lights. In this project I am only showing two (2) of them. If your interested in the wiring see the wiring diagram blog.

Material

  • 1/4 inch plywood with a 2 7/8 circular cut
  • LED Light Kit (6) lights.

Cabinet design & installation

I had a very difficult time finding a good way to store dishes, dry food, cleaning supplies, clothes. The problem wasn’t storage, I had plenty of that. The problem I needed to solve was to make it easy to access without shifting things around.

Because things were stored in the stowaway compartment or under the bed getting to them, in this small space, was a frustrating process. I wanted a build where I’d never have to open the doors to get to things and avoid shifting things around to access other areas.

For temporary storage I purchased this from Walmart.

On April 17th It was 71 degrees and I decided I wouldn’t wait until my vacation in May to start the work.

I ordered a new mini refrigerator which will be delivered this weekend. I plan to mount and enclose the fridge inside the storage area near the kitchen.

Then I have to design the shelves for storing dishes, food, clothes, etc.

April 21, 2020 Amazon Delivery

My Amazon shipment arrived with my variable resistor (potentiometers) arrived and my reading lights.

The reading lights will be in the tiny office and the other mounted in bedroom on the newly created storage cabinet.

I choose the reading lights for several reasons.

  • The soft light won’t keep me up at night
  • On and Off is controlled by touch
  • Dimming is controlled by touch
  • It’s good for reading
  • It’s 12V DC
  • Night light
  • Rotates

Fans installation

These are potentiometers, most commonly used in homes and businesses as a dimmer switch.

My plan

The potentiometers will be controlling fan (air flow) variance. The fans are planned to arrive tomorrow. I will photograph them and provide you with some plans.

April 25th, 2020 Amazon Delivery

My larger refrigerator arrived today. It was taller than I had measured and had a difficult time fitting without dismantling my spice rack. So I cut and cut and finally got it to work. Now the door opens smoothly.

What’s next. Well, I need to cut a panel that would fit on the front.

Kitchen

The van’s kitchen has been completely redesigned from its original.

Original design
A more recent design as of 10/2019

Cooking

Notice the baking sheet and the bolts and screws.

I drilled holes in the top and put 1/8 screw and bolts to raise the burner off the wood cabinet.

Between the wood and the burner is a baking sheet to act as a heat sink and preventing the wood from heating up and catching fire.

The fan distributes the heat so that it does not build.

I also layered foil underneath the carpet. I use Velcro to hold stuff in place.

Food Storage

Food is stored in two places. Under the bed and in these storage bins. The kitchen also includes it’s own light.

Some food storage.
Carbon Monoxide detector
Oops, gotta clean the paint spots.
The original idea was to have a way to cook and to have running water.

Items you can get on Amazon

Amazon
Ozark Trail Single Burner Propane Stove
Ozark Trail Single Burner Propane Stove
Amazon
Amazon
Amazon
Amazon