Compressor Refrigerators vs. Absorption Refrigerators in the Winnebago Travato

RV refrigerators are available in two styles, either a compressor-powered refrigerator or an absorption refrigerator. Compressor-powered refrigerators sometimes referred to as two-way refrigerators use a small compressor unit to cool the refrigerator. Often they have two ways of powering the compressor either through 12-volt battery power or 110-volt power, hence the name two way refrigerator. The other option when looking at portable refrigerators are absorption-refrigerators. Absorption refrigerators, sometimes called three-way refrigerators, rely on a gas flow heat exchange system located in the back of the refrigerator to extract heat from the refrigerator and cool the internal temperature. Absorption refrigerators have three means of being powered; 12-volt battery power, 110-volt battery power, and LPG gas.

Compressor Refrigerator


Let’s look at the pros and cons of compressor refrigerators and absorption refrigerators –

Compressor Refrigerators – 


  • Compressor refrigerators are able to chill to lower temperatures and cool more consistently than absorption refrigerators regardless of the outside ambient temperature, due to the more powerful compressor motor.
  • Most compressor refrigerators can double as freezers because of the powerful compressor motor.
  • Compressor refrigerators work well in uneven terrain, in fact most compressor refrigerators will operate just as well regardless of being flat or on an incline.
  • Compressor refrigerators are built with 12-volt power in mind, which means they run very efficiently on battery power compared to the absorption refrigerators


  • Though modern refrigerators are extremely quiet, there is still some audible noise when the compressor is running, similar to that of your standard home refrigerator.
  • May need solar to assist in powering the batteries which ultimately power the refrigerator.

Absorption Refrigerators –


  • Absorption refrigerators can run for an extended period of time because they rely on the gas flow exchange system rather than 12-volt.
  • You will not need to spend additional money on batteries and charging systems like solar power to run.
  • The heat exchange system of cooling means the refrigerator runs completely silent.


  • Due to the gas flow exchange system, an absorption refrigerator should remain level in order to function efficiently
  • Absorption refrigerators are run mostly on gas, so users will need to ensure they have good ventilation and they shouldn’t be run in an enclosed space.
  • Absorption refrigerators tend to be horribly inefficient running on 12-volt power, and will drain the batteries much quicker than a compressor refrigerator.
  • Because absorption refrigerators tend to be more heavily affected by ambient temperatures, they are usually only able to bring internal temperatures down to a certain amount below the ambient rather than setting to a specific temperature like the compressor refrigerators.