In this article, Dave talks through how to install a cooling fan to your Thetford or Dometic van fridge. This upgrade helps keep fridge contents cooler with less energy consumption.
If you’ve ever wondered how to improve the energy efficiency of your motorhome or caravan fridge then read on. We show you how to install a cooling fan to your van fridge. It’s a pretty simple task for anyone with basic DIY skills. The trickiest bit is thinking about the best place to secure the mount and where to route the wires.
As you may know, fridges get hot to cool your food items. Fridges are almost always stuck against a wall so there’s not much of an airflow to dissipate the heat.
Typically, in a van there are two vents. One at the top to extract the warm air and one at the bottom to allow cool air in. The vents rely on convection, the warm air rising up and out pulling cool air into the bottom. The more successful you can be at removing the hot air the less energy you will use.
Therefore, installing additional cooling fans to your van fridge should provide energy savings. Especially when running your fridge on gas during hot weather.
What do you need?
There are a few options here:
- Buy a Dometic Fridge vent kit or a Thetford Fridge Vent kit. Both are more or less the same with a single fan of about 90mm.
- Make your own kit with computer fans, thermal probe, control box, frame wiring, connectors etc.
- Or do as I did, for a similar price buy a Universal Titan Waterproof Fan Kit TTC-SC20 Series. There are options for 100mm to 140mm fans and all the electrics and fittings you need. The instructions below relate to the Titan kit but the principles are the same for the others.
How to install
You can install the fans in either the top or bottom vent. However, you are better off exhausting the hot air – grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and chucking it outside. Pulling cold into the bottom forces the hot air up but then it’s gotta swirl around looking for the way out.
Here’s what I did:
Step 1 – Decide where to install
- Pop off the external vent cover by peering under the top slat and sliding the two black tabs, the vent will now pull off.
- Survey the scene. Offer up the fan(s) in their mounting and see how you’re going to attach them to the surrounding area. The Titan kit comes with four L shaped brackets that attach to the fan frame and slide up and down to give you the vertical position. There are also four flat pieces that provide some additional options to attach the fans.
- Make sure that in your chosen position the fans clear the fridge condenser, and the vent cover when reinstalled.
- The most thorough option for me would be to remove the plastic vent frame and attach the mounts into the wood in which it sits. However, I’d have to use grey caravan sealant to match what was there now (external walls are grey) and I didn’t have any and it’s expensive.
- What I did was to secure the top brackets to the top of the internal cavity using a straight bit added to the L.
- At the bottom, I didn’t use the L bracket, instead I used a straight bit and cut a slot into each side where the screw holes are and slotted it over the vent frame. Once tightened up it didn’t move.
- Your installation will probably be different, the trick is to use what you have to get it into the right position and stable.
- My fans look upside down but that ensures the fan wires are at the top where I need them to be.
- NOTE: Fan frame, those black bits going across the white blades, need to point outward to exhaust the air.
Step 2: Control unit placement
- Next decide where the control unit will go. It has two sets of wires:
- the fan and temperature probe
- the power cable, which has a live and earth.
- The fan & temp one needs to get to the fan obviously, so think about the route and where it will go through a cupboard to get to the back of the fridge.
- Stick the Control unit on using the 3M sticky thing supplied. Make sure it’s easy to see. I placed ours inside the cupboard, cos it’s not the most attractive thing to have on display, but it’s easy to see and get to when you open the door.
- Fan & Temp probe wires. Immediately above where I had positioned my fans, is the back of the cupboard which houses the main van control panel. That made life easy, as power lives here…. I first punched a 2mm small hole from the fan area up into the cupboard to see where it popped out. Thankfully it was in a good place so I then drilled it out with a 10mm bit which is wide enough to get the connector through. The fan connector then clipped onto a Y connector that joins the two fans.
- Position the temp probe about 1 inch from the fridge hot bits. I used duct tape to secure the wires against the cabinetry. (see 3rd image in install above)
Step 3: Powering up
- First step – untangle the wires! Don’t do as I did and connect everything only to find when trying to tidy the wires later, they were all tangled. Tidy the fan and probe leads now, or at least tape then outta the way, so you are left with the power cable.
- Power. The red and black wires need to find a live and earth. Any that are controlled by your main van habitation power switch will do. I.e. when you turn that main power switch off on your control panel, you want this fan off too, not risk flattening your battery while in storage if you’d accidentally left the fan running.
- You can get power from the fridge wiring, which is usually behind the lower vent panel, or any other suitable live & earth nearby. You may need to consult your van/fridge wiring diagram or get a multimeter.
- As I was positioning mine in the cupboard behind the control panel, I was able to pull off the back and assess the spaghetti that fell out. We had previously had WiFi installed that also needed the same live & earth connections so I was able to follow those and simply insert the red with the other power cable and the black with the earth. The power connector had lots of brown wires going in and the negative lots of black. If you are in doubt, check a wiring diagram or use a multimeter.
- Turn the control panel power off before making connections. Disconnect the leisure battery if you are unsure.
Step 4: Test
- Before reassembly, turn the control panel on and test the fan works.
- You can control it manually by the fan speed, timer, or put it on auto. It will vary the speed depending on the temperature.
- The fans are near silent, but the noise can be amplified to a low hum depending on how or where they are mounted. If you get noise try a piece of rubber under the mountings (cut up an old inner tube). Or add additional support, a rubber band around the two top supports may stop them resonating. Play about by touching different bits of the frame or mount to see what helps.
- Tidy up your wiring. Use cable ties to tie up the excess and use tape to stick the cables down or I found a glue gun useful.
- Completed image below. Lower vent area not needed as I took the power from the control panel.
So there we are, that’s how to install a cooling fan in your van fridge to optimise energy efficiency. We hope you found this article useful, we have lots more planned so visit our motorhome tips section for more.
Disclaimer: Dave is confident and experienced at DIY and loves tackling small van projects. But it goes without saying, if you’re in any doubt then do not attempt this yourself. Your local friendly van mechanic will gladly help with this upgrade.
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