IN A RECENT SHORT YOUTUBE VIDEO, Bob demonstrated how he insulated his freezer. It inspired me to share how I’ve insulated my Domestic CF-25 refrigerator.

When I planned the buildout of my van I thought I’d put the refrigerator in part of a cabinet I had built. I knew I needed to provide air circulation to keep the compressor from burning out. There was a four inch gap between the back of the cabinet and the van wall and I left part of the cabinet back open with the idea of mounting a computer fan to circulate air. But when Bob saw what I wanted to do, he said that probably wouldn’t supply enough circulation.

So I moved the fridge to the space next to the driver’s seat, which is what this style of refrigerator was designed for. Then I wrapped a few layers of Reflectix around it —with openings for the vents, of course. I made a “lid” from several layers of Reflectix held together with duct tape. (I don’t have a photo of this.) It looked kind of scabby, but it was better than nothing. Maybe. It was like that for a couple of months.

One day Bob came by with about half a sheet of foil-backed extruded polystyrene board. “Do you have any use for this?” Yes, I did. I fashioned a new insulating box from it. This is what it looked like:

I kept that foam box for about a year, but then I did some reworking of my van’s setup. The cabinet I had mounted in place of the passenger seat (see above photo) just wasn’t working out for me. I got rid of it and redistributed its contents to other parts of the van—which was possible because I had pared down my “necessities.” That left plenty of room for the fridge. I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law at the time, and they had enough shop tools for me to build Version 3.0 of the insulated box.

I started by using 2-inch foil-backed polyiso board to build a box under and around the fridge. Then I built a base of two-by-fours to raise it off the floor because the engine exhaust runs under the passenger side of the van. I skinned the foam box with 3/8-inch plywood and a frame of two-by-fours. And I made a lid from plywood and two-by-twos. I also covered the lid and parts of the sides with Reflectix to reflect sunlight. For the sake of stability and safety, I used the passenger seat mounting bolts to hold my contraption in place.

The base and frame provided the opportunity to mount the fuse panel (to which I hardwired the fridge, warranty be damned), a volt meter, and an extra 12 Volt outlet. Since then I’ve also attached a bottle opener and fire extinguisher.

Version 3.0 had the box lid opening the same way as the fridge lid, toward the front of the van, but after installing my handiwork I discovered the lid hit the ceiling before opening all the way, so for Version 3.1 I hinged the lid toward the side of the van, with it coming to rest against the B pillar. 

The space between the box and the door, along with the passenger footwell, provide plenty of ventilation. And the lid sometimes serves as extra counter space.

I never did any before-after energy use experiments, but I know that even in triple-digit heat the fridge stays cold without using a lot of power.

Have you insulated your refrigerator? If so, how?