How Long Will an RV Fridge Run on Propane?

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How long will an RV fridge run on propane? A single 20-pound tank of propane will last most trailers a month. During this month it will be powering simple things like your water heater, cooking tools, and refrigerator.

This is longer than a battery will be able to power your RV fridge on average. However, it is not precise because the length is affected by the size of your RV, fridge, and a few other major factors. So, you will need to account for those things once you have the specifications of your RV. 

Now that you know how long you expect propane to power your RV fridge, we will explain how an RV fridge works. Additionally, we will look at how much propane is used by one of these fridges. Then we will look at ways you can reduce the amount of propane that is used by your RV fridge. Once you have all that information, we will answer a few more questions for you, including whether you need a battery to run your RV fridge on propane.

We know that if you are new to the world of RVs, you probably have a lot of things on your mind. So, we thought it would be a good idea to help you out by looking at a few of the best RV refrigerators on the market. You might not find the perfect fridge for you, but the products we feature should give you an idea of what to expect in other options in the future. 

How Does an RV Fridge Work?

Before you familiarize yourself with an RV fridge, you might think it works the same as a residential fridge. However, this could not be further from the truth. Your home fridge uses a compressor, and your RV fridge does not have a compressor or any moving parts to cool things down. Instead, it is an absorption refrigerator. 

Vapor Absorption Refrigerator

To keep things basic, an absorption fridge uses a flame to heat a combination of ammonia, hydrogen, gas, and water. The heat causes chemicals to evaporate, and the condensation from them cools the fridge. If you are using shore power or a generator, the heat is produced by an element. However, if you are using LP gas, it is used to create the flame and heats the chemicals. Modern RV fridges will be set to automatically between LP gas or electricity depending on which is plugged in at the time. 

How Much Propane Does an RV Fridge Use?

Most newer RV fridges tend to be more thermally efficient than older options. As a result, a newer RV fridge will cost less to run over time. However, size also increases the overall energy demand. Generally, a newer RV fridge with around 10 to 12 cubic feet of internal volume will consume roughly 1.5 pounds of propane per day. That translates to roughly 1400 BTUs per hour. That being said, there are a few things that can improve or reduce the RV fridge’s performance. 

How Can I Reduce the Amount of Propane My RV Fridge Uses?

Energy efficiency is incredibly important when you are living and traveling in an RV. Failing to be efficient can lead to a very expensive energy bill. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to decrease the amount of propane burned by your RV fridge. 

RV Fridge Cooling Fans

RV fridge fan inside an RV refigerator

Air circulation is a major issue in RV fridges because they do not have a compressor. As a result, you could install RV fridge cooling fans inside your fridge to ensure that airflow is kept up.

These fans essentially help drive added cool air from the freezer through the refrigerator system. This will ultimately reduce the cooling load on the system. Depending on how packed your fridge and freezer are, you might be able to improve thermal efficiency by as much as 50 percent. 

RV Fridge Vent Fan

RV fridge vent fan

A second fan that you can add to your RV fridge that will help thermal efficiency is a vent fan. However, unlike a cooling fan, a vent fan does not go inside the fridge. Instead, it goes outside it.

The purpose of an RV fridge vent fan is to eliminate hot air around the fridge. When hot air accumulates around a fridge, it makes it so that the fridge needs to work harder to keep everything inside it cold.

As a result, your fridge will be working harder and burning more propane so that it can stay at the desired temperature. However, if you have a vent fan eliminating surrounding hot air, it will not need to work as hard. 

Be Sure Your RV is Level

Absorption refrigerators perform best when they are sitting on level ground. This is due in large part to the gravity feed of the cooling system’s fluids. When your RV is parked on uneven ground, it will slow the internal fluid cycling process.

The longer it stays on an uneven level, the more inefficient it will be, and the more likely it is to suffer a significant mechanical meltdown. As a result, it is very important to check the level of your RV after you park. Otherwise, you could have some major issues in the very near future. 

Pre Cool Items Before Loading into RV Fridge

One easy thing to do to help the efficiency of your RV fridge is to pre-cool your food before putting it in the fridge. You can do this by putting them in an icebox for a short amount of time before you add them to the fridge.

Alternatively, add cool food before you add anything that might be warm or hot. Having cold items in your fridge will further reduce the thermal load on the system. Additionally, if you have room to spare, you can add cold packs to the shelves to help lower the temperature even more. 

Do I Need a Battery to Run My Refrigerator on Propane?

You might think that since your fridge is running on propane that a battery is not required. However, since all modern RV fridges have a control board that acts as the brain of the unit, a battery is required to run the control board.

Depending on the make and model of the fridge, it will require a different voltage to run, but it will require a battery. The control board requires battery power to run, and you need a battery for ignition. It does not need to be an incredibly powerful battery in most cases, but you will need a battery. 

Can I Drive or Tow My Camper with My RV Fridge on Propane?

Now that you have your RV fridge all set up and ready to go, you are probably wondering whether it is safe to drive with it running? The short answer is yes, you can tow with the fridge running on propane, but there are risks you will need to accept.

Firstly, as we mentioned above, RV fridges work best when level. When you are driving the level will be changing by small amounts constantly. As a result, the efficiency of your RV fridge will be out of whack. 

Then there is a small risk that while towing your camper or driving your RV that there could be a fire or explosion. You have to keep in mind that you will be driving with an open flame. While it is contained and very low risk, there is always a risk that something could go wrong when a fire is involved.

Typically, you will be able to drive without any issues, but if something out of the ordinary happens like a tire blowing out, there could be a propane line rupture or leak. If that leak comes in contact with fire, then there could be an explosion. So, while you will probably be fine, you need to be aware of the risks. 

How Long Will an RV Fridge Run on a Battery?

Although times will vary depending on the battery and fridge, the average RV fridge will run for 8 to 10 hours with the batteries on. When plugged into shore power your house batteries will be charging so the battery will last as long as you are plugged in.

What Are the Best RV Refrigerators?

Now that you know how RV fridges are powered, you need to figure out which one to purchase. There are several options available, all of which have their pros and cons. Here we compiled a list of four excellent RV fridges for you to choose from. 

1. 6 cu. ft. Dometic Americana II Refrigerator with Fan DM2672RBF1

Dometic Americana II Refrigerator with Fan

The Dometic Americana II provides the ideal cooling solution for life on the road. It has two extra wide crisper bins with built-in carry handles for your convenience. Its ergonomic integrated locking door handles to keep contents safe in transit. Additionally, it has a solid steel construction that makes it more durable. 

With this RV fridge, there are two operation methods, LP gas or 110 volts AC. The electronic controls allow you to switch between the two with ease. 

Inside the fridge, you will enjoy the flexible shelving systems that adapt to your food storage needs. It also comes with LED lights that increase interior brightness by 30 percent. 

2. 7 cu. Ft. Dometic RM3762RB Double Door RV Refrigerator

Dometic RM3762RB Double Door RV Refrigerator

This RV Fridge from Dometic has intuitive, self-locking door handles. It also comes with a flush-mounted interior light that will ensure that you have a good view of everything inside the fridge. There are four interior fresh food shelves that you can use for extra storage. Additionally, it comes with an eye-level, LED temperature display, so you can keep an eye on the temperature and ensure that everything is running correctly. 

3. 8 cu. ft. Americana II Plus Refrigerator DM2882RB1

This RV fridge is another one of the best options for you on the market. It provides eight cubic feet of storage while weighing 143 pounds. There are LED lights inside the fridge to increase visibility and brightness by 30 percent. Additionally, you can choose a left or right door swing to suit your preferences. There is also a flexible, shelving system that adapts to your food storage needs. The doors are edge to edge with large ergonomic handles. 

4. Norcold Polar 3-Way AC/LP/DC 7 cu.ft. Refrigerator with Cold Weather Kit

Norcold RV Fridge

This RV fridge from Norcold offers an upgraded appearance with enhanced and modern styling. It has taller door panels which provide a more built-in look, while hidden liner, hidden hinges, and recessed door handles create a more streamlined look. Additionally, it has an upgraded control panel that features an LCD display, adjustable thermostat, and mode selection. There are no buttons or switches that you need to worry about. Finally, the fridge includes cold-weather capability down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Now You Know How Long Your RV Fridge Can Run on Propane

Now that you have the answer to the question, how long will an RV fridge run, we hope you are ready for your next trip. We know there is a lot of information to absorb, but it should all be helpful as you move forward. RV fridges require more maintenance than residential fridges, so you need to take the time to learn about them. Otherwise, you could be left in a situation where you are in the middle of the woods with a non-functional fridge. 

A 20 pound tank of propane will last you for about a month. However, you also need batteries for everything to run effectively. There are also things you can do to reduce the amount of propane burned per day. You can install cooling and vent fans, you can make sure your RV is level, and you can pre cool items before loading everything into your fridge. By doing these things, you will be ensuring that your RV is as efficient as it can be. 

There are several RV fridges on the market that you can purchase and place in your RV or camper. However, before you make a purchase, you need to figure out a few key things. Firstly, you need to decide how big a fridge you want. This will largely be dependent on how long you will be traveling, and on how many people you are traveling with. Then you need to figure out if there are any features that are important to you. This will help guide you towards the perfect RV fridge for you. 

Do you have any other questions about your RV fridge? Are you interested in any of the products listed above? Where do you plan on going for your next vacation? Let us know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “How Long Will an RV Fridge Run on Propane?”

  1. I have an Aliner Classic 2013 with a small fridge. How many days can I dry camp w/the fridge running on just the propane and battery?

  2. There is one very important item missing from the list: holding open the door of an absorption refrigerator for one minute will require an average of THREE hours for the refrigerator to regain the cold that was “let out”.
    Quick in-and-out should always be the rule when retrieving items from an absorption refrigerator.

  3. Will my RV fridge run on shore power only? (Without propane). And if so, it’s there a switch on it to use power only?

  4. We have an Atwood refrigerator that uses hhelium. Does this replace the hydrogen that most others use? In the past year it has stopped working in the electric mode 2 times. The rv was out of level both times. The most recent time we were able to level the rv, but the refrigerator would not restart. We checked the fuses and propane supply. They were OK. As I was getting ready to go out and purchase a mini fridge I punched the power button on the door. The refrigerator came back on! It has run fine in both gas and electric mode fot 3 days now. I seem to remember reading some uncomplimentary articles about Atwood units. Ours is the only helium one I’ve ever seen.


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