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Home » Does An RV Refrigerator Work While Driving? (Key Advice)

Does An RV Refrigerator Work While Driving? (Key Advice)

Does An RV Fridge Work While Driving

If you’ve ever wondered does an RV refrigerator work while driving, you’ll be happy to hear that the answer is it does. There are just some important things to consider.

RV refrigerators are a hot topic for debate among RVers, especially when it comes to running the fridge while driving.

While you can indeed run an RV fridge while driving, there are a few factors to consider. The safety of driving and running a fridge depends on whether your refrigerator uses propane.

Additionally, there are power concerns, specifically whether your power source will last until you reach your destination.

Now that you know you can run your refrigerator as you roll down the highway, here is some more information on how keep your food supply cool while driving in your van.

RV Fridge Power Sources

When talking about RV refrigeration, the main thing you actually need to consider is heat. Heat is the power source for refrigeration, whether that is produced by a propane pilot light, 120V AC, or 12V DC electrical power.

RV fridges can run on two or three of these heat sources. These are referred to as two-way or three-way refrigerators.

Two-Way RV Refrigerators

Two-way RV fridges run on 120V AC power and propane. They are the most common type of fridge and are the most reliable at maintaining a consistent temperature.

Two-way refrigerators can receive heat from your propane tank while your RV is running to conserve electricity. Once you plug into the campground grid or turn on your RV generator, the fridge can switch to 120V AC.

While running off a generator, heat is produced by an electric heating element. While running off propane, the heat is generated by a propane flame, which explains why some RV-ers consider running a fridge while driving to be an unnecessary risk.

Three-Way RV Refrigerators

Three-way RV fridges can use propane, 120V AC, and 12V DC power. A three-way fridge uses 12V DC power from your RV’s battery bank.

While more versatile than two-way fridges, they also have a reputation for holding a less consistent temperature.

The 12V DC power is more limited than the other power sources, so these fridges do not have the capacity of two-way refrigerators.

They are better suited to older motorhomes and pop-up campers but a key thing to note is that 12V DC is the safest of the three power sources but can drain your RV’s battery.

Choosing A Power Source For Your RV Refrigerator

Which power source your RV fridge uses will depend on your situation, so it is important to understand each before running your fridge.

  • Propane: Useful when watching your electrical usage but dangerous due to its flammability.
  • 120V AC: The most consistent power source but requires connection to a grid or an external generator. An inverter with a high-capacity battery can power it.
  • 12V DC: Safer than propane and useful without a generator or campsite grid, but it risks draining your RV’s batteries.

Many RV fridges on the market today can detect available power and switch automatically.

Are Propane Fridges Worth The Risk?

Between the three power sources, propane is the most hotly contested. Many RVers consider using propane while driving to be too dangerous, and with good reason.

Propane is highly flammable – very efficient as a heat source for powering your fridge, water heater, stove etc, but at the same time it can be wildly dangerous if something goes wrong.

In such a scenario, as much as we wouldn’t wish it on anyone, you may need some no fridge meals ideas.

Dangers To Avoid

A rough spot in the road, a sudden stop, or a sharp turn could jostle the propane tank’s lines. A loose line could lead to a gas leak.

If inhaled, propane gas can cause anything from dizziness to seizures or unconsciousness, not to mention that even a single spark could cause an explosion.

How To Use Propane Safely For RV Fridges

If you decide to run your fridge on propane while driving, you’ll need to make sure everything is properly secured before setting out on the road. Be sure to check your RV propane system regularly for any damage or loose connections.

Remember to obey all laws and turn off your propane before fueling at a gas station. So if you’re prepared to take on the responsibilities and risks of running propane while driving, then you can use it to keep your fridge running.

However, propane is certainly not the only way to go when running your fridge on the road.

Electric Power On The Road

120V AC And Generators

It is possible to run a generator inside your RV. However, generators can be noisy. A noisy generator might not be a problem if you’re driving down a highway, but it can draw unwanted attention from authorities if it is too noisy in a quiet suburban area.

Additionally, many generators run on propane. If your RV generator is one of these, just be sure to follow the same procedures you would if running your fridge directly off of a propane power source.

12V DC Battery Power

If you have a three-way RV fridge, you can simply switch the power input to 12V DC and your food will stay chilled. Since RV batteries recharge while the engine runs or your solar panels generate power, your fridge won’t drain them quickly at all.

Be sure to watch the temperature outside as 12V DC is not as efficient at maintaining a constant temperature inside the fridge and may wear out your battery’s life and put unnecessary strain on your alternator.

Are There Any Alternatives To Propane Or Running My Fridge Off Of My RV’s Battery Bank?

If you’re looking to conserve power, you may not need to run your fridge while driving at all. A well-maintained fridge should maintain a near-constant temperature for six to eight hours before the temperature begins to rise significantly.

So, if your fridge is at the correct temperature before you head out on the road, you’ll have most of the day to drive before you have to make plans for powering your fridge again.

Will Driving On Uneven Roads Impact My Fridge’s Performance?

All refrigerators, whether home units or RV fridges, run at peak efficiency when they are kept level.

This is something to consider if you plan to drive your RV on a mountain road or over hilly country. It might be best to power down your fridge until you’re on a level path again.

This applies to parking as well. If you’re going to run your fridge once you’re camped for the night, make sure it is level with the ground, not just the floor of your RV.

Does An RV Refrigerator Work While Driving? FAQs

Can I run a residential refrigerator in an RV while driving?

Yes, you can run a residential refrigerator in an RV while driving, but it requires an inverter to convert the RV’s 12-volt DC power to 110-volt AC power.

Ensure the inverter has sufficient capacity to handle the refrigerator’s power requirements and that your RV has adequate battery capacity.

Can I run the RV refrigerator on propane while driving?

While it is technically possible to run an RV refrigerator on propane while driving, it is not recommended due to safety concerns.

Propane systems can be hazardous if there is a gas leak caused by a bump in the road. Additionally, some states have regulations prohibiting the use of propane appliances while driving.

How do I keep my RV refrigerator cold while driving?

There are several methods to keep your RV refrigerator cold while driving:

  • Use an inverter to run the refrigerator off the RV’s batteries.
  • Keep a bag of ice in the fridge to help maintain a low temperature.
  • Ensure the refrigerator is well-insulated and keep the door closed as much as possible.

Should I turn off the refrigerator during short trips?

Turning off the refrigerator during short trips can help conserve battery power. A well-insulated refrigerator can keep food cold for several hours if the door remains closed.

Are there specific safety concerns when running a refrigerator in an RV while driving?

Yes, there are several safety concerns. Ensure the refrigerator is securely strapped to prevent movement and monitor power consumption to avoid draining the batteries excessively.

Follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents or damage, especially if using propane.

Can I install a residential refrigerator in any RV?

It is possible to install a residential refrigerator in an RV with some modifications. Consider the size, power requirements, and compatibility with your RV’s electrical system before making the switch.

How do I determine the right inverter capacity for my refrigerator?

Check the refrigerator’s wattage requirements and choose an inverter with a capacity higher than the specified wattage to accommodate startup surges.

These answers should help you understand the considerations and precautions necessary for running an RV refrigerator while driving.