An RV refrigerator

RV Refrigerator Tips

Having a refrigerator in your recreational vehicle can make “camping” easier — or frustrating. Here’s how to make sure your RV refrigerator (RV fridge) runs optimally to keep food cold and fresh. Here are my road-proven RV refrigerator tips:

Know Your RV Fridge

RV Refrigerator Tips
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RV refrigerators operate differently than the ones in your house — which is one reason why RV fridges cost more.

An RV refrigerator works on the principle of “gas absorption” which means that heat (from a power source) moves the refrigerant solution inside the cooling unit.

The unit pulls the heat from the surrounding air and sends it out the vent at the back or top of the refrigerator. What’s left is cooler air. The fridge is insulated and has door seals to keep the cool air in place.

Controls help you set and maintain the level of cold that keeps refrigerator foods fresher and freezer ice solid. To operate efficiently, RV refrigerators must be relatively level or the refrigerant won’t circulate.

(The pros recommend no more than 3° off of level side-to-side and 6º off level from front to back. I recommend that your rig be level enough to comfortably sleep.)

Know Your Power Source

A refrigerator in the RV

Recreational vehicle refrigerators are either two-way (110-volt AC or propane) or three-way (adding 12-volt DC operation).

Which power source you should use depends on what you are doing. The most efficient refrigeration occurs when the unit is plugged into a 30-amp (or larger) electrical outlet. If using a household extension cord (typically 20-amp), the fridge isn’t quite as efficient.

Use 110-volt AC (alternating current) when preparing your RV for a trip (pre-cooling the fridge) or plugged in at an RV park during your trip. The next most efficient is propane (liquid petroleum gas or LPG).

Use propane to power your RV fridge if parked with no 110-volt electricity available, such as dry camping. Finally, the least efficient power source for RV refrigerators is a 12-volt DC (direct current), if equipped.

The power comes from your “house” battery (the 12-volt battery in your RV), obviously less power than 110-volt AC. Use 12-volt power for your RV fridge when moving. NEVER drive or pull your RV with  the propane ON!

Know the Cooling Controls

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RV fridge controls range from simple switches to digital controls that automatically switch between power sources and set temperatures. What controls does your unit have? If you don’t know or they aren’t clear, check the manual.

If your unit doesn’t have one, get the make and model number, typically found on a plate on the door frame. Next, search the Internet for the manual. (Be careful: There are phony manual sites that want you to download their malicious software.

Only download directly from the manufacturer or a reputable dealer.)

Monitor the RV Refrigerator

A man opened a fridge in the RV

At least twice a day during your trip, take a quick check of your RV fridge. Is it cooling food sufficiently? Is the freezer cold enough to make ice? Also, is the power source set correctly for your use?

Save Money

Keeping your RV refrigerator in top condition and working efficiently will save you money. You can enjoy fresh food on the road rather than eat out. Use the most efficient power source for your refrigeration needs.

You will make your expensive RV refrigerator last longer. Saving money is what is about. For more ways to save money, read 10 frugal RV tips.

RV Refrigerator Tips and Tricks (Video)

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