Planning to use Propane for your RV Fridge? – 5 Things you Should Know

Are you considering buying an RV fridge that uses propane? Do you have questions about its performance, for instance how well it cools using propane compared to 120V AC?

Or, the benefits and drawbacks of using one? Answers to questions such as these can help you have the right expectations from the start.

This post is a compilation of 6 important questions about an RV fridge’s performance when using propane as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using propane.

#1. Time to Cool Fridge Contents

There should be a noticeable change in the fridge’s temperature within two hours if the fridge is working well. If there is none, then there’s likely a problem with the fridge’s cooling system.

Before loading a fridge with food for the first time, it is advisable to let it run for at least 8 hours to cool sufficiently after which you can add food items.

#2. Does a Propane Fridge use Electricity?

Yes, RV fridges need electricity to power the control board responsible for controlling the RV fridge’s operation – the gas solenoid, thermostat, and LED display indicators.

The RV Fridge should therefore be connected to a 12V battery. The recommended battery 12V supply voltage is in the range of ~ 10.5 to 16V min, refer to the fridge manual.

If it is too low, the RV fridge controls will not operate properly. Consult the fridge manual for the recommended fridge 12V range and for instructions on how to safely connect a 12V battery supply.

#3. When Does an RV Fridge Cool Faster – Using 120V AC or Propane?

It is often reported that an RV fridge attains the set temperature faster with propane than with 120V AC.

With that said, in general, assuming no changes to the RV fridge components have been made, the fridge should be able to cool as well whether using propane or 120V AC.

Should the fridge appear to cool better with propane compared to 120V AC then check the following:

#1. Check if the wattage of heating elements is the same as that specified by the OEM. Have any repairs been done on the RV fridge and lower wattage heating elements installed as replacements? if so, then this explains why the cooling effect is less when the fridge is connected to 120V AC.

#2. Check the line voltage of AC power supplied to the RV fridge. If the voltage is lower than the rated (~115V), about ~108V, this results in less power available to the heating elements which then affects the fridge’s ability to cool effectively.

#3. The RV fridge’s heating elements may be faulty and need to be replaced.

#4. The Benefits of Using Propane for your RV Fridge

With propane, you are not limited to camping grounds that have shore power in order to keep the food or drinks cool and safe to it.

You also do not need to invest in generators or solar equipment to power your fridge.

#5. The Drawbacks of Powering an RV Fridge with Propane

When using a fridge that uses propane,

  • you need to be aware that they tend to be smaller in size and capacity compared to the larger 120V AC fridges
  • It needs to be kept level for the fridge to operate properly
  • There is a risk of fire in the event that the gas is exposed to a flame. Care must be taken to keep any open flames away from the gas system.

Closing Thoughts

RV electric/ propane fridges are ideal if you plan to go to camping grounds without shore power. They tend to be smaller in size compared to the domestic, electric fridges and need to be kept level to operate properly.

Compared to 120V AC fridges, the propane fridge can attain a set temperature faster but cooling performance should be the same whether on propane or 120V AC.

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