RV refrigerators work differently from a refrigerator in your home. In the very primary method of working. The process starts with a chemical reaction where ammonia combines with distilled water and hydrogen gases, and the RV refrigerator works through absorption.
The ammonia and hydrogen gases are heated, and then you’ll find evaporation and condensation occur, thus causing your refrigerator’s cooling effect.
A propane flame can heat the ammonia rather than a heating element you find in an electric refrigerator.
In our guide, you can learn more about how does a gas refrigerator work in full and what you can do to help it keep it highly efficient. You may also be surprised to find that modern refrigerators stop the temperature inside from getting too cold and use an onboard heater to do this.
By the end, you’ll know much more about operating your propane-powered refrigerator and making sure your next trip to the nearest grocery store doesn’t end up with wasted food, thanks to the cold air inside the refrigerator. (Learn How To Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving)
Are Propane Refrigerators Efficient?
Propane refrigerators provide us with the impressive ability to have a functioning refrigerator even off the grid.
However, one recurrent concern is their efficiency. Refrigerators that run on propane are incredibly efficient.
While each fridge’s efficiency varies, most can operate nonstop for over 11 days on a regular 20lb propane tank.
Yet you can improve this by following some efficiency techniques. Still use electricity as your power source when possible as it’s less expensive and doesn’t require recharging.
Here are a few more details to delve deeper into.
Since then, technology has advanced through advancements, resulting in the various propane refrigerators available today.
There isn’t a lot of data on efficiency to compare since propane refrigerators are a specialized technology.
The efficiency of a propane refrigerator will vary slightly based on a variety of factors, including:
- What is the temperature of the air?
- What is the amount of airflow around the refrigerator?
- What is in your fridge (do you have ice packs or warm food)
- The refrigerator’s arrangement (is it level)
Heat is used for power until the chemical reaction occurs. You’ll find this is a propane burner or an electric heater. Either heat the recreational vehicle’s fridge to a high enough temperature in the ammonia and water solution until the chemical reaction produces the right conditions.
It’s a good idea to turn it on the night before. It will cool down faster and be ready to use the next day. If you can’t turn it on, add dome bags of ice to help reduce cooling time.
Check your propane refrigerator is level as they function better this way than if they slope.
You’ll discover that these refrigerators have nothing in the cooling system to encourage airflow. It can be worth investing in a small fan to circulate cold air and help to cool your fridge.
Make your fridge isn’t too packed with new food. You need room for good airflow inside, especially when first cooling down.
Before you leave on a trip, use electricity to power the refrigerator. Then you’ll want to switch to propane when off-grid. (Read What to Do When RV Fridge Not Working)
Does a Propane Fridge Need Electricity?
When you look how does a propane fridge work, you can find that some require electricity and a propane refrigerator run from propane tanks and no need for electricity.
Power is used to heat the fridge in a camper refrigerator. The cooling process is carried out by a mixture of water, liquid ammonia, and hydrogen gas. Therefore, there are no moving parts in the compressor.
To keep the temperature cold, cold air moves from the freezer into the refrigerator box.
Absorption fridges are cooled by a combination, and many camper RV refrigerators are powered by propane or electricity and automatically switch as required. You can turn off the gas and run the fridge offshore power after your RV is plugged in.
Typically, everything happens on its own. When the RV refrigerator is linked to electricity, it runs on electricity until it is disconnected, at which point it changes to propane.
These camper refrigerators are made for campers or live in lake houses or run refrigerators on solar power.
Many models come from either Norcold or Dometic 12-volt models and can fit into small kitchens.
While they eliminate the need for propane, they also allow you to charge your batteries while driving.
Options for a powered refrigerator
- 2-way Propane/Electric Combination
- Combination of 12-volt and electric power (some can run from a 110-volt AC outlet)
- Refrigerator (mini)
Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, so choose the refrigerator that best suits your needs. Many refrigerators break down rapidly if they aren’t used. If you only use your camper a few times a year, a new camper refrigerator may not be necessary.
The classic camper fridge, which runs on both propane and electricity, is the first. It can become heated and break down if left unlevel for an extended period.
If left in an unlevel position while operating, standard propane tank combo refrigerators can cause fires.
A 12-volt/electric combination operates on both 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC power, allowing it to be powered by a 12-volt battery and a conventional house outlet. They are more expensive, but they can resist the rigors of travel.
Some campers choose a camper with a little fridge. It is a less expensive option, but they are less likely to have a reliable compressor that can survive the movement of a camper.
Mini-fridges also only work on 120-volt AC power, making them unsuitable for boondocking or camping without access to electricity. (Find the Best RV Surge Protector)
How Does a Propane Camper Refrigerator Work?
Refrigerators for RVs can be fueled by 120-volt electricity or propane gas. If you don’t have access to electricity, an RV propane refrigerator can keep your food and beverages cool.
When using propane to power a refrigerator, a tube is run from the tank to the manual shut-off valve and automated valve opener. Check that these are in good functioning order and that they are free of debris.
- The flame is lit to heat the boil assembly, showing that your refrigerator is an absorption refrigerator model. The open flame should be blue and not sway. The refrigerator can run on LP gas unless it is programmed to work automatically.
- A propane refrigerator contains distilled water, liquid ammonia, and hydrogen gas in a sealed network of tubes and cooling fins.
- The chamber that holds the ammonia and water solution will be heated, where the propane flame heats to boiling point.
- The ammonia gas rises to the condenser chamber as it absorbs heat and boils, cooling to liquid. It next passes into the evaporator, where it is mixed with hydrogen gas.
- The chemical interaction between ammonia and hydrogen gas consumes heat. As a result, the chilling process draws heat from the interior of the refrigerator into the ammonia-hydrogen mixture.
- The ammonia and hydrogen gases move to the absorber when it absorbs enough heat, where they are mixed with the water collected in the separator.
- Ammonia and water from the solution are released into the evaporator, releasing hydrogen gas.
- The ammonia solution and the water go through the chemical reactions repeatedly inside the refrigerator to repeat the cycle.
Can You Drive With Propane Fridge Running?
There are many viewpoints on running a travel trailer’s refrigerator on propane while driving. Here’s another. The quick answer is yes; you can tow with a propane refrigerator. Should you? Leaving the RV refrigerator on increases the likelihood of the propane system failing.
When you leave in your RV, consider if you need to leave the refrigerator turned on or if you can turn it off. There are a few factors to think about, such as the length of your trip and the power sources accessible.
Propane has several safety concerns, and several states make it illegal to use it in certain situations.
Because a significant bump or pothole could cause your propane refrigerator RV tank to shift and leak.
When traveling, most manufacturers recommend turning off the refrigerator. Propane is flammable, and even small sparks can ignite it.
Inhaling excessive volumes of propane might cause a headache, dizziness, or convulsions if there is a leak. That is why it is critical to maintain the state of your RV’s propane system and double-check that everything is in working order.
Whether passing through tunnels or stopping at a gas station, you are required by law to turn off the propane tanks to RV fridges. Using a propane RV fridge while driving entails a great deal of responsibility because of the potential for disaster.
If you want to avoid the risk, you can keep your refrigerator running while driving using other power sources.
Built-in or external generators can now power a 120 AC fridge. Before you set off on your journey, ensure sure your gas tank is full. Many generators use fuel from your RV’s fuel tank and shut off when the fuel level goes below a set level.
To save fuel and avoid accidents, generators output less power while in motion. Because RV refrigerators require a lot of power to run, some generators may not be capable of producing enough power to keep the fridge operating while moving. (Find the Best Deep Cycle Battery Charger)
Since RVs, three-way refrigerators have become more unusual, and RV refrigerators are larger. 12 Volt DC produces a limited quantity of power, which is insufficient for an RV fridge to run for more than a few hours. RV owners can rest assured, the RV’s engine recharges the batteries as you drive, ensuring that the 12V DC does not consume too much battery power.