How To Keep An RV Fridge Cold While Driving?

For RV owners, the fridge is a necessity – a road trip is incomplete without a fridge full of your favorite food and refreshments. You may forgo the hot tub and cabinets, but not the fridge! You can pack non-perishables, but if fresh produce and cold drinks are on the menu, you can’t go without a fridge!

Running a fridge becomes tricky when the RV is in motion – it uses a lot of energy and could be dangerous to run.

How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?

RV refrigerators work by using chemical reactions and heat with ammonia and water. Ammonia and water solution is heated in the generator chamber until it becomes gaseous. The ammonia gas is separated and sent to the condenser coil to release the heat and cools back to a liquid.

The depressurized ammonia travels to the evaporator coils of the fridge using hydrogen gas in the process. The mixture of hydrogen and ammonia absorbs heat and it becomes gaseous which cools the fridge compartment and enters the absorber. It contains water that was separated from the hydrogen-ammonia process.

The ammonia and water are combined into a solution; it releases hydrogen gas to the evaporator coils. The leftover mixture is transported back to the generator chamber to reheat and continue the process.

Moreover, electricity can also be used to run an RV fridge and propane can be used to run the fridge if electricity is unavailable. The latest RV refrigerators come with an auto feature that uses propane as a back source of fuel if electricity is unavailable. RVers are advised to seek professional help with refrigerator installation to correctly install the appliance in the RV.

How a Dometic and Norcold RV Fridge Works
Unlike domestic fridges, RV fridges work without a compressor or any moving parts.

Does an RV Refrigerator Work While Driving?

Yes. RV fridges work while driving. However, there are concerns when using propane as a source of fuel. But, it’s still possible.

Since running a refrigerator is possible while driving your motorhome, there are a few considerations that you need to understand such as the fuel source. And the most popular sources of fuel for running an RV fridge are propane and generator. You need to be aware of the risk factors involved while using it for your safety.

Propane is the most used source of fuel when running an RV refrigerator – also associated with pros and cons, although people have different opinions. The biggest issue with using propane is the possibility of catching fire. If line breakage occurs, a large explosion can happen. But if you learn to practice safety and recognize the risks, then you should be just fine.

If you do not want the risk of using propane, using a generator to power up an RV refrigerator is another option. Be sure to choose a generator with enough wattage to run the fridge in your RV. However, the main concern for RVers is the space it takes up, but there are other smaller options in the market.

So, yes! An RV refrigerator works while driving. However, it is associated with risks that you should be aware of. But, if you know how to practice safety and is always careful, you’ll be fine!

A travelling RV motorhome on the road in Yellowstone Park
An RV fridge can be used while driving.

Is it Safe to Run Your Fridge on Propane While Driving?

Errr… there is no simple answer as most RVers run their propane while driving and manufacturers aren’t clear about it which confuses RV owners big time. But the truth of the matter is, leaving your propane on exposes you to definite risks.

Traveling with the propane gas on is convenient as you get to run your RV fridge, keep the heating system from running, and heat the water. It is no secret that traveling with propane gas on is beneficial and convenient, but you may be exposing yourself to some serious risks if mishandled.

It is NOT safe to run your fridge on propane while driving due to high susceptibility to line breakage. Appliances move while traveling which creates a breakage on the propane line and allow the gas to escape from the tank. A broken line can trigger fire and explosion.

Since you don’t want to forfeit fridge use while on the road, periodic safety checks on your propane tank and connectors should be performed. Also, make sure to have a working propane leak detector on your RV for safety. Practice safety precautions to avoid any risks.

Propane Tank ASME
Leaving your propane on is hazardous.

How Long Will an RV Fridge Stay Cold Without Power?

Turning off your RV refrigerator does not mean losing its coolness.

There are a few ways you can keep the fridge cold while driving such as keeping it close most of the time and turning it on to the coldest setting possible a day ahead of your trip to crank up its coldness. In other words, your fridge will stay cold without power for a longer period of time.

An motorhome fridge can stay cold without power for 4 to six hours depending on the brand. Other brands stay cold for at least 12 hours. So, choosing a more sophisticated RV fridge is a great advantage to keep everything cool and fresh.

Moreover, you can also fill the RV fridge with ice packs to prolong its coolness. It is an effective way to cool the fridge for long hours.

However, you need to use a proper container to prevent spills from penetrating the refrigerator. Also, be sure to pack the refrigerator properly to maintain its temperature!

Nevertheless, the fridge will stay cold until you arrive at your next destination when you can turn on the propane safely. In that way, everything inside is well-preserved and fresh.

How Long Will An RV Fridge Stay Cold Without Power?
Tip: Pack the refrigerator properly to maintain its temperature!

Will an RV Fridge Run Off Battery?

The refrigerator works using a battery if it is set up for it or run by propane too. The length of time it can run depends on the refrigerator type and setup.

If you’re asking how long will an RV fridge run on battery, unfortunately, there is no specific answer other than “it depends.”

There are variables to consider such as the type of battery you’re using, and the type of refrigerator. Knowing the kind of battery in your RV and the type of fridge will allow you to calculate roughly how long it can run on batteries.

And yes, you can run the RV fridge off the battery while driving! But, it depends on the RV set up and fridge type. You may be able to use your battery to run the fridge while in motion – it is safer and prevents the risks of using propane. Think about it… it is best to use the battery while driving because it charges constantly while the RV is in motion.

Again. You can use a battery to run the fridge. But if you want other options, you can use the generator or AC power to run your fridge.

A three way fridge
A 3-way RV fridge is the best option for keeping a fridge running on the road. Credit: Norcold

How To Keep a Fridge Cold While Driving

You don’t have to give up the comfort of having a cold fridge while living the RV life. Here are a few fool-proof ways to keep the fridge at a good temperature while on the move.

Keep the fridge door closed.

Don’t open the fridge door often. The coldness is released each time you open that fridge door. Room temperature air goes through the fridge which causes cold air and temperature loss by several degrees.

Crank up the coldness.

Set the fridge to the coldest possible setting and leave it for hours before the journey. So, everything is cold and icy when you unplug the fridge before heading to your destination. That should be enough to keep the food cold for several hours.

Seal the gaps.

Before turning on the fridge to the coldest setting and keeping it closed for the journey, fill up all the empty spaces to retain its coldness. Use water bottles, drink cans, ice cubes, or ice bags. Make sure that everything is leak-free to avoid seeping the content into the refrigerator.

How to Keep Food Cold While Traveling

Keeping the food cold while traveling in an RV can be tricky as you may need to turn off the fridge fuel source while in motion. But, there are practical ways to keep the food and make sure that it is properly stored in your RV fridge.

Shelf-shopping is a big no-no. Meaning, do not browse the content of an open fridge for a long time. It would help you organize the content of the fridge beforehand. Decide what you want before opening the fridge door. Leaving the fridge open for a long time wastes energy and decreases cold air temperature.

Lastly, do not put leftover food in the fridge unless it has cooled down. It affects refrigerator efficiency which makes the appliance work harder. Putting hot food on the fridge can also lead to loss of food nutritive value.

So, keep your RV fridge cold and efficient. Enjoy RV life and be safe!

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3 thoughts on “How To Keep An RV Fridge Cold While Driving?”

  1. Scott Sanders

    Wouldn’t it be safe to say that whether an RV fridge is running on propane or not while driving, an LPG line may still be damaged due to movement. That damage won’t become evident until you next try to light your appliances. It could become dangerous either way. My safest option is to put dry ice into the fridge before moving if so want my food to stay relatively cold during my trip. It’s the safest method without propane or a running generator.

    1. Caution here: I have seen ice chests/coolers explode violently due to the excess CO2 pressure created by the sublimation of Dry Ice within the duct-tape-sealed chest. The CO2 gas must be able to vent. So, if your RV fridge door seals very tightly when latched shut, or if you strap the fridge door shut; then make sure that the door seal still has some “compression” capability (seal NOT completely collapsed) to allow the constantly increasing gas pressure to squeeze by the seal. Since you will likely pre-cool your fridge a day or two before you travel (and dry ice used here will expedite that process); then I would use that time to verify that the fridge is venting said CO2. Happy travels!

  2. I throw in a few ice packs in freezer and fridge if going on a long trip. Works well in preserving the cold!

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