Running a fridge on an RV is a constant balance between conserving power and expelling all that heat an RV can gather out in the sun. The balance becomes trickier when you are driving as you no longer have access to shore power.
You have to rely on your house batteries or the alternator to keep the fridge running.
We will share some tips and tricks to help you keep your fridge as cold as possible while on the move without risking yourself or your RV.
Start By Investing in a Very Efficient RV Fridge
The first and most effective way to win against the heat is by investing in the most efficient RV fridge you can afford.
The fridge won’t have to run its heating element as often, and the entire Ammonia absorption process won’t have to run as frequently.
Such a fridge could run on house batteries while on short drives without depleting them – as long as you use it right and don’t open it unnecessarily.
Avoid using house fridges in an RV that drives around a lot. The moving parts in a compressor-based house fridge make it more power-hungry and susceptible to vibration damage.
RV fridges run on an absorption principle. A heating element heats up a mixture of ammonia and water, turning the ammonia into gas to kickstart the cooling process.
Get the Temperature Very Low Before Hitting the Road
Another good trick to keep your fridge cold when driving is lowering temperatures the night before – especially if you are plugged to shore power.
Set the fridge to the lowest possible temperature overnight.
The colder it gets, the longer it will take before thawing. The insulation will do most of the work during your drive, and you might not have to run it off anything at all.
Don’t Open the Fridge Door Unnecessarily.
Opening the fridge door lets cold air out and hot air from the surroundings in. That is why experts discourage unnecessarily opening your home fridge and leaving the door open.
The same applies to your RV fridge. Pack any snacks and drinks you might need on the road in a cooler box and keep the refrigerator shut at all costs. You’ll be surprised at how long it will stay cold when you keep the warm air out and the cold air in.
Install Solar Panels On Your RV
Most RVs in the market right now have solar panels on the roof. If yours doesn’t have them, you could consider installing some and upgrading your house batteries to lithium.
This will let you generate some electricity on the go. You can, in turn, use this power to run your fridge as if your RV were still connected to shore power.
Install a DC to DC Charger to Keep the House Battery Charged from the Alternator
While solar panels are a great way to pump renewal juice into your battery, they are not efficient in winter or at night.
Another way RVs can generate power is by using a DC to DC charger to juice up their house batteries as you drive.
A well-kitted RV with an upgraded alternator produces more power when on the move than when parked off the grid.
If your RV can already charge house batteries from the alternator, confirm that it uses a DC to DC charger. If it does, you can upgrade the lead-acid house batteries to drop in Lithium-Ion Phosphate replacement for better energy density.
Upgrading the alternator and the charging system will also help you get more power into your batteries when driving.
Your new batteries will store more of the juice you generated while on the highway, and you can use it to run the fridge and other electronics when parked or in start-stop traffic.
ProTip: Ensure that your system has a DC to DC charger before changing the house batteries. Some designs join the house battery to the main battery using an isolator. This might not be good enough for your upgrade.
How Long Will, an RV Fridge, Stay Cold When Not Running?
An RV fridge is well insulated and can run for up to 14 hours without power as long as you keep the doors closed or open them when necessary.
This impressive insulation is what makes them so efficient to start with.
Can You Run Your RV Fridge on Propane When Driving?
Running an RV fridge on propane when driving is not a good idea. Since the process involves heating the ammonia water mix, propane will be ignited somewhere in the system.
The vibrations and jolts when driving could theoretically spring a leak, and the gas could ignite. When driving, shut off the propane supply at the main valve to keep all the gas safely contained in the cylinder for more safety.
Will an RV Fridge Run on Batteries
A well-configured RV fridge will run on batteries. Some RV fridges are three-way. They can run on Propane, AC (shore) power, and 12V DC power.
Going for an RV fridge that can run on DC power means it can run straight off your batteries without using an inverter.
Check this too: Norcold RV Fridge How to and Troubleshooting Guide
However, that will be considerable current, and you will need thick conductors to conduct the electricity without massive voltage drops safely.
Most aftermarket installers prefer a better alternative is installing a DC to AC inverter to convert power from the house battery to mains voltage.
You can then use your RV fridge just as you would when connected to offshore power, only that the entire RV will be getting its power from onboard batteries and an inverter.
ProTip: You have to upgrade your house batteries, the DC to DC charger and perhaps install solar panels if you want to run a DC to AC inverter. It is an investment, but the reward is you can camp off-grid as you can now generate your power.