Your RV fridge is perhaps one of the most power-hungry things in your rig. Keeping it running and your food cold will drain your house batteries fast if you are not connected to offshore power.
Most people work around this by getting efficient fridges, cooling their food as much as possible before driving and investing in a bigger battery bank.
Another common workaround is getting a fridge that can run on propane.
Running Your RV Fridge on Propane: Get the Right Fridge
All RV fridges don’t run on propane, and you can’t easily convert a fully electric fridge into running on an RV.
When making a purchase, ensure that you get a unit that can use propane off the shelf. A common practice is a triple power fridge that can run on propane, mains electricity or DC power.
Preparing Your RV Fridge
Before turning your compatible fridge to run on propane, you have to ensure that a couple of things are right.
Ensure that your RV is parked in a perfectly level spot. If you can level it, you can use a wedge to level the fridge itself and ensure it’s perfectly upright
- Ensure you have access to a small amount of DC power. The fridge can convert available AC power to DC or get this power directly from your house batteries
- Plumb your RV fridge to the propane gas tank using the right gas pipe
- Ensure that the valve from your propane gas tank is open
Check this too: How to Check Ammonia Levels in an RV Fridge
Turning on Your Propane RV Fridge
The procedure to run your RV fridge will vary according to the model. Most fridges make the process as automatic as possible.
- Move the RV thermostat to the highest setting (lowest temperature) possible
- Turn the power source selector to propane (often a flame symbol)
- Push and hold the piezo igniter (or electric igniter) before pushing and holding the gas safety valve
- Don’t keep the two depressed for over 5 seconds.
If everything is fine, the igniter will produce a flame and turn on the pilot light that the fridge will use to ignite the main flame on demand. Otherwise, wait for a couple of minutes before retrying. If you can’t light up the fridge, something is wrong, and you need to troubleshoot
ProTip: RV propane fridge operation can vary by model. Please consult your user manual for the correct operating procedure.
After the fridge is on, you can set the thermostat to the desired temperature and wait for the refrigerator to run until it attains the right temperature.
Do I Need Electricity When Running My RV on Propane?
Yes. Your RV fridge needs some electricity even when running on propane. Even though the propane does most of the heavy lifting, it can’t run crucial electrical components in the fridge like:
- The fridge light
- Your control panel
Other than these, your fridge might also need the power to control the gas valve or ignite the pilot light. Luckily, the electricity draw is minimal, and most RV fridges will even get the job done on a DC power connection. This makes it more efficient to run it straight from your house batteries.
How Much LP Gas Will My RV Fridge Use?
The consumption varies depending on the size of your fridge and how hard it has to work to attain the set temperature.
For instance, a 1500 BTUs per hour fridge could run for around 60 hours on a single gallon of propane.
Note that just like electric fridges, propane refrigerators don’t go flat out. They will occasionally shut off the mainframe when the thermostat hits set temperature.
The only difference is they are not as efficient at maintaining temperatures as electric RV fridges.
Is My RV Fridge More Efficient on Gas or Electricity?
It depends on what your fridge is doing and how much each power source costs.
Generally, gas is a better fuel for getting your fridge and its contents cold. Once it attains the desired temperature, it stops being efficient since it’s harder to precisely control the flame size and temperature.
Electricity is more efficient at maintaining temperature since the controller can regulate the current going to the electric heating element, giving it better precision on hitting specific heat for the required cooling effect in the fridge.
If you have a three-way or two-way fridge, start by cooling with propane and switching to AC or DC power to maintain the achieved temperature.
Running on propane throughout will be the only option if you don’t have a significant enough electricity source.
If you have a three-way fridge, wire it to AC and DC so that you can run it straight off DC battery power when not connected to offshore power. This will give you more efficiency by avoiding inverter losses in converting DC power to AC. It will also let you install a smaller DC to AC inverter in your RV.
Can I Run My RV Fridge on Propane When Driving?
No. You shouldn’t run your RV fridge on propane when driving. First of all, there is little control over your gas when driving if the motion rips a valve or a valve.
Moreover, most manufacturers recommend only using your RV fridge on propane with the fridge perfectly level. You cannot guarantee a level surface when driving.
Check this too: How to Keep an RV Fridge Cold While Driving
Shut off the RV supply at the propane tank valve before taking your RV for a spin. You can maintain the fridge temperature using house batteries or keep it closed, letting its insulation maintain the temperature.