How Much Propane Does an RV Fridge Use? A Quick Guide

A newer RV refrigerator with around 10 to 12 cubic feet of internal volume will consume around 1.5 pounds of propane per day.

This translates into roughly 1,400 BTUs per hour.

Understanding Propane and Its Usage in RVs

Propane is a gas that is commonly used in RVs as a power source for various appliances, including the RV refrigerator. It is stored in a propane tank and is also known as LP gas. Propane is a clean-burning fuel that is eco-friendly and efficient, making it an ideal choice for RVers who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

When it comes to propane consumption in an RV, it is important to understand how much propane each appliance uses. The RV refrigerator is one of the appliances that uses propane, and its usage can vary depending on the size of the fridge and how often it is used.

A small 4 cubic feet RV refrigerator will consume approximately 1 pound of propane each day. This means that a 10-pound propane tank will last for 10 days or more if you choose not to keep the fridge on for 24 hours. However, a larger fridge will consume more gas than a smaller one, so it is important to consider the size of your fridge when estimating propane usage.

It is also important to note that propane tanks come in different sizes, and the size of your tank will affect how long it will last. Smaller travel trailers and fifth wheels usually use one tank, while larger campers will usually have two. It is important to check the propane tank’s capacity and refill it as needed to avoid running out of gas.

In conclusion, understanding propane and its usage in RVs is crucial for RVers who want to make the most of their propane tank and appliances. By estimating propane consumption and considering the size of the fridge, you can ensure that you have enough gas to power your RV refrigerator and other appliances during your travels.

How an RV Fridge Works

An RV fridge, also known as an absorption fridge or absorption refrigerator, works on a different principle than a traditional compressor fridge. Instead of using a compressor to cool the interior, an absorption fridge uses a combination of hydrogen and ammonia to create a cooling effect.

The process starts with a gravity-fed absorber, which contains a solution of water and ammonia. The solution flows down to the boiler, where it is heated by a propane flame. The heat causes the ammonia to evaporate and rise up to the condenser, where it is cooled by the outside air. This causes the ammonia to condense back into a liquid and flow back down to the absorber.

As the ammonia evaporates and rises, it passes through a hydrogen-rich environment created by a hydrogen gas flame. This causes a chemical reaction that produces heat, which is used to drive the evaporation process. The hydrogen and ammonia then combine in the absorber, creating a new solution that is ready to be heated again in the boiler.

One of the benefits of an absorption fridge is that it can run on propane, which is commonly used in RVs. This makes it a popular choice for RVers who want to be self-sufficient and not rely on electricity. However, it’s important to note that an absorption fridge may not be as efficient as a compressor fridge and may require more propane to run.

Modern RV refrigerators have improved on the traditional absorption fridge design, with better insulation and more efficient components. However, the basic principle of using chemical reactions to create a cooling effect remains the same. With proper maintenance and care, an RV absorption fridge can provide reliable cooling for many years.

Energy Efficiency and Consumption Rate

When it comes to RV fridges, energy efficiency is a crucial factor to consider. The fridge’s consumption rate determines how long a propane tank will last, and this is dependent on the fridge’s size, age, and ambient temperature. Let’s take a closer look at the energy efficiency of RV fridges.

The efficiency of an RV fridge is measured in thermal efficiency. This refers to how well the fridge can transfer heat from the inside to the outside. The higher the thermal efficiency, the less propane the fridge will consume. A well-maintained RV fridge will have a thermal efficiency of around 35-40%.

The consumption rate of an RV fridge is determined by its size. A 10-12 cubic foot fridge will consume around 1.5 pounds of propane per day, while a smaller 4 cubic foot fridge will consume around 1 pound per day. It’s essential to note that the fridge’s consumption rate will also depend on the ambient temperature. The hotter the temperature, the more propane the fridge will consume.

Some RV fridges come with an electric element that can be used to power the fridge when connected to a 120-volt AC power source. This can be an excellent way to save propane when camping at an RV park with electrical hookups. However, when boondocking, the fridge will run off the 12-volt battery system, which can quickly drain the battery.

In terms of hydrogen gas, RV fridges use a small amount of ammonia, hydrogen gas, and water to create a cooling effect. This process is entirely safe when the fridge is well-maintained and properly installed.


Maintenance and Safety Measures

When it comes to maintaining your RV fridge, there are a few things you can do to ensure it runs efficiently and safely. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Regular Maintenance: Make sure to perform routine maintenance on your RV fridge, including cleaning the coils and checking for any leaks or corrosion. A well-maintained fridge will run more efficiently and last longer.
  • Level and Stable: Keep your RV level and stable while using the fridge. If the fridge is not level, it can cause the cooling system to malfunction, leading to potential safety hazards.
  • Water and Power: Make sure your RV is connected to a reliable source of water and power. A lack of water can cause the fridge to overheat, while a lack of power can cause it to stop working altogether.
  • Pre-Chill: Pre-chill your fridge before adding food to it. This will help it maintain a consistent temperature and reduce the amount of propane it uses.
  • Safety Measures: Always follow safety measures when using propane. Keep the area around your RV fridge clear of any flammable materials, and make sure to turn off the propane when not in use.
  • Rust and Corrosion: Check for any signs of rust or corrosion on the fridge’s exterior. If you notice any damage, take care of it immediately to prevent further damage.
  • Explosion: Keep in mind that propane is highly flammable and can be dangerous if not used properly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take necessary precautions to prevent explosions.

By following these maintenance and safety measures, you can ensure that your RV fridge runs efficiently and safely, providing you with cold food and drinks on your next adventure.

Importance of Ventilation and Airflow

When it comes to RV refrigerators, proper ventilation and airflow are essential for optimal performance. Without sufficient ventilation, the fridge may struggle to maintain a consistent temperature, and the cooling fan may have to work harder than necessary, leading to increased propane usage.

One of the most important aspects of ventilation is ensuring that the RV refrigerator vent is not obstructed. The vent serves two purposes: to keep water and rain out of the fridge and the RV and to vent hot air from the fridge. If the vent is blocked, hot air will not be able to escape, leading to decreased efficiency and increased propane usage.

In addition to the RV refrigerator vent, it is also important to consider the placement of the fridge within the RV. The fridge should be placed in an area with good airflow and circulation, away from any obstructions that could impede the flow of air. This will help the fridge to maintain a consistent temperature and reduce the workload of the cooling fan.

Using an RV refrigerator fan can also help to improve airflow and circulation within the fridge. These fans are designed to circulate cool air throughout the fridge, reducing the workload of the cooling fan and improving overall efficiency.


Factors Influencing Propane Usage

There are several factors that can influence the amount of propane used by an RV fridge. Here are some of the most important ones to keep in mind:

Temperature Setting

The temperature setting of your RV fridge can have a big impact on how much propane it uses. The lower the temperature setting, the more propane it will require to maintain that temperature. So, if you want to reduce your propane usage, consider setting your fridge to a slightly higher temperature.

Cubic Feet

The size of your RV fridge also plays a role in how much propane it uses. Generally, larger fridges will require more propane to keep them cool than smaller ones. So, if you’re looking to reduce your propane usage, consider downsizing your fridge if possible.

Solution and Condenser

The type of solution and condenser used in your RV fridge can also affect its propane usage. Some solutions and condensers are more efficient than others, so it’s worth doing some research to find out which ones are best for your fridge.

Daily Usage

How often you use your RV fridge on a daily basis can also impact its propane usage. The more frequently you open and close the fridge, the more propane it will require to maintain its temperature.

Ambient Air Temperature

The ambient air temperature outside your RV can also affect how much propane your fridge uses. If it’s very hot outside, your fridge will have to work harder to keep its contents cool, which will result in higher propane usage.


Finally, the counter on your RV fridge can also influence its propane usage. Some counters are more accurate than others, so it’s important to make sure you’re using a reliable one to get an accurate reading of how much propane your fridge is using.

Food Storage and Cooling Efficiency

When you’re on the road in your RV, you need to make sure that your food stays fresh and cool. The RV fridge is an essential appliance for this purpose. Here are some tips to help you maximize your food storage and cooling efficiency:

  • Keep your fridge stocked: A full fridge is more efficient than an empty one. When your fridge is full, there is less air to cool, and the items inside will help keep each other cold.
  • Use cold food items: Putting warm or room temperature items in your fridge will make it work harder to cool them down. Always use cold items when possible.
  • Manage your cooler: If you’re using a cooler in addition to your fridge, make sure to keep it in a shaded area and out of direct sunlight. Also, keep the lid closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature.
  • Use cooling fans: Cooling fans can help improve the efficiency of your fridge by circulating cold air throughout the unit. Consider installing one if your fridge doesn’t already have one.
  • Monitor electricity usage: Running your fridge on electricity instead of propane can save you money, but it also uses more power. Keep an eye on your electricity usage to make sure you don’t drain your batteries.

By following these tips, you can help maximize the efficiency of your RV fridge and keep your food fresh and cool while on the road.

Choosing the Right RV Refrigerator

When it comes to choosing the right RV refrigerator, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, you need to make sure that the refrigerator you choose is the right fit for your RV. This means taking into account the size and layout of your RV, as well as your personal preferences and needs.

There are a few different types of RV refrigerators to choose from, including propane fridges, electric fridges, and portable fridges. Propane fridges are a popular choice among RVers, as they are efficient and reliable. They use a propane regulator and an LP gas burner to keep your food and drinks cold, even when you’re not connected to a power source.

One popular propane fridge option is the Dometic Americana. This fridge is designed specifically for RVs and is known for its durability and reliability. It features a spacious interior, adjustable shelves, and a built-in thermostat to help you keep your food at the perfect temperature.

If you’re looking for a more portable option, there are also a variety of portable fridges available on the market. These fridges are designed to be lightweight and easy to transport, making them a great option for motorhomes and RV parks.

When choosing an RV refrigerator, it’s important to keep in mind that propane fridges require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly. This includes cleaning the burner and checking the propane regulator for leaks.

Overall, choosing the right RV refrigerator comes down to your personal preferences and needs. Whether you’re looking for a propane fridge, an electric fridge, or a portable fridge, there are plenty of options available to suit your needs.

Alternative Power Sources for RV Refrigerators

Aside from propane, there are other power sources that can be used to run an RV refrigerator. Here are some of them:

  • Onboard Generator: An onboard generator is a convenient power source for RV refrigerators. It can provide a steady supply of power for extended periods of time. However, it can be noisy and may require regular maintenance.
  • Dual Fuel Generator: A dual fuel generator can run on both propane and gasoline. This can be a great option for RVers who want the flexibility to switch between fuel sources. However, keep in mind that gasoline can be more expensive than propane.
  • Compressed Freon: Some RV refrigerators use compressed freon as a cooling agent instead of propane. This can be a good option for those who want to avoid using propane altogether. However, compressed freon refrigerators can be expensive and may require more maintenance.
  • Percolator Pump: A percolator pump is a device that can be used to convert heat from a stove or campfire into electricity. This can be a great option for RVers who want a more eco-friendly power source. However, percolator pumps may not provide enough power to run larger RV refrigerators.

When choosing an alternative power source for your RV refrigerator, consider factors such as cost, convenience, and maintenance requirements. It’s important to choose a power source that fits your needs and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will an RV fridge run on propane and battery?

The length of time an RV fridge will run on propane and battery depends on the size of the propane tank, the capacity of the battery, and the ambient temperature. On average, a 20 lb propane tank will last for about 11 days, while a 30 lb propane tank will last for around 16 days. A fully charged battery can keep an RV fridge running for up to 24 hours.

How much propane does an RV refrigerator use per hour?

An RV refrigerator typically uses around 1.5 pounds of propane per day, which translates to roughly 60-70 BTUs per hour. The exact amount of propane used per hour will depend on the size and age of the refrigerator, as well as the ambient temperature.

Can I run my RV refrigerator on propane while driving?

Yes, you can run your RV refrigerator on propane while driving. However, it is important to ensure that the propane tank is turned off before refueling and that the refrigerator is turned off while refueling.

How much propane does a RV refrigerator use?

The amount of propane used by an RV refrigerator will depend on its size, age, and ambient temperature. On average, a 10-12 cubic foot RV refrigerator will use around 1.5 pounds of propane per day.

How long will a 30 lb propane tank run an RV refrigerator?

A 30 lb propane tank will typically last around 16 days when used to power an RV refrigerator.

Is it better to run RV fridge on propane?

Whether it is better to run an RV fridge on propane or electricity will depend on the individual situation. Propane is a reliable and convenient source of power, but it can be more expensive than electricity in some areas. Additionally, using propane requires monitoring the propane levels and ensuring that the tank is refilled when necessary.