If you’re traveling in an RV and using propane gas on it, you need to weigh all the pros and cons and decide what you are comfortable with. After all, it’s your RV, and the only person making this kind of decision is you.
Although 3-way refrigerators can be run on 12v Dc while driving, RV refrigerators will perform best when using propane and even stay cooler on hot summer days. If you run it on 12v Dc, it will conserve propane but will most certainly drain your battery if you switch your motor off for even a couple of hours.
This is why we recommend using the electric setting on your refrigerator if you travel with your generator running.
In this article, we cover all about the pros and cons of using propane gas on your RV.
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RV refrigerators can be found in two configurations:
- 2-way RV refrigerator – operates on propane and 110v AC
- 3-way refrigerator – operates on propane, 12v DC, and 110 AC
A good option would be to use the electric setting on your refrigerator in case you travel with your generator running. In most new RV’s, generators cannot run your refrigerator while traveling because of the amount of energy required. That’s because of the wiring.
And in case you can run your refrigerator, there’s a chance you will need to replace your alternator more frequently than usual. Before we move to the pros and cons of traveling with your propane gas on, here’s all you need to know about RV refrigerators.
Regardless of available information on RV refrigerators, it all comes down to your travel style and personal preference. Still, there are some RV refrigerator basics that will help you make the decision. The bottom line is – RV fridges are either compressor-driven or absorption refrigerators.
You’ve probably heard about “residential-style refrigerators”, as well. To avoid confusion, this term is used as a reference to the design, or to denote that the refrigerator was designed for a fixed-residence use.
Absorption refrigerators are the most common type you’ll find in RVs. This type can run off of LP gas, which makes it rather flexible in comparison to compressor-driven refrigerators. The term “2-way fridge” is usually used to indicate an absorption RV refrigerator that can run off of LP gas and AC Power.
On the other hand, a “3-way fridge” usually refers to an absorption RV refrigerator that can run off of AC Power, DC Power, and LP gas. It can also run off of a generator/shore power, house batteries, or propane.
If you are looking for a flexible alternative to conserving power, absorption refrigerators may be the right choice as you can switch to propane. This helps you stay out longer without shore power. The thing about absorption fridges is that they don’t cool as efficiently or quickly. And you also need to park your RV adequate level to enable the fridge to function properly.
If you’re opting for an absorption fridge, you should consider getting a high-performance RV propane tank. There’s a variety of refillable, lightweight options available on the market.
These fridges are typically powered by AC/DC power. This means that you can run it off your coach batteries if your RV is plugged in or shore power if it’s not plugged in.
Fridges you can use in fixed homes (residential fridges) are also compressor refrigerators. These can only run if you plug them into the wall. This is why you can only run them off of AC power which is also why you will need an inverter when the RV is not plugged connected to a generator/shore power.
Unlike absorption refrigerators, compressor fridges are more efficient and tend to cool faster. And you don’t need to park your RV perfectly level.
Some large towable RVs and Class As come with “residential-style” refrigerators. These are known for their capacity and the fact that they cool more evenly. Moreover, they are typically not as expensive as RV fridges.
Residential fridges only work off of shore power. This means that if you don’t plug them in, you’ll need a generator or an inverter. With an inverter, you can convert DC power from your batteries into AC power your refrigerator can use.
Some RV manufacturers use the term “residential-style” to refer to the larger-size fridge, design, or the fact that these fridges cool through a compressor.
How to Pick the Right RV Fridge
Picking the right RV fridge depends entirely on your preferences and traveling style. You may be a fan of residential fridges, opt for propane for convenience or go for an AC/DC compressor fridge. Still, before making a decision, you need to know all the pros and cons of each type. Here are the issues you need to consider when purchasing an RV/RV fridge.
The Amount of Food You Intend to Store
A residential fridge may be a good choice if you’re traveling with a large family or tend to cook a lot. In case you’re staying at developed campgrounds, this should be a comfortable option as you’ll always be plugged in.
On the other hand, if you opt for a residential-style fried and prefer boondocking and wild camping spots, it would be best to upgrade your battery bank and/or your solar capacity. This is when a heavy-duty battery bank may be a day-saver.
If you’re in a smaller company and avoid storing a lot of food, you’ll probably opt for the flexibility of absorption fridges or AC/DC compressor fridges.
Accessible Battery Bank
A few hundred dollars’ worth of upgrading your battery bank is an investment that pays off. If there is no easily accessible battery bank in your RV, an absorption fridge may be your best option. This is because an AC/DC compressor fridge can drain your stock battery if you’re boondocking and a residential-style fridge is most effective with an upgraded battery bank.
How to Refill Propane Less?
If refilling the propane tank is too much for you, you should opt for a compressor fridge. This will not eliminate the need for propane, because furnaces and water heaters mostly use propane. You’ll need a more upgraded battery and solar capacity if you want to use propane less.
How to Level Perfectly?
Absorption fridges should not concern you if you’re perfectly level. Otherwise, you’ll want to try a compressor fridge. Still, if you prefer lots or driveway stays with your family, you’d be more comfortable if you bring out the leveling blocks. This way, you won’t have to worry about being perfectly level.
Is There an Inverter in Your RV?
In case your RV has a residential-style fridge (AC power only) and no inverter onboard, you won’t be able to spend much time off-grid. Having an onboard generator, on the other hand, may help with this, but it could interfere with noise restrictions or campground policies.
Traveling With Propane Gas On
If you fancy the “privilege” of having your fridge running while you drive, traveling with your propane on is the right thing. Besides, propane runs the heating system in your RV and keeps the water in your water heater hot. Despite many pros of traveling with your propane gas on, there are certain risks you need to be aware of.
As you travel, appliances in your RV move and they can break the propane line. This may result in the gas escaping from the tank. It takes only a tiny spark to ignite it and trigger a fire.
Before going into a gas station, you need to turn your propane and all other appliances off. Moreover, in some stations, you need to turn the propane off when entering a tunnel. It means you’ll need to “sacrifice” your cooling and heating systems, but that’s a minor compromise knowing it could save your life.
RV Fridge Cools Faster On Propane
RV fridges can run on propane, electricity, or both. They don’t use compressors but work by heating a mixture of gases and water. This is what leads to a cycle of condensation for cooling. Speaking of cooling, RV fridges DO cool faster on propane. Propane rapidly heats the water and carries out the evaporation cycle to create a cold environment in the fridge.
RV fridges that run on propane gas are perfect if you’re a fan of eco-friendly and non-expensive options for fridges and other appliances. There are many advantages relating to the use of propane which make it a better choice in comparison to electric appliances.
The pros of refrigerators run on propane gas
- Propane carries out the heating cycle rapidly, thereby cooling the fridge quickly.
- Propane appliances last longer and perform better than electric ones.
- When using propane, the fridge can be portable and taken off-grid.
- Propane is environmentally friendly – clean-burning, lead-free and non-toxic fuel. Also, it is not demanding in terms of cleaning your RV fridge.
- It is a non-expensive option, energy-saving option.
- Propane is safe – if it escapes the container, it vaporizes and diffuses into the air and cannot be ingested. You can easily detect the leaks because of the propane’s pungent smell.
- It is accessible and highly versatile.
- Propane does not contaminate water or soil.
- You can take it to remote areas where you don’t have access to electricity.
- The risk of blowing off is reduced because propane has low flammability.
Temperature Maintenance When Traveling With Propane Gas Off
Now that we’ve explained the key features of RV fridges fueled by propane, you should also understand the ways to maintaining the temperature with propane gas off.
- Your fridge should be on the coldest setting the night before you set off.
- Keep your food and drinks in an ice chest during the day to minimize opening the fridge door
- Turn your appliances off when traveling. If there’s a leak in the propane line, electric ignition can create a spark and trigger an explosion.
- Use RV propane detector
- If safety is your primary concern, traveling with your propane fridge switched off is the best option.