How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use

How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use.

How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use

There are times when you want to get closer to nature with your RV Trailer or just want to escape the comforts of an RV Trailer park. That not only means you bring everything you need, but you also need to keep items like fresh groceries and cold water.

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How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use?

An RV fridge can use anywhere from 5 to 35 pounds of propane per day depending on the size, how often it’s used, and how many people are in the RV.

A large one that is running every day and holding groceries may use anywhere from 5 to 35 pounds of LP gas per day depending on the size, number of people living in the RV, and how often it’s used.

For example, if you’re using a 500 gallon tank (about 4200 cubic feet), 5-7 days worth of propane for your refrigerator would mean that you had about 170 lbs (77 kg) left in your tank at any given time. And since 2 gallons = 1136 cu inches so let’s say 4400/1136 = 393 lbs, or about 170 lbs remaining in the tank.

So you could keep your RV fridge running for just over 5 days on a 500 gallon tank of propane, which is average sized for an RV.

How does an RV Trailer refrigerator work?

Before you can properly maximize its efficiency, you must first understand how an RV Trailer refrigerator works. There are several differences from the refrigerator you have in your home kitchen.

RV Trailer refrigerators are referred to as “absorption refrigerators”. While the refrigerator in your home uses compressed refrigerant to cool the interior, the RV refrigerator uses a mixture of hydrogen, ammonia, and water to create a powerful vaporizing effect.

When this liquid solution is heated by an electric element or propane flame, it travels through a percolator pump, which results in the release of steam from the hot ammonia.

The water is then returned to a special built-in boiler. The steam is directed to the condenser, which essentially gives off heat to the outside environment.

At this point in the process, the liquid ammonia is discharged into the evaporator with hydrogen gas. A complex evaporation reaction occurs between liquid ammonia and hydrogen gas. This essentially removes heat energy from the interior to keep things cool.

The hydrogen-ammonia mixture is then drained into an absorption chamber, where the ammonia is re-dissolved in water.

At the same time, hydrogen gas is then released back into the evaporator. This is basically starting the process from scratch.

It’s this weird trick of chemistry and heat transfer that allows an RV absorbent refrigerator to convert electric heat or propane to keep your food cold.

If you are electric camping with your motorhome, setting the refrigerator to propane operation will reduce the electrical discharge from your 12 volt battery system or internal generator.

How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use

How much propane does an absorption refrigerator use?

Newer RV Trailer refrigerators are more heat efficient than older units. Of course, the size also increases the overall energy consumption. In general, a newer RV refrigerator with an internal volume of about 10 to 12 cubic feet will use about 1.5 pounds of propane per day.

This means about 1400 BTU per hour. However, there are several things that can increase or decrease the performance of an RV refrigerator.

The newer units are more efficient in terms of combustion, which also makes them safer while reducing ventilated emissions.

Some fun-loving RV enthusiasts will even set up an RV with a dual-fuel generator that also uses propane.

Other things like opening and closing doors and other factors can also have a significant impact on how much energy and propane your RV refrigerator uses.

How can I reduce the propane consumption of my RV Trailer refrigerator?


Energy efficiency can be seen in several ways. If your refrigerator is draining more propane than usual, you should try one or more of the following methods:

1. Maintain your RV Trailer Regularly

As with any other device in your home, regular maintenance of your RV will help keep your device running smoothly.

It also helps you catch bad areas to fix before they escalate into a much bigger problem.

Look for leaks, rust, and corrosion. Also, watch out for soot buildup near propane outlets.

This could be a sign of inefficient combustion in the system. Something as simple as dust and cobwebs can interfere with system airflow.

2. Make sure the RV Trailer and refrigerator are leveled properly

Absorbent refrigerators work best when they are on a level floor. This is mainly due to the gravity supply of the liquid to the cooling system.

If you park your RV on uneven ground or the refrigerator itself is not leveled for installation in the RV, this can slow down the internal cycling process.

The longer the absorber RV is operated in an uneven state, the less efficient it is and the more likely it is to suffer significant mechanical damage.

When in doubt, check the motorhome’s floor level and use a level gauge to check the motorhome’s refrigerator by hand.

3. Add some battery powered fans

The compressor in your kitchen refrigerator has a fan that keeps the internal components cool.

If air circulation around your RV refrigerator is problematic, it can slow down the heat transfer process.

Place a small fan in the RV refrigerator to help keep it cool
Adding some cooling fans to the bottom of the RV freezer will help with heat exchange.

Basically, the fan helps draw extra cold air from the freezer through the cooling system, which in turn reduces the cooling load on the system.

Depending on how your fridge and freezer are packaged, you can increase thermal efficiency by up to 50%.

4. Reduce the temperature setting when the outside temperature is low

Outside air temperature can affect refrigerators in household vehicles more than kitchen refrigerators.

If you are camping in the spring, fall or winter and the ambient temperature inside the motorhome is below average, you can reduce the setting of the refrigerator with little effect on the interior temperature.

5. Put the refrigerator on in the RV Trailer before packing

Absorbent refrigerators take time to cool completely. If you’re traveling, let it sit for 4 to 6 hours before packing it with food and other cold items.

6. Put cold food in the refrigerator first

Even after the RV refrigerator has been pre-cooled, it still helps to pack the coldest items in the box first.

Is it safe to run your refrigerator with propane while driving_
This further reduces the heat load on the system. If you have free space, you can also place an ice pack on the rack to lower the temperature.

This is another time you want to put a small, battery-powered fan in the freezer.

7. Make sure the back of the RV refrigerator is not blocked

Most absorption coolers in motor housings dissipate heat energy from behind. Then the bottom opening also lets in cold air, while at the same time hot air exits the fridge.

If something is blocking or restricting airflow at the back of the refrigerator, it can seriously hinder the cooling process.

Make sure the back of the RV refrigerator is not blocked.It is very possible that something accidentally fell behind the refrigerator during transit, blocking one or both of the important airflow dynamics.

At the same time, the wall behind the motor home can be a factor. Some RV refrigerators have the minimum clearance required on the rear.

If you are installing a new refrigerator, the requirements may be different and the airflow may not be sufficient to fully handle the heat transfer process.

How much propane does an RV trailer fridge use

Tips for using a cooler box to make your refrigerator bigger to save propane

If you’re off the grid with your RV for an extended period of time, say a week or more, your refrigerator likely isn’t big enough to hold all of your perishable food.

Even if you manage to connect them all, the airflow is likely to affect the airflow and overall efficiency.

Using a good quality cooler or two to improve the cooling performance of your refrigerator can help keep things cool without putting maximum stress on the system.

This is a great way to make sure everyone has a cold drink or that the condiments are cold but available.

At the same time, keeping items for everyday use in the refrigerator will reduce the number of times a day you have to open the refrigerator to release old air.

When setting up a cooler, it’s best to use blocks of ice or large ice packs instead of ice cubes. The reduced air surface and the cold density of the ice cubes help slow down the melting process.

This has the potential to help keep the temperature cool for days longer than a regular bag of ice cubes.

Even if you only find ice packs on the street, don’t break them but place them carefully on top of food and drinks.

Get electric cooler box for your RV Trailer

There are approximately 12V coolers on the market that run on electricity. Just plug them into the onboard power supply and their own internal cooling system will increase the internal ice. This means that the cooler cools longer.

This is a great option for storing groceries you want to eat offline at the start of the holiday or when you want to enjoy a great holiday meal for the first night.

At this point, you can quickly rearrange the refrigerator or repackage the refrigerator.

Final Words

The RV absorbent refrigerator is a fun innovation. As with any technology, some basic maintenance and careful use will help achieve maximum efficiency and overall service life.

Remember to cool it down before charging, pack it carefully, hold it horizontally and watch the air flow.

With these simple tips, your RV refrigerator will use less propane and keep your perishable foods comfortably cool.

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We own and operate multiple camping and RV Trailer site. Its our passion to see the world thru camping and traveling. There is no bigger pleasure for us then to share with you our readers our experience in RV Travels and Camping.

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