Wondering which camper’s fridge to buy for your RV? Or have questions about the fridge you already have? Whatever your queries about the camper’s fridge may be, we’ll put them at ease with our article on the traditional camper’s fridge.
Want to upgrade your RV, but have doubts on how to go about it? Don’t worry. In this article we will discuss everything there is to know about the RV camper’s fridge, with a special emphasis on the traditional camper’s fridge, i.e. the RV Propane Fridge.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
#1 Why Should I Buy An RV Refrigerator?
RV fridges are expensive, there is no doubting that. Purchasing an RV fridge might seem like a huge expense, but in the long term, it is actually a huge investment.
I’ll just use my residential refrigerator, why spend so much? You might ask.
Well, there are a few simple reasons why you should not use your residential refrigerator even if you can, in your RV. Here’s why –
1. Residential Fridge was meant to be permanently placed.
It’s a fact. The fridge at your home was made with the intention that it stay put in one place for years to come. This simply means that your residential fridge will not last long in your RV trips.
RV fridges are made to be portable. They are made in a way that they can handle everything – from the bumps in the road to the power fluctuations.
2. Residential fridges take up way too much space.
RV fridges are compact. The fridge at your house, on the other hand, may not be as compact. Why not save precious space when you can?
3. Residential fridges are made to be powered on electricity only.
Residential fridges have a single source of power – electricity. This will not be a good trait for a condition of near constant power fluctuation. You will not only damage food, but in case of a power outage, you will harm the stabilizer of your fridge too.
RV fridges on the other hand come in 2 different kinds – they have a versatile source of power. They can run on AC power, DC power and propane.
4. Residential fridges tend to have higher moving parts.
The greater the number of moving parts, the tougher will be the maintenance and repair of the equipment – it’s pretty much a general thumb rule.
#2 What Are The Types Of RV Fridges?
We mentioned above that RV fridges have a versatile source of power because they come in 2 different varieties. What are these 2 different varieties? Let’s find out –
1. Two Way RV Refrigerators
As the name suggests, these RV refrigerators run on 2 distinct power sources – A / C power source, and propane. This is the traditional camper’s fridge we’ll be focusing on in this article.
2. Three Way RV Refrigerators
Again, as can be guessed by the name, these refrigerators have 3 sources of power – A / C power, D / C power and propane.
#3 How Does A Propane Fridge Work?
Unlike an electric refrigerator, which uses a coolant to keep the interior cold, a propane fridge relies on simple chemical reactions. The process starts with a flame fed by a propane tank, which is why this appliance is called a propane fridge.
Let us look at the working of the propane fridge in a little more detail –
Fellow Campers, lab coats on!
- A propane fridge has a sealed network of tubes and chambers holding water, ammonia and hydrogen gas.
- A propane flame heats a chamber holding a solution of water and ammonia until the liquid boils.
- The ammonia gas rises to another chamber, the condenser, where it cools back into a liquid. It then flows to the evaporator, where it mixes with hydrogen gas.
- When ammonia encounters hydrogen gas, the chemical reaction between the two absorbs heat.
That’s how the propane fridge produces its cooling action — by pulling heat from the interior of the refrigerator into the ammonia-hydrogen mix.
As it absorbs heat, the ammonia becomes a gas again. The ammonia and hydrogen gases then combine with water.
The ammonia and water form a solution again, which releases the hydrogen gas to rise back to the evaporator. The process then starts all over again.
#4 Key Tips To Check The Functioning Of Your Propane Fridge
- When the RV propane refrigerator is operating properly the flame is spark ignited to heat the boil assembly and runs the absorption refrigerator. The flame should be a solid blue and should not bounce around.
- The refrigerator should generally operate on LP gas, unless it is set on automatic. If the system is set on automatic, it will switch and run off of 120 volts of electricity should it become available.
If electricity becomes disconnected, the LP gas burner will automatically kick back on within a few minutes.
- The RV propane refrigerator needs at least 10.5 volts of battery power to open up the gas valve and spark the ignitor. Without that, the LP gas line will not operate properly and will not run the refrigerator.
When troubleshooting, check the battery power to ensure there is enough power available to ignite the RV propane refrigerator.
- When inspecting the RV propane refrigerator unit, it is important to keep the assembly clean and free of debris. This will ensure your unit runs efficiently and without any issues.
- Keep the fridge level at all times. It’s important to remember that these fridges work using chemical reactions. For these liquids and gases to flow properly, the fridge needs to be level. All this take is a quick check using a spirit level.
Any good fridge model will have extendable feet, so you should be able to easily adjust the level accordingly. If using in an RV, make sure to re-check the level whenever you change location.
- There is heat involved with the fridge – both via the propane flame, and the chemical reaction in the fridge. To allow this to dissipate properly (and to maximize efficiency), make sure to keep at least a 1″ gap for airflow around all sides of the fridge.
#5 How Safe Is An RV Propane Fridge?
Let’s get real for a moment here – we are speaking of powering an equipment meant to cool our food, with fire, using a fuel that is known to be very volatile and very flammable – that too while driving an RV.
That is a crazy concept! And it is understandable if you have your apprehensions about it – because driving with propane is no funny business. But it also isn’t as risky or scary as you might think.
Let’s discuss the risks and safety features of RV propane fridges one by one.
If you’re a civil engineer, chemist or anyone who has anything to do with ammonia – you know why this name tops the list in risks. Ammonia poisoning occurs by inhaling or ingesting ammonia in gaseous or aqueous forms.
What makes it hard to detect a potential ammonia leak is that the gas is colorless. However, there is a defining way to know if it is ammonia – its odor. It’s one of the most pungent smells in the world – there’s not much chance you’ll miss it.
If there’s a way to describe it, it’s like the smell of rotting fish. Now that’s a hard smell to miss.
However, the chance of any leaks happening is very small. Especially with newer models, or anything less than 10 years old – you’re pretty safe. Provided you look after the fridge properly (don’t chuck it around or let it bash off things) you’ll be just fine.
While using a combustible fuel to operate appliances sounds dangerous, propane’s actually very safe due to the strict codes and regulations manufacturers must follow.
The chance of an explosion-type catastrophe is next to nothing, but carbon monoxide is a real danger. This invisible, odorless gas is given off as part of the propane-burning process, and can be deadly if it replaces too much oxygen in the air! For that reason, the most important tips are related to good ventilation.
You can check our previous articles to know more about handling propane –
These 2 are the only things you need to be a little extra cautious about. Other than that, the entire fridge in itself has ZERO moving parts. Zero moving parts means less risk, easy maintenance and easy repairs!
#6 How To Vent A Propane Refrigerator?
Venting is crucial for any propane appliance. It’s necessary to remove any carbon monoxide produced from burning propane and to bring in fresh air to keep the fire going.
There’s also the heating aspect. Since we want the fridge to keep things cool, having good airflow and ventilation can maximize the efficiency of the propane fridge by getting rid of the heat from the flame and the chemical reactions in the fridge.
When fueling your propane refrigerator via propane, you’ll either have the propane source inside or outside of your structure. Let’s look at both options.
1. Propane From Outside
This is the simplest option, and most suited for 20lb or larger propane cylinders. It’s a simple case of having the tank outside connected via a hose and regulator. Provided your hose is tightly connected at both ends, there’s not much else to it.
Just make sure you’re following the basic best practices – the tanks are in good condition, certified, and secured.
2. Propane From Inside
In a standard indoor case, the best option is sourcing an exhaust hose outside. This is mainly for larger (20lb+) tanks. For smaller tanks or ones you just use temporarily, simply opening some windows and doors may be enough. For example, a small propane source below an open window should be fine.
If you’re considering either option, make sure you use a carbon monoxide detector to keep yourself safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Buying an RV refrigerator is a big decision. They’re likely to be both the largest and most expensive appliance in your RV.
Determine how much space you have for your fridge, choose a spot, and measure it. Make a list of fridges you’re interested in based on type and brand, and shorten it based on special features.
You might not buy the perfect fridge, but you’re sure to get one you’re happy with.
And as long as you follow the safety precautions well, you can chill out with a chilly can of beer with your friends – or prepare fresh salads with your kids, without any risks!