Running RV Fridge On Propane While Driving [Is It Safe?]

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Knowing whether it is safe to run RV fridge on propane while driving is an important discussion in owning a successful RV. Fortunately, you have entered the right web page because that’s what I am planning to talk about today.

In a general sense, an RV is your private property, and there is no such law that prohibits you from using the fridge on propane while driving. However, there is no room to be too simplistic about this as propane is a highly flammable gas. Any leak and even the smallest of spark from any source can bring a disaster.

What Are The Different Types Of RV Refrigerators?

Regardless of space and power constraints, four types of refrigerators are common in almost all the RVs; be it the regular or the luxurious models. 

  • Dc Refrigerators
  • Ammonia Absorption Refrigerators
  • Thermoelectric Refrigerators
  • Residential Refrigerators

The residential refrigerators are rare and complex to run on an RV. Conversely, the ammonia absorption types are very common among them. Probably for the reason that it runs both on the DC power and propane. The DC and Thermoelectric Refrigerator run directly on a 12V battery. 

You might think battery-powered refrigerators are not very powerful. Then you should also know that they keep your food fresh for a decent amount.

Electric Propane Combination (2-Way) Refrigerator

As I said earlier, the absorption type refrigerator is pretty standard in most motorhomes. A great feature of this RV fridge is that it runs both on propane and electricity from the battery. Hence the name, 2-way refrigerator for camper van.

Unlike residential refrigerators, they don’t use Freon gas. Instead, an electric propane refrigerator uses ammonia gas to cool things using the evaporation effect. 

Propane and electric are used to heat certain parts of the fridge so it can remove heat from the interior part of the refrigerator. 

Now, unlike 2-way RV refrigerators, electric fridges only run on electric power. If you don’t have a solar panel or Generator on board, that’s very important to consider from the RV perspective.

Moreover, an Electric Propane refrigerator tends to use less fuel to keep things fresh. You will be surprised how much propane an RV fridge uses on an average day, only 1.5 pounds. If you have a 40-pound propane tank, it will last a little over 26 days. Anyway, the actual results are much higher than that.

The Electric performance of running an RV refrigerator on battery is not that far apart. If you compare the temperature of both operation modes, you will see 3-4 degree temperature differences only. You can always improve this by adding an internal fan to circulate better the air inside. 

To sum up, the Electric propane is the golden standard in the RV refrigerator system. If you don’t have that in your RV, you can always hire a professional to install it and teach you how to run an RV fridge on propane. 

I use Whynter FM-45G 45 Quart Portable Refrigerator for our RV due to the powerful and wide range of cooling, fast freezing, the mobility, and energy-efficient aspects of it. 

Running RV Fridge On Propane While Driving. Is It Safe?

Running a travel trailer fridge while driving can be tricky. There’s no imminent threat assuming all systems are ok and in excellent condition. But if you consider all the possibilities that can happen and the fact that it’s propane you are using, you might want to reassess your option. 

It’s true, RV fridges use less propane but deliver better efficiency compared to a battery. If you ask, how long will my propane tank last in my RV? Depending on the tank capacity you have, on average, it could be about a month at the least. That alone can take out a lot of stress from the house battery.

But there’s more. Imagine you are driving your RV while the fridge is running on propane. What if you had an accident and one of the propane pipes is leaked? 

You are just one spark away from a fatal catastrophe. The same goes for any electrical short circuit that may happen due to a fault in the wiring.

So, before you make up your mind, let’s evaluate the pros and cons of using propane in a RV Refrigerator while driving. 

Pros:

  • Propane can efficiently keep your foods cold without drawing power from your secondary battery.
  • When the battery gets low, it’s a great alternative to run your RV fridge. No other power sources are capable of doing such a thing.
  • Unlike a battery, propane can deal with a number of appliances like heater, the stove at the same time with fewer hiccups.
  • When the weather gets colder, propane is a better power source. Because batteries tend to work in a specific temperature range and start to impair above that threshold.
  • Propane tanks last much longer before it needs refilling compared to the secondary battery in your RV. 

Cons:

  • Propane is incredibly flammable and a minimal arc or spark can burst into flames with leaked gases without prior warning.
  • Setting up propane for appliances needs professionals to come to your RV.
  • The propane system uses supply pipes to carry the gas to various appliances. Unlike electrical wiring, it can be complicated.
  • Bumps and shakes on the path for a cross country trip could loosen propane fittings and result in a critical leak before you know it.

So, What Is The Takeaway? Is it OK To Drive RV Fridge With Propane On?

Yes, you can drive RV with propane on but as long as someone monitors it with a cautious mind. Also, don’t forget to turn off your propane when entering a gas station or a tunnel. Always use a master valve to cut off the supply at a moment of notice and install a gas leak detector for early warning. 

Using A Generator And Powering Your RV Fridge

A generator is an excellent power supply in terms of running your RV electronic appliances. Provided it is powerful enough, you can use it to run your whole RV appliances including but not limited to heaters, electric stoves, water pumps, and refrigerators for an extended period. 

Generally, generators come in capacities rated in Watts and vary from 1000-5000W in general. There are two-stroke generators that can generate up to 5000 watts of power without issues, enough for most camper vans to work with. 

If you ask, how many watts does an RV fridge use? It’s around 100-200 watts for a 10-12 cubic feet unit. When you are using energy-efficient generators like Durostar DS4000S or Generac 7117 GP2200i you can rest assured of continuous RV refrigerator operation while driving.

However, you should always check your RV user manual carefully to decide which one is best suited for your type.

Now, using a generator can be the best alternative to your house battery, but there are some advantages and disadvantages you should consider.

Advantages:

  • Run a range of RV appliances when the battery runs low. 
  • You can recharge your RV battery when you need it.
  • Can be used in the RV in the event of any power outage.
  • Unlike solar panels you don’t have to ration power and choose between your air conditioning and entertaining devices like TV. 
  • You can park your RV at any camping spots that lack an electrical grid to connect.
  • Using portable generators like Champion 3100 Watt inverter lets you park your RV anywhere with ease.  

Disadvantage:

  • Need space for paling the generator in your RV; for smaller RV, that can be difficult.
  • Generators tend to be loud and can hinder your peace 
  • They can create heat from the lack of air ventilation.

If you ask, my recommendation would be to keep an RV generator available especially when you are going places. It can come to the rescue in critical power shortages when you can’t find a power outlet instantly to recharge your onboard battery.  

Final Verdict

Refrigerator in an RV is a necessary appliance. Without it, your food inventory will fall apart, which can ruin your trip in the worst fashion. At the same time, it is equally important to follow cautionary steps in running the RV fridge on propane while driving. Surely it’s better to be safe than sorry for your action.

Eric Weldon
Eric Weldon
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