How To Reduce Propane Consumption In RV Refrigerators

RV park amenities are not always what you’re looking for when you want to get close to nature with your RV. Food and water should be kept cool and fresh, so you must bring everything you need.

The built-in refrigerator units on many RVs are designed to run off electricity and propane, so these situations are solved.

You might be wondering how much propane an RV refrigerator uses.

The amount of propane your RV refrigerator uses can vary depending on its size and age. RV refrigerators with internal volumes of 10 to 12 cubic feet typically consume 1.5 pounds of propane a day. Approximately 1,400 BTUs are generated per hour. Your RV refrigerator’s performance could also be affected by some other factors.

Let’s take a closer look at how an RV refrigerator works and how to maximize its efficiency in this article.

Besides tips for properly maintaining your RV fridge, you will also find suggestions for how to employ thoughtful cooler management to complement your cold storage options.

What is the working principle of an RV refrigerator?

What is the working principle of an RV refrigerator?

It is important to understand how an RV refrigerator works before you can properly maximize its efficiency. You can distinguish this refrigerator from your home’s kitchen refrigerator by a few things.

When an RV refrigerator is used, hydrogen, ammonia, and water are combined to produce a powerful evaporation effect. While the refrigerator inside your home uses compressed freon, the RV refrigerator uses hydrogen, ammonia, and water to create the cooling effect.

Heat from an electric element or a gas flame causes this fluid solution to pass through a percolator pump, releasing hot ammonia vapor.

After that, the water is brought back to a special type of boiler built into the cabinet. Essentially, the heat is transferred from the vapor to the exterior environment through a condenser.

During this stage of the process, liquid ammonia is drained into an evaporator and hydrogen gas is added. Hydrogen gas and liquid ammonia undergo a sophisticated vaporization reaction. Cold is generated by extracting heat energy from the interior. 

Hydrogen and ammonia are then drained into an absorb chamber, where ammonia dissolves back into water once again.

Meanwhile, hydrogen gas is released and returned to the evaporator. As a result, the process starts over.

Using chemistry and heat transfer, your RV’s absorption refrigerator keeps perishable foods cool using electric or propane heat.

Your RV’s refrigerator can be operated on propane while camping off the grid, reducing the power drain on your battery system or generator.

What is the propane consumption of an absorption refrigerator

What is the propane consumption of an absorption refrigerator?

In general, newer RV refrigerators are more energy efficient than older ones. The overall energy demand is also increased by size. The average propane consumption per day of a newer RV refrigerator with an internal volume of around 10 to 12 cubic feet is around 1.5 pounds. The equivalent of this is approximately 1,400 BTUs per hour. RV fridges can perform better or worse depending on a few factors.

In addition to being more efficient in terms of combustion, the newer units also reduce vented emissions, which makes them safer.

Those RV enthusiasts who enjoy boondoggle sometimes install dual fuel propane and gasoline generators in their RVs.

The amount of energy, as well as propane, that your RV refrigerator consumes can also be affected by factors such as constantly opening and closing its door.

Is there a way to reduce the amount of propane my RV refrigerator consumes?

There are several ways to improve energy efficiency. You might consider trying these things if you notice that your RV refrigerator consumes more propane than usual.

1. Routine maintenance should be carried out on a regular basis

The unit will run smoothly if regularly maintained, just like any other appliance in your home or RV.

As a result, you are able to catch problems before they escalate into a much larger problem, thus preventing them from getting out of control.

Make sure there are no leaks, rust, or corrosion. Be sure to inspect propane exhaust vents for soot buildup.

There may be a problem with combustion in the system if this occurs. Dust and spider webs can impact system airflow even if they build up over time.

2. Check that the RV and refrigerator are level

It is best for absorption refrigerators to be placed on level ground. Several factors contribute to this, including gravity feeding the cooling system’s fluids.

The internal fluid cycling process can be slowed when your RV is parked on uneven ground or the refrigerator itself is not level.

Unleveled absorption RVs become more inefficient and more prone to mechanical failure the longer they are operated.

Use a hand level to check the level of the RV floor and fridge when in doubt.

3. Install some battery-operated cooling fans

Refrigerator compressors have fans that keep their internal components cool.

The thermal exchange process can be slowed by poor air circulation around your RV refrigerator. 

Thermal exchange can be improved by adding some cooling fans to the bottom of the RV’s freezer.

Fan motors help drive additional cool air from the freezer through the refrigerator system, reducing its cooling load.

It may be possible to improve the thermal efficiency of your refrigerator and freezer by as much as 50%.

4. Lower the thermostat when the external temperature is low

RV refrigerators are more sensitive to outside air temperatures than kitchen refrigerators.

The refrigerator’s temperature can be turned down with little impact on internal temperatures if the ambient air temperature in the camper is lower than normal.

5. Make sure the fridge in the RV is running before packing

It takes time for an absorption refrigerator to cool completely. Before packing food and other cold items for a trip, let it run for four to six hours.

6. Place cold foods first in the refrigerator

When packing an RV refrigerator, it’s always best to place the coldest items first, even if it is prechilled.

By doing so, you will be able to reduce the thermal load on the system even further. For a further reduction in temperature, you can also place cold packs on the shelves if you have the space.

A battery-powered fan might be useful at this time.

7. Ensure that the RV refrigerator’s rear is not blocked

The heat energy in RV absorption refrigerators is vented out the back. Cold air is then brought into the fridge through the lower vent, while hot air is expelled through the upper vent.

A refrigerator’s cooling process can be adversely affected if anything is blocking or obstructing the airflow at the back.

One or both of these important airflow dynamics could have been blocked by something accidentally falling behind the refrigerator during shipping.

In addition, the wall behind the RV can also affect the RV’s performance. Back distances are required for some RV refrigerators.

You may not have enough airflow to fully accommodate heat exchange if you have installed a new refrigerator.

Here are some tips on using coolers to supplement your RV refrigerator to save propane

You may not have enough room in your refrigerator to store all the perishable foods you’ll need if you’re going to be camping off the grid with your RV for a significant amount of time.

There is a good chance that the airflow inside will affect overall airflow and efficiency, even if you can squeeze everything in there.

You can supplement your refrigerator’s cold storage by adding a high-quality cooler or two to keep things cold without overtaxing it.

You can keep beverages chilled and condiments accessible by doing this.

Keeping items that are used daily in a cooler will reduce the number of times that you have to open the refrigerator, letting out old air.

Using ice blocks or large ice packs instead of ice cubes is the best way to set up a cooler. It is possible to slow the melting process of an ice block by reducing the surface air and cold density of the block.

As a result, the cooler can potentially remain cold for longer than it could if only ice cubes were used.

Don’t break up bags of ice if all you can find on the road is ice bags, just gently place them on top of food and beverages.

Invest in an electric cooler

Electric coolers that work on 12V are available on the market. By plugging them in, they augment the internal ice with their own built-in cooling system. In this way, the cooler stays colder for a longer period of time.

A large first-night celebration meal is a great way to store food you plan to eat early on in an off-grid vacation.

This will allow you to reorganize your cooler or quickly repack the refrigerator.


Refrigerators that absorb water from RVs are a joyous innovation. In order to maximize the performance of any technology as well as its longevity, some basic maintenance is necessary.

It is important to let it cool down before loading, pack it thoughtfully, maintain a level load, and ensure that air can flow through it.

Keeping your perishable food items cool in your RV refrigerator is easy with these simple tips.



Hey there! I'm Shawn. We were traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 7 kids. We had to learn a lot to make that lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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Hey there! I'm Shawn. We were traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 7 kids. We had to learn a lot to make that lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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