Can I Run An RV Fridge Without Batteries? (Fully Explained)

The perfect RV adventure requires a lot of planning and preparation.

There’s nothing worse than a refrigerator problem ruining a camping trip.

The most common question new RVers ask is: Will my refrigerator still work without power?

In order to function properly, RV refrigerators require a battery charge. Even if the RV absorption refrigerator is set to operate on propane, a modest amount of electrical charge is still required.

However, very little energy is required. Taking a closer look at how your RV refrigerator works under the hood will help you understand your options.

Three-Way Refrigerator

What Is The Working Principle Of A Three-Way RV Refrigerator?

Normally, a “Three-Way Refrigerator” refers to an “Absorption RV Refrigerator” equipped with the capability to run on DC power, AC power, and LP gas.

With this feature, it can operate on shore power, generator power, or DC house batteries in your RV.

While boondocking off the grid, it is even possible to run it off propane to reduce the power drain on your house batteries.  

There are no moving parts in RV Absorption refrigerators. As a result, they are more durable than traditional residential refrigerators that use a complicated compressor and other components to move freon.

Absorption refrigerators for RVs are better equipped to deal with rough roads and bumps.

An RV absorption refrigerator requires a minimal amount of battery power to run the light inside, the control panel, and the igniter of the propane system.

The control board itself is designed to work on 12 Volt DC electricity to control the gas valve.

You will not be able to ignite the burner element if your RV’s batteries are completely drained, as their own gas valve will shut down and the liquid propane will not be able to reach the burner.

An absorption refrigerator uses the burner to heat the refrigerant to extract heat from its interior.

power requirement of an RV refrigerator

What is the power requirement of an RV refrigerator?

It depends on the power source you are using at the time what amount of electricity an RV absorption refrigerator needs to operate properly.

Using AC electricity to run an RV refrigerator

Absorption refrigerators run only on shore power when connected to RV parks’ shore power hookups.

The average RV with shore power hookups has a connection with 15, 20, 30 or even 50 Amps, so this usually only requires 15 to 20 Amps of power.

Using DC power to run a refrigerator in an RV

A refrigerator’s run time is important when it is connected to DC electricity, such as the RV’s house battery bank.

There is a direct relationship between the size of the RB refrigerator and the amount of charge it will draw. Generally speaking, a 10 cubic foot RV refrigerator connected to a 12 Volt DC battery with a 50 Ah rating will operate for 10 to 15 hours.

Once the RV house battery bank is drained below 50%, you will likely notice a drop in performance.

Battery performance can also be compromised if lead-acid batteries are routinely drained below half of their maximum capacity.

Therefore, DC power from your RV battery bank should be considered a last resort.

Using Liquid Propane For An RV Refrigerator

Interestingly, RV absorption refrigerators can conserve power by running the internal propane burner.

Energy is consumed in a negligible amount. It is important, however, that your RV’s house batteries have at least 10.5 Volts of DC charge before the igniter can activate.

2-Way RV Fridges And Battery Usage

Unlike your home refrigerator, the so-called “Two Way RV Refrigerator” has a compressor built into it.

In addition to being smaller, it is engineered specifically for RV use. The device runs on DC electricity and consumes more energy than average.

To keep your RV’s house batteries over 50% charged, you’ll need to frequently recharge them with a generator or another type of augmented power such as solar panels.

Is it possible to install a residential refrigerator in a recreational vehicle?

RVs can technically be equipped with residential refrigerators. However, you will need an inverter and a big enough battery bank to power it.

If you want to meet the enormous electrical demand on the batteries, you’ll need to make an active effort.

Additionally, keep in mind that all the moving parts in a residential refrigerator can be very susceptible to damage from bumps on rough roads and being kept at an angle.


Despite the fact that three-way RV absorption refrigerators run happily on propane, they still require electricity from the battery to function.

A minimal amount of power is required to power the circuit boards.

To properly open the liquid propane valve and ignite the igniter, your RV house battery must have a minimum of 10.5 Volts of power.

You need to check the RV house batteries if your RV refrigerator won’t run when set on propane, even if your connected tanks contain liquid propane.

Recharging the battery will get the RV refrigerator working again if it falls below 10.5 Volts.



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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