Ahhh, the wonderful RV refrigerator – you either love them or have a very rocky relationship with them. Ask ten RVers what their thoughts are on RV fridges, and you’ll get ten different answers. So why are they such a mystery?
Most RV refrigerators use a different cooling method than the standard fridge you have at home. RV fridges operate using gas absorption, which involves heating ammonia to magically cool the refrigerator. Unlike your fridge at home, there are no moving parts in an RV refrigerator – things happen by heating the cooling unit either with propane or an electric heating element, depending on what source you use.
So what’s this mean to the RV traveler? Well, when they work, they work. However, when things aren’t working quite right (or not at all) it can be a mystery to pinpoint the exact problem. Keep that in mind and make sure things are up to snuff before hitting the road.
Tricks to Keep Your RV Fridge Running
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your RV refrigerator. (And if you’re new to RV adventures, be sure to take a look at our 10 Tips for RV Beginners guide):
- Don’t pack it completely full. RV fridges work best when they have some empty space for air to circulate. To help out, consider using a small battery-operated fan to cool things more evenly inside the fridge.
- RV refrigerators need to be level to operate. Since there is magic gas absorption stuff happening, the unit needs to be level so that the gas can properly flow through the cooling unit. What’s this mean? Don’t park on a steep incline where things are seriously out of level – this can cause permanent (and expensive) damage to the fridge. When you are traveling, the magic juice inside the cooling units sloshes around, so you don’t have to worry about staying level while going down the road. It’s when you are parked when things can go wrong.
- Pre-cool or buy cold drinks before putting them in the fridge. It can take some time for an RV fridge to get to the proper cooling temperature, so you can keep the temp from fluctuating by putting in already cold beverages.
- RV fridges respond to the weather outside. Seriously. If it’s boiling hot outside, your fridge will most likely have a little jump in temperature. Conversely, if you are camping in cold temps, you might need to raise the temperature of your fridge. Here’s a tip: if it’s super hot outside, try to park your rig in the shade on the fridge side. This helps to keep your refrigerator operating efficiently.
- Turn it on ahead of time. Since they can take a while to cool, turn them on a day before you plan to leave or stock it with food.
- Check the refrigerator roof vent. If the vent carrying warm air away from the fridge is clogged with debris, it can cause the unit to work inefficiently or not at all.
- Install a 12-volt fan. Sometimes installing a small fan to help draft the warm air away from the fridge does wonders. They can be purchased online and installed by you or an RV dealership. Note: This is not the same fan that helps circulate air inside the fridge.
These seven tips can keep your fridge running smoothly and cool. If you are questioning whether or not your unit is running properly, purchase a cheap thermometer. The normal temperature for a fridge is below 40° F. Monitoring this will ensure that your food is staying a temperature that prevents spoiling and harmful bacteria from growing.
RV Fridge Alternatives
Additionally, a lot of campers bring along a chest-type portable refrigerator that works more like your home fridge. These compressor-based chests operate on 12 or 120 volts and are extremely efficient. The downside? You’ll need to have lots of battery life (or solar, or plan to run your generator) if you plan on doing any long-term boondocking with one of these. Still, they are a fantastic option if you have the space. Once you’ve got the fridge all figured out, these five smart solutions will help you optimize your RV kitchen space too.
Photo: redesigndesign on Flickr
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