Camper Fridge: Is It Efficient To Keep An RV Refrigerator Running Constantly?

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If you are thinking of hitting the road this vacation but getting confused about your RV’s fridge, whether to turn it on or off all the time. It is a common question that many people have about their RV refrigerators. 

It is recommended to leave your RV fridge running only some of the time as it increases the consumption of energy and causes damage to the fridge cooling system. But if you want to leave the fridge on the entire time, you should take some necessary steps to avoid any hazards during the trip.

fridge for camper trailer

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time, and we’ll give you how you can increase the lifespan of your RV’s refrigerator. So, let’s hook in!

How To Turn on RV Refrigerator?

The RV fridge models vary, and their functions also vary. The control panels on the fridge help select the specific mode you want to run your RV. The most basic modes include:


If your RV fridge runs on propane, you can simply turn it on by following the simple steps in the guidebook. Here is a general guide to turning on the RV:

  • First, make sure that your RV refrigerator is perfectly leveled.
  • You should also ensure that your RV’s battery is turned on because propane refrigerators often require a small amount of DC power to start up.
  • Make sure the LP gas tank valve is switched on.
  • Now, locate the control panel. The location and layout of the control panel will differ depending on the model, so consult your owner’s handbook for further details.
  • Now you have to pilot the lit of propane.
  • Lastly, adjust the temperature by using the thermostat.


If you want to run your camper refrigerator on electricity, you need to take some steps to turn it on:

  • Locate the control panel and adjust the setting to the electric mode only.
  • Then locate the nearest outlet.
  • After locating the outlet, now connect the RV fridge’s wires to the outlet.
  • Turn the button on. 

That’s it. The RV fridge is now starting to run on electricity. You can provide electricity to the refrigerator by hooking it to the campsite outlet, using a generator, inverter, or with the help[ of a solar system.

Does An RV Fridge Use A Lot Of Electricity?

An RV fridge can consume a significant amount of electricity. On average, the RV fridge consumes 200 watts. A double door type consumes 7-8 amps or 900-1,000 watts per 120V. The operating amps are fewer than the beginning amps drawn. 

A refrigerator can typically function on 2-4 amps after being turned on. When defrosting, you will want around 1.2-2 amps or 80–90 watts per 120V. The refrigerator also consumes more energy when it starts.

The RV fridge’s power consumption depends on the model, whether it is new or old. The old models consume more energy than the latest models. However, the typical RV refrigerator can run up to 7 amps.

Method To Determine Power Consumption

Estimating the power consumption of refrigerators might be challenging since they only sometimes operate at full capacity. The atmosphere also affects their consumption since a refrigerator must operate more in hot than cold weather.

By Looking At RV Fridge Labels & Stickers

You can determine the RV fridge’s power consumption by looking at the labels and stickers on the appliance. In most cases, these should contain information about how many watts the refrigerator is rated for and the amps it uses. 

Knowing this information will help you calculate how much electricity the RV fridge consumes and can give you an idea of how much it will cost to run. Check the refrigerator’s instruction manual if you can’t see them or if the information has faded. You will receive all of the information you require about your RV refrigerator.

Through Website

Try visiting the manufacturer’s website; they have all information listed for each model. You can contact the company’s customer service if something else is needed.

By Using Formula

The simplest approach to determine how much energy your refrigerator consumes is to consult the manufacturer’s specs and examine the compressor’s use. It is the most consumed component. 

  • Suppose the compressor requires 4 amps of electricity at 12 volts.
  • Multiply the compressor power utilization by (4×2), which equals 48.
  • Since energy consumption is measured in watts, the answer is 48 watts.
  • Then calculate how many hours your refrigerator runs each day. 
  • Let’s assume that it runs every day for 8 hours to keep the temperature constant.
  • Multiply the wattage (48) by the hours it has been operating (8).
  • That indicates our refrigerator consumes 384 watt-hours every day.

This way, you can calculate the power consumption of your RV fridge.

What Happens If You Leave Your RV Refrigerator On All The Time?

Leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time can cause several issues for your unit, including excessive energy use and damage to the compressor. To avoid problems, it’s best to turn off your RV refrigerator when not in use. Here are some reasons why leaving an RV fridge running all the time can be problematic. 

Excessive Energy Usage 

RV refrigerators typically use energy from propane as their primary source of power. If you leave your fridge running constantly, you will run out of propane much faster than if you only turn it on when needed. 

For example, consider your RV refrigerator utilizing a 20-pound propane tank, which has an approximate 11-day lifespan. If you intend on using your RV for something other than three months and leave your fridge running, you’ll need to refuel your propane tank roughly eight times.

Propane refills may run roughly $2.75 per gallon, so that you would have missed out on almost $100 for a refrigerator you aren’t using. It can be especially costly during long trips, as you’ll need to buy more propane frequently—and at a much higher cost than if you had turned off the fridge when not in use.

Similarly, constant electricity consumption will result in a significant drain on your financial account.

Damage To Cooling Coil

Leaving the RV refrigerator to run longer can cause serious damage to the cooling coil. Ammonia and water are typically used inside to keep things cool, along with zinc chromate to prevent corrosion.

When a refrigerator stops working, it’s usually due to a buildup in the expansion tube that has collected over time. It accumulates over longer consumption periods. When the refrigerator runs longer, the expansion tube and cooling coils face trouble operating. The more usage they receive over time, the more wear and tear they sustain.

Negative Impacts On The Environment

If you leave your RV refrigerator on all the time, it will be harmful to the environment. The refrigerator continuously uses energy while running and produces considerable greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere. It can contribute to global warming, ozone depletion, and other environmental issues.

On the other hand, electricity does not originate from a sustainable source. Coal or another fossil fuel is presently the most prevalent method of production. It contaminates the air you breathe and depletes nonrenewable resources.

Reasons Why You Should You Turn Off Your Refrigerator RV While Travelling

Traveling with an RV is a great way to explore the world, but it also has added responsibilities. One of these duties includes ensuring that your refrigerator is shut off while traveling to protect you and your vehicle.

Here’s why turning off your refrigerator RV while on the road is essential:

Refrigerator Lifespan

Turning off your refrigerator before embarking on a journey can help extend the life of your unit. When in operation, motors inside of the fridge generate heat which can cause premature wear and tear over time, which causes the expense of ownership rises, as does the discomfort of maintenance.

By turning it off, you can eliminate this extra strain on the appliance, allowing for a longer lifespan.

Propane Danger

Leaving your refrigerator on while traveling can also be dangerous if it is powered by propane. If the fridge is left running and you go over bumps or rough terrain, this can cause the propane to shift inside the unit, leading to potential fires or explosions. 

Even a minor leak in the propane line caused by anything as simple as a road bump might leave it vulnerable to ignition. Propane gas is flammable, and a single spark may burn your RV in seconds. Shutting off the refrigerator before embarking will help protect you from this risk.

Eco Friendly

Finally, turning off your refrigerator RV before traveling is an eco-friendly decision as it helps reduce the harmful emissions which play a greater role in damaging the planet. This simple step contributes to a greener world for everyone.

These are just a few reasons to turn off your refrigerator RV before departing on your next adventure. Doing this could save money, provide safety for you and your family, and even help save the environment. So don’t forget to turn off your refrigerator before you hit the road!

Can Frequently Turning Off and On Damaged Your RV Refrigerator?

Contrary to popular belief, frequently turning off and on your RV refrigerator is not likely to damage it. It has become a bit of an old wives’ tale with no real factual basis behind it. The truth is that modern RV refrigerators are designed to handle frequent cycling, meaning they can easily withstand the heat and stress associated with regular shutdowns and restarts. 

Modern RV refrigerators are built to resist being turned on and off at various times without breaking down mechanically. Most RVers switch off their refrigerator before they leave and only turn them back on when they reach their destination.

RV fridges are completely different from home-used refrigerators. They are built with the ability to run efficiently if they are turned on and off after frequent times.

What Are The Things You Should Do If Your RV Refrigerator Are Turned On While Travelling?

When planning a road trip in your RV, having a functioning refrigerator is essential for food storage and safety. Unfortunately, when traveling with your RV refrigerator turned on, there are several things you should do to ensure the fridge runs efficiently. It includes:

Use Generator

Using the generator to run your RV fridge while you are on the road is recommended. Instead of using propane to power the fridge, use the alternative, as propane can result in an explosive journey if any incident occurs in the propane tank.

Use Inverters

If the refrigerator is a 3-way model that needs different energy or fuel sources to function, it can be powered by the inverter. In fact, they will provide you with a noise-free journey while keeping your beverages cold.

Additionally, it is important to regularly check the door gaskets of your RV refrigerator for any tears or gaps. This will help keep cold air inside the fridge and prevent warm air from entering, which can cause the fridge to work harder and use more energy. With the proper maintenance, you can keep your RV fridge running at its optimal performance while traveling.

Things To Avoid For A Safe Travel While Your RV Refrigerator Is Turned On

The one and most important thing to prevent while driving with the refrigerator on is to avoid running your fridge on propane. You run the danger of a disaster if you use propane to power your RV’s appliances while on the road.

If your gas line is damaged in a car accident, the propane might leak and cause a fire or an explosion. You can use other alternative ways to keep your fridge cold to save your life and for a peaceful journey. That’s why turning off your propane when heading toward a fuel station is strongly recommended. 

Apart from that, you should also avoid taking food items that can trigger your allergies or cause health issues. For instance, avoid packing it in your RV’s refrigerator if you are allergic to cheese. The same goes for any food item with a higher chance of going bad.

It is always better to take precautions at the beginning and stay safe while traveling with your RV refrigerator. So, keep these tips in mind and always practice safety first!

How To Maximize Lifespan Of Your RV Refrigerator? 

Maintaining the lifespan of an RV refrigerator is essential to saving money on costly repairs and replacements. Here are a few tips you can use to get the most out of your appliance: 

Clean Regularly

It is important to clean your fridge regularly to keep it running optimally and avoid costly repairs down the line. 

  • Check the condenser coils, fan blades, and evaporator pans for dust, dirt, and debris. Clean these components using a vacuum cleaner or a soft brush to remove any stubborn buildup. 
  • The propane-powered fridge may need additional maintenance. You may need to remove the access panel frequently included for examination, cleaning, and maintenance.
  • It is critical to clean the external vents regularly. Never push water up into the vent while washing the outside of your RV, as this might cause water intrusion onto the propane lines and electrical components. 
  • Use screens to keep bees and pests out of the outdoor room.
  • The access panel should never be boarded up or blocked since the refrigerator’s components require air to function properly.
  • Placing a dog flea collar in the external access compartment to prevent spiders, bees, wasps, and mud daubers from building nests.
  • It is recommended to clean your fridge’s inside twice per year.


A full-size RV refrigerator should be pre-cooled for at least 8 hours before storing food to ensure it has achieved the proper internal working temperature. Avoid placing the hot food directly in the fridge, as it can double the cooling time.

Over Packing Of Food

We tend to over-pack our refrigerators when we go on a long trip. Overpacking prevents the continuous circulation of cold air. It makes the refrigerator work harder and causes your food to deteriorate since cold air is not circulated through the food or containers.

Ensure Proper Leveling 

To ensure the safe and correct working of your RV refrigerator, especially if it is propane driven, fifth wheel, or travel trailer should be as level as possible. Another way to check your level is to open the refrigerator door.

Your RV is not level if the refrigerator door closes unexpectedly without your control. Examine the liquids in the jars for further clues. Both your RV and theirs will be out of alignment.

Monitor Temperature Settings 

Your RV refrigerator’s temperature settings should be monitored regularly so that you can avoid any costly repairs caused by improper cooling. Ensure that the thermostat is set at the correct temperature for optimal efficiency and longevity of your fridge. 

Depending on the climate outside, you may need to adjust the temperature setting accordingly. Ensure it does not run too warm or too cold, as this could damage your fridge over time. 

RV’s Orientation

Consider parking your RV such that the side with the refrigerator faces away from the midday sun if you live somewhere hot and sunny. It will reduce the amount of work your refrigerator’s compressor needs. It will also help keep the sun off the back of your refrigerator.

When booking a campsite or RV park, note how the campground sites are set according to compass direction. Try to pick a location where the east side of your refrigerator will be.

Check The Door Seals 

Checking the door seals of your RV refrigerator regularly is an important step in its maintenance and upkeep, as this helps prevent warm air from entering the unit and affecting its efficiency. Ensure that there are no cracks, tears, or gaps in the seal and that it is properly installed.

Also, avoid opening the fridge’s door frequently; it will let more cooling escape out and makes your RV fridge compressor work harder.

Check Out How To Make Your RV Fridge More Efficient!?:


It is suggested to defrost the freezer part of your RV refrigerator frequently. Heavy frost deposition indicates leaky door seals. Never use sharp items to scrape away ice buildup during deicing.

Instead, use a low-powered hair dryer or heat gun to help melt the ice. However, because the inner walls are composed of plastic, never keep the heat gun in one area for lengthy periods or too close to them. Be cautious since the heat may melt or deform the side walls.

Fridge Fan

Purchase a small battery-operated fridge fan and set it up on one of the shelves, forcing air toward the top of the refrigerator. It will improve air circulation there, and the cold drop process within your fridge will be reduced by up to 50%.

Monitor Batteries & Propane

Keep an eye on the energy source that your RV refrigerator is using. If your refrigerator runs on propane, it is recommended to add a propane tank level indicator. A durable battery monitor is also suggested to ensure you have enough battery voltage to power the refrigerator in your motorhome. Low voltage might cause the refrigerator to shut off, allowing food to deteriorate.

Ensuring these tips will ensure that your RV refrigerator can live longer than expected, so you can store foods without worrying about it going bad! 

Related Questions

How long can you leave an RV refrigerator on?

The time you can leave an RV refrigerator depends on the size and type of fridge and how often it’s being used. For the most part, RV refrigerators should be able to run for several days without issue as long as they are properly stocked and maintained.

How long will RV fridge stay cold?

The RV refrigerator can keep food cold for up to 10-12 hours without power. This can vary depending on the size, insulation, and other factors that affect temperature. When storing in the refrigerator, it is important to keep food from those who may have allergies such as cheese.

This is because, without power, the temperatures in the RV refrigerator can increase quickly, which could cause potentially dangerous reactions for someone with an allergy.

Is it better to run RV fridge on gas or electric?

For the most efficient operation of your RV fridge, it is best to run it on electricity when possible. Electric power is usually a more consistent and efficient energy source, meaning that your fridge will cool more quickly and effectively. Additionally, it is safer and easy to use.

Will RV fridge run off battery while driving?

The RV fridge may run off the battery while driving. Your RV fridge’s battery life will also be affected by whether you use it alone, with an extra power source like propane gas, or with the assistance of an inverter to convert DC battery power to AC power to help it operate longer.

What is the fastest way to cool RV refrigerator?

The fastest way to cool an RV refrigerator is to pre-cool it before turning it on. It may involve filling the fridge with ice for several hours before turning it on or even filling it with pre-chilled food items or drinks. You can also invest in an RV fridge fan to cool the RV fridge faster.

The Bottom Line

If you plan on leaving for an extended period, it is recommended to turn off the RV refrigerator. It will save energy and also help prolong the lifespan of your unit. However, it is recommended to avoid turning on your RV’s fridge on propane as it is highly flammable.

Ultimately, how you choose to use your RV freezer is up to you and will depend upon how often you use it and how frequently you take road trips.

Photo of author
Written by William Perry
William was born and raised in the United States and currently lives in Utah. A retired police officer, he is the father of three and grandfather of six. Along with writing, he enjoys traveling, the outdoors, reading and spending time with his grandchildren.
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