How to Run RV Fridge on Propane

"This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links."

Do you want to know how to light up your RV propane refrigerator?

Or are you curious about the mechanism that makes you provide heat to it so it can cool your beverage? You’re on the right site too.

You can use a propane camper refrigerator to keep your food cold when you’re camping in the mountains. When you run an RV fridge on Propane, you will not need an additional battery other than the Propane, so it’s applicable when RVing in most remote locations.

Let’s kick things off by learning that there are two types of refrigerators, compressor-driven refrigerators, and absorption refrigerators.

Compressor refrigerators

These types of refrigerators are mostly found in residential areas. They earn the name because of their cooling mechanism, the reciprocating compressor being the most common of the other compressors, rotary and centrifugal, works in a way similar to a car’s engine.

 A motor-driven piston sucks air and forces the refrigerant into a cylinder, increasing the pressure thus forcing the refrigerant into the condenser.

In the condenser, the refrigerant condenses to liquid form releasing heat.

The refrigerant moves to the evaporator through the expansion valve, where it turns into vapor as it draws heat from the evaporator, the evaporator draws heat from the interior of the refrigerator. The refrigerant moves to the compressor where the cycle starts again.

The disadvantages of these types of refrigerators are that they require AC power, thus they are ineffective when you are not near a power source or a generator, and they can be used in a recreational vehicle only with the help of an inverter that converts DC power to AC.

These types of refrigerators are prone to damage in an RV as they are designed to be used in a setting; they also have many moving parts which add to their disadvantage.

An absorption refrigerator


The cooling mechanism resembles that of the compressor/refrigerator only that the absorption refrigerator doesn’t have moving parts. This property makes it suitable for recreational vehicles.

The resemblance of the two systems is in that both use a refrigerant that has a very low boiling point around -20°c that gets heated and evaporates taking away some heat from the surrounding, releasing the heat outside and the process continues.

Advantages of using absorption refrigerators in your RV

Absorption refrigerators have the ability to use propane as the source of heat to complete their process, thus it can be used in areas that are not connected to a power source, during a power blackout, or in your RV.

Propane is cheaper and burns more effectively than other fuels thus very little propane is used to fuel your refrigerator.

Propane is not harmful to the environment after combustion the products released contain very low amounts of pollutants as compared to oil products.

Equipment that uses propane does not require regular maintenance only defrosting and cleaning the air vents. As compared to electrical equipment propene ones have a low running cost although, it cost a fortune to purchase one.

 Propane can also be used to heat up your RV, especially if traveling to cold places, or at night.

These refrigerators also can use other power sources like AC and DC. The DC current is used mostly while driving.

Thus they are more effective at conserving power. Next, we are going to learn why it is not advisable to use your propane while driving.

Why it’s not advisable to use propane to provide heat to your refrigerator while traveling.

The shaking motion of your recreational vehicle may rupture one of the propane delivery pipes causing a leakage; the gas is highly volatile and flammable, as compared to petrol or diesel.

The gas is also denser than air thus you may not be able to smell it, and only a spark is required to set it up.

Your refrigerator will not make your drinks or food any warmer especially if you place it in a well-ventilated place, you can disconnect any power source during the travel.

One way of doing this is to avoid opening the refrigerator many times, by buying an ice chest where you can put your drinks for the journey.

If you are the pessimistic type well, you can connect the DC from the batteries or use your generator.

How much propane do I have to carry for a trip?

The amount of propane you need mostly depends on the size of your refrigerator; a small 4 cubic feet refrigerator will consume less than a pound of propane.

 A larger refrigerator will consume about two pounds of propane thus one tank full of propane can last quite some time.

Propane is also available in filling stations along your way; there is no need to worry.

How to light up your propane RV refrigerator

  1. Before lighting up your refrigerator you need to ensure that your truck and refrigerator are leveled, this is to ensure good circulation of the refrigerant and avoid it clogging one part of the refrigerator. This may cost you to replace the cooling unit or the entire refrigerator.
  2. Leveling also makes sure that not more than the required amount of propane is used as it does not stress the system. This can be done by placing a level on the refrigerator itself or a flat surface in the camper.
  3. Turn on the propene knobs into the RV refrigerator from the cylinder.
  4. Ensure that power is connected to the refrigerator; a little spark is needed to ignite the propane. This mostly applies to the recent developments, in earlier versions you had to provide the ignition manually.
  5. Adjust the propane\ electric switch to propane, based on the location of the switches. This sets your RV refrigerator to use propane.
  6. Push the push to start button and hold it, then push the ignite button simultaneously, you will see a flame in the viewing window, hold for thirty more seconds to ensure all are lit. If it does not work repeat the process after one minute.  
  7. The flame should be blue in color if a yellow flame is noticed; thorough cleaning is needed to the parts, to remove any soot or dirt that might have accumulated.


For a self-lighting propane refrigerator, never try to light it up using a lighter, instead call a qualified technician to check it out.

If you think your propane is leaking do not attempt to check it out yourself with a flame, instead, switch it off and move the refrigerator to an open area for examining. Open all windows and doors to let any residual gas out.

In conclusion, I will give you some tips on how to ensure you use the propane refrigerator effectively without incurring further costs;

  • Perform maintenance checks regularly, a well-maintained refrigerator, without soot in the burner or clogs in the propane pipes will perform more effectively and not waste a lot of gas.
  • Make sure you level the RV when using your refrigerator as the cooling system mainly works based on the gravity of the refrigerants at different temperatures and pressures.
  • Purchase battery-powered fans to ensure quicker circulation of air in the refrigerator. The fans should be positioned in the bottom part of the freezer, as cold air tends to be denser than warm air.
  • Leave some space between the wall and your refrigerator; this is because its ventilations are located at the back. Also, you need to ensure that substances and dirt do not obscure the vents.
  • Turn on your RV refrigerator probably 24 hours before the trip, this is because absorption refrigerators cool slower than compressor refrigerators.
  • Start by putting cold food first into the refrigerator, this will ensure that the cooling process will be gradual and the propane will not be overused. You can add other foods later ensuring you leave enough spaces in between for air circulation.

I think you have learned all there is on how to use propane on your RV, you will thank me later as you sip that cold beer or juice. Enjoy your holiday.

Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: