How Much Propane Does an RV Refrigerator Use

How Much Propane RV Refrigerator Use

There’s nothing like hopping in your RV, and heading out to beautiful yet remote places. Your RV can take you to the mountains, beaches, beautiful parklands, and elsewhere. However, no matter where you choose to go, you have to be able to feed yourself and your companions. What will you do to keep your food fresh and tasty?

You could live on dehydrated rations or other shelf stable food, but how much fun is that? You can’t enjoy a grilled block of dehydrated noodles, or let your kids roast a box of potato flakes over an open fire. You certainly don’t want to crack up a warm beer or soda. You can use a cooler for shorter trips, as long as you can access ice. That’s a costly option though.

What you really need is a refrigerator for your RV. Specifically, you need an on board refrigerator that uses propane. This will give you long term storage options for your food. You just need to plan things correctly. You must answer the following question; How much propane will my RV refrigerator use? Keep reading for the answer to that question along with other must-know information about your propane refrigerator.

How Does a Propane RV Refrigerator Work?

RV Traveling

A propane refrigerator is a very useful piece of equipment. Before you add one to your RV, just like the best shower head for rv or the rubber roof coating for rv it is important that you understand how it works. This way, if you run into any issues, you will be better able to troubleshoot and repair the problem.

Your propane refrigerator is based on a system of sealed pipes. These contain a mix of the chemicals ammonia, water, and hydrogen. The propane is used to create a flame that heats a boiler that is also filled with an ammonia solution.

As this solution heats, it travels through the percolator pump. This releases a gas of hot ammonia. No worries, this is harmless. The water then returns to the boiler. The ammonia vapor moves to a condenser. This transfers heat into out into the open air of the room. The ammonia vapor then returns to its liquid form.

The ammonia now drains into an evaporator along with hydrogen gas. A chemical reaction called vaporization takes place between the hydrogen gas and liquid ammonia. This draws heat away from the refrigerator’s interior until the contents of the fridge are chilled.

Next, the hydrogen ammonia mix drains out into the absorber chamber. There, the ammonia is dissolved in water again. The hydrogen gas is released back into the evaporator. The rest of the water and ammonia solution drains back into the boiler. This cycle continues, and creates the cooling effect that helps to preserve your food, and keep it at a palatable temperature. This cycle sounds complex, but it works well. It’s also your best option when you may not have access to electrical power. It’s also a great option for emergencies. You never have to worry about a power outage spoiling your food. Explore freely in your RV without worrying about food safety.

What is The Actual Amount of Propane Your RV Fridge Will Use?

using propane in RV

Assuming that you are using a refrigerator that has been manufactured in recent years, you may be able to run yours for several weeks before you notice your fuel levels dropping. This is because newer refrigerators are designed in a way to optimize fuel efficiency, and lower emissions. If you have an older refrigerator, you’ll notice that it is much less efficient. In fact, you might consider getting a replacement.

The process described above relies on combustion. Today, newer refrigerators create combustion in much safer ways. They create fewer emissions, and the emissions they do create are significantly safe. Still, you are dealing with a gas product, and you should exercise a basic level of caution.

The following numbers are just an approximation as there are so many potential variables. If you have a standard RV refrigerator that is about 12 cubic feet, you will go through around 1.5 pounds of propane daily. This amount of propane produces 1400 BTUs each hour.

If you opt for a smaller, ‘bar’ fridge that is under 4 cubic feet, you will use significantly less propane. In fact, you will probably burn less than a pound of propane per day. Finally, a very large refrigerator can use 2 pounds or more of propane each day.

Before you choose a refrigerator do your research. Manufacturers will provide you with specific information on the amount of propane you can expect to use as well as other efficiency information.

How Can You Lower The Amount of Propane You Use?

Checking Propane in RV

Even though propane refrigerators are reasonably efficient, any amount of energy you save is a good thing. It’s better for your pocketbook, and better for the environment. The best thing to do is ensure your unit operates as efficiently as possible. You can do this by following these steps:

Maintain Your Refrigerator Regularly

If you pay attention to your refrigerator, you will notice any issues early on. Then, you can repair them quickly before they cause any issues that can lead to leaks or other issues.

Start with a regular cleaning, inside and out. Look for any rust or grime that could be causing an obstruction. If you see anything, clean it immediately.

Now, be sure your refrigerator is level. Your RV fridge operates best when it is flat against the floor of your RV. Even a small tilt can cause issues. Remember that pumping chemicals through the piping system works best when the system goes with gravity. Use a level to see that your refrigerator is not leaning. If it is, consider shoring it up with some shims. At best a tilted fridge doesn’t work very well. At worst, you could permanently damage the appliance.

Add Some Battery Operated Fans

Air circulation helps food stay fresh. It also increases energy efficiency. Place some battery powered fans inside your refrigerator to circulate air. Otherwise you could deal with a very stale environment. That causes your refrigerator system to work too hard as well.

The best place to add fans is the bottom of your refrigerator and your freezer. If you add fans and keep them running, you can reduce the amount of cool down time required by nearly 50%. That means less stress as well as less propane burned.

Lower Your Temperature Settings in Cooler Weather

The temperature outside influences how your fridge will perform. For example, hot temperatures outside mean it takes much longer for the cooling process to work. Turn up your refrigerator temperature to compensate. Likewise, if it is cold outside, decrease your temperature setting. By lowering the temperature, it takes less propane to cool it.

Place Cold Foods in Your Refrigerator

It will take approximately 4 to 6 hours for your refrigerator to cool down. If you want yours ready to go, consider turning it on a day before you leave. 

In order to keep your refrigerator cool, and to speed the chilling process, the first foods into  your fridge should be cold or frozen. This will help the unit cool down, and minimize the work being done. Only after cold foods are placed and the unit is at the right temperature should you begin storing shelf temperature or warmer foods.

Do Not Overfill Your Refrigerator  

Good air circulation is key. Leave plenty of space between the items in your refrigerator and freezer to get the best airflow possible. Pay close attention to the back of your refrigerator and freezer. Make sure that nothing is blocking any vents. Pull foods forward as you need to. Finally, keep the interior of your refrigerator clean and wiped down.

Final Thoughts

This article was written to provide you with all the information you need regarding your refrigerator, and its propane usage. More importantly, you can bookmark this to have all the tips you need regarding efficient operation and maintenance at your fingertips. Remember to start with a newer unit. Install it carefully and correctly. Add fans for air circulation. Keep your refrigerator clean inside and out.

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