Dave Solberg

Common RV Refrigerators and Refrigerator Power Sources

Dave Solberg
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Duration:   2  mins

Many refrigerators on RVs run off one or multiple of three main sources of power, depending on type of vehicle (trailer, fifth wheel, motor home) and power capabilities as dictated by vehicle size. These common power sources for refrigerators on RVs include electricity via generator, on-board battery and LP gas. However, since the 1980s most manufacturers have started to only offer two of the three main power sources – LP gas and 120-volt electricity – as options to power refrigerator units on RVs.

In this quick video lesson, RV expert Dave Solberg gives you a rundown on RV refrigerators, explaining what’s probably on your unit and teaching you everything you need to operate, maintain and troubleshoot the fridge mounted on any modern vehicle. He pops open the exterior hatch on his demo vehicle’s fridge, which is a 4-door, 12-cubic-foot Norcold to demonstrate what you can expect out of your cooling unit. With Dave’s help, you’ll learn why it’s so important to get to know your fridge’s capabilities, power requirements, and components.

Pre-Trip Checklist

Getting to Know Common RV Refrigerators

In the past few decades, manufacturers of the most commonly equipped RV refrigerators, Norcold and Dometic, have gone away from using 12-volt battery power to fuel refrigerators and are now mostly offering LP gas and 120-volt systems. This is primarily because the RV refrigerators operating off of 12-volt would tend to drain the battery down after six to eight hours of use. And that’s for chilling food that is already cold, let alone food that’s at room temperature. That just wasn’t sufficient!

For larger units, it is still possible to use an on-board 8- or 12-volt battery bank to fuel RV refrigerators with the assistance of an inverter to give you 120 volts of power. This means that the refrigerator will run as if it were using electricity even though it is only using 12-volt batteries. Because of their marginal size, smaller RV refrigerators with the freezer incorporated inside the single door will easily run off of the 12-volt battery.

4-door RV refrigerators are a nice option to have on your vehicle particularly since only a limited amount of coolness is allowed to escape when opened. This is because you can select which door to open, and thus there is no need to open up the entire unit just to get a drink. Keep the cool inside as much as possible, and you save your wallet a lot of extra legwork!

Major Takeaways About Your Fridge

By the end of this quick lesson, Dave will help you to understand why it’s so critical to know the size and model of your RV refrigerator, especially when it comes to operating and troubleshooting. As with any other appliance, when your fridge goes kaput while you’re out in the middle of nowhere, there probably won’t be a certified technician nearby.

It’s on you to know what’s going on inside and outside your fridge, so it pays to be aware! Plus, this information is important for knowing which power source works best with your unit, so you’re well prepared before you even hit the road!

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23 Responses to “Common RV Refrigerators and Refrigerator Power Sources”

  1. Teresa

    I have a trave trailer with a freezer on top and refrigerator on bottom . I started to have problems where when are asleep the refrigerator is goes off and in the morning I have to throw out all my frozen foods. The refrigerator worked get until I had this guy fix my roof and covered this piece up there staying it was a big hole could that been the vent. The trailer is A 1981 alfo

  2. Gary Boone

    Can I.bypass my LP gas detector ? All I'm gonna be using it for is stovetop range

  3. Lisa

    This is a nightmare. Recently moved into an RV and had trouble getting the appliances the refrigeration heating and air to work Even though plugged Into a mirror. The battery is being drained completely and I have to keep recharging it every few days in order for The refrigerator to operate. My refrigerator has an option auto which will defer to whatever is available I have gas available and I also have electric available but if the battery dies this prevents the refrigerator from working why is it the battery has to have anything to do with the gas or the electric? I am really frustrated at this by now I thought I would’ve had all of this down pat. I am not sure if I need a inverter or converter so that the battery can stop being drained by the camper and everything can defer over to the electric or the gas. Please help

  4. Sheila

    Should the class a fridge in motor home run off electric only when plugged into electric or would it continue to run through inverter box to battery. 93 pace arrow model.

  5. Judy - Phoenix

    In boonies, fridge won't work

  6. Joe

    My fridge cools fine on AC but not on gas. Ive got flame but no cool.

  7. Leigh Skizewski

    We just bought a RV. We have a whirlpool refrigerator that does not have any control buttons other than the lighted display window for the icemaker, temp, etc. It appears to be a regular refrigerator and not a special RV version. The refrigerator turns on when we have the generator going or the house power is turned on when the engine is on. How do we switch it to propane when we are parked? We have looked all over the RV manual and there is no help. We also have looked in the guide for the fridge but it is a guide for use as a home fridge. There is no info for how to use it in an RV. Please help!

  8. Janice

    My Power button on top of refrigerator is lighting up and lighting up Auto, but it is not cooling the freezer or the refrigerator

  9. Todd

    i am new to caravans. i have a Dometic 3 way fridge model RFD218. i don't know whether the fridge selects the power sources and can see from fridge which source is being used. the operating manual provides nothing and frankly the Dometic website material aint any help that i can see. so any advice or help would be greatly appreciated

  10. Suzanne Appleton

    <strong> NB Ticket#17397 Why does my refrigerater not work on electricty?

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