Common RV Refrigerators and Refrigerator Power Sources

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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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