Getting to know your RV refrigerator

Ahhh, the wonderful RV refrigerator – you either love them or have a very rocky relationship with them. Ask ten RVers what their thoughts are on RV fridges, and you’ll get ten different answers. Here, we will try to provide you some information on what to expect when it comes to the basics of the typical RV refrigerator.

Most RV refrigerators use a different cooling method than the standard fridge you have at home. RV fridges operate using gas absorption, which involves heating ammonia to magically cool the refrigerator. Unlike your fridge at home, there are no moving parts in an RV refrigerator – things happen by heating the cooling unit either with propane or an electric heating element, depending on what source you use.

So what’s this mean to the RV traveler? Well, when they work, they work. However, when things aren’t working quite right (or not at all) it can be a mystery to pinpoint the exact problem. Keep that in mind and make sure things are up to snuff before hitting the road.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your RV fridge:

  • Don’t pack it completely full. RV fridges work best when they have some empty space for air to circulate. To help out, consider using a small battery operated fan to cool things more evenly.
  • RV refrigerators need to be level to operate. Since there is magic gas absorption stuff happening, the unit needs to be level so that the gas can properly flow through the cooling unit. What’s this mean? Don’t park on a steep incline where things are seriously out of level – this can cause permanent (and expensive) damage to the fridge. When you are traveling, the magic juice inside the cooling units sloshes around, so you don’t have to worry about staying level while going down the road. It’s when you are parked when things can go wrong.
  • Pre-cool or buy cold drinks before putting them in the fridge. It can take some time for an RV fridge to get to the proper cooling temperature, so you can keep the temp from fluctuating by putting in already cold beverages.
  • RV fridges respond to the weather outside. Seriously. If it’s boiling hot outside, your fridge will most likely have a little jump in temperature. Conversely, if you are camping in cold temps, you might need to raise the temperature of your fridge. Here’s a tip: if it’s super hot outside, try to park your rig in the shade on the fridge side. This helps to keep your refrigerator operating efficiently.

Additionaly, a lot of campers bring along a chest type portable refrigerator that works more like your home fridge. These compressor-based chests operate on 12 or 120 volts and are extremely efficient. The downside? You’ll need to have lots of battery life (or solar, or plan to run your generator) if you plan on doing any long-term boondocking with one of these. Still, they are a fantastic option if you have the space.

Got tips and tricks for keeping your fridge working as it should? Leave us a comment, or drop us a line over on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo: redesigndesign on Flickr