Gas Refrigerator [Guide/Problems Solved]

A gas refrigerator uses chemical reactions to cool and maintain a cool temperature. As foreign as it sounds, there are refrigerators powered by different types of gas.

Smad 3 Way Caravan Propane Fridge 120V 12V LPG Gas Refrigerator for Motorhome RV Campervan, Black, 2.1 Cu.ft.

How Does a Gas Refrigerator Work?

Here is how a natural gas refrigerator works:

In a gas refrigerator, there is a boiler, and inside it, there is a mixture of ammonia and water. The mixture needs heat to boil, and that is where the gas comes in. Gas refrigerators use either propane, natural gas, kerosene, or butane. The most popular is propane gas.

Any of these gases lights burner and electricity sends power to the refrigerator’s heating element. The heat of the burner turns the ammonia into gas because ammonia tends to need a low temperature to boil. As the ammonia turns into gas, it goes into the condenser. If there is any ammonia and water mixture still in liquid form, it flows to and remains in the boiler.

Next, the gaseous ammonia in the condenser cools with the help of the coils and find in the condenser. In that form, it is pure ammonia, so the fins extract heat from it to the point that it starts to liquefy. And when it fully turns to liquid, it flows to the evaporator.

In its liquid form, the ammonia mixes with some hydrogen from another area while it is flowing to the evaporator. Once the ammonia and hydrogen meet, a quick reaction causes the ammonia to evaporate, then turn cold. It is the cold ammonia that absorbs heat from the refrigerator, leaving it cold. And as it becomes cold, the ammonia becomes liquid again.

Then, gravity causes the hydrogen and ammonia mixture to flow into an absorber. In the absorber, there is already water and a concentrated ammonia solution. The more concentrated ammonia takes in the weaker one, which is the ammonia mixed with hydrogen. But it leaves the hydrogen gas, and the gas goes back to the evaporator. Finally, the ammonia and water in the absorber flow to the refrigerator’s boiler, and the refrigeration process begins again.

Here is how a propane gas refrigerator works:

This type of refrigerator has a sealed system made up of chambers and tubes. They hold ammonia, water, and hydrogen gas. One of the chambers holds ammonia and water, and a propane-fired flame heat that chamber until the ammonia and water solution begins to boil.

When this happens, ammonia gas separates from the solution and moves to the condenser. The gas cools and turns to liquid again when it gets to the condenser. As a liquid, it flows to the refrigerator’s evaporator. There, it encounters hydrogen gas and mixes with it.

The chemical reaction produced by the mixture of ammonia and hydrogen gas absorbs the heat in the refrigerator. That leaves the refrigerator’s internal temperature cold. However, the absorbed heat turns ammonia back to gas. Then, both gases – ammonia and hydrogen – mix with water, but only ammonia and water are able to mix. That leaves the hydrogen gas free to flow to the evaporator. Then, the cycle begins again.

Gas Refrigerator Not Cooling – How to Fix

Check the following if you find that your gas refrigerator is not cooling:

1. Pilot Light

One reason why the pilot light goes off is a faulty thermocouple. It is the thermocouple’s job to determine how much gas the burner in the refrigerator has per time. Changing the thermocouple usually fixes the problem. 

But if it continues, the gas that lights the pilot light may have a lot of air mixed with it. Go to the gas valves and power them down. Reset them and check for improvement.

2. Cooling System

The combination of ammonia, hydrogen, and water cools the refrigerator. But the system can spring a leak. If there is a leak in the cooling system, the refrigerator stops cooling. A strong odor of ammonia or a warm boiler with a hot absorber alerts you to a leak.

Go to the refrigerator’s heating element and find its 110V wires. Get a 110 VAC element and plug the wires into it. Once you do it, get a reading of the refrigerator’s internal temperature. Because it is disconnected from electric power, you will need to put a thermometer in a glass, fill it with water, and place both inside the refrigerator. Close the door and wait.

The internal temperature of the refrigerator should be 43 degrees Fahrenheit or a little below that. In 24 hours, it should lower to reading close to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If the unit does not achieve this temperature reading, you may need to buy a new gas refrigerator. But if it does, hire a professional to find the leak and fix it permanently.

3. Ammonia Leak

Ammonia is likely to leak into the cooling area if your gas refrigerator is old and barely used. When you decide to use it, the ammonia won’t be able to flow as it should. Consequently, the refrigerator stops cooling.

Take the refrigerator outside and turn it upside down. Doing this should cause the ammonia sediment to flow out of the cooling area. Then, plug the unit into power and see if cooling improves. More times than not, this fix is only temporary, and you may need a new refrigerator. To prevent it from happening in the future, use the refrigerator more often.

4. Burner

If your gas refrigerator is the type that uses both electricity and gas, be aware that there are times to use electricity, and there are times to switch to just gas. For example, if you are flying and are close to 6,000feet altitude, change to electricity.

If you continue using gas at such altitudes, the burner will become faulty. If that is the case with your refrigerator, you can rest the appliance and purge the gas cylinders of air to fix the issue.

5. Ambient Temperature

Storing the refrigerator in places with low temperatures affects the cooling solution. When the temperature in an area drops below the freezing point, the ammonia-water solution will freeze, along with other components. As a result, the refrigerator will stop cooling.

The simple fix for this problem is to keep the refrigerator in warmer places. Use a heater to keep the storage area warm. If that is not an option, get a lightbulb with high wattage and leave it on in the place. The heat from the bulb will keep it warm. If the refrigerator is already frozen, it will eventually thaw with the heat from the bulb.

Check out these other articles…

Refrigerator Compressor Making a Knocking Noise [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Compressor Stops [Proven Solutions]

Refrigerator Compressor Is Cold [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Compressor Shuts Off [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Evaporator [Problems & Solutions]

Refrigerator Gasket [Problems & Solutions]

Refrigerator Smells [Issues Solved]

Gas Refrigerator Issues – Solved

The following are possible issues a gas refrigerator may have and how to solve them:

1. Refrigerator Will Not Light

If the gas refrigerator is new, it may take a while for the burner to light. The reason is that the gas line may have air in it. You need to patiently follow the lighting procedure as listed in the user manual. Typically the gas hole tends to be small in a gas refrigerator, so removing air may take a while. The job becomes even more challenging with a new refrigerator.

You should hear a snapping noise from the piezo ignitor when you push it to light the burner. If you don’t hear that noise, the ignitor may be faulty and in need of a replacement. 

But if it does, check the spark electrode. It should create a spark at the slots in the burner when you push the ignitor. If it does not, clean and position it appropriately, following the guide in the manual. Otherwise, contact the manufacturer to report the fault.

2. Refrigerator Will Not Remain Lit

After lighting the burner, it should stay lit for the refrigerator to work. But if it goes off after releasing the safety valve button, light the burner again. This time, hold the button for a little longer.

If the burner goes off again, check the thermocouple. It may be loose, dirty, or faulty. Using a soft wire brush, clean the thermocouple’s end to remove carbon deposits. Then, go to the back of the safety valve and check the connection of the thermocouple. If the connection is correct and intact, you may need to replace the thermocouple.

3. Refrigerator Is Warm

The gas refrigerator may be running, but the temperature is rising. Here are some reasons for a warm gas refrigerator:

  • Increase in humidity
  • Overstuffing the refrigerator
  • Frequent door opening
  • Poor ventilation around the fins
  • Lack of defrosting
  • Hot weather
  • Insufficient gas pressure
  • Defective thermostat
  • Dirty flame
  • Incorrect leveling
  • Dirty fins

If the warmness originates from hot weather, high humidity, overstuffing, or opening the door too often, change the thermostat’s setting to a higher point. The higher the number, the colder the refrigerator. Give it a few hours to cool.

But if the thermostat adjustment does not work, check the other possible causes.

  • Poor Ventilation

Create enough space on top of, behind, and at the sides of the refrigerator. That way, air can flow around and keep the refrigerator working optimally. Poor ventilation causes a buildup of heat, which affects the cooling capacity of the refrigerator. It also keeps the burner burning as it should. Otherwise, the burner may blow out.

  • Lack of Defrosting

Reduce the setting of the thermostat inside the refrigerator. The lower the number, the warmer the refrigerator becomes. So, lower it and leave it overnight. The warm setting will cause any ice buildup to thaw. In the morning, you can easily dislodge the ice. Too much ice keeps the cooling fins from releasing cold air for the refrigerator, leading to warmness.

  • Insufficient Gas Pressure

If you suspect the gas pressure is not sufficient, get a manometer and fill it with water. Both sides should get to 0 before you stop. Next, take the tubing’s free end and connect it to the gas line. Make sure it is tight, and there is no leak anywhere.

Lift the manometer to a vertical position and turn the gas supply. Do it slowly. As you do it, check the water in the tubing; the input side’s supply should drop while the output side’s supply increases. It is called the water column pressure, and you should get 11inches when you add the numbers of the water level on both sides of the tubing.

If the number of inches is wrong, turn the adjusting screw a little and repeat the process until you get 11inches.

  • Incorrect Leveling

You should find a level in the refrigerator. Use it to level the refrigerator from back to front and from side to side. Use rollers or shims if it is too difficult to achieve a proper level because of the floor design.

The leveling of the refrigerator is crucial because gas refrigerators, especially propane gas types, use gravity. The flow of the liquids in it will determine how well the refrigerator works, and gravity makes the liquids flow correctly. Therefore, ensure the refrigerator is leveled correctly.

  • Dirty Flame

Blow high-pressure air through the slots of the burner toward the intake side of the burner to remove dirt. Doing this should fix the flame issue. Otherwise, clean the flue and baffle for a cleaner flame. Debris of every sort can find its way into the burner, clog it, and cause it to yield dirty flame.

  • Dirty Fins

The condenser fins may be too dirty, causing a buildup of heat and the eventual warmness of the refrigerator. Check the fins and clean them with a conder coil brush if they show a significant amount of dirt. Consult the user manual for steps to clean the fins.

  • Faulty Thermostat

Hire a professional to replace the thermostat if adjusting it does not change the internal temperature. The professional will need to test it before replacing it.

Refrigerator Is Not Cooling

Check the pilot light to ensure it is on. Also, check for ammonia leak; it means the sealed system is compromised if there is. Next, check the burner, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. All these determine whether or not the refrigerator cools at all.

Strong Smell

Contact the refrigerator manufacturer or hire a qualified technician well-versed in gas refrigerators to check the sealed system. A strong smell of ammonia, when it has not been used around the refrigerator, indicates a problem with the refrigerator’s sealed system. 

But if the smell is like that of exhaust fumes, it may stem from a clogged burner producing dirty flame. A dirty flame looks yellow, while a clean flame is blue. You will need to clean the burner to fix the dirty flame issue.

Does a Gas Refrigerator Need Electricity?

Gas refrigerators don’t exactly need electricity to run and cool food and other items. However, some need a battery to start before the gas can continue running the refrigerators. If there are internal lights, they will run on the battery, and the battery needs electricity to recharge. The best part is the important aspect of refrigeration does not rely on electricity.

How to Light an RV Gas Refrigerator

To light an RV gas refrigerator, take the following steps:

Step 1

First, ensure the propane gas source is not locked before trying to light the gas refrigerator. Then, find the electric/propane switch off the refrigerator. Your user manual will guide you, but most have theirs either on the top or bottom of the appliance. Turn or push the switch to Propane when you find it.

Step 2

Look for the button marked ‘Push to Start’. Push it and hold it in. while doing so, find the button marked ‘ignitor’. Press it and look through the control panel’s prism or window to check for a flame inside the burner. If you find no flame, press the ignitor a second time.

Step 3

Do not take your finger off the button marked ‘push to start’ even when the flame lights. Hold for at least thirty seconds after the flame comes on. Then, release it. Keep an eye on the flame to ensure it burns. If it goes off, start the process again.

How to Operate a Gas Fridge – Guide

Operating a gas fridge is almost the same as operating an electricity-powered fridge. However, before you can use it, you need to know how to start it. If you are looking for how to start a gas refrigerator, here are guiding steps:

Step 1

Ensure the refrigerator is level. If you are not sure, set a level on its top. Then, adjust the leveling feet by unscrewing and screwing until it is level.

Step 2

Check the gas tank or cylinder to be sure there is enough gas to power the refrigerator. Then, open the valve through which gas goes to the refrigerator.

Step 3

If the refrigerator works with both gas and electricity, go to its front panel and select the gas option. Newer models will automatically run when you select gas. But if it runs solely on gas, you need to manually start the burner.

Step 4

Open the door of the refrigerator and find the controls. The controls may be behind the bottom toe kick or behind the door’s bottom. When you find them, push in the control knob for the gas. 

Some models have three knobs while others have two. If yours has two knobs, then the knob for the temperature control works also for the gas. Otherwise, the gas control will have a clear label.

Step 5

Hold the control knob for the gas down while you repeatedly press the piezo ignitor until the flame comes on. There may be a subtle light on the refrigerator’s front to let you know when the flame lights. Otherwise, there will be a meter to alert you.

Step 6

Keep holding the control knob for the gas a little longer, about thirty seconds. Release it and keep an eye on the flame. It should stay on, but if it goes off, start the refrigerator again.

Why Won’t My Gas Fridge Light?

There may be air in the gas line, preventing the burner from getting a good supply. You will have to get rid of the air by blowing through the slots of the burner to remove debris. Dirt may be in the way of the flame, making it impossible for the fridge to light.

Your user manual will have directions on how to clean the burner. But if the burner is not the problem, then you may have to remove the piezo ignitor and fix a new one. Note that a new gas fridge takes some time to light. If your fridge is new, patiently follow the lighting procedure in your manual or in this article. The gas hole is small and ridding it of air will take a while.


If you are always on the road, having a gas refrigerator will serve so many purposes. You can stock up on beverages and other necessities without always having to stop at stores. However, it is crucial to maintain the refrigerator. It needs detailed care and may require more attention than a regular refrigerator.

Nonetheless, a gas refrigerator saves a ton of money in electricity bills. It also works even if you are not always on the road. So, you may want to consider getting one.

If any of the gas refrigerator issues proved difficult to fix, contact the manufacturer. As an alternative, reach us using the chatbox to your right. We will connect you to an appliance technician for immediate assistance.

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