How Much Propane Does an RV Refrigerator Use


Norcold cu. ft N3104AGR 3.7 Cf Refrigerator

If you are a frequent traveler who owns a recreational vehicle, then you may have considered getting an RV refrigerator at one point or the other. However, before you make a choice of an RV refrigerator, it is also important to know how much propane the RV refrigerator will use.

This is especially necessary if you will be going on a long trip or if you live in an area where you don’t have easy access to adequate propane supply.

Not to worry, in this article not only we will give you the 411s of how propane-based RV refrigerators work, but we will also let you in on how to know how much propane an RV refrigerator uses and how to cut back on the amount of propane you use.

How Does A Propane RV Refrigerator Work?

If you’re someone who wants to purchase a propane refrigerator for the first time, you have to know how it works. So, before we delve into how much propane an RV refrigerator uses, we would give a simple description of its mode of operation.

Most refrigerators used in RVs are not like your home refrigerators. They are absorption refrigerators. Your home refrigerators make use of fans and compressors to keep items cool,  but propane RV refrigerators are different.

Absorption refrigerators do not have moving parts. So, to get your items cool, they make use of ammonia and water. The ammonia and water are heated to the boiling point in a generator. During the boiling period, the ammonia and water separate when they pass through the separator. Then, they begin to move separately through the refrigerator.

While the water goes to an absorber, the ammonia goes to a condenser where it cools down to the liquid state. Then, the ammonia proceeds to an evaporator where it mixes with compressed hydrogen gas. It then evaporates as a very cold vapor which moves to the cooling coils inside the refrigerator. So, this is how your fridge and freezer get cool.

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In the end, this vapor returns to the absorber and mixes with water. Then, the process begins again.

Propane is used to run the absorption process of this refrigerator. Without it, ammonia doesn’t get to the hydrogen gas and cooling doesn’t occur.

Own an RV refrigerator or plan to get one soon, check out this video for tips and tricks on how to work your RV refrigerator:

How Much Propane Does an RV Refrigerator Use?

Many new propane refrigerators will run for so many weeks and you wouldn’t notice a drop. How is this possible?

Unlike old propane refrigerators that consumed propane heavily, these ones are designed with low emissions and were built to economize fuel. So, you don’t have to worry about your refrigerator releasing so many harmful gases to the atmosphere.

There is no specific amount of propane every refrigerator consumes. But, approximate values have been generated. For instance, if you’re using a 12-cubic foot RV refrigerator, it would consume about 1.5 pounds of propane gas daily. So, if your refrigerator is about 4 to 5-cubic feet, you would not even use up to a pound of gas per day. There are also larger RV refrigerators that make use of more than 2 pounds of propane per day.

Remember that these values are only estimates and your refrigerator may use a little more or less.

How to Reduce How Much Propane Your RV Refrigerator Will Use?

As said earlier, the amount of propane used by your RV refrigerator is not set in stone. So, there are practices you can carry out to reduce the amount consumed daily.

  1. Lower the temperature setting if the environment is
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Your ambient temperature has a major role to play in the cooling of your RV refrigerator. In warmer climes, it would take a while for your RV refrigerator to reach a cold temperature. But in a freezing environment, your refrigerator would get cold in a short time.

So, reduce the temperature of your refrigerator to save propane used. While in hot climes, increase the temperature setting, so your items get cool faster. If you have one of those fridges whose temperature has been preset by the manufacturer, then you don’t need to do this. Because there’s no way to control the temperature.

  1. Carry out regular maintenance

Maintaining your RV refrigerator regularly will definitely make the propane last longer. When you check around for rusts or leaks, and you don’t find any, you can rest assured that your refrigerator would utilize less propane and work well for a long time. For instance, if there is a leak, a large amount of propane will be lost. To maintain the efficacy of your refrigerator, check for any damages, and make repairs immediately you find them.

SMETA Propane Refrigerator with Freezer 12V/110V/Gas LPG, No Noise, Fridge for Dorm Office Garage, Single Door, 3.5 cu ft, White




  1. Remove any obstruction behind your refrigerator

When there are items behind your fridge, it uses more propane. How?

The heat generated from the cooling process of your refrigerator leave through a vent behind it. So, as your fridge cools, heat escapes. If there are items at the back of your fridge, it becomes difficult for heat to escape. And when this happens, cooling also becomes a difficult process, and more propane is required.

In addition, keeping your fridge a few inches away from the wall is important. If your fridge is directly against the wall or too close to it, there’s nowhere for the heat to escape to.

  1. Change your cooling method

So, many people decide to put on their fridge and cool their items a day before they commence their journey. This is because it takes 4 to 6 hours for the RV refrigerator to get cool. So, they have to cool their items before they take off. What if you could do this in a better way and minimize propane?

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A more efficient way to get this done is to put cold items in your refrigerator. This way, less propane is used, and it doesn’t stay on for long.

Also, some people have a habit of stuffing their refrigerator to the fullest. This isn’t right. Without leaving enough space between items in your refrigerator, it takes more time to cool. So, you’ll have to use up more propane.

  1. Ensure that your RV refrigerator is leveled.

The cooling process of propane RV refrigerators depends majorly on the leveling of the ground. If you decide to run your refrigerator on a slopy ground, you might permanently damage the cooling unit. This is because the propane, hydrogen, ammonia, and water would not flow efficiently in an awkward tilt. If one of these gases get mixed up with another in the wrong place, you’ll have to spend a lot of money.

So, pack and use your refrigerator on leveled ground. Whether you’re at home or on your trip, always ensure your refrigerator is not tilting to one side.


There’s no definite answer to how much propane an RV refrigerator uses.

But, generally, RV refrigerators don’t use so much propane.

By following the tips listed above, you can even get your RV refrigerator to use less propane than it normally would.


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