Updated: Jul 25
What size refrigerator do you need for your RV? How to maintain your RV refrigerator? Read our RV refrigerator buying guide to learn more.
An RV is your home on wheels. It’s got all the necessities and appliances needed to provide you with a comfortable living on the road. RVs are large enough to accommodate several gadgets, but it is incredibly important to choose the right one. RV campers need to be equipped with appliances of good quality that can withstand the flexible conditions of an RV.
A refrigerator is one of the most important and useful appliances RV campers have to have. It helps keep perishable food preserved. While ice chests can do the work as well, it is a hassle to acquire fresh ice during camping. RVers may also need to repair their refrigerators or replace them, and with so many models and makes out there, refrigerator shopping can get overwhelming. But don’t fret, because we have compiled the perfect, all-encompassing RV refrigerator buying guide for you. Read on to know how they work, what you need to look for, and what’s in the market.
How Does An RV Refrigerator Work?
An RV refrigerator is different than the refrigerators we have at home. They are made to stand rigorous travel and designed to work well during long distances. RV fridges are called absorption refrigerators and are designed smartly with no moving parts. The fridge uses ammonia, water, gas, and hydrogen to maintain a cold temperature so that food is kept fresh and preserved.
The absorption refrigerator then uses heat to transport the water, gas, hydrogen, and ammonia through various tubes. These chemical reactions bring about evaporation and condensation that keeps the fridge cool. RV refrigerators need a heat source to get the reaction and process moving. Therefore, they can either be run when an RV is connected to a power source or generator or through the open flame of propane. Both gas and electric RV refrigerators are widely available in the market. The most common type of refrigerators available are 12 volt RV refrigerators that can be easily installed in all kinds of RVs.
Types of RV Refrigerators
2-Way RV Refrigerator:
A 2-way RV refrigerator has ample storage capacity for food and drinks. The door allows easy access to stored items through pull-out shelves and a sliding-out freezer drawer. That is why 2-way refrigerators for RV are a good choice if you like to entertain guests in your RV. This type of fridge also gives the option of running on either AC power or LP gas.
3-Way RV Refrigerator:
The layout of a 3-way RV fridge is similar to the 2-way, except it has more features. This type features adjustable shelves and a large freezer compartment. The door has a slide-out feature too, and a 3-way fridge is great for RV families. Power sources include AC power, LP gas, or DC power from the house batteries.
How Long Do RV Refrigerators Last?
On average, RV refrigerators can last from 15 to 20 years. Additionally, the lifespan of your refrigerator also depends on whether you purchase a used refrigerator, and how well it is maintained. A well-maintained refrigerator can also make a good run, while a used or second-hand bought refrigerator will have a shorter lifespan.
Factors to Consider Before Buying an RV Refrigerator
Your motorhome has limited space for all your necessities, therefore the size of your fridge is a crucial factor. Make sure to get one that fulfills your needs and also fits in your RV without occupying too much space. Measure the space in your RV when you go fridge shopping so that there are no miscalculations. Read more about RV refrigerator sizes below!
The storage capacity of your RV refrigerator is an important factor to consider. In order to determine the ideal storage capacity for you, a good place to start is considering the people in the RV. If you travel with family or with a group of friends, then a bigger fridge will be more suitable. If you are a couple or traveling solo, then a smaller fridge can meet your needs too.
RV refrigerators are designed to preserve perishable food items. Be sure to get a refrigerator that has the right features to suit your needs. If you are more of a frozen food person, your fridge should have a big freezer. Likewise, if you are a fan of condiments and snacks, you should consider a fridge with nice, organized compartments. In fact, compartments can also help in segregating food and avoiding food odors.
Some refrigerators may generate more noise when running than others. This depends on the type of energy they consume. Tri-mixed refrigerators are those that run on three different sources of energy. Refrigerators running on electricity and gas make no noise, while compression refrigerators that don’t function on gas can make noises.
Where To Find RV Refrigerators
RV refrigerators are special edition refrigerators, so you bet you won’t find them at your local appliance store. The best place to find the perfect RV refrigerator is to check with your RV dealer first. If not there, you can check manufacturers online and order directly from their website. Of course, Amazon, online RV retailers, and RV forums are good places to search for as well, if you’re looking for second-hand options.
RV Refrigerator Maintenance and Usage Tips
Taking good care of your RV refrigerator is key to its lifespan. Follow these maintenance tips to keep it in top-notch shape!
Start with the cold stuff:
Loading your refrigerator with cooler items first will require less energy and heat, and will help it cool down faster.
Say no to overloading:
Do not overpack your refrigerator. Not only will it not cool down all the items, but there will also be less space for the cold air to move through. This will make the refrigerator less effective.
Shut the door!
Be sure to keep the fridge door closed to preserve the cool air. Opening it often will overwork the unit to remove the heat and keep the air cool. You can also invest in an RV refrigerator door lock to make sure the door remains closed on drive days as well.
Fans make it better:
Installing a fan will help your unit keep the air cool, especially if you are traveling in hotter climates.
Keep them level:
RV refrigerators need to be perfectly leveled for their doors to be shut fully and for cool air to circulate properly. Uneven refrigerators can also cause lubricants inside the unit to not reach the nooks of the appliance properly, which can lead to overheating.
Keep the vents clean:
The vents at the back and front of the refrigerators help in the ventilation of the cool air. Make sure to check that the vents are clean of all dirt, debris, and elements so that the ventilation is uninterrupted.
Altering the settings:
The settings and temperature of your RV refrigerator will not stay the same always. Traveling in warmer weather may call for lower temperatures while traveling in colder climates can afford your fridge temperatures to remain average.
Best RV Refrigerators
5.3 cubic feet storage capacity
Stylish design with ergonomic handles
LCD tracking panel and built-in diagnostics
Auto changeover between gas and electric power sources
The size is a little bulky so it may not fit in standard RV refrigerator spaces
6 cubic feet storage capacity
Fully customizable storage layout
Energy-efficient LED lighting and click-lock handles
Can be powered by propane gas, 12-volt DC power, or 110-volt AC power
Right-handed door design limits use in RV kitchens that don't have the space for it
Not the most affordable RV refrigerator
Available in multiple sizes from 6.1 to 9.4 cubic feet capacity
Absorption technology means a quieter more efficient function
Can be powered by propane gas, or a 110-volt AC power connection
The controls are placed at the bottom of the fridge making them inconvenient to access
The quality of the fridge door and exterior is not the best
Compact size at 1.1 cubic feet capacity
Electronic temperature control panel
Can be powered by plugging into the cigarette lighter in your RV or through an AC outlet
Cannot be bolted in or screwed in your RV so storage may be a challenge
Designed for smaller campers
Compact size at 1.7 cubic feet capacity
Adjustable storage options
Reversible door hinge
12V portable freezer
Temperature control isn't the best
Replacing an RV Refrigerator
If you find that your RV refrigerator is no longer performing efficiently or is beyond repair, it may be time to consider RV refrigerator replacement. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of replacing your RV refrigerator:
1. Assess the Refrigerator Size: Before purchasing a new refrigerator, measure the dimensions of the existing unit to ensure the replacement fits perfectly into the designated space in your RV.
2. Choose the Right Type: There are various types of RV refrigerators, including absorption refrigerators (commonly powered by propane), compressor refrigerators (similar to residential fridges), and thermoelectric refrigerators (suitable for smaller units). Select the type that best suits your needs and power options.
3. Disconnect the Power: Turn off the power supply to the existing refrigerator and disconnect any gas or electrical connections, as well as the propane line if applicable.
4. Remove the Old Refrigerator: Carefully detach the old refrigerator from its mounting brackets and slide it out of the RV. Enlist help if needed, as refrigerators can be heavy and cumbersome.
5. Install the New Refrigerator: Slide the new refrigerator into the designated space and secure it with mounting brackets. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to properly connect the gas, electrical, or power supply, ensuring a safe and reliable installation.
6. Leveling the Refrigerator: Use a bubble level to ensure the new refrigerator is level from front to back and side to side. Proper leveling ensures optimal performance and prevents any damage to the appliance.
7. Test the Refrigerator: After installation, turn on the power supply and allow the refrigerator to cool for a few hours before placing any perishables inside. Verify that the refrigerator operates smoothly and maintains the desired temperature.
8. Dispose of the Old Refrigerator: If your old refrigerator is beyond repair, arrange for its proper disposal or recycling in accordance with local regulations.
9. Maintenance Tips: Regularly clean and maintain your new refrigerator to extend its lifespan and optimize efficiency. Keep the coils clean, check door seals for a tight fit, and service the refrigerator as per the manufacturer's guidelines.
How to keep RV Refrigerator's door closed?
Keeping the RV refrigerator's door closed is essential to prevent food spoilage and maintain the proper temperature inside. Here are some tips to ensure the refrigerator door stays closed securely:
1. Leveling the RV: Properly level your RV to ensure the refrigerator is not tilted or leaning. A level refrigerator will help the door seal function effectively, keeping it closed.
2. Check the Door Seal: Regularly inspect the door seal (also known as the gasket) for any signs of wear, tears, or damage. Replace the seal if necessary to maintain a tight and secure closure.
3. Clean the Door Seal: Keep the door seal clean and free from debris or food particles that could prevent it from sealing tightly. Use a mild detergent and water to clean the seal, and avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage it.
4. Avoid Overpacking: Avoid overloading the refrigerator with too many items or bulky containers, as this can put pressure on the door seal and hinder its ability to stay closed.
5. Use Door Latches or Straps: Some RV refrigerators come with built-in latches or straps to secure the door during travel. Use these features to prevent the door from swinging open while on the road.
6. Use Bungee Cords or Velcro Strips: If your refrigerator doesn't have built-in latches, you can use bungee cords or Velcro strips to secure the door during travel. Attach one end to a fixed point in the RV and loop it around the refrigerator door's handle or the opposite end of the Velcro strip to hold the door closed.
7. Be Mindful of Placement: Be conscious of how you load the refrigerator. Keep heavy items and items that tend to shift during travel away from the door area to avoid pushing the door open unintentionally.
8. Check Before Driving: Before hitting the road, double-check that the refrigerator door is securely closed and latched or strapped.
Whether you’re a solo traveler, an RV family, or out camping with your friends on spring break, you will require an RV refrigerator. The size may vary according to your needs, but there is definitely one out there for you. This guide will help you choose the best RV refrigerator to complement your RV travels!