The RV Refrigerator (Absorption Fridge)

RV Refrigerator

Did you know that HOW you pack your RV Refrigerator will affect how well that it does (or does not) work?

An RV Refrigerator does not use a compressor like a residential fridge. Rv fridges absorb the heat which causes a cooling affect vs. a residential fridge that will pump cold air into a space to make things cool. (think about that blast of cold air you feel when opening your home refrigerator). You do NOT have that same effect with an RV or Absorption fridge.

This is SUPER important to know and understand because this means that HOW you load up your fridge can mean the difference between having a cool fridge or a fridge that isn’t keeping your food cool. 

First of all, a few things to remember. Because an RV refrigerator is using liquids (like ammonia) it needs to be level to operate. This is because it needs the gravity to work correctly. 

We KNEW this but forgot one time while mooch-docking and of course of fridge stopped cooling in the middle of the night. We reset it, but this was a mistake because it put our fridge into “lock out mode.” To get the fridge working again, we had to go through a reset procedure that was pretty intimidating! You can read more on the reset procedure here.

Also, you need to have at least a small amount of power from the batteries for the fridge to run in the propane mode. This is because there needs to be enough power to power up the ignitor for the propane flame.

Now that we’ve talked about how it works – let’s talk about loading it up. Turn the fridge on at least 24 hours before you are ready to load it up. To make sure it’s cool, you can use a laser thermometer.

We’ve learned a few things after living RV Life over the past few years, so we wanted to give you 7 tips that will help to make sure your food is cool AND safe. Because we all know during those travel days “contents shift during flight”. 

7 RV Refrigerator Tips

  • #1 Turn on the night before – allow at least 8-12 hours for it to cool down. 
  • #2 Check your fridge seals to make sure your fridge is sealing.
  • #3 Make sure items are pre-cooled. Do not load up an RV fridge with a whole CASE of bottled water that isn’t pre-cooled yet. It will suck all coolness out of the fridge and can impede cooling for other food items. Add a few bottles at a time if you’re on the road and can’t pre-chill.
  • #4 Allow for empty space between items. When things are touching and tight together there is not room for the heat to dissipate and for the cool air to cool the items. Make sure to leave space and don’t pack completely full.
  • #5 Use a battery operated fan to move air around on hot days – this can help keep things cool and help the fridge to dissipate heat.
  • #6 You will need to defrost the freezer from time to time. It will build up with frost over time that needs to be cleaned.
  • #7 Make sure the back side of the fridge is clean and free from wasps nests, spider webs, etc. (This is the part on the OUTSIDE of the RV. There are fans that can be added to this backside of the vent if needed for performance in really hot weather, etc. 

And here is a BONUS TIP! Use bins in the fridge for items to keep from moving around. This also helps to keep things organized.

We also now carry a “back up” fridge (just in case). It also comes in handy as a second fridge if we have a get-together, etc. We have this one below from SetPower on Amazon.

Portable Fridge

Have you seen our free downloads? Check out our FREE Trip Planning and Budget template AND our Packing Checklist Template!

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