How Does an RV Refrigerator Operate?

There’s a lot to like about living in an RV, but the fridge in your home on wheels can sometimes give you grief. It’s not surprising since RV refrigerators have to operate in an extreme environment that includes a mix of energy sources (propane, electricity and generators), jostling from highway travel and a much more confined space than residential refrigerators.

This means RV refrigerators have to work a little harder than residential models to cool foods and can be prone to freezing food stored on certain shelves if the outside temperature is cooler. They also take longer to cool and have a tendency to freeze food more easily if the fridge is packed so full that cold air can’t circulate properly. Adding a fridge fan to help with the cooling process can help.

RV refrigerators use an absorption refrigeration system that operates using a different set of principles than compressor-driven household refrigerators. These RV fridges require a complex ammonia mixture to operate and are only really practical for dry camping or boondocking. They don’t run well off 12v battery power and don’t have the capability to switch between propane and electric operation, but they offer great flexibility when it comes to power sources.

When the thermostat on your RV fridge senses that the temperature is rising, it signals the refrigerator’s boiler to start heating up. When the temperature of the water in the boiler reaches boiling point, the ammonia is released as a gas. This vapor then goes into the refrigerator and cools it down. When the refrigerator is not in use, a heat sensor turns off the boiler and switches to LP gas. rv refrigeration

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