How to Keep RV Refrigerator Cold while Driving

How to Keep RV Refrigerator Cold while Driving

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Refrigerator in RV is an appliances that gets used the most.

It is almost impossible to go RVing without a good refrigerator. One question that many of us have about RV refrigerator is, can i run the RV refrigerator while traveling?

And if no, how can i keep the refrigerator cold enough to protect the food inside it when traveling longer durations.

Lets see various things that you can do to keep the RV refrigerator as cold as possible.

Tips to keep RV refrigerator cold while traveling

  • Keep the refrigerator cold before you start the journey. Make sure the refrigerator is as coldest as possible before starting the travel.
  • Do not open refrigerator door too often before starting the journey or while traveling.
  • Can keep ice cube bags in the refrigerator. Can also make sure the deep fridge has enough ice in it.
  • Make use of a fridge fan to keep the refrigerator cold.
  • Freeze foods that you can.
  • Make sure the refrigerator is packed well. Do not keep big open spaces.
  • As a last resort run the refrigerator while traveling.

Okay. So, do these many things to keep it cool. So, rather than doing all these things cant i run it while driving? simple, isn’t it? Running refrigerator while driving can be done, but not always and may not be safe. Also, depends on what your rv fridge runs on. So, here’s the final option (but not always) to keep the refrigerator cool while driving.

  • Run the refrigerator while driving the rv.

Lets see details of all these points (other than running the fridge itself) and see why exactly doing this can help you keep the fridge in good cool condition and help in keeping the food fresh while you are traveling.

Read : Should the RV refrigerator be running all the time?

1. Start Keeping fridge coldest, hours before travel

Your preparation to keep the fridge cold while you travel should begin hours before you start the journey. Remember, the temperature within the fridge will stay as is for most of the time.

It starts to increase with time, thus if the starting temperature itself was very low, then it will stay that way for most of the time of your travel. Set the knob to the lowest possible and make sure you get the coldest temperature set. Even the deep freezer can also be set to lowest for freezing.

This will make sure the fridge is coldest when you switch it off. Different foods have different behavior and it depends when it starts to go bad. But, most foods will stay good for upto 10 hours even when the fridge is turned off.

In general, refrigerators maintain temperature up to certain time when they are switched off. With RV refrigerators, it is the same case. In fact, RV refrigerators are designed to handle this case to more extent and help keep it colder when not powered.

So, with this step you will increase the time food will remain good. At times, people make travels that are longer than 10-15 hours and following this as well as below steps will ensure good results.

We use midea compact refrigerator (check on amazon), it keeps all our food pretty cool during the travels.

Narcold and Dometic make some of the best RV refrigerators that are efficient and designed specially for RV use.

2. Open the refrigerator door only when needed

This is one thing that not only RVer fail to check, but also in home most of us fail. Opening the refrigerator door again and again not only makes the cooling worse but also consume more energy and watts. You need to be careful on this point and make sure you open the door very much less before making the journey.

RV refrigerators use 500-600 watts for starting where as for running they tend to consume around 150 watts. The overall consumption will increase if you keep opening the door, reducing the efficiency.

Opening the door again and again will automatically increase the temperature and your final temperature will not be coldest even though you kept the knob to least value.

Read : Can residential refrigerator be used in RV

Planning smartly can help you minimize the fridge use. For example, if you can keep all the needed food outside (once you finalized what all things you may need for lunch/dinner) then you can avoid the door opening multiple times.

Also, while packing, make sure you do all the packing in one go rather than doing it again and again. The same applies while traveling as well. Make sure you open the fridge doors only when needed.

3. Packing the refrigerator – the proper way

Make sure you pack the refrigerator well. You can pack the refrigerator just little below max capacity. Instead of introducing things which can be kept outside fridge, pack things like beverages that remain cold. Liquids remain cold and thus, lesser temperature drop.

Keeping open spaces or packing new things at the end may make it loose the temperature. Thus, pack things that were cold enough like cold drinks or beverages.

4. Using ice cubes and bag

Ice cube bags can also be used to keep the overall temperature well in limits. If you have space inside, then use ice bags.

This can be very effective, but make sure you use proper container for this, else will lead to water in your refrigerator. This is apart from the deep fridge option that you get. Or, you can also feel the deep fridge with as much ice as possible.

5. Setting the temperature knob to the lowest

Make sure temperature knob is set to the coldest possible, starting from previous night itself. This will make sure you have enough time to make the fridge coldest possible.

6. Freezing foods

Try freezing foods that can be done without affecting them. This will help in keeping them good for longer time and also will act as temperature maintainer or other foods. In-fact this can be better than using ice cubes or ice bags.

Running the refrigerator while driving

  • Running the refrigerator while driving an rv is a question that is debated by many. Lot of people try this, but it can be safety issue when the source is propane. A propane run refrigerator should not be running while you are driving, as it has potential of explosions if there is any leakage.
  • Also, while you are near a gas station, it is legally not allowed to run the refrigerator that runs on propane. Instead, one can use a generator run that is 110 v run or a 12 v battery run refrigerator while driving.
  • Even with other sources, it is not recommend to run the refrigerator while driving. This is because, it may result in refrigerator malfunctioning due to surface being not leveled. While driving, the the rv will travel through uneven surfaces and result in refrigerator being operated in uneven and not plain surface.
  • It has been seen not only while traveling but also in campsites, if the surface is not leveled then that can be bad for your appliance. The absorption type refrigerators used in RV’s work best when the surface is leveled. They work on the principle of heat, unlike the normal residential refrigerators. Thus, when you drive through uphills and downhills the fridge operation will be hampered and your food may not remain that cool as you would have expected.
  • Keeping the refrigerator shut off for longer times can make the food go bad. Many people fear food posing with fridge being shut off for more time. Many people try running the fridge with generator or invertor and even with propane.
  • But, remember propane run fridges should be avoided while driving. It is also illegal in many states. The reason is simple, propane is flammable and if the pipeline that supplies propane breaks, then that can be a big issue. Even inside tunnels you would see those signs that prohibit the use of propane.

Running propane run refrigerators while driving

RV refrigerator can run on propane for days. In fact, they use very little propane even when it runs for full 24 hours. But, while traveling, it is not recommended to use propane due to safety concerns.

Propane run refrigerators should not be running while driving. It can be dangerous. If there is any leakage then that can lead to fire and explosion. This is the reason many people suggest on, not using it at all. If you follow the tips that i have listed above, then you may not need fridge running at all.

If you really want to run refrigerator, then try to get a refrigerator running on a DC source. Most RVs these days come with 2 way or 3 way refrigerator that can run on 120V AC, Propane and also on 12V DC.

Also, what we normally see is that many people try to use generator that runs on propane or gasoline while driving. They feel it is minimal risk. If you are already using the generator, then it makes logic that you utilize it to run the refrigerator too.

But, the judgment has to be made by individuals, its not safe to use propane while driving anyways. Its a personal choice whether to use the fridge or to follow certain things to keep food cool. Remember, the fridges for rv are specially designed that work on absorption technique and tend to remain cooler than normal ones.

Even when they are off, they tend to remain cold for like 10-12 hours and that can be good enough for a journey. Also, taking halts in between during long journey and then using refrigerator can make good sense and safety. Its up-to oneself to decide on this.

One can try 12 v dc battery operated fridge, this however may not be ideal one for rving. It will draw too much from your rv battery and reduce the charge to highest extent. Another source that can be tried is, solar. A solar panel installed on top of rv can be source for your fridge. But, with this too the fridge may not work full time practically. But, if this can be set up as an alternate option then that can be great.

Keep the propane refrigerator off and try other things

I think keeping the refrigerator off while driving is sensible. The reason why most people just keep the fridge on is because they take things for granted or think its a minimum risk. But, remember even not using a refrigerator while driving makes very less difference. How much would you loose had you not turned on the fridge?

Also Read : How long do Rv Refrigerators last

On an average the data shows that you loose less than 4 degrees every one hour. That is very less, considering how much you would travel with a rv. Another option is to make use of a fridge fan.

A fridge fan like this one by Camco on amazon can be placed inside refrigerator that circulates air and keeps the temperature cool. That’s a great way and it isn’t too costly. Using this technique you could keep the food in good condition.


It is possible to avoid running refrigerator while driving an RV, if you follow the tips listed above. Some of these things are simple and can make a lot of difference practically.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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