Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator On all the Time?

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One appliance that’s supplied inside most RVs is the refrigerator (or fridge as it’s sometimes called). Even small campers and trailers often will have a small propane refrigerator squeezed inside because of how useful it is.

The inclusion of a refrigerator is better than a cooler. The latter only keeps its contents colder by a certain number of degrees compared to the ambient temperature inside the RV. Therefore, on hotter days, the cooler will struggle to keep food cold enough to stay fresh.

Read Also: How to Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving?

Also, many coolers rely on ice as their primary cooling method which melts over time, forcing you back to the stores to get some more.

Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator On all the Time?

When you own an RV refrigerator, you may ask, “Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator on all the Time?” It’s a fair question.

It’s not necessarily a really bad thing to leave it on. While it will get more usage that way, it will also be ready when you want it.

For instance, using the RV fridge as additional cold storage when staying at home is handy, especially when you have a family celebration with more guests present. It will put more wear on the appliance though.

Other factors may make it less desirable though. So, let’s consider the reasons to leave your RV refrigerator on continually versus periodically turning it off.

Will Leaving the RV Refrigerator Always On Cause Damage?

A frequent cause of appliance failure with RV refrigerators (affiliate link) is the cooling coil.

The mixture inside to keep things cool enough is ammonia and water, along with zinc chromate, usually, to prevent rust.

Smad 3 Way Refrigerator 12v Fridge for RV. AC/DC/LPG. 55 Qt. Black

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When a refrigerator stops working, it’s commonly down to the expansion tube and a buildup that’s accumulated there over time. The buildup develops through longer usage periods. Essentially, the longer a refrigerator is running inside an RV, the sooner the expansion tube and ultimately the cooling coils will run into difficulty. If you think about it, most mechanical devices are like this. They wear out or wear down the more usage they experience over time.

Is Turning Off Your Refrigerator Between Trips a Good Idea?

It’s a personal choice.

There’s a certain amount of convenience for part-time or weekend RVers who wish to make use of extra cold storage in the driveway when their home refrigerator is frequently full.

However, there are some benefits of turning it off between trips. Here are a few:

Lower Energy Bills

Unless you have sufficient solar energy collected by solar panels on the roof, then your home utility bill will go up when the RV is plugged in to keep a few appliances running. That gets expensive after a while!

If you own a propane refrigerator, then you’ll need to ensure that the gas doesn’t run out expectedly and cooling has turned off unbeknownst to you. So, periodically checking the gas tank or that the refrigerator is still running becomes one more thing to worry about.


Protects the RV Refrigerator’s Lifespan

The additional use of the refrigerator may cause it to develop a fault years later that may not have happened otherwise.

As such, this increases the costs of ownership and the maintenance inconvenience too. You may also lose food that was in “cold storage” but lost cooling when the refrigerator failed without warning (see our earlier section about failing cooling coils).

Also, a replacement refrigerator likely will be needed sooner than it would otherwise. This considerably increases the ownership costs. If you were hoping to get a new one (or new to you) when you eventually replaced the current RV with another, it may not be possible to wait should a refrigerator failure occur right at the wrong time!

So, turning it off protects its lifespan.

More Eco-Friendly

For people who care about the planet, using less energy is better.

Less energy is required from power plants that still aren’t completely run using green energy that’s good for the environment. So, there’s that.

Will the RV Refrigerator Get Damaged by Turning It On/Off Frequently?

Many people who go camping in their RV have heard from camping neighbors that they’re best not turning off the refrigerator. The thinking is that it will get damaged internally when doing so repeatedly over time. Actually, this has become a bit of a myth. Really, it’s more like an old wives’ tale because it has no basis in fact.

Modern RV refrigerators are designed to withstand being turned on and turned off at different times without causing mechanical problems. Regular RV refrigerators are made to withstand the rigors of camping life which includes sometimes turning it off when disconnecting from shore power or full hook-ups. Indeed, the majority of RVers turn off their fridge just before they get out on the road and only turn it back on when they’ve arrived.

What Should You Do Before Camping and After Returning?

If you’re inclined to turn off the RV refrigerators (affiliate link) between uses, our advice would be as follows:

Walsh WSR31TBK Compact Refrigerator, Dual Door Fridge

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Before Going RV Camping – Allow at least 24 hours between turning on the refrigerator again and when you’ll be traveling. This allows enough time for the appliance to cool down sufficiently, including any freezer section too. The ideal refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees. Adding a bottle of water inside gives the appliance something to keep cool and acts as a good way to check how effective the fridge is being. Any issues with keeping food fresh, drinks cold, and ice creams frozen for the kids (or yourself!) will be discovered before heading out. This allows time to possibly remedy the situation first.  

After Returning from RV Camping – Turn off the refrigerator. Disconnect and close off the propane tank valves too. Open the main compartment and freezer doors. Doing so prevents moisture from getting trapped inside which can create unwanted bacteria like mold from forming. Consider any ice that’s inside the icebox or freezer compartment too. Remove this to prevent it from melting and causing a small flooding situation! You can thank us later…

Yes, your refrigerator should be turned off while driving. There’s a risk that in an accident, a propane line could become damaged when the tank’s valve is open. The results of a gas leak could be extremely dangerous. Therefore, the propane valve must be shut off, and the refrigerator turned off unless it has another means of power.

Don’t worry though because by ensuring that the refrigerator is running up to a day prior to departure, it should stay cold enough to keep food fresh while it’s turned off during transit. With older models, this may not be the case though.

Make sure that the refrigerator’s doors(s) remain cold. If they tend to lose their seal and swing open, that’s something to attend to. Replace the parts that are no longer allowing for a strong seal between the door and the unit itself to prevent the doors from swinging open.

Also, add a few cold drinks inside because not only are they refreshing after you arrive at the RV park, but they’re a bit like ice packs which keep their surroundings cooler too.

Running an RV Fridge on an Inverter While Driving?

Is it possible to run an RV refrigerator on the inverter while driving your RV?

If the refrigerator is a 3-way one that uses multiple sources of energy or fuel to operate, then it’s possible to run it using power from the inverter.

Will an RV fridge run off a battery? Sure. However, what you won’t know for sure is:

a) how long your journey will be.

b) how many hours the refrigerator can be sustained on only the battery bank.

It is true that with the engine running, the batteries should be receiving a fresh charge. Whether this will be enough to avoid the batteries fully draining before you arrive at your destination would require some detailed energy calculations.

Can I Use a Generator to Power the RV Refrigerator While Driving?

Possibly. But generators are noisy which could be a distraction while focusing on the road.

Most generators are fuel-powered, so they may not last as long as you’d like. It could also cut out without warning depending on the quality and age of the generator. Also, depending on how it’s powered, it may produce some fuel fumes which are best-vented externally.

Generally, it’s a bad idea to attempt to keep an RV refrigerator running using a generator.

What to Do When Arriving at an RV Park or Campsite?

After you’ve arrived and parked up, it’s time to get busy.

If you have a refrigerator that can run on electrical hookups as well as propane – this is common – then just plug in and get the appliance running again.

Alternatively, for propane RV refrigerators (affiliate link), it’s time to open the propane valve again to supply fuel to the appliance once more.

Smad 3 Way Refrigerator 12v Fridge for RV. AC/DC/LPG. 55 Qt. Black

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Ultimately, it’s possible to keep your RV refrigerator running all the time if you don’t go anywhere. However, if you’re intent on travel, then powering down and disconnecting it from the power supply or propane source, is best. Furthermore, the optimal choice is to run the refrigerator when it’s needed and to turn it off at all other times. It will have a longer lifespan that way.

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