How Long Does It Take An RV Fridge To Cool On Propane?

Propane bottle

Published Date: October 18, 2020

Last Updated on November 29, 2022 by Camper Front

How long does it take an RV fridge to cool on propane? Well, it takes anywhere from 4 to 24 hours for an RV fridge to cool on propane, but there are other things you need to know.

Going camping, especially during summertime, is something you want to do with a fully efficient refrigerator; else, you will be left with warm water and spoilt food.

So maybe you have powered your refrigerator, and it’s taking some time to cool, and you are wondering how long it takes an RV fridge to cool on propane.

Many factors play a part in cooling and keeping a refrigerator cold, and they operate differently compared to a regular household refrigerator.

Let’s quickly look at these factors!

How Long Does It Take A RV Fridge To Cool On Propane?

As I stated earlier, it takes between 4 to 24 hours for an RV fridge to cool on propane properly. However, several factors contribute to your RV refrigerator getting cold and remaining cold.

And if you don’t pay attention to these factors, you may find it challenging to get your camper fridge to get cold.

But before we look at these factors, let’s first of all, see how an RV fridge work.

Read Also: Is it Proper to Disconnect a Camper Battery When Plugged In?

How Does An RV Refrigerator Work?

How Does An RV Refrigerator Work

To use your refrigerator to its maximum efficiency, you have to understand how it works. As stated already, an RV refrigerator operates differently compared to a household refrigerator.

RV refrigerators are called “Absorption Refrigerators.” While household refrigerators use compressed freon to cool the compartments. An RV refrigerator makes use of a blend of hydrogen, ammonia, and water to produce a powerful cooling and evaporation effect.

This mixture is heated by an electric element or a propane flame, and it passes through a percolator pump, which results in the release of vapor of hot ammonia.

The evaporated water is then reverted to a special type of built-in boiler. Then the vapor moves to a condenser, which transfers heat into the exterior environment. At this point, the liquid ammonia is drained into an evaporator with hydrogen gas.

A type of vaporization reaction occurs between the liquid ammonia and hydrogen gas. And This helps to extract the heat energy out of the interior space to keep things cold.

Then the hydrogen-ammonia mixture drains into an absorber chamber where the ammonia will be dissolved into the water once again.

The next step is to release the hydrogen gas back into the evaporator. This practically starts the process starts over again.

It is a cool trick of chemistry (excuse my pun) and heat transfer that allows your RV’s absorption refrigerator to transform electric or propane heat to help preserve your perishable foods and keep your liquids cold.

How to Keep Your RV Fridge as Cold as Possible

How to Keep Your RV Fridge as Cold as Possible

Reduce the Number of Times you Open the Fridge Door

Especially While you are on the road, try to limit the number of times you open the fridge door. If you must open the fridge door, try to plan ahead of time as to what you need so that you can reduce the number of times you open the door as well as the length of time the door stays open.

If you have people riding with you, you can try running this through them; this is to ensure the fridge can maintain as much coolness as it can.

The continuous opening of the fridge will replace the cold air with the room’s temperature air. You can also use a cooler to store the food and drinks you will need while on the road.

Turning on Your Fridge The Day Before Your Trip

The day before your trip, you can turn up the fridge’s coldness to the coldest setting and let it run overnight.

So, when you unplug the fridge and start your journey, everything inside it will be freezing cold. This will buy you some time and keep your stuff cold for several hours, and this also gives your fridge some sort of prep time to ensure efficient cooling when you eventually get to the campsite.

Controlling the Outside Temperature

The outside temperature also has an effect on the operation and efficiency of your RV refrigerator. When it’s cold outside, you might need to lower the temperature setting, and when it’s hot outside, you might need to raise the setting.

Scorching weather will have an impact on the refrigerator’s efficiency. When it’s really hot outside, try parking the RV in the shade, especially the side the refrigerator is on.

You can also install a 12-volt, thermostatically controlled refrigerator vent fan at the back of the refrigerator or the top of the roof vent.

The fan will assist in drafting the hot air away from the refrigerator. If you have any electrical and mechanical knowledge, you can install the fan yourself, or you can have your RV dealer install one for you.

Either way, it’s worth it. The fan removes the heat from behind the refrigerator, improving the refrigerator’s performance by up to 40%.

Adding Ice Cubes

You can also add ice cubes or ice bags to the fridge’s freezer to help it maintain low temperatures for a longer period. The ice will melt eventually, so you need to ensure you have enough water containers in order to prevent water from dripping all over your food supplies.

Filling up Every Space

Filling up every space in your fridge with essential items is a great way to keep your refrigerator colder for longer. Reducing the space between items in the fridge will reduce movement and spillage.

Instead of filling the space up with any items, try to fill it up with beverages as they tend to hold up cold more efficiently.

Inspect the Vents

The heat created by the cooling process is passed out from behind the refrigerator. Air comes in through the outside refrigerator vent and helps draft the hot air up and out through the roof vent.

Inspect the back of the refrigerator and the roof vent frequently for any obstructions like bird nests, leaves, or other debris that might prevent the excess heat from escaping.

Read Also: How to Heat Up a Camper Without a Propane


Being able to crack open a cold one as you sit outside your RV, and observe nature is one of the fun parts of camping, or at least for me!

Your refrigerator is a critical piece of your RV, and any shortcomings should not be overlooked as you can end up with spoilt food; nobody wants that.

Knowing how long it takes an RV fridge to cool on propane will enable you to plan ahead and know the right time to start placing your stuff inside the fridge.

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