Feb 2, 2014 - Appliances, Fridge, Technical    6 Comments

RV Fridges in Cold Weather

RV fridges aren’t the same as household fridges. RV fridges are cooled thanks to evaporated ammonia that mixes with hydrogen to absorb the surrounding warm air, hence why they are called absorption refrigerators.

I really like my RV fridge because it runs on propane and very little electricity. It is very economical to run and its size is perfect for me.

The problem with absorption fridges, though, is that they don’t like extreme temperatures. That means that when it’s super hot out, the beer in the fridge is tepid and the freezer can’t make ice cubes.

In winter, in temperatures below about -10C/14F, it gets too cold for absorption fridges to work efficiently. In my case, no matter what temperature setting I use, as deep colds set in, my freezer edges closer and closer to the freezing point and the fridge stays a few degrees below the freezing mark.

This means that I have to manage my food stocks carefully. I had a bit of loss after the first big cold snap caught me by surprise, I can’t stock up on the rare good meat or frozen food deals I find, and anything that goes into the fridge is very likely going to freeze. It’s not a huge deal as I have to go to down at least once a week for propane anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I’ve heard horror stories of fridges being killed by a brutal cold spell, but I like to think these fridges are hardier than that as long as you don’t continually abuse them. My fridge panel is sheltered from direct wind and snow, which does help in making me less twitchy about this. I’d recommend finding a way to shelter your vent if it’s exposed to the elements (do not block it off, though, as that would be a fire hazard!).

As soon as we get a warm up, the fridge and freezer work normally again, so that’s another reason I’m not too concerned. This is just another one of those cold weather RVing challenges and it’s definitely not the worst one I’ve encountered!



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  • I think one of the best things about being back in a house is having a regular fridge. And anything that goes wrong with an RV fridge seems to cost 3 or 4 times the cost to fix it. I can’t believe what I had to pay to have the gaskets replaced, and they still never stayed in place.

  • RV fridges are expensive, but, when I compare living in an RV to living in a fixed house, RVing is cheaper.

  • Good to know about the limitations of an RV refrigerator. I don’t plan to be anywhere with extremely high or low temperatures. So, I guess it will work fine for me. Working well for little in operating cost is also nice.

  • I”ve always wondered why refrigerator manufacturers, whether it be RV or household, couldn’t design a vent to the outside, and some kind of temperature sensor that would turn the fridge off, and suck cold air in from outside when the temperature outside drops to a certain level. It would save a ton of electricity if all fridges were designed this way.

  • Wow, what a brilliant idea. It would need something to regular the temperature, but you’re onto something!

  • My RV fridge is strugling with this winter weather — expected to get over 90F again today. (Near Yuma, AZ) I have considered getting one of the 12v compressor refrigerator/freezers to use as extra freezer space. They are a lot more efficient than household refrigerators, but more expensive.

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