There are three common types of RV refrigerators available: two-way, which works on propane and 120v AC, three-way which works on propane, 120v AC and 12v DC, and finally, residential refrigerators, which only work on 120v AC.
RV Propane Refrigerators
Two-way RV refrigerators run on both propane and 120v AC electric. Running your refrigerator on propane is the way to go when you’re not plugged in at a campground with electrical hookups.
A three-way RV refrigerator runs on propane, as well as both AC and DC electric. Three-way refrigerators are often small, and most often found in vans and truck campers. This RV refrigerator can run on propane, off your house batteries, or from the power pedestal at a campground.
Moreover, two-way and three-way RV refrigerators are built with travel in mind and can handle the bumps in the road. They are ideal for boondocking off-grid.
• Can run on both electricity and propane
• Ideal for camping off-grid
• More durable, and can handle the vibrations and bumps on the road
• Usually have a smaller interior
• Not as efficient at staying cold
• Can cost more if you are buying one new
The temperature can be improved on a propane fridge by installing a small DC fan on the outside, behind the workings of the fridge. Aim the fan so that the air flows in and up. Also, many RVers place a small, battery-operated fan inside the fridge, to improve interior airflow.
Residential RV Refrigerators
The RV industry has moved towards residential refrigerators, at least for the larger and higher-end Class As; these are the same as home refrigerators, and they work only plugged in with 120v AC electric. This means you’ll need to stay at a campground or an RV park with electrical hookups, or, you will have to run your generator off-grid to keep your refrigerator running.
Some RVers do manage to keep a residential refrigerator running on solar, but they have installed extra batteries and have quite a bit of solar on the roof. Residential refrigerators can take a lot of power to run. More importantly, a residential refrigerator is made to remain stationary, and is not designed for traveling.
• Larger interior storage space
• Excellent at keeping food cold
• Less expensive to buy new
• Not designed for the bumps and vibrations of the road
• Not made for camping off-grid. You’ll need an of AC power source
• More expense and effort to maintain
While you can install enough solar and batteries to run a residential fridge all day and night, that set-up won’t be cheap. Furthermore, there is still the issue of vibrations and bumps on the road damaging a residential fridge; this is especially true when you hit washboard on a dirt road.
What Type of RV Refrigerator is For You?
Before you purchase an RV, think about the type of camping you want to do; do you want to travel the country, staying at RV resorts, or do you want to camp out in nature, off-grid?
With this in mind, choose an RV with the type of refrigerator that’s best for your style of RV living. Some RV manufacturers may not offer any options regarding the type of refrigerator they install, so choose wisely. Replacing a refrigerator is not only expensive, but it’s also difficult to get in and out of a tight space.
While a residential refrigerator is cheaper to buy, the number of batteries and solar panels you would need to install to power it off-grid could easily off-set those savings. Likewise, running a generator 24/7 is not only extremely annoying to any neighbors, the fuel can also get expensive.