Does RV refrigerator work better on gas or electricity?

In this article, we will explain: Does RV refrigerator work better on gas or electricity? We will highlight the main differences between gas and electric refrigerators and discuss their performance, convenience, flexibility and safety. 

Does RV refrigerator work better on gas or electricity?

Many agree that RV refrigerators work better on electricity, as it keeps the food fresh and cold for a longer period. On the other hand, a gas RV fridge will cool faster and stay colder even in high temperatures. 

To help you decide which RV refrigerator type is the best, we have created the table below:

CriteriaGas RV FridgeElectric RV Fridge
PerformanceCools faster, but easily influenced by high temperatures outside the RV;Very low noise level;Stops working when it is tilted.
Cooling slower but more consistent;Food stays cold for longer; It is more suitable for compact vans.
Battery useWork with both 12 V and 230 V batteries and, of course, with gas, propane or kerosene. Drain the battery extremely fast.Require a power supply of 12 V or 230 V and are greedy for electricity;But you can use a solar panel to power the RV fridge;
ConvenienceOnly work properly when the fridge is levelled!Not mandatory to level it in order to work;Has consistent electric battery power.
FlexibilityNot very flexible, you will have to always fuel the gas line.You have the possibility to draw solar power for this type of RV fridge.
SafetyCan be dangerous, especially if not levelled or travelling in high heat long-term;Gas limes as highly volatile and flammable;The danger of fire.No concerns if you follow basic safety guidelines for plugs. 

How do RV gas refrigerators work?

Gas RV refrigerators differ from freezers and other types of refrigeration systems. The basic difference between a refrigerator and a freezer is that refrigerators are designed to keep items below the freezing point of water, 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), while many freezers keep items below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.77 degrees Celsius). 

Gas refrigerators also differ from other forms of refrigeration systems in that they use gas to produce the cooling effect rather than solids or external sources of cooling. A common type of refrigerator that uses such a method for cooling is the absorption refrigerator.

Gas refrigerators generate cooling energy by circulating some type of refrigerant through metal coils at the back of the appliance. The gases used vary from model to model, but the most common include Freon and R134a. 

As these gases run through metallic coils, they condense from a gaseous state to a liquid, cooling the metal in the coils during the process. In turn, the air in the refrigerator is cooled by this process.

How do gases cool the air in the refrigerator?

Basically, it all comes down to simple physics. In order for the gas refrigerant in the metal coils to change from gaseous to a liquid state, energy is required. It obtains this from the heat energy of the surrounding environment and makes the change to a liquid state. This produces a cooling effect inside the refrigerator. Then, as the liquid refrigerant circulates out of the inner coils, it changes back to gas and runs through the coils again in a continuous process.

If you own a recreational vehicle, you probably have a gas or propane refrigerator. These refrigerants are interesting because they have no moving particles and they use gas or propane as their main food source. In this way, they use the temperature to produce the cold inside the refrigerator.

A gas refrigerator uses ammonia as the freezer, and water, ammonia, and hydrogen gas to create a continuous cycle for the ammonia.  

  1. First, the heat is applied to the ammonia and water solution in the generator. (The heat comes from burning gas, propane or in some cases from kerosene.)
  1. Once the mixture reaches the boiling point, it flows into the separator.
  1. Ammonia flows into the condenser, dissipates heat, and turns back to liquid. The liquid ammonia is directed towards the evaporator where it mixes with the hydrogen gas and evaporates, generating cold temperatures inside the refrigerator.
  1. The ammonia and hydrogen gases flow towards the damper where the water stored in the separator in step Nº2, is mixed with the ammonia and hydrogen gases.
  1. The GAS forms a solution with the water and the hydrogen gas is released, which returns to the damper.
  1. The ammonia solution and water flow into the generator to repeat the cycle.

How do electric and solar RV refrigerators work?

You won’t need a backpack to keep your potato salad fresh if you have a handy cooler that connects to your cigarette lighter. These devices use a unique process known as the Peltier effect, a thermoelectric effect, to produce cool temperatures. It’s pretty funny, and something we haven’t talked about yet.

The name “Peltier effect” comes from its discoverer, a 19th-century French physicist. You can create the Peltier effect yourself using a battery, two pieces of copper wire, and a bismuth or iron wire.

Tie the copper wires to the two battery pulleys, and then connect the bismuth or iron wire between the two pieces of copper wire. The junction where the current flows from the copper to the bismuth will start to heat up, and the junction where the current flows from the bismuth to the copper will become cold.

The maximum temperature reached by the hot junction is 40 degrees Fahrenheit (22.2 degrees Celsius) at room temperature.

As you would expect, in an electric refrigerator the hot junction is on the outside of the unit, and the hot junction is on the inside. To amplify the effect, refrigerators contain lots and lots of joints.

Electric refrigerators aren’t the only invention designed to cool your lunch. Solar-powered refrigerators are another option. If you plan to spend your free time camping (or want to start your own hot dog stand), you may want a cold drink but don’t have the power for a regular refrigerator.

Don’t worry, you can use a solar-powered refrigerator, a simple solar panel will do the honours of capturing the heat to generate the cold inside. Use the energy of the sun’s rays to turn something cold? It’s nifty, right?


There are different types of refrigerators: gas, propane, electric, and even renewable energy like solar. The reason for having a refrigerator is to keep food cold. Cold temperatures help food stay fresh longer. The basic idea behind refrigeration is to lower the bacterial activity (which all food contains) so that it will take longer for bacteria to spoil the food.

Now, the type of Rv refrigerator you choose will depend on your needs, how often you will travel with your RV and the size of your family numbers. As you saw above, both gas and electric RV refrigerators have their perks and their cons. 

What would you choose? Please feel free to share your thoughts, concerns or tips when it comes to choosing the best RV refrigerator. 

FAQ on Does RV refrigerator work better on gas or electricity?

How dangerous is gas from an RV refrigerator?

The oils and gases of any RV refrigerator remain inside and in its tank, despite the fact that it is already an old fashioned one. These chemicals damage the ozone layer. Even keeping a useless refrigerator at home is dangerous, as a leak could trigger a tragedy, such as a fire or explosion.

Should I leave my RV refrigerator on all the time?

You don’t need to leave your RV fridge on all the time. This will not extend its life. However, before going on a camping trip, you must turn on your RV refrigerator within 24 hours. This will allow your refrigerator to cool down in time for your trip.

How does the RV refrigerator work?

An RV propane refrigerator works with a propane gas flame to heat ammonia and distilled water using hydrogen gas to circulate vapour and liquid ammonia to cool it down. There are no power lines or inverters and generators to power the refrigerator.

How long does an RV Fridge last?

RV refrigerators typically last 10 to 18 years, and the average life of a refrigerator is 14 years. Many factors influence the life of fridges, including the type of refrigerator and environmental factors.


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