How long does an RV Fridge last?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How long does an RV Fridge last? We will explain how RV fridges work and how to maximize the lifespan of it. 

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.

For example, the lifespan of an RV refrigerator can vary depending on several factors:

  • The type and state of the refrigerator. Compact refrigerators tend to last less than large household refrigerators. Also, high-end models generally last longer than devices without high-end parts.
  • Maintenance frequency. Regular maintenance can help your refrigerator outlast one that has been neglected. We give you some maintenance tips below!
  • Quality of repairs. Some appliance repair technicians do not use genuine quality parts, or they may perform a “quick fix” that does not last.
  • Usage factors. An RV refrigerator will not last long if used improperly. Make sure that items do not block the ventilation holes and avoid overfilling or underfilling them. If you run out of food, put a large jug of water in the fridge so it doesn’t run too hard.
  • Environmental factors. If you keep the refrigeration right next to a sunny window, it might wear out faster. Avoid exposing the device to very hot, cold or humid conditions.

If you have personally purchased the RV fridge you are using, you can more easily predict the life of the refrigerator because you know its full history. If you’ve just bought a second-hand RV,  you may know the age of the refrigerator, but you don’t know if it has been serviced or if it has been damaged. 

In this case, it is best to take good care of the appliance and call a professional to have the refrigerator repaired if necessary.

How does an RV fridge work?

95% of RV fridges are three-mixed (absorption models, capable of running on 12 V, 220 V and gas), but there are also some compression devices onboard compact vans.

Having a good refrigerator onboard your motorhome is not just about the freshness of a drink after a long day of walking. Food autonomy is also in question: if your fridge is too small, you will have to go back and forth to the nearest supermarket. The characteristics of the device are therefore a real selling point, which the manufacturers of motorhomes present in the technical sheets of the vehicles.

Many motorhome refrigerators today are almost identical to household fridges. 

Thus, the freezing compartments, which have become widespread, guarantee good conservation of the frozen elements for a suitable period of time. Among the practical and technical aspects studied by manufacturers are weight gain, lower consumption, energy management. Little by little, a more aesthetic dimension to the products has been added, with worked facades that harmoniously match the interior ambiences.

Another striking innovation is the arrival of slim refrigerators for RVs. Less bulky devices, thanks to their reduced width, but whose capacity remains substantial thanks to their vertical format. 

Whether signed Dometic or Thetford, these narrow models, if they cannot compete with the large-volume models (150, 160, or even 190 litres), still claim a capacity of 145 l while displaying a smaller width – about ten centimetres – compared to a standard device. 

They are therefore particularly appreciated on short motorhomes, to the point of even being widely adopted by manufacturers on 2017 models. This does not prevent them from being found on board certain “long” models, the centimetres gleaned allowing them to gain space in the cabin for the benefit of another station, in particular the living room.

RV fridges with  compression or absorption: advantages and disadvantages

These two refrigeration methods coexist, although 95% of RV refrigerators use the absorption process. Only certain vans are equipped with compression refrigerators.

Absorption consists of a tubular network in which circulates an ammonia-based liquid under pressure. Once heated to 180 ° C, this liquid is vaporized and causes, by reaction, a drop in temperature generating the cold necessary for the proper functioning of the equipment.

If the absorption system is so popular, it is above all for its very low noise level (a significant characteristic in a confined space such as a motorhome) and for the possibility that it offers to work with several sources of energy. energy (12 V, 230 V and gas, hence the qualifier three-way).

 Versatility that is increasingly automated, with automatic selection of the energy source according to the use made of the motorhome (12 V when driving, gas stationery or 230 V when the connection is in place). Disadvantage: it works less well in very high heat, and stops working when it is tilted.

Compression, on the other hand, only requires an electric current, 12V or 220V. Not requiring gas, it is more suitable for compact vans, because it only allows you to carry a small capacity bottle (5kg). Traditionally, compression is used for small devices such as coolers or small refrigerators.

While this system is efficient and offers services almost similar to those of a refrigerator, the devices equipped with it are noisy. In addition, they require a power supply of 12 V or 230 V and are greedy for electricity. They, therefore, require the multiplication of auxiliary batteries or solar panels, or even the use of a generator. The downside is that the compression fridge is gas efficient.

How to maximize the lifespan of an RV fridge

If you want your RV refrigerator to last a long time, make sure you know how to maintain it properly. First, be sure to clean up any spills in the fridge immediately, and thoroughly clean your device about twice a year or as needed. 

Do not overfill or underfill the refrigerator, as these two actions will overwork the appliance. For instructions on how to clean the condenser fan and perform other technical maintenance, see this refrigerator maintenance tips article.

We hope your RV fridge will last much longer than the average lifespan of a refrigerator. You never know – some devices seem almost immortal!

Please feel free to share any tip on the lifespan and maintenance of an RV fridge. 

FAQ on How long does an RV Fridge last?

How does a propane RV refrigerator work?

A gas or propane burner is connected underneath the generator. The burner heats the generator. In the generator, there is a combination of water and ammonia, which begins to boil. The boiling solution passes through a pipe until it reaches the separator, which by the force of the difference in the molecular weight of water and ammonia, separates the two materials. 

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.

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.


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