If you are like me, you love to dry camp and you still want to cook fresh food everyday. You may have asked yourself – will an RV fridge run off a battery?
Yes, you can run an RV fridge off a battery. A standard RV fridge will be able to run off a 12V battery for about 8 hours. If you use propane as well as the battery the RV fridge can run for weeks.
Obviously if you are camping off grid and want your food to be kept cool, a fridge that will drain your battery after 5 hours is not ideal. This article will show you how to get the most out of your RV.
How Long Will an RV Fridge Run Off a Battery?
Let’s dive straight into how long an RV fridge will run off a battery with some math.
Using the formula watts/voltage = amps, we can calculate how many amps the fridge will use in an hour. 
An average RV refrigerator consumes around 150 watts. The RV fridge will be run off a 12V battery so, 150/12 = 12.5 amps.
If your RV battery supplies 100 amp hours then 100/12.5 = 8 hours.
The more amp hours the battery has then the longer the RV refrigerator will be able to run for. Also the less watts a fridge needs the longer it can run off an RV battery.
You can also use an inverter with the battery, in most cases you will have to run an inverter for the fridge to work. However, an inverter won’t allow the fridge to run for that much longer.
A good idea is to use propane gas along with the battery, this will allow the refrigerator to run for weeks.
Propane gas generates a current so the battery can keep going for longer without it draining.
The type of RV fridge that you have will have an impact on how long it will run off a battery, you will either have a compression “residential” fridge or an absorption refrigerator. Absorption fridges will run for less time than a compression fridge on a battery.
It’s also a good idea to know what kind of battery you have in your RV to work out how long your fridge can run off it. Some RVs have a single 12 volt battery and others have four 6 volt batteries. Some batteries are heavy duty and can be drained down to 20% rather than the usual 50%.
Will an RV Fridge Run off the Battery While Driving?
Yes, you can run an RV fridge while driving, in fact it’s probably the best time to run from your battery. Because, while you’re driving, the battery is constantly being recharged.
As most RV fridges are 2 way, you can also power your fridge with propane whilst you are driving. However, there are safety concerns with running propane whilst driving, so you should avoid it wherever possible.
The best thing to do is to use alternative ways to keep your food cool whilst you’re driving. Some ideas to keep your food cold:
- Keep the fridge doors closed to keep the cold inside.
- Use a cool box whilst travelling.
- Have the fridge on for 24 hours to get it up to temperature.
- Pack frozen items in there or ice packs to keep the temperature low.
- Turn the fridge on every time you stop.
If you do want to drive with the fridge running on propane, take it easy and make sure that you turn off the gas when fueling up.
Other Alternative Power Sources For RV Refrigerators
Most RV fridges are two way meaning they can run off AC power and LP gas. They can easily switch between the two depending on your availability of propane or electricity.
The easiest way to power your fridge is to use a direct hookup at a campsite, this way you don’t need to worry about draining your battery or running out of gas.
If you’re boondocking a good idea is to install solar panels to charge the battery and provide some power.
Running your RV fridge off a battery should be the last option as it won’t last very long until your battery is drained. Opt for a direct hook up or propane gas where you can.
How Do I Get The Most Out Of My Battery?
Properly maintained deep-cycle lead-acid batteries should last for six or more years, but you will need to look after them well.
Most RV batteries die because of ‘sulfaction’ this is where crystals form on the plates of the battery when there isn’t enough charge. To avoid this try not to run your battery to less than 50%.
Whilst running the battery’s charge down will reduce the life so will overcharging the battery, stop the charging once it’s reached 100%.
RVs have parasitic loads that can drain the battery without you realising. The stereo and appliance circuit boards are usually the culprits. Make sure that you have a battery disconnect switch so you can turn them off when not in use.
The leading cause for dead lead-acid batteries is sulfaction caused by crystals that form on the plates during periods of low charge
Always charge your battery once a day so they don’t drain too much and stop working. If you find that they are lasting for shorter and shorter periods it may be time to replace them.
Installation of solar panels to charge your battery during the day will help you get more power out of them. This is especially helpful if you are dry camping.
Reducing the Power Consumption of Your RV Fridge
Another way to increase the time your RV fridge can run off the battery is to reduce the power consumption of the fridge.
You can add a battery powered small fan into the fridge, this will circulate the air and help keep it cooler. Therefore reducing the power needed by the fridge to lower the temperature.
You can also turn off the fridge for a few hours, it will still stay cool inside the fridge as long as you keep the doors closed.
Packing ice blocks or frozen food inside will also help to lower the temperature and so help your fridge to consume less power.
The best option is to use propane gas to power the fridge, this will keep everything powered for weeks rather than hours if using the battery alone.
Do RV Refrigerators Work Better on Gas or Electric?
RV refrigerators tend to work better using electric rather than gas. Electric fridges stay cooler for longer than gas powered ones. They are also safer, easier to use and more efficient.
Electric fridges don’t rely on gas heating up to then evaporate and interact with the cooling elements to lower the temperature in the fridge. Therefore, electric fridges are more efficient.
This means that electric fridges can be turned on when needed, rather than remembering to turn them on 24 hours before you want them to be cold inside.
An RV fridge will run off a battery, however there are more efficient ways to power the fridge. If it’s solely using the battery for power then it will only last for about 8 hours.
A much more effective way to power your RV fridge is to use propane gas, or a direct hook up if you’re on a campsite.
Make sure that you plan how you will be powering your appliances before your trip so you can ensure you have enough fuel or charge to make it comfortable.