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Is it Safe to Drive with My RV Refrigerator on Propane?

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By Steven Fletcher

Driving your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer with the RV refrigerator on while traveling is definitely okay as long as you operate on 120 volt AC or 12 volts DC assuming your unit has the capability to do so. To operate on 120 volts you will need a generator or inverter. RVers with motorhomes frequently run their generators so that they can use their RV's air conditioner, TVs, Microwaves etc. They can also operate the refrigerator.

To operate on 12 volts DC, check with your RV mechanic to make sure your alternator and batteries will handle the extra load.

Remember, when you park the rig for more than a few minutes the rig must be level or the refer must be turned off to avoid damage to the refrigerator.

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not to travel with the refrigerator operating on propane.

After hearing both sides of the debate, I can tell you that there is no real consensus and both sides are adamant in their beliefs. As far as I can tell there is no right or wrong answer, it's up to you to decide. Here are the arguments

Many RVers can see no danger in running the refrigerator on propane while on the road. They say they have traveled for years with no problems whatsoever. They point to the safety of propane powered vehicles and argue that we travel with tanks full of gasoline which is much more dangerous. Generally it is legal to travel while using propane, but keep in mind that it is illegal to have any open flames while near a service station fuel pump. And some tunnels and bridges may have restrictions too.

Other RVer's, claim that traveling with the propane on is a disaster waiting to happen. They argue that in an accident a broken propane line could increase the possibility of fire, even an explosion. For them the only safe way to travel is with the propane tank valves closed!.

You may not have to travel with your refrigerator on at all.

If you travel less than four to five hours a day you can turn your refrigerator off and it will still stay cold enough to keep your food fresh. You can even open the door to get lunch or a cold drink if you don't open it too many times.

If you decide to travel with the refrigerator off here are some tips for keeping things cold.

  • Start the refrigerator the day before you plan to travel.
  • Put cold soft drinks and beer etc. in the refrigerator the night before.
  • Pack the refrigerator full. Use the cold drinks to fill space.
  • Pack the freezer full.
  • Make sure everything is cold before you turn the refrigerator off.
  • Plan ahead... know what you want before you open the door and get everything you want at one time.

You may also want to read: Keeping Your RV Refrigerator Cool... the Basics

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