A well-outfitted RV totally transforms the way you travel.
A proper kitchen – complete with a legitimate refrigerator – turns an oversized camper into a full-blown home on wheels. There’s no better feeling than pulling up to some brand-new spot, parking your RV, and then rating your own refrigerator for a cold drink or the perfect snack.
At the same time, finding the right refrigerator for your RV is nowhere near as simple or as straightforward as most think.
For starters, you can’t use a traditional refrigerator inside of your RV. There’s just not enough power available to run that kind of appliance, and truth be told there’s not enough floor space for a full-blown fridge, either.
That means you’re going to have to get your hands on the right RVs specific refrigerator – and you’ll have to choose between a gas or electric-powered system.
In this detailed guide we run through (almost) everything you need to think about when it comes to finding that perfect RV fridge.
Ready to get started?
Gas vs Electric Refrigerators in RVs
Thanks to major advances in RV refrigerator technology there isn’t quite as much of a difference between gas and electric-powered refrigerators anymore.
There are definitely some distinctions – as well as some unique pros and cons – but you can end up pretty happy with a system that runs off of either of these fuel sources.
At the end of the day (like most things) finding the right refrigerator really comes down to your specific needs, your specific RV, and how you plan to use this home on wheels.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Gas
Let’s begin by running through the benefits and drawbacks of gas-powered RV refrigerators.
On the plus side of things, gas-powered refrigerators are able to give you on-the-go utility in a way that electric refrigerators can’t.
Because your natural gas fuel sources going to be “onboard” your refrigerator will run just as well out in the middle of nowhere as it would stranded on the side of the highway or nestled in at a high-end RV Park.
On top of that, gas-powered refrigerators cool down much faster and maintain those ice-cold temperatures for longer periods of time compared to their electric competitors. Gas-powered RV refrigerators are also much quieter, work well with both 12 V and 230 V batteries, and are (generally) less expensive.
There are also drawbacks to using gas-powered RV refrigerators, though.
Anytime your RV is significantly out of level (we are talking about pitched on a funky incline one way or another) you’re going to find the efficiency of your refrigerator drops big time.
These refrigerators are also pretty power-hungry which means you run the risk of chewing through your battery power significantly faster than you would have expected. Gas lines are not at all very flexible and you are always at the risk of one popping loose and causing a potentially dangerous situation in a hurry.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Electric
Electric refrigerators have a range of benefits that make them very attractive options, too.
For starters, you’ll find a much more versatile range of refrigerators available that run off of electricity. Modern manufacturers pump out a lot more electric RV fridges than gas units, and with a wider selection come all different kinds of “creature features”, and some upgrades that you just aren’t going to find anywhere else.
Another bonus is that you don’t have to worry about turning on your refrigerator one day, leaving it completely empty so that it can come down to the right temperature, and only then beginning to fill it with your food.
Electric fridges start to cool immediately – even if they do take a little bit longer to cool down compared to electricity.
There are a lot of onboard safety features built into electric refrigerators that you won’t find with gas units. These are generally much safer to use and are a lot easier to work on without a lot of technical skill or know-how as well.
On the flip side, though, you’ll only be able to use RV refrigerators running off of electricity with 12 V batteries. They just don’t “behave well” with other battery types.
Temperature management with electric RV refrigerators can be hit or miss. It’s really kind of a crapshoot to determine whether or not you’re able to set and hold consistent temperatures across your journeys.
You’ll also need to be connected to full-blown power sources if you don’t want to rip through your batteries in a hurry. Solar power, backup battery banks, and alternative electricity generators can help keep you up and running while on the go.
But you’ll really need to hit a “home base” at least once a week to top up the chargers so that you are rocking and rolling. It’s a bit of an annoyance if you don’t plan on going to RV parks all the time, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles if you decide to go with this kind of RV refrigerator.
What About Dual Power Fridges?
Dual-power refrigerators are quickly becoming a bit of a “gold standard” in the RV refrigerator world.
These refrigerators allow you to power your appliance off of both gas and electricity, flipping from one fuel source to the other as you see fit (or as your fuel setup dictates).
There is a little wrinkle here you need to be aware of, though, that these kinds of refrigerators do require a more involved installation process.
It isn’t that they are necessarily larger or more cumbersome to install than other RV refrigerators. Though that sometimes can be the case.
It’s more that when you have to set up a refrigerator to run off of two fuel sources independent of one another and make it easy to flip between the two on demand, there’s a lot of planning, a lot of wiring, and a lot of plumbing that has to go on “under the hood”.
Recognize that this is going to take a little bit longer than simply pulling out your old refrigerator in your RV and plugging in a new one.
The chances are pretty good that your either going to have to run gas lines for that fuel source (if you had electric refrigerators in your RV before) or that you’ll have to run new wiring (if you were running gas refrigerators previously).
Figure that into the cost of upgrading, the cost of ownership, and the ongoing cost of operating this kind of system to make sure that it fits your budget perfectly.
Obviously, these kinds of refrigerators are going to be a little more expensive upfront than single-fuel source options as well. But it won’t be long until the prices start to drop on this relatively new and cutting-edge technology, making it a bit of a no-brainer.
Gas vs Electric – Which One?
In the meantime, though, settling on a gas-powered RV refrigerator or an electric-powered one really comes down to personal choice and how you plan on using the fridge as well as where you plan on traveling.
If a lot of road trips are in your future with very few stops at a “home base” with electrical hookups, the way to go is probably with a gas-powered RV fridge.
If, on the other hand, you’re going to be bouncing from one RV park to another with full utility hookups available everywhere you go it’s not a bad idea to leverage electric refrigerators instead.
Have a look at the different options you have available. Find something that fits your budget, and your needs, and has the kind of capacity that you are after. Make sure that it is compatible with the RV that you have and you are off to the races!