Is It Safe to Run Your RV Propane Fridge While Driving?

Is It Safe to Run Your RV Propane Fridge While Driving?

One of the most common questions we get has to do with the safety of leaving your propane on to run your fridge, or even your furnace, while your RV is traveling down the road. The manufacturers are careful not to say whether it’s permissible or not, leaving RV owners confused as to the proper protocol to keep their refrigerator cool.

The fact of the matter is that there is no simple answer, and most RV owners run their propane while driving. However, leaving your propane on does expose you to some risks. A severed propane line in an accident can ignite in an instant, much easier than spilled gasoline or diesel can. And your propane lines are often much more vulnerable than you think they are.

If you have a 3-way fridge (AC shore power, DC battery power, and propane), it’s a no-brainer. Shut your propane off entirely and run your fridge on 12 volt DC power. That’s what it’s there for. Your generator is another option, if you have one, for running off of AC power. This is a very safe method, and comes with the added bonus of running an air conditioner in your motorhome.

If you’re thinking about running your 2-way fridge off of your inverter, that’s not always possible. Some RV electrical systems disable this option while driving to save your alternator from being overloaded. But if you know your system, and have decent battery capacity, it’s possible.

You might be surprised to know that we, and many RVers, just shut their fridge off. You only lose about 4 degrees every 8 hours your fridge is off if you keep it closed. If you open it just once or twice and that can increase quite a bit. We are generally able to travel 6 hours, open the fridge once or twice for lunch and water, and everything is still frozen and at food-safe temperatures when we arrive. You can also decrease the temperature the night before travel.

Another consideration is that gas absorption refrigerators are meant to operate with in a few degrees of level. Damage can occur if it’s run out of level for extended periods of time. If you’re going to be going up and down some major grades, you might want to shut of your fridge entirely.

Whatever method you choose, make sure that you shut your propane off entirely at gas stations and, in some states, when going through tunnels. It’s the law.

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason travels the country full-time with his wife Abigail, and three children.

  • Dave#1

    July 28, 2018

    Fyi, the rule of absorption refrigerators only running while level, only applies when you are stationary. When you are driving the car the movements and bums etc mixed up the amonia. This information is straight out of the dometic manual.

    • Jason Epperson#2

      August 14, 2018

      It’s generally true, but I’m not wild about the idea of long-haul grades out of level.

    • christopher#3

      May 27, 2019

      Helpful info Dave… Can you tell me if it is really important to be level when camping for your refrigerator not to get damaged?

  • David Major#4

    May 18, 2019

    Running your refrigerator on propane is perfectly safe and is no more dangerous than the gasoline or diesel in your RV. Please do not give bad advice. I have worked in the RV industry for 40 years and have been RVing for 50. Just because you have a converted Bus does not make you a Master Certified Technician. The is no Long-haul grade that is long enough to damage a cooling unit on a refrigerator. We have logged well over 200,000 miles over the years and always have our refrigerator on propane and actually prefer to run it on propane even when plugged in at a campground.

    • RV Miles Editors#5

      May 20, 2019

      Well, you may be interested to know that Norcold says the exact same thing. It is ok to run your fridge on propane while driving, but it DOES expose you to additional risk in an accident. We don’t pull these things out of thin air.

      • Ed Cleek#6

        December 26, 2019

        “We don’t pull these things out of thin air.” Loved your reply (and laughed) when I read that today. So that would be air thinned by, say, propane? A gasoline line leak is bad enough, but propane is just absolutely crazy explosive. Unless there’s a LP gas Flow Limiter installed, it’s definitely best to stick with AC (or DC). Actually today’s inverters are really small and efficient, so it’s pretty easy to add a battery (or batteries) to feed the DC to an inverter and run your fridge like it’s plugged into AC. The cost to buy a fridge that’s bi (LP and AC) or tri (LP, AC, DC) is way more than buying a conventional AC fridge of the proper size and fit from Walmart or some other large retailer. You can buy the battery and inverter with the difference saved and even snag a couple solar panels and a charge controller to make a complete system. In addition to powering the fridge, it’s nice to run a couple electric blankets and a nightlight without worrying about having a dead coach battery in the morning.

  • Roger Kresge#7

    October 4, 2019

    You talk about the danger of a severed LP gas line, but omit the Flow Limiting Device that’s built into all modern LP gas regulators. Also, there’s a high temp device in the green hose connectors that melts and shuts down the gas flow in the event of a fire. We need better information than this article provides.


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