Jason travels the country full-time with his wife Abigail, and three children in a converted school bus.
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.