Updated at: 22-11-2022 - By: cnbusinessnews

How does a propane refrigerator work? Most of us have no understanding how propane refrigerators function, despite being one of the latest refrigerator inventions. It works in much the same way as a conventional refrigerator. However, it differs from conventional ones in that its energy source is not constant and includes a unique set of characteristics.

The propane gas on which the device is based is the primary means by which it functions. While propane can be found in liquid form on rare occasions, the more common state is gas. It serves a prominent role in many home appliances, such LPG stoves, heaters, and grills, for which it is widely recognized.

What Is a Propane Refrigerator?

Instead of using compression like a conventional refrigerator, a propane fridge uses a chemical absorption process. When you mix hydrogen gas with ammonia and water, you get a solution that can be used to defrost your refrigerator.

Check out our RV refrigerators article if you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of how these cool fridges function.

First, heat is applied, either from a propane flame or an electric element, to begin the cooling process. Your RV fridge could be a two- or three-way model. Dual-fuel refrigerators can be operated on either propane or standard household current (120V AC). Refrigerators with three power inputs are compatible with 12V DC, in addition to the other two alternatives.

How Does An RV Refrigerator Work? | Palmgear

How Propane Fridge Works

How does a propane refrigerator work? Understanding how your machines, even the strange ones, function is crucial. It’s possible that not everyone recognizes the distinction between this model and a standard refrigerator despite their widespread use.

Keep in mind that a propane fridge is much like any other fridge, without the compressor: it contains an absorber to convert the gas into liquid. Additionally, it doesn’t utilize freon or other coolants. On the other hand, ammonia is used.

Water and hydrogen, both of which are liquids, are two more molecules and components that help it function.

Plus, here’s what goes down inside a propane refrigerator:

#1. Inside the generator

A generator is integrated into the device. In order to operate, this generator requires propane gas to be burned. Plug it in, and the power will begin heating the gas immediately. When gas is heated, a reaction takes place that activates the generator and hence the entire fridge.

#2. The start of the cycle

All of it happens inside the generator once the machine is turned on. The ammonia and water will be taken in by this generator part. Ammonia is still a gas at this point. Learn about the refrigeration process by reading the science!

#3. Conversion of ammonia from gas to liquid

The ammonia gas produced by the generator will be sent to a cooling fan, which will manipulate the surrounding temperature and pressure to transform the ammonia into a liquid. Because of its liquid state, the chemical can be more easily processed to generate cold air. Find out how effective propane-powered fridges are.

#4. The reaction of liquid hydrogen and liquid ammonia

The evaporator coils are where this action will take place. In here, liquid hydrogen is waiting to react with the molten ammonia. The chemical reactions that take place as a result of the collisions provide the refrigerator with its chilly air. In this way, the fridge will benefit from the cool air blowing within. Learn inside how to maintain your air conditioner’s coils.

#5. The absorber

This is followed by the absorber. It is used to split the ammonia and hydrogen in the solution. As a result of the liquid being separated out, we are back to having just the two substances. Hydrogen is abandoned, and ammonia continues on its way to join water at the watering hole.

#6. The final stage of the cycle

Ammonia is converted back into its original form by water once the two are reunited. Along with the water, the gas will be sent to the generator. Thus, the cycle begins once more. Restart from the beginning.

What Makes A Propane Fridge Better?

The sole function of a refrigerator is to preserve food for as long as possible. But how is it distinct from electric and solar refrigerators? I fail to see the relevance of this.

#1. No coolant chemicals

The usage of freon or other refrigerants is unnecessary given that propane is used as the fuel source. These substances are useful, but they also have potential drawbacks. A chemical smell may develop within your electric refrigerator if there have been any leaks. This is not something you would want in a refrigerator or pantry.

#2. Firmly attached components

This refrigerator type does not have any moving or assembling elements. There is less potential for component wear and tear owing to frequent use thanks to the design of this machine. Because of this, it will be less likely to become impeded by something becoming wedged in between.

So, if something goes wrong, you won’t have to waste time traveling to the specialist.

#3. Maintenance cost is lower

Propane refrigerators cost more to purchase initially. The time and energy required to keep it running smoothly will decrease, however. Electric devices are less expensive to purchase but have higher power requirements and component breakage rates.

In addition, standard refrigerators use power from the wall outlet continuously. This means that each subsequent use calls for fresh power. This refrigerator operates on a cycle of ammonia, water, and hydrogen.

Although a gas refrigerator is more expensive up front, it is cheaper in the long run to keep running efficiently. The individual components are more solid and less prone to breaking.

#4. Longer warranty

An extended guarantee is provided because of the higher initial purchase price. This will give you sufficient time to get used to the new fridge and determine whether or not it is suitable for your needs. If you’re in the market for some new appliances, it’s important to remember that the longer the warranty, the better. Figure out where you can put a refrigerator.

How Much Propane Does An Absorption Refrigerator Use?

There has been a general trend toward increased thermal efficiency in modern RV refrigerator designs. Unsurprisingly, larger objects also have higher total energy requirements. Most modern RV refrigerators, with a capacity of 10 to 12 cubic feet, will use about 1.5 pounds of propane daily. It’s equal to about 1,400 BTUs each hour. Yet, the efficiency of the RV refrigerator can be increased or decreased depending on a few factors.

Newer units are safer and produce fewer emissions while venting because of their improved combustion efficiency.

Those that really love to boondoggle will even install a generator that can run on both gasoline and propane.

The amount of electricity and propane used by your RV refrigerator can also be affected by factors such as how often the door is opened and closed.

Dometic RV Fridge Troubleshooting | Generic Van Life | Rv refrigerator, Dometic refrigerator, Refrigerator repair

How Can I Decrease The Amount Of Propane My RV Refrigerator Consumes?

There are numerous approaches of improving energy effectiveness. It’s possible that one or more of the following solutions will help reduce the amount of propane you need to run your RV refrigerator.

1: Stay Up To Date With Routine Maintenance

Like any other house or recreational vehicle item, your air conditioner will benefit from periodic maintenance.

It aids in identifying problem areas so that they can be fixed before they balloon into something much bigger.

Be on the lookout for signs of rust, corrosion, and leaks. Check for soot accumulation in the area around the propane vent, too.

This may indicate that the system’s combustion is less than optimal. A accumulation of dust and spider webs, for example, can start to affect ventilation in the system.

2: Make Sure The RV And Refrigerator Are Properly Level

When used on a flat surface, absorption refrigerators function most efficiently. This is mostly attributable to the fluids in the cooling system being fed by gravity.

The internal fluid cycling process can be slowed if you park your RV on uneven terrain or if the refrigerator isn’t mounted level in the RV.

A serious mechanical defect is more likely to occur in an absorption RV if it is allowed to continue running in an unlevel situation for an extended period of time.

If you’re not sure, use a hand level to verify the RV fridge’s level and the RV floor.

3: Add Some Battery-Operated Cooling Fans

Your kitchen fridge’s compressor features a fan to help keep the inside components cold.

The rate at which heat is transferred to or from your RV fridge could be slowed by poor air circulation.

To improve heat transfer, install some more cooling fans in the RV freezer’s lower compartment.

There is less of a need to use the refrigerator’s compressor because the fans are circulating cooler air from the freezer.

You may be able to increase thermal efficiency in your refrigerator and freezer by as much as 50 percent simply by rearranging the items inside.

4: Turn Down The Temperature Setting When External Temperatures Are Low

A recreational vehicle refrigerator may be more sensitive to changes in ambient temperature than a standard household fridge.

Turning down the refrigerator’s setting won’t significantly lower the temperature inside a camper if you’re traveling in the spring, fall, or winter and the outside air is cooler than usual.

5: Run The RV’s Refrigerator Before Packing It

It takes some time for an absorption fridge to reach its final temperature. Ensure it has been running for at least four to six hours before loading it with perishables before setting out on a journey.

6: Pack Cold Foods In The Refrigerator First

After precooling the RV fridge, it is still beneficial to pack the coldest goods first.

As a result, the system’s temperature will drop even further. You can lower the temperature even more by placing cold packs on the shelf, if there’s enough room.

A tiny fan powered by batteries could be useful in the freezer in this case as well.

7: Make Sure The Rear Of The RV Refrigerator Isn’t Blocked

Most recreational vehicle refrigerators have an exhaust vent to release the heat created during operation. After that, hot air escapes the fridge alongside the cold air coming in through the lower vent.

The refrigerator’s ability to chill would be severely impaired if something were to impede or hinder the airflow at the back.

It’s likely that something fell behind the fridge when it was being transported, blocking any of these vital airflow mechanisms.

However, the wall behind the RV may also play a role. Rear clearance is essential for some freezers installed in recreational vehicles.

There may not be enough ventilation for the heat exchange mechanism to function properly if you have recently installed a new refrigerator.

Tips For Using Coolers To Augment Your RV Refrigerator To Save Propane

The chances are high that your RV’s refrigerator won’t be able to store all of your perishable food items if you want to go off the grid camping for a week or more.

There’s a good probability that airflow within will affect total airflow and efficiency, even if you manage to cram everything in there.

Keeping perishables cold without overworking your refrigerator is possible with the help of one or more high-quality coolers.

This is a fantastic method of ensuring that all guests have access to a refreshing drink, or of keeping condiments cool and within easy reach.

If you put your day-to-day essentials in a cooler, you can minimize the number of times you open the fridge each day, so minimizing the amount of stale air that escapes into the room.

Setting up a cooler calls for ice blocks or huge ice packs rather than ice cubes. A block of ice will melt more slowly because its cold density and lack of surface air.

When compared to a standard ice cube bag, it has the ability to keep the cooler ice-cold for several more days.

Even if all you can find on the road are bags of ice, don’t break them up, just gently place them on top of the food items and drinks.

Get An Electric Cooler

If you find that the only ice you can buy on the road is in bags, don’t crush them; instead, arrange them gently on top of the food and drinks.

This is a terrific way to store food for the first few days of your off-the-grid trip, or for a celebratory feast on the first night.

After that, you may restock the fridge or rearrange your cooler with ease.

7 Reasons to Avoid Propane Refrigerators

1. The Need to Purchase Propane

The cost of propane might vary. Keeping your propane appliances running, such as your refrigerator, heater, oven, stove, and outdoor grill, may get pricey. Getting propane requires a detour, which adds even more time to the process. Assuming you have access to electricity, powering a refrigerator with it is simple. However, you may find yourself running a generator more often.

2. Keeping a Propane Refrigerator Level

The necessity to keep a propane fridge level is a major inconvenience. The refrigerator won’t work properly since the hydrogen, ammonia, and water solution need a flat surface.

The ammonia liquid must drain from the evaporator to the condenser. If your refrigerator isn’t level, the ammonia liquid won’t be able to drain properly, resulting in an inadequately cooled interior. The coils on your refrigerator might become harmed by crystallization if it is left unlevel for long periods of time.

Since sitting in an RV that isn’t level isn’t very pleasant, this is rarely a problem during actual use; but, when storing the RV, it’s important that it be leveled.

3. The Potential for Propane, Ammonia, or Hydrogen Leaks

Leakage of the caustic chemicals employed in the refrigeration cooling unit could be disastrous. RVs are usually safe from leaks since they are vented to the outdoors, but a leak could still be dangerous to your health.

While the hydrogen used in the refrigerator is likewise explosive, the tiny size and adequate ventilation make this a far less pressing worry.

4. Higher Fire Risk

An open flame is used to provide heat at the back of a propane refrigerator. This flame is contained, but it poses a greater risk of fire if it is improperly installed or maintained. Common causes of fridge fires include birds or insects sneaking into the fridge compartment and making nests near to the warm appliance.

Propane should not be ignited while in transit. Many campers, though, use propane to keep perishables cool and out of the trash. Wind can easily blow propane out, and an active propane line can be damaged in an accident if it is in use while the vehicle is in motion.

5. Consumes More Energy

Let’s look at a comparison. A 6 cu ft Dometic propane absorption refrigerator uses 440W when operating on electricity. A larger 10 cu ft Dometic compressor fridge uses only 156W. The compressor units tend to operate for much shorter times as well and by our calculations we have seen propane units require eight times more energy. Modern appliances are becoming more energy efficient. They cool down much faster, so they don’t waste energy.

How about we compare the two? Dometic’s propane absorption fridge has a capacity of 6 cubic feet and requires 440W of power when run on electricity. Dometic’s 10 cu. ft. compressor fridge is the largest in its class and only needs 156W to operate. In addition, the compressor units run for shorter periods of time, and our observations show that propane units consume eight times as much energy. The energy efficiency of today’s appliances is improving. Since they cool off so quickly, they save a lot of power.

However, they consume far less energy than a propane absorption refrigerator. Overnight, a propane refrigerator in 90 degree heat can use up to 5 kilowatt hours of electricity.

How to use an RV Refrigerator | RV Like a Pro

6. Takes Longer to Get Cold

Absorption refrigerators take longer to cool down than compressor refrigerators due to the cooling mechanism they employ. Unfortunately, they lack a fan to help disperse the colder air.

Therefore, it may take a propane refrigerator up to 24 hours to cool down. You might as well not have a camping trip at all if you only go for the weekend.

7. Propane Refrigerators Are Expensive

Once more, let’s compare. The price of a Dometic propane absorption refrigerator that has a capacity of 6 cubic feet might reach above $1,800. In excess of $2,200 can get you a larger 8 cu ft Dometic absorption refrigerator. In contrast, a larger 10 cu ft Dometic compressor fridge would set you back a little over $1,500.

Think about how much you’d spend on a few hundred dollars for a comparable apartment refrigerator.

Each of these three fridges shares the same layout, with a freezer on top and a refrigerator on the bottom, hinged to the right. However, the compressor refrigerator is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. A smaller propane refrigerator will cost more.


Many individuals have never used a propane refrigerator before, so they have no idea how they function. It functions similarly to a standard fridge, but with some neat extras and tweaks that really take things to the next level. Now, then, why do you dither? Take advantage of the propane fridge and discover the many benefits it offers. It’s possible you’ll need to know how to freeze asparagus at some point. That concludes our discussion.