Can an RV Fridge Run on Battery?

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The appliances in an RV have to be flexible. After all, they need to accommodate a variety of needs. These needs can include people who need to run their RV fridge on a battery if they can’t use a generator or other power source.

RV fridges are unique from home fridges in some ways. Thankfully, many are designed ready to run on battery, at least compared to home fridges.

Your RV fridge can indeed run on battery, and it’s possible to use a 12 volt too. Some fridges are quite flexible and can run on a variety of power sources, even without plug in.

Running a fridge on battery

Running a fridge on battery and having a fridge that uses a battery are a bit different.

Some fridges can use a 12 volt battery

RV makers and fridge manufacturers know that RV owners want some flexibility when it comes to how their fridges run. Your RV has a 12 volt battery built in for the purpose of starting and running the engine as well as running some appliances.

Thankfully in this situation, we aren’t talking about stuffing a big 12 volt battery somewhere in your kitchen or behind the fridge. It’s already preconnected to the RV battery.

Newer RV fridges tend to have a connection for a 12 volt battery because they are designed to be more efficient than a typical large fridge. In the case of an RV fridge, a 12 volt fridge is likely to be a bit smaller and require less power, but it also avoids using a full power outlet. A fridge with a smaller power supply and smaller overall size can’t use all the energy being sent, and becomes less efficient as a result.

To make things even better for a 12 volt fridge, they can often be hooked up to solar. Solar is the ultimate in efficiency as it literally takes the suns beams and uses them to charge an external battery. If you park your RV in a sunny place, this is certainly an option for you. You’ll need to install solar panels, but the efficient and easy use of solar might make you consider geting more solar powered electronics.

How long do batteries last for a fridge?

The answer depends on the fridge and the batter itself. If you are running a 12 volt fridge on your RVs 12 volt battery, the power can last for 6 to 8 hours before you’ll want to recharge the battery itself.

A smaller fridge that’s used primarily for shorter term remote camping can last longer than day, especially if it consumes less than 70 watts per day.

Does a battery powered fridge stay very cold?

With a fridge on battery, you are almost ways balancing between staying cold enough to mimic your home fridge and using a lot of your battery power.

Some battery powered fridges have compressors built in. These fridges are more expensive, but they certainly do the job. The biggest advantage to having a compressor in your fridge is that they can be designed to take less power, and their ability to circulate air keeps food and drink colder for longer, which is especially appreciated when the weather is hot.

Avoiding your inverter

What makes your battery powered fridge more efficient? Avoiding your inverter. The inverter is not very efficient with electricity. 

Having all the power for your fridge come directly from battery or solar is far more efficient and less wasteful. Combine that with a compressor that only turns on when you need it to and you’ll have a full days worth of cooling without the need for a recharge.

The right size battery

It’s important to get the right sized battery, especially if you are going to be running multiple appliances off a battery at the same time. This idea counts for the RV battery as well as for any external battery you might get your for RV.

A battery that is drawn on too much or is undersized is not as efficient and will run out of juice faster. It’s difficult to tell you what combination to go with, so just check the power consumption required of the fridge and other appliances, and the capabilities of the battery itself.

Propane or battery?

If you have propane and your battery is getting low, you can certainly switch to propane if your fridge has that capability. These kinds of fridges are great because they give you ultimately flexibility depending on your location and situation.

Ideas for an efficient fridge while running on battery

When running your fridge on battery, the following are important

  • Keep the door closed as much as possible. Opening the door let’s warm air in and cold are out. Your battery will have to work harder and longer if the fridge needs to continuously run due to the door being opened.
  • Include frozen food with your regular food, especially when thawing. This can keep the temperature down in general without asking for more power.
  • Add ice bags to your fridge, especially if the battery is getting low. If the ice bags do melt, you’ve got water to refreeze if you need.


RV fridges have come a long way from needing to be plugged in and toasting your battery. Depending on what you get, RV fridges can run on battery, propane, or plug into the wall or generator. Consider your own needs when deciding both what fridge to get, and how to run it. 

The tips above are intended to help you prolong the life of your battery as well as give suggestions about keeping your fridge cool and your battery happy. Thankfully, technology has changed significantly and smaller compressors and batteries are available while still providing the powerful punch you need to go off the grid camping. You can think more about being out in nature than planning far ahead to get more power to your mini fridge.

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