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Do RV Refrigerators Use A Lot Of Electricity?

Every little device on your RV can drain your battery, turning a family outing on the road into an electrical failure.

That’s why it’s so important to monitor power consumption while on the road. This is especially true for your fridge, that little device that makes even the most remote location feel just a little bit more like home.

But do RV refrigerators use a lot of electricity? The answer is, on average, they use 200 watts.

But what does that mean? And how do you figure out if your camper fridge is using energy as it should?

What Is The Average Amp Usage For Camper Refrigerators?

It is pretty easy to figure out how many amps your fridge uses, especially if you bought your fridge new or with your RV.

Even if you don’t know anything about your fridge, there are still resources out there to get you all the information you need about your fridge’s power consumption.

Where To Find Information About My Refrigerator’s Specifications

If you have a new fridge, or an old one that still has all its original manufacturer stickers, then you’ll find the information you need on the back of your fridge.

But what if the sticker was damaged, or removed, or fell off at some point? Your user manual will include all the information about specifications, including average amp usage.

If you have a second-hand fridge, or can’t find your user manual, then try checking the refrigerator manufacturer’s website. Some manufacturer websites even let you search by serial number to make the process quick and painless.

Norcold, for example, provides user manuals and parts lists for all of their products on their website for easy access.

When Is My Fridge Using The Most Power?

RV refrigerators, like any fridge, will use different amounts of power to do different tasks. Generally, a fridge will need more power to start than it will to do something like defrost. 

Defrosting, in fact, uses the least amount of amps. Most refrigerators will use only 1 to 2 to defrost.

Meanwhile, the average RV refrigerator requires up to 7 amps to power up.

Some RV-ers have come to the conclusion that the fridges in their rigs use an average of 3 amps. This of course depends on a wide range of factors, but is across the board the most agreed upon number for average energy consumption for a small fridge.

RV Fridge Peak Wattage

Why does it matter how much electricity your RV fridge uses? When you have a limited amount of electricity available, every little bit counts.

If your fridge uses more power than you expect, then you could end up with a dead battery. That makes the decision of using your RV fridge, especially while the RV battery isn’t charging, very important. So let’s figure out how a fridge uses power, and when its power consumption is highest.

Just like with amps, a fridge will use more watts to start up than it will to maintain its temperature. A fridge powering up will use an average of around 500 watts, which is a lot, but the entire process doesn’t take very long. Your RV battery won’t be drained during any process that only takes a few minutes.

An average  camper fridge will use around 200 watts just to maintain temperature. That’s a pretty high number, but if you’re camping at a campground with a grid, then the fridge doesn’t need to draw from your RV’s battery exclusively.

Also, remember that a well-maintained fridge can hold a consistent temperature for several hours after it has been cut off from its power.

Amp Usage For Leading RV Refrigerators

When talking about RV fridges, we’re usually just considering two manufacturers: Dometic and Norcold.

These two are the main fridge manufacturers, but most RV-ers will tell you that the choice between the two won’t depend too much on energy usage. Dometic and Norcold models that run on propane both use an average of 3 amps. Meanwhile, standard fridges by both manufacturers average aroundt 5 amps.

When it comes to upgrading your RV fridge, the most important factor to consider is whether you want a fridge that runs primarily on propane, batteries, or a generator. Other factors you’ll want to consider are price, size, capacity, and looks.

At least when it comes to buying a new fridge, the sometimes complicated question of “which option is more energy efficient” isn’t one you’ll have to ask.

How Do I Calculate Refrigerator Power Consumption?

If you already have a RV fridge, you might be wondering: How much energy is my fridge using? More importantly, is that energy usage reasonable and within the standard range?

Refrigerators don’t run at full power all the time, which makes calculating their power usage tricky. Their usage also depends on the environment, since a fridge will have to run more in hot weather than during the winter.

The easiest way to understand how much energy your fridge is using is by taking your manufacturer’s specifications and looking at the compressor’s consumption. This part has the highest consumption. From there, you have to do a little math.

  1. Let’s assume the compressor uses 4 amps of power at 12V.
  2. Multiply the compressor power usage and the voltage (4×12), which is 48
  3. Energy usage is calculated in watts, so the result is 48 watts.
  4. Then determine how many hours your fridge is running each day. For now, let’s say it’s running for 8 hours each day to maintain its temperature.
  5. Multiply the watts (48) with the hours it’s running (8).
  6. That means our fridge is using 384 watt-hours per day.

Do Old Fridges Use More Electricity?

Yes, older camper fridges tend to use more electricity. That is because newer models are more efficient and they can run off of batteries or propane.

How Can I Lower My Fridge’s Amp Usage?

It is possible to reduce your power consumption when running your RV fridge. Consider using one or a few of these strategies:

  • Shut off your fridge while driving. A well maintained fridge that is already cooled should stay cool for 4-8 hours, depending on your fridge.
  • Use propane. This will give your batteries a break. Just be sure to follow all necessary rules and precautions when using highly flammable propane.
  • Switch to solar. There are several solar options specifically made for RVs on the market.
  • Set the fridge to operate at a lower level.

In Summary

We’ve determined that an RV fridge is going to go through, on average, about 200 watts. Still, 200 watts isn’t so bad in terms of energy usage.

An average coffee maker will use around 600 watts, and a microwave will burn through 1000 watts. Hair dryers are the worst, consuming up to 2000 watts!

Relatively speaking, RV fridges are pretty conservative in their energy usage for such an important piece of luxury camping equipment.

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