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How Long Does Propane Last in an RV Fridge?

Propane fridges offer some unique advantages to traditional electric fridges found in most homes. A propane fridge uses a different kind of system to cool down the fridge internals without using an electric motor for the purpose.

The result is a fridge that needs propane as a fuel. As you know from summer backyard barbeques and other sources, propane does burn and needs to be refilled sometimes. The question is, how long does propane last in an RV fridge?

The answer depends entirely on your planned usage, but the expectation is that a standard 20 pound tank of propane should last about 11 days with regular use. This varies a bit and we will explain why below.

What is regular use for a propane fridge?

We would expect you to keep your refrigerator on 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, while opening it a few times per day to grab cooled food. 

If you are anything like us, you could stand there for a few seconds making a decision and possibly go back in the fridge to check it again. It’s ok, we’ve all done it!

This also assumes that a couple of people are opening the fridge, so this is more aimed at couples without kids.

I’m afraid of running out of propane for my fridge too quickly, what can I do?

There are a few general things you can do to both assist your fridge with cooling and keep your propane use efficient.

  • Open and close infrequently. If you have kids, get a lock for your fridge so they don’t open it looking for snacks. Once of the fastest ways to warm up a propane fridge is opening the door and letting warm air replace the cool air.
  • Make sure the fridge and propane tank are completely level. Use a level on top of or inside the fridge to do this. The flow of gases and liquid with your fridge will be assisted by a properly level fridge.
  • Start your fridge for cooling later in the day, when the temperature is lower. The fridge will have less heat to remove if started from a lower temperature.
  • Use mini fans to push air around the fridge faster. Propane fridges typically don’t use fans as they require electricity. You can, however, put battery powered fans in your fridge to speed up the cooling process and keep cool for longer.
  • Don’t overstuff. This is actually true of any fridge. Leaving no room for air to move or escape isn’t great for fridge efficiency in general.

You could potentially squeeze more time out of a tank of propane following a few of the above

Another general suggestion that might not apply to all: If you have an electric and propane fridge combo, use the electrical part as often as you can. While propane has it’s advantages, not using propane when not necessary will save you money and effort in the long run. 

Can my propane last longer if I use the fridge infrequently?

Yes, thankfully propane is a gas that doesn’t go bad quickly. If you happen to enjoy lots of dry foods or otherwise have a freezer, propane can last multiple weeks with irregular use. The most important factors here are the temperature within your RV and how frequently you open the door.

One major help for both an electric RV fridge and for a propane fridge is to park in the shade. Sun bouncing off either fridge will cause it to warm. You can also put a curtain or reflector on the fridge to keep heat out.

How can I tell if my propane is low?

Here’s one way you don’t want to learn your propane is low or out: Your cold food is warm and the fridge isn’t working!

Given that propane tanks are literally sold by weight, the easiest way to tell is by lifting it. Does it feel rather light? Time to replace that propane.

Some propane tanks also come with gauges to more accurate indicate their current status, all without you using your biceps too much.

Also of note, many RVs come with some system where you can put two propane tanks in at a time. We suggest getting one of these, especially if you are an off the grid camper and intend to use the propane fridge frequently.

Another way to know is if your fridge is not cooling as fast as it used to.

Keeping track

A couple good ways to keep track of your propane’s days of use are to use your phone’s calendar to mark off the number of days since your last refill or change.

Another less technical option is to get a magnetic whiteboard for your fridge with a calendar so the chart is readily available for anyone to see. This might encourage someone to remind you to potential refill your propane containers.

Conclusion

Propane fridges can be quite helpful when there is no electric to power your appliances or fridge. Using a unique method of removing heat from the fridge, a propane fridge can remove heat without complicated moving parts. Through what amount to the wonders of physics and modern gasses, a propane fridge can keep foods cool for just under 2 weeks under ideal conditions.

You can use the above info to help make your propane tanks last a little longer, or to keep more propane readily available so you don’t need to leave your adventure to fill up. Most of the ideas are pretty easy to implement with only a battery powered fan requiring much for tools.

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