Running an RV Fridge on an Inverter
If your RV refrigerator can run on propane, it will draw very little DC electricity, only enough power to run the electronics and interior light. However, if you’re worried about using propane, or have a “residential refrigerator” which will only run on AC power, you may be able to use an inverter to keep it running when you’re not plugged in.
What is an Inverter?
An inverter is a device that will convert DC electricity from your RV batteries into AC electricity. If you want to run a refrigerator on AC power when you are not plugged in at an RV park, you will need a large inverter.
Inverters come in different power ratings; for example, an inverter that’s rated for 200 watts will easily run a laptop. However, a refrigerator draws much more power. An inverter rated for 1,500 watts continuous power and 3,000 watts of surge power is what you’ll need to run a 16 cu. ft. refrigerator.
This inverter will need to be hard-wired into your RVs electrical system.
The Problem May Lie in the Batteries
A refrigerator needs a lot of power, and your RV battery bank is finite; unlike being plugged in, your batteries will be drained in as little as one day running a refrigerator.
If you want to run your refrigerator on an inverter, you may need to upgrade your battery bank, by adding extra batteries. You’ll also need to keep the extra batteries charged up, which may require additional solar panels.
If Your RV Doesn’t Have an Inverter
In some cases, you could have an RV with a residential fridge that only works on AC power, and not have an inverter built-in. If you have an onboard generator you’ll need to run it almost constantly for the refrigerator, which could disrupt the quiet hours and noise restrictions at the campground you’re in.
Your food won’t spoil if the refrigerator is turned off for a few hours, such as when you’re driving. You can also put ice packs inside the refrigerator to help keep it cool when the power is off.
If you want to camp off-grid, the best choice will be a refrigerator that’s designed to run on propane and/or DC power. Residential refrigerators designed to run strictly on AC power are simply problematic when it comes to off-grid camping. While some people claim to be able to do it, their camping neighbors may have complaints about their noisy generator. Likewise, some RVers may be able to afford extra batteries and solar panels, but that sort of upgrade will cost thousands of dollars.
Before you decide what to do about your refrigerator, decide on the style of RV travel you want to do, as well as your budget. If you plan on staying in RV parks or campgrounds with power, running your refrigerator on an inverter will be unnecessary.