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The fridge in your RV is one of the most commonly used appliances in your rig. The working mechanism of an RV fridge is different from the refrigerators and freezers that you use in a house.
That’s why it can be challenging to get used to the RV fridge and temperature management can also be a hassle.
That’s why we have come up with this guide that will help you understand how an RV fridge works. We’ll also discuss effective ways to make it colder to keep your food fresh.
How Does an RV Fridge Work?
As mentioned, the RV fridge is different from the conventional 120-volt residential refrigerator. While the end result of both types of appliances is the same, the RV refrigerator achieves it differently.
The typical residential fridge comes with a compressor that runs the cooling cycle. But the one that you use in your RV uses the absorption mechanism.
Important Note: Many RV fridges can run on both electricity and propane gas. This dual functionality feature comes in handy to keep the refrigerator working when it’s not connected to any source of electricity.
RV fridge uses the heat produced by fuel to boil the liquid refrigerant, which is typically a mixture of water and ammonia, and turn it into gas in the absorption chamber. The gas passes through the separation chamber, which turns the water vapors into liquid again.
The liquid water then goes to the absorption chamber. The ammonia is turned back to cold liquid through the condenser coil and it starts flowing to reach the evaporator coil while drawing heat from the fridge’s interior.
The heat turns the ammonia liquid to gas again and reaches the absorption chamber. Here ammonia gas gets mixed with water again and the cycle restarts.
How to Make RV Fridge Colder
The following are the most effective methods that you can use to make your RV fridge colder.
Related Guide: The Best Way To Setup Campervan Fridge Ventilation
1. Install a Fan
One of the best ways to make your RV fridge colder is to install a fan or two in your RV fridge to blow more air in order to increase the airflow across the coils.
It’s very easy to install RV refrigerator fans. They come with built-in clips that you can attach to the coil located inside the RV fridge and connect the cable to the fridge’s interior light.
Keep in mind that the coils inside your RV refrigerator draw the heat and keep the interior cool. The additional flow of cold air around the coils will decrease the temperature.
Some fans come with a dedicated on/off switch, which allows you to turn them on/off whenever needed. Along with the fan, you can also buy a thermostat for your RV fridge to examine how much the fan decreases the temperature of your refrigerator.
It’ll also allow you to automate the fan’s functionality so that they turn on automatically whenever the temperature gets above a certain set point.
2. Increase the Ambient Temperature
Another great way to make your RV fridge colder is to increase the ambient temperature. If you’re in a place with really warm weather, your refrigerator will need to work hard to keep the food cold. Not only does it affect the performance of your unit but it also decreases its longevity in the long run.
Ideally, the temperature of your RV fridge should be lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). If it’s higher than that, consider decreasing the ambient temperature using the thermostat of your RV. The decrease in the surrounding temperature can make the fridge colder.
3. Clean the Coils
If you don’t already know, ice is an effective insulator and it doesn’t conduct heat. If the coils inside your RV fridge are covered with ice, the performance of the unit will decrease dramatically. Therefore, you need to make sure that the coils are clean.
If you see ice on the condenser coils, you’ll need to defrost the fridge and clean them properly to improve the performance of your RV fridge and make it colder.
4. Get it Checked
If your RV fridge isn’t getting cold as it should be, you might need to call a professional electrician to get your unit checked. Sometimes, ammonia gas gets leaked from the system and the coils fail to remove the heat from the fridge’s interior.
You’ll see greenish or yellowish stains inside the fridge if the ammonia is leaking. Additionally, the coils inside the fridge won’t be as cold as they should be.
Another effective way to check ammonia leaks is to use the ammonia detector. You can buy this tool from a local hardware store and use it to check the level of ammonia in the air.
To use the ammonia detector, you’ll need to turn it on and hold it near your RV refrigerator. If the detector shows 0 PPM (Parts Per Million), it means there’s no ammonia leak. If the reading is high, you’ll need to get your unit repaired and refilled with ammonia so that it starts working optimally.
5. Check the Seals
Sometimes, the seals around the edges of the door become loose and allow the cold air to start escaping the fridge’s interior. Not only will it keep the unit from getting colder but it’ll also make it work harder and waste energy.
Check for air leaks around the edges and if they’re loose, replace them with new rubber gaskets to solve the problem.
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A fridge is one of the most important appliances that you need in an RV. While it has a different working mechanism from the residential fridge, the end goal is the same, which is to keep your food cold and safe to eat.
You can install fans, increase the ambient temperature, and clean the coils regularly to make your RV’s fridge colder and keep it working optimally. Replacing the existing seals (if they’re loose) around the edges of the door can also do the trick.
Lastly, if there’s an ammonia leak, you’ll need to hire a professional to get your RV refrigerator fixed.
Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.
Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.
Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.
Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.
To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!