Best Way To Power Motorhome Fridge – Propane VS Electric

Is it better to run a motorhome, RV, or caravan fridge on propane or electric? Many who have both options with an absorption fridge are wondering, so let’s compare them, PROPANE VS ELECTRIC!

I will use a 133 Liter absorption fridge, the Dometic RML 10.4, for the specific data comparisons in the table below. Note that the consumption will be different if you have a smaller or bigger fridge. The table is a way of comparing what power source to use for any absorption fridge.

Criteria:Propane powered
absorption fridge
Electric powered
absorption fridge
Energy Consumption380 grams of propane / 24h
or 0,84 pounds of propane / 24h
3,2 kWh/24 h (230 V)
340 Ah/24 h (12 V)
Price assuming
30 USD/ 20 pounds (9KG)
and 0,17 USD / KWh
1,26 USD / 24h0,54 USD / 24h
This varies but in my experience
with an older Electrolux absorption
fridge, it cools faster and better
on propane.
This varies between
models, in my experience
it cools enough
on electricity but better
with propane.
ConvenienceChanging propane bottles can
be an annoying task.
With easy access to electricity
you will most likely be connected
either way, then it is for me more
Off-grid capabilityThis is where propane shines
the most, with an absorption fridge
it is the only way to run it while
Bad; this model uses
340 Ah/24h and would not be
suitable for wild camping or
boondocking. For that a
compressor fridge is needed.
SafetyPropane fridges need to be turned
off every time you move
somewhere or stop at a gas
station, and this is easy to forget
and could be dangerous.
There are no obvious reasons
why it could be dangerous
running the fridge on electricity
compared to propane.

Alright, when overlooking those criteria and arguments, we notice that whether it is best to power an absorption fridge on propane or electricity depends on many different things.

If you have access to electricity at an average price or if it is included in the campsite, powering your absorption fridge on electricity is a clear winner! Only when boondocking does the propane come at a clear advantage.

Powering your absorption fridge on electricity is a clear winner for me!

But there is more to all those subjects that we need to dig into to understand the subject better.

Absorption RV fridge Propane VS Electric Energy Consumption & Price

Generally, it is worth powering your absorption fridge on electricity rather than propane when it comes to energy consumption and price. 25-50 USD VS 15-20 USD every 29 days!

380 grams (0,84 pounds) propane/24h VS 3,2 kWh/24 h (230 V) or 340 Ah/24 h (12 V).

This is for a “one-sided” full-height fridge from Dometic, the RML 10,4 at 133-liter capacity, a size I would say is pretty standard in Europe nowadays, although I have only had smaller fridges since that is the norm in the older motorhomes. Of course, those numbers will vary depending on your fridge model, but the numbers are easily found in the instruction manual of your fridge.

A normal-sized European propane bottle for motorhomes, RVs, or caravans is about 11 KG, equal to 24,2 pounds, and it costs around 25-50 USD to refill, depending on where you are. You must fill that bottle every 29 days if it only powers the fridge.

Compared to running the fridge on electricity at 3,2 KWh / 24h, which would add up to 92,8 KWh in the same 29 days period but the average electric prices are now around 0,17 USD in the USA and 0,22 USD in Europe, which would land at a fee between 15,7 and 20,4 USD in the same 29 day period.

Even if the electricity price doubled, it might still be cheaper to use electricity than propane, depending on where you are.

Absorption RV fridge Propane VS Electric Power – Cooling Efficiency

powering your absorption fridge on propane is generally considered the option with the best cooling capability and efficiency. However, some fridges are said to cool better on electricity than propane. In my experience with an older absorption fridge, propane power wins this category.

With varied results and experiences on this question, it looks like it just depends on your fridge. However, I have never experienced the cooling capability being too low, no matter the power source.

This could be a more significant factor in hot places. If you are in that situation with an absorption fridge, I would recommend monitoring the temperature in the refrigerator for a couple of days with each power source and seeing when your fridge is cooling the best.

Absorption RV fridge Propane VS Electric Power – Convenience

For me, a clear winner is using electric power over propane in this category since you need to find a place to refill the propane bottle now and then, and that can be an annoying task if you are in a new location.

Trying to find a place where you can refill propane that has the same type of bottle as you have, is a major problem in Europe since almost all countries have different types of bottles and connections.

If you go for a road trip, this can get quite annoying; I have now been without propane for about a month, stuck with two empty bottles no one can refill. But yes, there are solutions to it; I know, it’s just one of many projects on the list.

Most people will have electricity available if they stay at a campsite, near friends, family, or outside their homes. In those cases, most will be connected to electricity to run other things in the motorhome, RV, or caravan. If that’s the case, it’s just way more convenient to power the fridge on electricity than refilling the propane bottle.

Absorption RV fridge Propane VS Electric Power – Off-Grid capability

When you are off-grid, boondocking, wild camping, or free camping, and you have an absorption fridge, propane power is the clear winner VS powering your fridge with electricity. For example, the Dometic fridge mentioned above would use 340 AH /24h, which is just crazy and nearly impossible, even with a massive battery bank and a roof full of solar panels.

When running a fridge on electricity while being off-grid, using an absorption fridge isn’t on the map. But the above example is for a pretty big fridge; you might think, yes, but even the smaller absorption fridges consume a lot.

The table below shows the vast difference between running an absorption fridge on electricity and a 12v compressor fridge on electricity.

Type of fridgeConsumption
Battery Runtime
100AH *(80AH)
Battery Runtime
100AH (*50AH)
Absorption fridge 125 Watts10.4 AH250 A / day7,7 hours4,8 hours
Absorption fridge 110 Watts9,1 AH220 A / day8,8 hours5,5 hours
12v Compressor fridge 60W
0.3 KWh / 24 hours
1,04 AH25 A / day77h (3,2 days)48h (2 days)
12 v Compressor fridge 45W
0.2KWh/ 24 hours
0,69 AH16,6 A / day116h (4,8 days)72h (3 days)
Im counting with the most common depth of discharge (DOD) of 80% in the lithium battery; basically that the battery only has 80AH of usable energy. And a DOD of 50% in the gel/AGM battery. The depth of discharge or usable energy may differ between 50-70% on gel/AGM batteries and 80-100% on lithium batteries.

You can just run an absorption fridge on electricity for minimal periods, so if you go off the grid a lot, having a 12v compressor fridge or running it on propane is the way to go.

If you want to see more examples of how much different types of RV fridges consume and how much your solar panels or engine charge your batteries, check out the second half of my other article, where I also explain how to connect and run your fridge off the battery.

Absorption RV fridge Propane VS Electric Power – SAFETY

In this category, we have some extra points for powering your absorption fridge on electricity VS propane, but mainly because it is easy to forget some things needed to run your fridge on propane safely.

The main reason why I could think powering your fridge on propane could be a bit more dangerous is the fact that you are not allowed to stop at a gas station when you have any appliances running on propane since this means you have an open flame burning, in this instance behind your fridge. It is easy to forget to turn it off.

No matter what you must always turn off your propane powered appliances before stopping at a gas station!

What is mentioned above could be very easy to forget and practically be the same as fueling your car when you smoke or play with a lighter, which you don’t do.

Say you are staying at a campsite with “shore power” running your fridge on electricity. When you disconnect the power and drive away, the refrigerator will stop working unless you have one that switches power source automatically; anyway, in that case, it would put it on 12 v power when you are driving, and the newer ones have a fuel stop protection mode where they don’t automatically start it on propane when you stop so in this case you won’t stand at the gas station with the propane turned on.

Compared to standing at a campsite running your fridge on propane, forgetting to switch it over to 12V power, driving off, and stopping at a gas station on the way, then it becomes dangerous!

To learn more about if you can run your motorhome, RV, or caravan absorption fridge on gas while driving, I have another article covering that subject, and there is a way to do it safely. First, however, ALWAYS turn off gas appliances before driving into a gas station.

Rikard Adamsson

Hello! My name is Rikard Adamsson; I am the creator of I live full-time in my motorhome, and right now, I am traveling through Europe the right way, without campsites; yes, wild camping and being off the grid works excellent even in a real beauty from 1996. I have done a lot of rebuilding and upgrades. I am happy to share my experiences with everything regarding motorhomes, RVs, or caravans with you here at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts