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Do you need electricity for running a motorhome, RV, or caravan fridge on propane? A question that many ask themselves, and after this article, you never need to question this again.
A motorhome, RV, or caravan propane fridge needs electricity to ignite the propane and run the lights inside the refrigerator. Newer fridges need at least 10,5 volts to open and keep the propane/gas valve open. You could technically ignite the propane with a lighter on an older fridge and run it without electricity.
So in most cases, you need to have at least 10,5 volts in your motorhomes battery bank or be connected to “shore power” to be able to operate a 3-way absorption fridge on propane since this will power the circuit board and keep the gas valve open as well as igniting the propane when you turn it on.
The electrical gas valve serves as an extra safety feature; in this case, you need at least 10,5 volts in your batteries to keep the propane flowing and the fridge working.
Older propane fridges can have a separate small battery just for the ignitor or an automatic ignitor. Combined with a manual gas valve that doesn’t need any electricity to stay open, it wouldn’t need any continuous electricity source to run the fridge. Still, those are pretty rare to have since they are getting ancient.
Can I Run a Propane Fridge Stand-Alone With an AA Battery Pack?
You can run your motorhome, caravan, or RV Dometic 10 series fridge by using the Dometic R10-BP. This AA battery pack ensures an autonomous stand-alone operation in gas mode without any vehicle-controlled power supply. The battery pack with 12 AA Batteries lasts for 2-3 days.
Dometic makes these battery packs for their ten series fridges. If you have it installed within one of those fridges, it will automatically switch over to the battery pack’s energy supply if you would completely lose your other electrical sources. So, suppose your 12V battery bank is empty. Then, if you are not connected to “shore power” / electric hookups and are not running the engine, the battery pack would automatically take over and keep the gas valve open, and the fridge is working.
If you want to use a stand-alone propane fridge where you don’t have any electricity, maybe some AA batteries are an easy solution.
This battery pack will run a Dometic 10 series fridge in stand-alone gas mode. The lights inside the refrigerator won’t work, and the control panel will go dark after 2 seconds to save as much electricity as possible to prolong the battery life.
The principle of this AA battery pack is the same as the leisure battery bank in your motorhome, RV, or caravan; it gives enough electricity to the fridge for igniting the propane and keeping the gas valve open, which is the most critical part and ensures you can run your fridge on propane.
This AA battery pack mentioned above is specially made for domestic ten series fridges that have a place for connecting the battery pack and a place to put the batter pack, so if you want to use the same principle on another refrigerator, you will need to get a bit crafty and find a good way of connecting it and placing a AA battery pack to your propane fridge.
What Happens When You Run Out Of Battery In a Motorhome?
Suppose your leisure batteries in a motorhome, RV, or caravan get depleted. In that case, you will notice that your water pump won’t work, the lights won’t work, and the gas appliances will stop working if they have an electric-controlled gas valve like your fridge and furnace, which also needs electricity for the fan to circulate the warm air, as well as anything else that runs on electricity.
If you get to the point where you are out of battery, and your fridge stops working even when it’s running on propane,e you will have lots of other problems as listed above, so either way, the measures you want to put in place first will probably be to recharge your batteries.
For me, it isn’t a big deal that the propane fridge needs a tiny amount of electricity even to operate on propane since everything else that makes my motorhome a home needs electricity, too, like keeping the water running so if my batteries run out I have more significant problems than keeping the fridge turned on.
For those reasons, it is simply not worth it, in my opinion, to fix an external AA battery pack or other solutions to enable you to keep running the fridge in stand-alone mode. Instead, I would focus on increasing the battery capacity and the charging capacity if you are worried about running out of battery.
Yes, your fridge most likely needs electricity to be able to operate. Still, it is so tiny that you could even run it off a couple of AA batteries, so any leisure battery bank will be able to run those as long as it keeps a voltage above 10,5.
It could get a bit annoying that your fridge will stop working if you are out of battery but remember that your batteries need to be empty or very near to 10,5 volts for the circuit board to stop working and close the gas valve.
If or when it comes to this point, you can keep the fridge closed as much as possible to keep it cool until you can start the refrigerator again. And more importantly, everything that needs electricity in your motorhome will also stop working at this point. You will want to figure out that quickly so most people would either start the engine to run the generator or charge the leisure battery bank that way, get an electrical hook up or maybe wait for the sun to get out and set via solar.
Anyhow you will want to charge your batteries either way, and out of this perspective, I have never thought of it as a problem that the fridge also needs electricity to run even though it’s on gas/propane.