RV Fridge Not Working On Electric – What To Do?

Having an RV fridge is one of the convenient ways of traveling since you can store any type of food you want for your journey or camp. If your RV refrigerator suddenly stops working on electricity, don't fret yet because we have done proper research to give you detailed information on what to do in this situation.

If your refrigerator isn't working on electricity, check to see if your propane or electricity is out. Also, check if the RV is plugged in. Look at the diagnostic lights for hints about performance problems. Another option you can try is to reset the circuit breakers. 

RV refrigerators can stop working for different reasons. Read further to know more about how your refrigerator works, what to check in case of malfunction, and the next step to take. 

Technician checking the RV fridge, RV Fridge Not Working On Electric - What To Do?

Running RV Refridgerator On Electric - How Does It Work? 

The cooling elements in your refrigerator use a special type of gas to keep it cool. Freon was the gas of choice in the past. This gas is excellent for cooling, but it also depletes the ozone layer on Earth. Appliance makers switched from freon to puron to protect the environment. This gas performs in the same way as freon, but it is far more environmentally friendly.

Your RV refrigerator's water, hydrogen gas, and liquid ammonia work together. This combination allows you to use electricity and gas to power your refrigerator.

Electric stove installed next to a small fridge

A little boiler in the back of your RV refrigerator holds the mixture of water, hydrogen, and ammonia. The tank and chemical mixture is heated either by propane or electricity. Chemicals separate when a solution is heated. The water remains in the boiler while ammonia and hydrogen pass through the refrigerator's cooling coils.

Cold is produced as a result of the chemical reaction between ammonia and hydrogen. The ammonia and hydrogen condense out of the coils into the condenser chamber, where they are mixed with water and returned to a boiler, where the process begins all over again.

Step-by-step Process of How Your RV Refridgerator Functions

This usually begins in the freezer compartment of your RV refrigerator. Because the reaction produces the most cooling at the start, it makes sense for the boiler to deliver the ammonia and hydrogen to the freezer first and then to the refrigerator as the reaction slows, where items don't need to be as cold.

You'll have to wait a while for this process to get your RV fridge and freezer to the proper temperatures. A conventional RV fridge can take 8 to 12 hours to reach its maximum cooling capacity.

Most RV refrigerators today can operate on two to three separate power sources. Two-way refrigerators are available in some RVs. Both AC and gas power these.

Most contemporary RVs come equipped with three-way refrigerators that can run on AC, DC, or propane power. Neither choice is better or worse. The only thing you need to know is what type you have so you can make sure it works properly.

Reasons Your RV Fridge Is Not Working On Electricity 

Luxurious rustic inspired RV interior with complete appliances

A faulty control board will cause your RV fridge to stop working on electricity. It's also possible that you have a shorted electrical refrigerator heating element if there are no tripped circuit breakers.

A two-way fridge is likely in a contemporary RV. This implies it runs on either propane or 120-volt power. Some earlier versions include three-way refrigerators that can run on propane, 120-volt electricity, or 12-volt electricity.

However, unlike your home refrigerator, the power supply isn't as simple as plugging it in. If you have a two-way refrigerator, the first step is to check for blown fuses.

Faulty Circuit Panel 

When a fridge runs on 120 volts, it is connected to your circuit breaker, just like your home. As a result, the first step is to examine your circuit panel. If you discover a tripped circuit breaker, the fridge is not receiving any AC power. Reset it and try running the refrigerator on electricity once more.

If it trips again, there's a risk the heating element is shorted. It is possible that something went wrong with the heating element if the breaker hasn't tripped.

It's also possible that the control board is malfunctioning. If you aren't confident in replacing these products, you may need to hire a specialist.

You can either take it to a repair shop or have it repaired at your home. Keep in mind that cooling an empty refrigerator takes a long time. So, if you haven't used it in a while or it's particularly hot outside, it might just require a little more time to cool down.

Control Board Malfunction

If the control board and heating element pass the test, simply place a couple of frozen two-liter bottles inside the refrigerator when you're ready to use it. Make certain your camper is level as well. Your RV refrigerator does not have a compressor, unlike the refrigerator in your home.

Its cooling method is based on gas absorption. An electric heater heats the gas inside the fridge's cooling unit. It rises and circulates throughout the system as a result of this.

How Do I Reset My RV Refrigerator? 

To reset your RV refrigerator, follow these steps: 

  • First, check if the RV's electrical system is turned off.
  • Then For 10 seconds, press and hold the front-panel 'fridge reset' button.
  • Afterward, wait 10 seconds before pressing and releasing the button.
  • Proceed to wait 10 seconds before pressing and re-releasing it.
  • Repeat steps 1–4 after a 5-second break.
  • Replace the front of the fridge's control panel cover.
  • Re-establish your RV's electrical system.

Although the reset technique appears simple, there are several alternative ways to force a reset. You should never do this if you don't know how to separate your batteries from the electrical system.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair An RV Refrigerator? 

Opened empty RV fridge

It is possible to buy rebuilt cooling units to repair your refrigerator. It will cool as well as a brand new refrigerator. But this is where the issue arises.

The cost of replacing a cooling system is high. When you add in the labor expense to remove a faulty cooling unit and replace it with a new one, the process will cost as much as buying a brand new RV refrigerator.

Many large RV refrigerators can cost as much as $2,000 when it comes as brand new. With labor costs of around $100 per hour, and replacement parts costing around $1,000, it is cheaper to just buy a new refrigerator.

How Do I Charge My RV Refrigerator? 

You can only recharge one of the three types of RV refrigerators. Compression refrigerators can be recharged, whereas absorption and thermoelectric refrigerators cannot.

As a result, your first step should be to determine the sort of RV refrigerator you have in your camper or motorhome. To recharge your RV, first, Allow 12 to 24 hours for the refrigerator to run before deciding if it needs to be repaired.

It should reach a safe operating temperature near freezing in that amount of time. Even in good functioning order, these devices are always slow to cool. Smell the inside of the fridge for ammonia odors.

Leakage of liquid coolant from one or more corroded or rusted areas in the coils is the typical problem that leads to poor performance. A precise blend of ammonia gas, hydrogen gas, water, and rust inhibitor makes up the coolant.

Rebuild the cooling system if you so desire. Sandblasting the coils, replacing corroded lines, correcting leaks and weak points, adding rust inhibitors, recharging, testing, and re-insulating will all be part of the procedure.

The service provider will most likely provide a warranty with most rebuilt machines. Rebuilding costs more than repairing, but it lasts longer. Instead of rebuilding, you can have it repaired. Both repairing the leak and refilling the unit with liquid coolants are included in the service. 

Do RV Refrigerators Run On 12 Volt? 

Manufacturers of the most commonly equipped RV freezers, Norcold and Dometic, have shifted their focus from 12-volt battery power and toward LP gas and 120-volt systems in recent decades.

How Long Does an RV Refrigerator Last?

Empty RV fridge

The average life of a refrigerator is 14 years, and RV refrigerators typically last 10 to 18 years. The type of refrigerator, as well as environmental factors, have an impact on the life of refrigerators.

This all depends on several factors like the refrigerator's make and model, its current state, maintenance level, and environmental factors. 

Is It Better To Run RV Fridge On Propane Or Electric?

Compared to electrically run appliances, propane-fueled appliances require less maintenance, are more convenient, and are more efficient. A gas refrigerator does not have any moving mechanisms for cooling. Freon and an electric compressor/pump are needed for electric and 12V refrigerators. 


Technician checking the RV fridge

Having an RV that runs on electrical power will require you to use more electricity to power it. Check the power plug and circuits if you notice your RV Refrigerator is not working on electricity. 

For more on RV appliances, check out these engaging posts: 

RV Furnace Not Working, What Could Be Wrong? 

5 Rubber Roofs For Your RV

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