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Old 04-20-2017, 10:49 AM   #1
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2016 16' Sport
San Diego , California
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 6
Can my single 12V Battery Keep My Refrigerator Powered?

My refrigerator operates under both shore power and propane.

I thought it could be powered by my single 12V battery while driving. But it doesn't. Any idea why? Or is is not designed for this operation?

If i added a second battery, would that be sufficient?

I have a 2016 Bambi 16'.

Please forgive what may be a newbie question!

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Old 04-20-2017, 10:56 AM   #2
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2008 25' Classic
Wichita Falls , Texas
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If its only a 2 way fridge, LP/AC, then you have to use propane while driving.

There are some 3way fridges but it takes a lot of power to heat up the heating element.

Even if my fridge was a 3 way I'd still use propane while towing.


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Old 04-20-2017, 11:07 AM   #3
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2016 16' Sport
San Diego , California
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Thank you Kelvin!

I wasn't using propane while driving because I was under the impression that was risky / dangerous. But I am not sure why I thought that.

I guess it's not?
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Old 04-20-2017, 11:13 AM   #4
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
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You would need an inverter to take your 12V power and turn it into 120V that the fridge could use to operate. That would be terribly inefficient. You would need a very large battery and a means to keep it charged. Most of us just run the fridge on propane while driving.

If you wanted to run a fridge off your batteries, for instance if you had a large solar array, the best solution is a 12V compressor fridge, not an adsorption fridge like the one you currently have.
1974 Overlander In Progress
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Old 04-20-2017, 11:25 AM   #5
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2008 27' Safari FB SE
Long Beach , California
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 188
Originally Posted by juliandurand View Post
Thank you Kelvin!

I wasn't using propane while driving because I was under the impression that was risky / dangerous. But I am not sure why I thought that.

I guess it's not?
There are a lot of threads on this issue. I think this one is fairly recent:
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:01 PM   #6
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2017 25' International
Framingham , Massachusetts
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If memory serves me, only the 22' Sport comes with a 3way frig that you can run while driving off the vehicle's 12v line.
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:05 PM   #7
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2004 30' Classic Slideout
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A previous trailer I owned had a 3 way fridge that could operate on 12 volts. The draw on that battery when using 12 volts is very high and my tow vehicle would charge the battery as I drove. There are two conditions in that the power from the tow vehicle must be absolutely perfect and be of adequate amperage. Perfect in my view is that the wire gauge had to be large enough to support the amperage and that the connections between the trailer plug and socket on the tow vehicle must be absolutely clean. I found out the hard way that I had to keep those connections clean otherwise the amperage would drop and I'd get to the campground after 8 hours of travel with a dead battery.

That in itself is dangerous due to the fact that the battery will supply power to the trailer brakes if the breakaway switch gets activated due to hitch failure. If that battery is depleted you won't have trailer brakes in that specific emergency situation.

I travel with gas on and my only safety consideration is to turn off the fridge when I refuel the tow vehicle when towing.

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'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:26 PM   #8
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1991 35' Airstream 350
Barry's Bay , Ontario
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Leave the propane on
It is just fine
NO safety risks
Howard and Ann Schutt
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:33 PM   #9
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1977 31' Excella 500
Zavalla , Texas
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Posts: 494
As others have said, the "normal" RV fridges don't usually work very well on 12v.

I replaced mine with an Italian brand named Vitrifrigo -- beautiful stainless steel unit made for Yachts. It has a more efficient danfoss compressor so I run it on 12v all the time. I also have solar and beefed up charging lines from my tow vehicle.

It is nice not having to keep up with the propane fills. Now I only use propane for hot water. My tanks last a LONG time.
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Old 04-20-2017, 01:03 PM   #10
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We travel with the propane on while on the road, have since 1971' never any problems
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Old 04-20-2017, 01:36 PM   #11
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2017 27' Flying Cloud
Gramercy , Louisiana
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Should Work

I have a 27FB and my refrigerator runs on 12V control power with either 120V AC power to the compressor or propane flame moving the refrigerant though the system. As long as I have a 12V battery sufficiently charged and propane my refrigerator works. This is how it works when you are off the grid. PS an inverter changes D.C. battery power to AC power but my Airstream inverter only puts out 1000 watts which is not enough to run the refrigerator compressor but is enough to run the TV and radio. A converter changes AC power to DC power to charge your battery and power your refrigerator control power. I have both on my Airstream.
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Old 04-20-2017, 01:44 PM   #12
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2008 23' International
Chicago , Illinois
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Definitely run it on propane when towing, but on hot days that may not be enough, with no shade on a hot day the fridge will likely still struggle, I do 2 things to help it. Fill the freezer with home made ice blocks (tuppewares filled with frozen salt water made at home) and add a bag of ice to the bottom bucket of the fridge that we use for ice cubes and ice water as it melts. I keep a fridge thermometer in the fridge to keep an eye on the temp. The domestic (sp?) in our 23 foot CD International has no adjustments, so you need external "hacks" to keep your food safe. On the cooler nights the freezer refreezes the ice in the Tupperware and this helps buffer the temperatures.
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Old 04-20-2017, 02:18 PM   #13
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Tucson , Arizona
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Your Bambi is the same year as ours, but we have a 19' so ours has a different fridge. Assuming you have the original fridge, it operated on propane or 120v ... no 12v operation. (However it uses 12v for the control lights, etc, so 12 IS required for operation, even when in propane mode.)

Set the operation on "auto"...that way it will know when there is 120 available and when it's not available ... it will switch back and forth automatically. You can override the auto mode by putting it in propane mode manually, but there's no need to do that under normal circumstances.

You can tow with the fridge on propane with no issues. If you have safety concerns (there is much debate over this), you can turn the frig off when fueling, since I believe your fridge is on the street side, nearest to the pumps in a gas station...and turn it back on when you are finished...

Good luck!
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Old 04-20-2017, 03:17 PM   #14
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2017 27' International
Sioux Falls , South Dakota
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I'm with CA_tallguy. I installed a Vitrifrigo DP-150 12 V/120 V compressor fridge in my motorhome last fall, and plan to do the same to my Airstream 27FB later this year. My propane usage is greatly reduced, there's no worry about fire, and no need to shut off the fridge at gas stations... I love it! Electric power consumption is typically about one sixth that of a standard RV absorption fridge operated from an inverter. The only drawback is the cost--these compressor fridges are about 40% more expensive than standard RV fridges. Well worth it to me, though!

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