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Old 04-08-2015, 03:50 PM   #1
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Fridge during travel

When hooked to the car traveling, should the fridge be on 120 or 12v? I usually switch it to 12v thinking I am running on battery when going down the road. Is this correct? Thanks.


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Old 04-08-2015, 04:00 PM   #2
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I run mine on propane while traveling and would even if my fridge had a 12V setting as it draws a lot of power. You won't be able to use 120V as you won't have it available unless your running a generator while underway.

Most use propane but some just turn it off while underway and figure the insulation will hold the temp for awhile.
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Old 04-08-2015, 04:03 PM   #3
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unless you have a generator in your tow vehicle and it's hooked to the trailer, you can't run it on 120v AC.
otherwise, where would it get the 120v AC power while towing?

if it's a 3-way fridge, you can run it on propane or 12v DC power while traveling.
remember, if you run it on 12v DC, be sure to switch it over when you arrive at the campground, cause it'll deplete your trailer battery fast.

if you aren't clear how RV electrical works, Google "the 12 volt side of life".
great info and reading for new owners.
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Old 04-08-2015, 04:40 PM   #4
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IME, running on 12V will draw down the battery, even when hitched to a running TV. So either install a battery cut off switch or run on gas. The fridge should cool quite well on gas and that is what I do. Some people fret (with reason) about using gas while driving because of having a flame around the gasoline pump when filling up. So its your call.
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Old 04-13-2015, 04:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Pooneil View Post
IME, running on 12V will draw down the battery, even when hitched to a running TV. So either install a battery cut off switch or run on gas. The fridge should cool quite well on gas and that is what I do. Some people fret (with reason) about using gas while driving because of having a flame around the gasoline pump when filling up. So its your call.
The tow vehicle wiring will have a lot to do with whether or not the fridge will run well on DC while being towed, AND how well the camper battery(s) will charge while being towed.

If 16 gauge wiring is used for the tow vehicle battery charge wire and the ground wire, 10 amps can usually flow without excessive voltage drop. Once the voltage at the camper battery drops below about 13 volts, the fridge will continue to cool, but the camper battery will not recharge or will recharge very slowly. If the voltage drops below 12.5, the camper battery will start supplying power to the fridge, discharging itself. These voltages can be verified with the tow vehicle running, and the fridge on DC.

Ideally, the tow vehicle wiring harness should be even heavier (10 gauge to 14 gauge) to allow faster recharge of the battery while keeping the fridge running. Keep in mind, camper running lights (tail and marker) on will add significantly to the current load running through the ground wire.

Max current for wire sizes to keep voltage drops reasonable (and the camper battery charging):

16 gauge - 10 amps
14 gauge - 15 amps
12 gauge - 20 amps
10 gauge - 30 amps

The fridge on my A122 draws 6 amps on DC. I haven't measured the tail and marker lights, but I'm guessing another 4 amps when they are on (assumes non-LED). Doesn't leave a lot for battery charging unless your harness has big wires. This is also why a tow vehicle is a slow way to recharge a deeply discharged camper battery.

Because of past experience with difficulties keeping fridges running on propane when being towed at altitude (we seldom camp below 6000ft), I do run the fridge on DC while towing. I am careful to turn off the fridge before I disconnect the tow vehicle when setting up. I have seen PUPs at campgrounds with batteries discharged to nothing in a few hours when the fridge was forgotten and left on DC.

I pre-cool the fridge at home and fully charge the camper batteries on AC the night before a camping trip.

When I lived in the East, turning propane on and off for the tunnels and ferries became too much trouble, and I shifted to 12V only when towing.

just my experiences
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Old 04-13-2015, 08:00 PM   #6
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mine is hooked up correctly to the tow vehicle .. but running it on propane during travelling just caused issues .. not problems .. as the propane pilot on my unit just blows out ... so im 12 volter all the way ..no matter where and how long the trip we go ..

d-mo
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Old 04-13-2015, 10:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by pgandw View Post
Once the voltage at the camper battery drops below about 13 volts, the fridge will continue to cool, but the camper battery will not recharge or will recharge very slowly. If the voltage drops below 12.5, the camper battery will start supplying power to the fridge, discharging itself. These voltages can be verified with the tow vehicle running, and the fridge on DC.
That is exactly it. Check the voltage at the fridge. Nothing else can be a better guide for the potential to drain the battery with the particular setup.
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Old 04-13-2015, 11:25 PM   #8
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Here's what we do.. Fire up the fridge 3 days before you want to head out on 120 volt AC (shore power)...Load it the next night. Then when you're ready to hit the trail turn it off and leave the doors closed til you get where you are goin.. The contents will help retain the cold in the fridge and nothing will thaw..

If you make an extended pit stop (ie sight seeing) fire it up on propane and turn it off when you head out again..

Our current fridge in our TT is a 2 way, so there is no DC option. Our last TT had the DC option and we used to run it on DC while driving.. Then before we unhooked at our site, it was switched to gas so as to avoid the CO detector chirpping at us with a dead battery...

Everyone is different for how they do their's.. This is just what we do... And I've never had to suffer through a warm beer at our first site yet..
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