Refrigerator Power

Dometic Refrigerator

Q: We have a 2008 Gulfstream 21-foot travel trailer with a two-way refrigerator. I would like to run it when traveling, but I am not comfortable running the gas while driving. I tried to connect it to an inverter. This runs the refrigerator fine but runs my battery down in less than an hour even when driving. I have placed the inverter as close to the battery as possible. That helped a little but there’s still the problem. My question is, should I give up on this idea and run the LP-gas, or do I need a stronger charge line to the camper?
Mike Bonadonna, Inverness, Florida

A: You didn’t mention what size alternator your tow vehicle has, nor what the current draw of the refrigerator is. Running on 120 volts AC doesn’t workout for most folks because of the current draw. There is also a power loss when you convert 12 volts DC to 120 volts AC. You might be able to make it work with a higher-output alternator. Or just run the fridge on gas like many others. If you do, make sure you shut it off in gas stations and other places where it’s required.
— Ken Freund

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  1. Mike,
    I would look into solar power. You may need to increase the size of the camper battery and will need a charge controller and inverter but a few 100 watt panels could drive your refrigerator. IT woud come in handy when boondocking also.

  2. Mike, I’ve been rving since 1976 and trucked propane before that and run with my propane turned on. I checked with the research and development branch of my insurance company and was advised it is a “non-issue”. Reason being propane is really quite safe. Apparently during the Vietnam War, helicopters were changed over from aviation fuel to propane as should a bullet hit the av-gas tank it could explode. If a bullet hit a propane tank, gas would have to leak out and then once in the air it would have to have a mixture of 17 parts air to 1 part propane before it would burn. Also, with the newer type OPD valves in propane tanks, once you get a large discharge from the tank the valve automatically closes itself so even in an instance of being in an accident the tank shuts itself off. There’s also the thought of refueling. With DSI, your appliances (usually fridge left on for travelling) has no flame UNLESS the appliance self-ignites while you’re getting gas OR tries to self-ignite where you would then have a spark from the igniter trying to light the appliance. In my personal case, my exterior fridge panel is 25 feet back from where I add fuel. Fuel being one of the operative words as I run diesel which to my understanding is less volatile than gasoline. The only time I shut off my propane at the tanks is when I have my trailer in an enclosed area such as in a garage for repairs or tire replacement. In the jurisdiction I live in it is not illegal to run with propane on but some jurisdictions may dictate otherwise. Perhaps whatever you feel comfortable with should be your guide.

  3. Check the size of the wires, both charging circuit and ground from the alternator to the batteries, full output of the alternator may not be getting to the batteries.

  4. Ken, The charge line from the tow vehicle needs to be larger for the inverter to work properly. The inverter is in the trailer.

  5. Ken, I think the response to “Refrigerator Power” needed more in depth study. Most likely the inverter was in the trailer and the 12-volt charge line from the tow vehicle is 16 or 18 awg. That would explain why the battery would be run down in such short time while running down the highway. I never had a problem with 12-volt power because I always wired up my tow vehicles myself. Last year I bought a 2015 F-150, good tow vehicle but while traveling my battery would get weak, very weak. I told the service mgr. how to fix it. He said he couldn’t do that. I did it myself. Everything now is good. I run the fridge on 12-volt, and the battery stays charged. For some reason Ford uses 18-awg wire for the 12-volt charge line.

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