Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Fact or Fiction: New RV refrigerators are not designed to operate on propane above 5,500 ft. altitude 

RV blogs, social media groups and YouTube videos have exploded over the past couple of years. Some provide great information, others questionable information and some downright bad information. Can you tell the difference? In this monthly column, we will post a question based on information we find online. You can then test your RV prowess by seeing how your answer compares with our experts.

Today’s Question

Is the following statement fact or fiction? Newer major brand RV refrigerators are not designed to operate on propane above 5,500 ft. altitude.
*Paraphrased/condensed from this source along with many others

What do you think?

Click here to view the answer.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.


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Joe Fortino (@guest_241768)
5 months ago

It’s not “new” fridges. Our 2016 model built in 2015 carries the same warning in the fridge manual.

KellyR (@guest_241393)
5 months ago

It sounds like, “let’s take something that works and insert a computer chip”

Steve H (@guest_241321)
5 months ago

We live at 5,700′ and have camped multiple times as high as 10,000+ ft. Never once did we have trouble with our propane/AC fridges working in our travel trailer or fifth wheel. However, we now have a 12v fridge in our MH. I love it because we can now keep ice cream frozen, which our propane fridges never did!

Joe Fortino (@guest_241769)
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve H

Our Dometic propane fridge freezer always runs at 0F. Nice deep freeze.

Split Shaft (@guest_241252)
5 months ago

Most gas appliances need the air shutters adjusted so the air to fuel ratio is correct for a blue flame. Altitude is going to affect air/fuel ratios and if there are no air shutters to adjust or they are not adjusted by the end user, then gas appliances may not function well at different altitudes. Older gas appliances relying on pilot lights can be more problematic than those with direct spark ignition and proper air/fuel adjustment. Electronic fuel injection fixed the air/fuel ratio problems automatically for gasoline engines at altitude by incorporating a barometric air pressure sensor.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_241168)
5 months ago

With our 97 Nash we had no problems with our Norcold fridge at 7300 feet. But, when we got our 2012 Arctic Fox the fridge would keep giving us error codes – and quitting. This was at the same campground! I drove to where we had cell service and called Norcold. The tech suggested we find another campground at a lower elevation. That was his fix. So I called our hometown mobile tech and he suggested I change the ‘distance’ between the igniter and wherever that fired up. I’m no tech but followed his suggestion – and we haven’t had any issues since. Our home sits at 5,000 feet so there’s not much leeway when they gear their fridges for sea level . . .

Joe Fortino (@guest_241770)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Some Are adjustable like that and some are not.

Andrea (@guest_241135)
5 months ago

The manual for the 2-way Dometic fridge in our ’15 17′ travel trailer has a disclaimer that it is best to operate it on electricity above 5000′ Since we live at 6000′, and dry camp higher (at our next campground, we’ll be at 9200′), that wasn’t very helpful for us.
Our fridge runs well at altitude, except it takes more “snaps” of the igniter for the fridge to catch and stay lit, same for the HWT. I contacted Dometic, who suggested that the regulator for the LP could be set to a lower water column pressure, since what’s happening is that the LP blows the flame out. Not a practical solution, in our minds, since we also travel to low elevations. According to Dometic, the only thing about our current situation is that the igniter may wear out sooner than it would have.
Since so much of this continent is above 5000′, I wish comeone would invent an LP regulator or part that has safe, easy, quick adjustment for the current altitude range.

James Goodnight (@guest_241019)
5 months ago

Our 2019 Lance 855s truck camper is equipped with a Norcold N3150 5.3 cf three-way fridge. The fridge owner’s manual contains the 5500’ disclaimer. However, we’ve dry-camped at 6600’ (near Dutch John, Utah), 7600’ (Manzano Mountains State Park, New Mexico), and at 7800’ (Morefield Campground, Mesa Verde National Park), and the fridge has operated nominally using LP. Safe travels, all! — Jim

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