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Too cold for your RV fridge?

By Chris Dougherty

Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is a letter he received from a reader while he was serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.

Dear Chris,
I enjoy your videos on RVtravel. I have a question regarding operating an RV fridge in cold weather.

We are planning to leave early in the morning of December 26 for Florida (from Ontario, Canada). The temperature here for Christmas Day is forecasted to be 23 F and overnight into the next day at -17 F. I have read that it is not a good idea to run an RV fridge at extremely cold temperatures. I have some refrigerated items we are bringing, and I am not extremely concerned about those. We are also bringing some frozen items, and this is my concern.

Since it takes awhile for an RV fridge to get to temperature, turning on the fridge when we leave may not do the trick for the frozen food.

What is your suggestion for this? Should we go ahead and turn on the fridge on Christmas Day? Will it kill the fridge?
Astrid Bierworth

Dear Astrid,
Thank you for the compliment! I enjoy doing them!

You have nothing to be concerned about, and it will not harm the fridge. The only thing is, if you have an ice maker, I would lift the arm and leave it off until you’re in warmer temps and de-winterize the water system. When I was full-timing, I had the coach in conditions as low as -24 F and never had a refrigerator problem. —Chris

##RVT815

Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Solar Stewve (@guest_14659)
6 years ago

But Chris, there is one impoprtant trick for starting a refrigeratyor in cold weather. Say yor RV interior starts out at 38 degrees when you start the refrigerator. The refrigerator operates on a temp sensor in the trefrig, not the freezer. If the refrig is 38, it will not cvome on, and anything you put in the freezer will melt. You must warm up the coach before lighting the refrigerator, only then will the freezer get to proper temps.

Glenn Shindler (@guest_14635)
6 years ago

I recently installed a new Norcold NXA 841 R frig. An option (which I did not buy) is a “Low Ambient Temperature Heater which operates on 12 Vdc – boy would that be a heart-breaker when dry camping. The heater is installed next to the outside refrigerant coils. No explanation was given as to the ambient temperature which causes the heater to kick in, nor was this option strongly recommended in the installation manual but was merely mentioned in passing.

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