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The Truth About RV Refrigerator Fans

The Truth About RV Refrigerator Fans

Is your RV refrigerator not cooling properly? Is it freezing your food? Do you have ice buildup that’s making a mess of things? These are possible signs your refrigerator is cooling inconsistently. If that’s the case, you might need to install an RV refrigerator fan to help it run more smoothly. 

What Is an RV Refrigerator Fan?

An RV refrigerator fan is a device you can attach to your fridge’s fins or exterior vents to keep cold air circulating evenly or help the cooling unit out. When cold air circulates evenly, your fridge’s interior will stay at a consistent temperature throughout the appliance. Not only does the fan keep your food at safe temperatures, but it also helps your fridge run efficiently.

RV Fridge Cooling Fan

Why Do RV Fridges Need Fans? 

For this article, we will primarily be focusing on propane / electric absorption style RV fridges, which are the most common type. All refrigerators are essentially heat pumps that move heat from inside the fridge to the outside, making the interior of the fridge cold. RV absorption fridges are special because they use heat to drive a chemical cycle that creates cold.   It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it works well – as long as there is proper ventilation to get rid of the excess heat. This is where the RV refrigerator fan comes into play.

If a fridge is unable to get rid of its excess heat, it will run very inefficiently and likely not cool properly. A fridge that is not cold enough can be frustrating to deal with and is not safe for storing food. Adding an RV refrigerator fan can help improve this heat pump cycle.    

What Does an RV Refrigerator Fan Do?

There are two main places where you can install an RV fridge fan and each has its own benefits. 

Type 1: RV Fridge Fin Fan

Propane absorption style fridges typically use a set of fins that protrude inside the fridge. These fins absorb the heat from the air and get very cold. This first type of fan is installed inside the fridge box on the fins.

Fridge Fin Fan with Lights
These are installed on our Fridge fins

Most of the time, fins rely on natural convection air currents to cool the air, but this can cause a lot of problems. Without forced airflow from a fan, some areas of the fridge can get too cold, causing foods to freeze. Other areas may not cool enough (like on the door) and food can spoil. Also, without adequate airflow, ice can build up on the fins and make them much less efficient. Adding a fan kit to your fins keeps them defrosted.

Fans also distribute cold air better and make the fridge run more efficiently overall. Some RV refrigerator fans clip directly onto the fins in the fridge and some just circulate air. Both work, but the type that clips to the fins tends to offer better performance.  

Type 2: RV Refrigerator Vent Fan (for Back of Fridge Space)

In addition to circulating cold air, it’s important to make sure the excess heat that the fridge is rejecting is being removed. You can always tell if an RV has an absorption fridge because it will have vents on the exterior wall or roof where the fridge is located to remove excess heat. Usually, they are designed to let cool air in at the bottom and vent hot air out at the top (higher on the wall or even out the roof). 

Here is a diagram showing where RV fridge vent fans need to be installed and how the air flows.

Like with the fins, sometimes this natural convection does not work well and the fridge can get too hot. Especially on warm days or when the refrigerator-side of the RV is in the sun, heat can build up and the fridge will not cool properly. This is when a vent fan would be helpful. 

Fans on RV fridge cooling Unit
This set of fans we installed on the back of our cooling unit to draw air from the bottom vent to the top We put insulation around the fans to block air from moving around the fans and improving the airflow. We wired them to work on a switch or a thermometer that turned them on when the temp got above 100 degrees.

The 6 Best RV Refrigerator Fans

Here are some of the best fridge fan options for improving your fridge’s airflow:    

Type 1: Fin and Interior Fridge Fans 

We used this fan kit for years and it worked great to keep our fins defrosted and our fridge running cool. However, you will need some electrical know-how to wire it into a 12-volt power source. 

13" Triple Fan Deluxe Frost Guard RV Refrigerator...
  • RV'ers number 1 choice
  • one year warranty
  • LED White Lights

The people at DutchAire really know their RV fridges. Not surprisingly, their fan works great to help circulate air. They also make superior cooling units in both propane and compressor styles. 

RV Refrigerator Fin Fan
  • Stainless Steel Fastner clips
  • Backed by a 1-year warranty
  • Helps keep your fridge colder during hot weather

The following three fans are battery operated so no wiring or electrical know-how is required.  Simply install these fans on the shelf near the fins, and they will help to circulate air. Because they are battery-operated, these fans are not a great solution for long-term RV use. Still, they work well for short family vacations.

Sale
Camco Fridge Airator with On/Off Switch | Helps...
  • High Volume Air Circulator: Helps to cool your RV fridge...
  • Absorbs Odors: Uses a replaceable activated charcoal pack to...
  • Compatibility: Ideal for most small-sized refrigerators
Go Power! Valterra A10-2604 FridgeCool 3 Volt 9.1...
  • PART# 52370
  • REQUIRES (2) "D" SIZE ALKALINE BATTERIES (NOT INCLUDED)
  • ONE YEAR-LIMITED WARRANTY

Type 2: Exterior Ventilation Fans

Exterior fans installed on your fridge’s vents are a great option for cooling your fridge but are also more of a custom solution. Some, like the Titan model below, even come with an external controller. Again, electrical know-how is required to install one of these kits.

FRE35145 Double Fridge Fan
  • DESIGN FOR VENT & GRILLE MOUNTING VENTILATION- Great for...
  • FLEXIBLE AND SMART SPEED CONTROL MODE- Auto Temperature Control/...
  • ALL WEATHER ACCEPTABLE- IP 55 Waterproof &dustproof fan, perfect...

This Dometic Fan is also a good exterior option.

There are plenty of fan options that can be cobbled together to move air out the back of the fridge. Yet, these ducted models are usually the best choice. Since many fridges have an AC plug in the back, this model can plug right in and start running immediately. 

Sale
AC Infinity AXIAL 1238, Muffin Fan, 120V AC 120mm...
  • Designed for projects that requires cooling or ventilation; or as...
  • Includes a heavy-duty aluminum fan with power plug cord, two fan...
  • UL-certified fan with dual-ball bearings has a lifespan of 67,000...

One alternative to wiring a fan to your fridge is to use a solar-powered fan to move the air. Usually, the sun is shining when your fridge is struggling the most. This is good news because a small solar panel can provide the power for the fan, keeping your fridge the perfect cool temperature even on the hottest days. Solar-powered fans work well with roof vent style fridges where the fan is mounted at the top with the solar panel. 

Tips to Keep Your RV Refrigerator Working in Hot Weather

Hot weather is the most common challenge for RV refrigerators, so here are our top tips for keeping them cool:

First, you want to install an RV refrigerator fan to keep the cold air circulating. Second, park your RV so the fridge side is in the shade away from the sun. Third, run your RV fridge on propane. From our experience, most fridges will get colder and work more efficiently running on propane rather than electricity. And lastly, get a thermometer to track the temperatures inside your fridge and freezer. We recommend the AcuRite Refrigerator Thermometer below. 

AcuRite Digital Wireless Fridge and Freezer...
  • Digital Thermometers: Includes one refrigerator thermometer and...
  • Easy-to-Read LCD Display: Comes with magnetic backing for fridge...
  • Customizable Temperature Alarms: Be alerted to temperature spikes...

Keeping an RV fridge cool when it’s hot outside can be quite a challenge and can even ruin your road trip if all of your food goes bad. But with a simple fan installation, you’ll never have to experience this frustration again. In truth, RV refrigerator fans are the one life-changing kitchen gadget you never knew you needed!

Cleaning RV fridge
Keep the fridge vents on the outside of the RV in the shade if possible

Have you installed an RV refrigerator fan? Let us know how it’s working for you in the comments below. 

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Richard Fulton

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Thanks for the information. In summer 2020 I purchased and self-installed the Fridge Defend product (https://www.arprv.com/index.php) for about $220. I can recommend it as another potential solution to the issues you raised. It's an inexpensive well-designed product to monitor the operation of RV absorption refrigerators for safety purposes to prevent fire due to unforeseen fridge problems and to improve cooling efficiency. It is installed in the outside-accessible compartment of your fridge and has sensors for fridge boiler temperature and back-side compartment temperature. It uses these real-time temperature measurements to turn off the fridge unit (in the event the boiler is too hot due to tilted fridge or other problems) and automatically turns on the rear compartment fan(s) and the fans installed inside the fridge itself if this outer compartment is too warm (too draw cooler air in for improved cooling efficiency) and to help distribute the cool air inside the lower fridge with your food. It is connected into the trailer's 12V power source. It took me a couple weekends to review the installation instructions and do the installation and testing, and I'm just a DIY'er without any special talent. The owner Paul was very helpful via email when I had questions. It's nice to be able to monitor in real-time the boiler temperature, the rear compartment temp, and the battery voltage (as displayed on the control device) and for the system to run and monitor the system automatically as long as 12V power is applied to the trailer and fridge.

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Great recommendation, We have heard of that product before and will take a further look and put it in our queue to write about it! Thanks,

Iris Thomas

Sunday 20th of December 2020

While the Valterra product was designed for RV applications, we found it useful in a wine keeper where the temperatures were quite variable from top to bottom of the cabinet. This is durable plastic and should last a long time if properly cared for. Just as described and arrived as promised by the seller.

Mortons on the Move

Monday 21st of December 2020

Good to know it worked for your wine fridge! Thanks for sharing your experience with the Valterra.

Art Sloate

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

How has your conversion to the DC Compressor been working?

Mortons on the Move

Monday 21st of December 2020

Well thats a long story, but we no longer have that fridge. It worked great initially but a year later started warming up. Turns out we had the first generation design and there was a flaw in the coolant routing that overloaded the compressor. They have since fixed the design and replaced all defective units. I know others that have installed it with great long term results. We were in a bind at the time needing a fridge so we installed a small residential fridge from home depot temporarily and discarded our old RV fridge :( Since then we have replaced that fridge with a new DC model that Dometic just started offering, we have been running tests on it for them and so far it has been performing amazing.

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