How Many Amps Does an RV Refrigerator Draw? + Tips to Reduce

We know that there is a refrigerator in almost every RV out there. But what concerns us the most is usually the power consumption itself. If fridge amp usage is too high it may have a negative effect on the generator and thus on the RV itself. One of the most common cases that we’ve encountered while dealing with the overconsumption is that the refrigerator drained the battery empty, and sometimes replacing the generator was too expensive or just an unnecessary option.

One of the benefits of an RV refrigerator is that it can be turned off while your RV is idle. But if you’ve brought too much food and beverage with yourself then that may not be a solution. Especially if you are camping for a few days or more.

It is very important to take good care of your refrigerator and monitor how many watts it uses. The usage of watts can be quite important when it comes to the longevity of fridges. Among the next paragraphs, we did our best to answer the common questions and shed more light on the matter. If you stick with us, you will be able to find out what are the average amps drawn by a camper refrigerator? We’ll discuss the peak wattage for RV refrigerator, talk about the difference between Dometic vs Norcold RV refrigerator amps usage and touch upon many other relevant subjects.

What Are the Average Amps Drawn by a Camper Refrigerator?


We found the answer to this question to be rather easy. We were able to find the average amps on the sticker that was located on the back of the fridge. But we also thought of you who maybe don’t have a sticker or have a label that is damaged. If that’s the case, you can find the needed information in the user manual. But, what if your fridge is second-hand, or you somehow lost the manual? The search might not be over even then. Most of the information about fridges can be found on the website of their manufacturers. Some of them even provide the option to type in the serial number of your product to speed up the process.

However, when we first planned to buy one, we needed information as to what we can expect when it comes to the drawing of amps and watts. We wanted to know the average numbers. Here’s what we found out.

When talking about refrigerators, you must understand that the amps are used for different things. A certain amount of amps may be used for starting up, while a lower rate is used, for example, when the refrigerator is defrosting. Let’s look closely into individual numbers before we try to draw an average.

We mentioned that defrosting usually draws fewer amps. Depending on the fridge, on average you will have a draw of 1 to 2 amps.

And what about the starting up amps? Well, the numbers are exponentially larger. We looked at the classic refrigerators that are used in RVs, and we come to the conclusion that the average would be around 7 amps.

While looking at all of that information you can see that numbers can vary a lot, depending on the operation of the fridge. Having taken it all into consideration, our final conclusion is that the running refrigerator draws around 3 amps on average.

Peak Wattage of RV Refrigerator

It was very important for us to understand how many watts our refrigerator uses. Why? Simply because too much power consumption could kill our batteries very fast. To understand the peak wattage of the RV refrigerator, one must first look at the average consumption and see how his refrigerator handles in those terms.

Now, as it was with amps, the starting up of a fridge will use more watts than some idle or less demanding operation. The average usage of watts during a startup is around 500 watts. That is a lot as we shall see later, but it won’t cause any harm, simply because it doesn’t last long. For example, a coffee maker will drain 600 watts, but that is a short-term operation and your batteries can’t be drained within minutes.

On average your refrigerator will consume around 200 watts. We know, that number is huge. But that kind of consumption is usually needed if you want to achieve a proper, cold-enough temperature in your fridge. When we park our RV at a campsite that had electrical connection, there were no problems with the fridge and our batteries. We usually experienced problemss while on the road, or when camping in the wilderness, which means no electricity.

Usually, if we were careful enough, our power supplies were sufficient for a consumption between 200 and 300 watts. Now, some of you may have older fridges or fridges that aren’t optimized in that manner. That means that basically there are refrigerators out there that consume much more power, and that fact can be devastating. Be very careful when choosing a fridge for your RV, and make sure to calculate and check its watts usage according to the power of your batteries. Though you should be aware that batteries as a power supply for fridges aren’t a very advisable option.

On the other hand, generators are a safer and more popular variant. But we also made sure, to sum up, all of the watts usages from all the appliances that we have in our RV before we bought one. On average you shouldn’t buy a generator that is weaker than 2000 watts. Buying a more potent generator will ensure that you won’t have to scratch your head over power saving. As we mentioned before, remember that the fridge uses around 200 watts on average, a coffee maker uses around 600 watts, a microwave draws up to 1000 watts. And you should definitely be careful when using hair dryers. Those small beasts will literally deplete your RV of power in seconds if you are not too careful. They can consume up to 2000 watts!

Finally, make sure to plan everything ahead and calculate your consumption. It can depend both on the age of the appliances, their operations and much more. Also, go for the generator instead of batteries if possible.

Dometic VS Norcold Refrigerator Amp Usage

Dometic and Norcold are the Ford and Chevrolet of refrigerators. They are even more than that, to be precise. Basically, these two are the only and main manufacturers of RV fridges. While they are viciously competing on the market, over the years we saw that they are pretty much two sides of the same coin.

What do we mean by that? Well simply both Norcold and Dometic had their good days, and both of them had similar problems when it comes to the durability of their products. As numerous user experiences state, the malfunctions that usually occur are the same. So when deciding whether to buy Dometic or Norcold you should basically decide in terms of price, size, capacity, and aesthetics. That fact will ease your mind if you are buying a new RV and you are not sure whether the fridge that is already there will do. In most cases, it won’t matter. The only thing that should matter is whether is it running on propane, batteries or a generator.

Now, when it comes to the amp usage of Dometic and Norcold models, we saw that there isn’t much of a difference even there. For instance, if we compare refrigerators that run on propane we’ll see that both Dometic and Norcold will use around 3 amps. While the usage of standard fridges goes around 5 amps, depending on the size and the model.

How Do I Calculate Refrigerator Power Consumption?


Calculating refrigerator power consumption can be tricky, simply because refrigerators don’t use 100% of the power constantly. You also need to have in mind that they will use more power in hot environments and less, for example, during the winter.

Basically, you should take the general specifications from your manufacturer and look for the consumption of the compressor. It usually has the highest specifications. Now, let’s assume that the compressor uses 4 amps of power at 12V. Multiply 4 amps with 12 volts and you will get 48 watts. Now if you are in a warm environment you can say that the refrigerator will effectively work for around 8 hours. Multiply 48 watts with 8 hours and you will get roughly 384 of watt-hours per day.

Can an RV Refrigerator Run on Battery?

Yes, it can. But if you are planning to run it solely on a 12V battery, it is advisable to bring more batteries with you. Generally speaking, running your fridge on 12V is good while traveling. When idle, you might want to consider some other options like propane.

How Long Will an RV Fridge Run on Battery?

The 12V battery will drain a lot within 5 hours, and you can expect it to be depleted after 8 to 10 hours of average usage.

Will RV Fridge Run off Battery?

Yes, but you might consider using an inverter.

Running RV Fridge on a Solar Panel


Running an RV fridge on solar energy can both save your money and give you an opportunity to use your fridge 24/7 without any worries. You will need to make a small investment, however. It is advisable to contact the professionals for help, but you can also do it by yourself if you are very careful, and if you closely follow the instructions that can be found online.

Here are some of the things that you’ll need if you decide to DIY so that you can calculate your expenses.

  • Set of 2 gauge wires
  • VHB tape for panels
  • Copper lug sleeves and electrical tape
  • Wire cutters
  • Copper lugs
  • Fuses and fuse holders
  • Two deep cell 12V 100ah rechargeable batteries

Low Wattage RV Refrigerator

We didn’t have time to set up the solar panels before our next trip, so we consider to use a low wattage fridge. We found one that suited our needs the most. Now, when compensating on wattage, you also have to compensate for space. So if you aren’t planning on taking a lot of groceries with you, you might find some solutions that draw as little as 30 watts.

Running Refrigerator on Propane

Running RV fridges on propane has been in use for many years now. It's a great solution that can give you constant working hours with minimum expenses. One thing that we must note is that our fridge is off while traveling. Safety comes first. And if you really need your fridge to run while you’re on the road, then we advise you to use batteries until you park somewhere.

Do Old Fridges Use More Electricity?

The answer is usually yes. But it depends on how old they are. Newer ones are more optimized and you can usually use them both with propane and batteries.

How Can You Lower the Refrigerator Power Consumption?

You can lower your power consumption by trying the following strategies:

  • Switch to solar power.
  • Shut off your fridge while traveling. Some fridges will keep your groceries cold for many hours, depending on the environment.
  • Use propane instead of batteries.
  • Set the fridge to operate at a lower level.

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