Help! It’s COLD outside but my RV Refrigerator is WARM!!

RV Refrigerators in Winter

One of my neighbors actually expressed this about his Norcold RV Refrigerator in almost those exact words last week. We had several days of temperatures falling to -10F at night and only rising to near 20F each afternoon – and well… he made every mistake in the book! 

Watch my video below for 3 key tips on how to keep your RV refrigerator working at top capacity even in the COLDEST winter weather!

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So – here’s the skinny on using your RV Refrigerator in Winter – if you plan to camp somewhere where it is cold…

  • Get awinter kit– note that *some* Norcold refrigerators come with this kit already
  • Insert a light bulb into the lower compartment behind the refrigerator. Take care to NOT place the bulb where it can melt or damage anything!
  • When selecting a campsite, orient your rig so that the refrigerator is facing to the south to get maximum daytime sun
RV Refrigerator in Winter
Preparing your RV Refrigerator for Winter – click on image and enlarge to read caption next to lower vent

IF you do all of the above, you minimize the need to “burp” your RV refrigerator. To burp an RV refrigerator, it must be removed and then flipped vertically (and then back) and left in a warm environment for 12-24 hours to let the ammonia mixture in the ducts thin.

Did you find value in this “RV Refrigerator in Winter” article? It is part of a series I have dedicated to RV’ers like myself – those who are crazy enough to keep these things livable in cold winter conditions! Additional “Winter in an RV” posts can be found HERE.

Lastly, this is my “if all else fails” way to keep food cold inside the RV (and it doubles during the summer as a way to keep food cold from market to home…

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15 thoughts on “Help! It’s COLD outside but my RV Refrigerator is WARM!!”

  1. What an excellent idea to use furnace and hot water exhaust heat for fridge.

    I wonder if a few bricks could be placed in the path of the furnace exhaust and then replaced in the fridge heater compartment occasionally.

    We are only just beginning to think of efficiency and sustainability. Of course, we used to design recursive strata of efficiency before electricity, but we got careless.

    How about running the exhausts through a massive stone chimney to hold that heat in the RV? Just kidding.

    Although, there is a device called “Recoheat” which does just that; a coil in the woodstove pipe blows the exhaust-heated air back into the room, recovering a lot of otherwise lost heat.

    For that matter, when running a fridge on electricity, why don’t we direct the convected fridge heat back into the cabin ? Perhaps because it would be difficult to both allow the outside air to cool the coils but not let the cold air come inside between heating periods. Sometimes it pays to keep things simple.

    • At an air temp of -20, assuming its an RV fridge, your ammonia mixture has thickened. It MAY return to normal when the temperature rises OR you may have to “burp” it – this means removing the fridge from its current position and flipping it over for 24 hours (off and disconnected) then return to upright and pray it works! Your ONLY other alternative is to get a hair dryer in the back of your fridge and heat the coils BUT there ARE RISKS – if you over heat – you’ll do damage.

  2. I have a norcold refrigerator that runs on propane. It is not cooling. Should I turn the propane off and use electricity to run my refrigerator? Anything would help. Is my refrigerator froze up ?

    • If you can use electric, sure do so, but that does not fix the propane issue. Do you have propane in your tanks? If so, get a rv tech to inspect it and find out if the propane is making it to the fridge & if the igniter is working. How cold is it at night where you are?

    • If you’re not using it – turn it off. It can’t hurt it – BUT – if you are going to need it before the weather warms up, it may not fire up for you. I have a new post coming soon that will address some new info about refrigerators in winter. Stay tuned! Al

      • I am currently in northern british columbia and when it went to minus 17 Celsius a couple days ago everything thawed in my norcold fridge. It is in a jayco Eagle 40 footer The ac works as the stack gets warm and the pipe 5 inches below is warm but all other pipes are cold. When i go to lp i here a click but no flame. I now have a light bulb in compartment and have plugged up 50 percent of the vents. Hopefully it is not too late as burping sounds like a summer job.
        My norcold is in a slide and on the main body adjacent to slide is the exhaust of the furnace that spills out hot air out of a 2 inch pipe. Can this be used somehow to provide the warmth rquired?

        • I’ve never seen anyone use the furnace exhaust to warm the fridge – its likely not a good move. Hopefully it will warm up and let your fridge start again. Then try running it on propane. I trust your norcold has the winter kit? Also – are you skirted?



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