RV Fridge Temperature and Adjustment Guide

Knowing the what temperature your RV refrigerator should be set to and how to adjust it are important to having a fun camping experience. Part of the charm of camping in an RV is having the comforts of home with you like cold food and drinks in your fridge.

Your RV’s refrigerator should be less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 deg C), ideally around 35 degrees. Setting your fridge’s temperature will vary depending on the brand but adding a thermometer will help you know if your fridge is set correctly.

Learning how to adjust the setting on your RV’s refrigerator, how long it takes to for your RV fridge to get cold and tips to keep your fridge cold are some of the topics I will be covering in this article.

Photo ID 141416640 © Amoklv | Dreamstime.com

Ideal Temperature for an RV Refrigerator

If you want to know the right temperature for your fridge, you have to know what temperatures your different foods need to stay fresh. Meats are best stored between 33 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and dairy is best stored between 34 and 38 degrees. Vegetables are best kept from 34 to 40 degrees.

Above 40 degrees is when food becomes more prone to spoiling, and bacteria growth is most rapid at 50 degrees and up. In order to keep your perishables protected you want to aim for 36 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2 degrees Celsius, for your fridge temperature.

You may get some areas of the fridge that are warmer than others, so you’ll want to put your perishables in the coldest area of your fridge. The door of your fridge is a notorious warm spot. Having said that, if you find your milk is forming ice crystals you can try either moving it to a different location or turning up the fridge temperature slightly i.e. make it a little warmer.

Many fridges don’t have a specific temperature setting so it can be tricky to know what temperature your fridge is actually set to. That’s where a refrigerator thermometer comes in handy. It gives you peace of mind to know your food is safe and provides a warning if the temperature of the fridge is creeping up.

Taylor Precision Products 5924 Large Dial Kitchen Refrigerator and Freezer Kitchen Thermometer, 3...
  • EXTRA LARGE DIAL: The extra-large and colorful 3” analog dial makes it easy to read the measurements.
  • MADE FOR DURABILITY: Constructed with a durable stainless steel casing for added strength and corrosion resistance.
  • VERSATILE DESIGN: Thermometer can be hung from a rack or stand on its own in a fridge or freezer.

For your freezer, you’ll want to get it as close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 deg C) as you can in order to maximize the longevity of your frozen foods. Ice buildup can lower your freezer’s effectiveness, so make sure you defrost as needed to help keep it cold.

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Adjusting Your RV Fridge Temperature

Sometimes it’s not that obvious how to adjust the temperature of your RV’s fridge. Many refrigerators have a dial or slider on the front but some don’t and some have ways you can further adjust them.

Aside from using a fridge thermometer, one way you can gauge whether you need to make an adjustment is if you see water inside the fridge coming from the freezer or if you have ice forming in your fridge. 

Water dripping is an indication that you need to make your temperature slightly colder, while ice formation warrants increasing the temperature a little.

Changing the Setting on a Dometic Fridge

To adjust the settings of a Dometic fridge, inside your fridge there will be a lever on one of the fins, and sliding it up or down along the fin will make your fridge warmer or colder.

There may not be a very wide range – most Dometics only have settings from 1-5, but that’s where using the thermometer will help you find the right one for your fridge.

Changing the Setting on an Avanti Fridge

If you have an Avanti fridge, there will probably be a dial in the top left corner that serves as your temperature control. The higher numbers mean a colder temperature, so just turn your dial to the desired setting.

Changing the Setting on an Norcold Fridge

In a Norcold fridge, you may have to physically move the thermostat in order to adjust the temperature. Unclip the thermostat from the fin it is currently on, and clip it to another fin to the left to make it colder or another fin to the right to make it warmer.

norcold rv fridge temperature adjustment on fins

External Factors that Affect the Temperature of Your RV’s Fridge

Depending on the weather you are camping in, you may have to change your refrigerator settings accordingly. Hot weather outside will drive the temperature up in your fridge and cold temperatures will make your fridge get colder. 

Knowing how your fridge responds to different kinds of weather will help you know when you need to make adjustments. One way to help your fridge stay cool on a hot day is to park your RV so that the fridge side is shaded.

Another factor is if you’re running your fridge on propane or electric. Most RV refrigerators are absorption fridges. They use heated ammonia to take heat from inside to the fridge and expel it outside. You can learn How an RV Fridge works in my detailed article.

Propane is more efficient at heating up the boiler of the absorption fridge apparatus than electricity. So fridges running on propane will more easily reach a colder setting than those on electricity.

This difference between propane and electric may be enough to make you adjust accordingly, just don’t forget to reset the temperature control when you switch from one power source to the other. We typically have to adjust the setting on our fridge when switching between propane and electricity.

Keeping your Food Cold in an RV Fridge

Photo Id 134881954 © Robert Paul Van Beets – Dreamstime.com

How long it takes an RV fridge to cool down and how to help it stay cool are questions we asked when we started our RV journey. As with most things the answer is it depends, and there are many different factors that will affect the cooling time for your fridge.

On average your refrigerator will cool down in 4-6 hours. There are a few tricks you can use to help it get cold a little quicker and some great ones for how to keep it cold once it reaches temperature.

When trying to figure out how long your fridge will take to cool, you have to consider what the starting temperature is. Not surprisingly a fridge that starts cooler will take less time to cool down than a fridge that starts at the outside temperature in the middle of summer.

Hot and cold weather don’t just affect the final temperature of your fridge, they will determine how long your fridge takes to cool as well.

Tips for Keeps Your RV Fridge Cold

Ensure Your Fridge is Level

A large contributor to the efficiency and speed of cooling is how level your parking job is. Absorption fridges use a system of tubes to circulate the refrigerant gas, and an uneven surface can cause the refrigerant to pool on one side and impede flow. This will keep your fridge from operating efficiently and can even damage it, learn more in my article Why Your RV Fridge Needs to be Level.

Increase Circulation

Adding a small, battery-powered refrigerator fan will also cut down on your cooling time by ensuring even distribution of the cold air in your fridge. This can make hours of difference in your initial cool down time, cutting it by up to 30 percent.

A fan will also go a long way toward helping your fridge stay cool. Air circulation is a major factor in cooling efficiency, and having a fan will make your fridge’s temperature more accurately reflect its setting.

Camco 44124 Fridge Airator with On/Off Switch, White
  • high volume air circulator
  • replaceable activated charcoal pack absorbs odors
  • cool your rv fridge evenly

Don’t Overfill Your Fridge

One common mistake that people make is overloading their fridge. It’s tempting I know, you don’t want to leave the campsite to restock if you don’t have to, but a packed fridge will decrease circulation and raise the temperature, putting all that amazing food you just bought at a higher risk for spoiling.

Making sure there is room for proper circulation will help your fridge stay cold. That fridge fan I mentioned above will really help with this.

Don’t Put Hot Food in the Fridge

Another thing to keep in mind is that putting warm or room-temperature things into your fridge will also raise its temperature. If you’re putting large amounts of leftovers inside, make sure they have cooled down so you aren’t heating up the inside of your fridge. You may want to lower your settings temporarily or stagger the timing of when you put a new dish in.

Don’t Leave to Fridge Door Open

When you go to get something out of your fridge, you want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Leaving the door open will cause you to lose more and more of your precious cool air, so having an idea of what you’re getting ahead of time will keep your fridge cooler.

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Let Your Fridge Get Cold Before Your Trip

Turning on your fridge before your trip will save you the 4-6 hours of cool down once you get to your destination and packing it with already cold food from your home’s fridge will help too. Another trick you can use to cool down your fridge as you’re traveling is to put ice packs inside that you can later transfer to your freezer.

Check Your Fridge Door Seals

Something else that may be working against your refrigerator is the very thing designed to keep it from losing cold air – its door seal. Door seals can easily become damaged, and even a layer of grime on the rubber can keep it from forming a proper seal. 

Your cold air could be leaking out of your fridge right underneath your nose from a bad seal, so making sure you consistently check now it will keep you from scratching your head later wondering why your refrigerator won’t stay at the temperature you set.

Closing Thoughts 

Setting the right temperature for RV refrigerator then getting it to stay there can seem like a challenge, but with some knowledge and a few tricks, you can use to keep it nice and frigid. 

Recommended RV Fridge Gear

Camco 44124 Fridge Airator with On/Off Switch, White
  • high volume air circulator
  • replaceable activated charcoal pack absorbs odors
  • cool your rv fridge evenly
Taylor Precision Products 5924 Large Dial Kitchen Refrigerator and Freezer Kitchen Thermometer, 3...
  • EXTRA LARGE DIAL: The extra-large and colorful 3” analog dial makes it easy to read the measurements.
  • MADE FOR DURABILITY: Constructed with a durable stainless steel casing for added strength and corrosion resistance.
  • VERSATILE DESIGN: Thermometer can be hung from a rack or stand on its own in a fridge or freezer.
Camco 28" Double RV Refrigerator Bar, Holds Food and Drinks in Place During Travel, Prevents Messy...
  • Keep order in the RV refrigerator and cupboards during travel
  • Spring loaded bars keep items in place
  • Refrigerator bars extend from 16" to 28"

Diane Dee

Diane is a lover of all things travel. She and her young family wanted to explore North America from the comfort of their own home so they bought an RV. After fully rehabbing a 1994 Safari Trek, they set out to explore both Canada and the USA.

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