CLUNK. Hummmmmmmm. Don’t we all love the noise of a fridge compressor kicking in? Not me. I’ll take the silence of a propane-powered outdoor absorption fridge any day!
Propane refrigerators are amazing appliances for so many reasons. They’re:
- Silent – they won’t keep you up at night.
- Off-grid – you’re comfortable if the power ever goes out.
- Perfect for travel – since the power source is portable.
- Reliable – you control the power, not the energy supplier!
- Environmentally friendly – creating less pollution than the coal plants which supply normal electricity.
- USA-made – The vast majority of propane used in the USA comes from American soil. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
With so many advantages and such versatile uses, propane fridges are an amazing asset to have. Though they cost more than their electric siblings, you just can’t beat the silence and self-reliability of an ice-cool propane fridge.
Shortlist: Best Propane Fridges
|SMETA Propane Refrigerator
|Best With Freezer
|3.5 cu. ft
|VBENLEM Absorption Fridge
|1.8 cu. ft
|SMAD Gas Refrigerator
|Best Family Size
|9.3 cu. ft
|SMETA Absorption Chest Freezer
|Best Chest Freezer
|2.4 cu. ft
The Best Propane Refrigerators - Full Reviews
This SMETA model is my recommendation for the best propane fridge which has a freezer.
In fact, it’s not just this model. SMETA have a whole range of propane fridges available. 5 of them! The 3.5, 6.1, and 9.4 cubic feet models all have working freezer space of 0.4, 1.6, and 2.1 cubic feet, respectively.
What’s the best propane fridge with a freezer? I’d recommend the 3.5 cubic ft model (pictured). It’s got plenty of space to store around 2-5 days worth of food, and space for a few freezer items. It’s ideal as an off-grid/RV/cabin fridge.
It can also double as a back-up fridge option. It takes all power types (AC,DC,Propane) so if the grid fails you, the propane option has you covered.
The large slide-out storage shelves make it easy for you to keep fresh fruit and veg, and the freezer means ice / ice-cream available on standby. Both being equally important!
|Completely silent operation
|Price-jump because of freezer
|Powered by AC, DC, & Propane
|Freezer & Slide-Out Drawers
If you’re after a small propane fridge which has a freezer, there’s not a better option than this one.
It’s a great all-rounder. Plenty of space without being large, and a freezer to cover all the essentials.
Powered AC, DC, and Propane gives you plenty of versatility for your money, the overall look is clean and polished, and it operates completely silently. Cool.
Propane fridges can be expensive. They’re more unique, use a completely different system than normal mass-produced fridges, and are just more valuable to have than a normal fridge.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find a great deal, though.
The best propane refrigerator for the money is this VBENLEM Absorption Fridge. With 1.8 cu. ft of space it’s quite small, but it’s high quality and modern design makes it a stand-out appliance.
The price is kept low through the small size and not having a freezer. For such a lower price tag though, you get all the advantages a propane fridge provides.
Silent operation, multiple power options, eco-friendly, and versatile uses. It even has a lockable door!
Coming with two free keys, this could double as a miniature safe if you use it in an RV or camper.
|Lowest price for quality fridge
|Lockable and reversible doors
If you’re looking for value for money, this propane fridge is it.
All the best parts of a propane refrigerator, without a massive price tag.
The small size and reversible doors mean it’s a cinch to place this fridge just about anywhere. And the locks on the doors? Fantastic in so many ways. Both to protect/child-proof your food, or double as a safe.
As long as you’re not needing a freezer or a lot of space, this is a fantastic option which is fresh on the market as of 2019 and will be sticking around for years to come.
Not everyone wants a propane fridge for a camper van.
Sometimes, you just want a full-sized, full-powered, completely silent fridge/freezer that can run on or off the grid.
Well, this is that fridge.
Available in 6.1 cu.ft and 9.3 cu.ft sizes, it’s the size of a linebacker with the versatility of a quarterback.
With 4 door racks, slide-out trays, and huge shelves – you’ll never be struggling for space. Even the freezer is split into two tall shelves, with a door rack!
A quality propane fridge of this size is extremely rare.
It can use AC electric or propane, so is perfect for a family home in an area that gets power outages. The silent operation in a fridge this size also can’t be understated. It’s magic.
|HUGE size for a propane fridge
|Price tag matches the size!
|Electric or Propane operation
If you love the advantages of propane but have a whole family to take care of, look no further.
Impress everyone with this silently operating, full-sized propane fridge. It is incredible to have such a huge appliance which makes zero noise!
The reversible door makes it easier to place in your home, and the dual-power options only adds to the versatility.
You’ll struggle to find any other quality propane fridge this large.
The last example model I have to recommend isn’t a fridge – it’s a chest freezer.
Personally, I love these ‘cold boxes’ for their versatility. There’s nothing like a chest full of fresh, frozen goodies when you’re on a camping or RV trip.
While this model only does freezing temperatures (9F/-13C to 32F/0C), it’s definitely worth considering for any off-grid activities.
It’s 2.4 Cu Ft of space gives you plenty of space for all your goods, with smaller top racks for quick access small items.
The build quality is absolutely solid. In fact, it could double as a seat half the time! And the silent operation means you’ll never notice it’s there.
It may not be a propane fridge, but it’s a fantastic alternative option I just had to include.
|Great value price for propane
|Only operates at freezing temps (9-32F)
|Electric or propane powered
|Doubles as a seat!
This chest freezer could be a great addition to any home, travel, or off-grid setup.
It looks fantastic and operates totally silently. Don’t worry about it having anything more than a subtle presence.
Plus, you can’t beat everyone’s reaction when you pop this open for the first time to reveal it’s full of goodies for your trip together!
While it’s not cheap, it’s one of those appliances you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
How do Propane Refrigerators Work?
It’s magic, isn’t it? These fully working fridges that make zero noise. It’s almost strange having one near you. It’s completely cool inside – but without the constant humm of an electric fridge.
So how does a propane fridge work?
Liquid ammonia is combined with hydrogen gas, which causes cooling via rapid evaporation while inside the fridge. The system then uses a series of reactions to separate out the chemicals and get them ready to be combined again for more cooling.
I’ll attempt a step-by-step explanation – see the image below:
- The generator is what’s heated by the propane tank.
- This puts water and ammonia into the separator, separating them.
- The ammonia gas cools in the cooling fins, becomes liquid, and combines with hydrogen.
- These react and cause a lot of cooling in the evaporator (inside the fridge).
- Then they are separated in the absorber, as ammonia combines with water and goes back to the generator.
- The process starts again.
For a more detailed explanation, check out the quick 2-minute video below. It goes through the whole process using illustrations. Skip to 37 seconds to get right to the explanation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Propane Refrigerators Need to be Vented?
Yes, you need good ventilation when using a propane refrigerator. Propane is dangerous, invisible, and odorless. Try to make sure that the burner is either outside, or placed within a vented box that’s connected to the outdoors.
How Efficient is a Propane Refrigerator?
Propane refrigerators use very little propane to operate: a 3.5 cu.ft fridge only uses 0.6lbs of propane to run for 24 hours! See the examples below, taken from SMETA’s latest absorption fridge range.
Want to know more? Check out our full guide to propane fridge efficiency.
Increase Propane Fridge Efficiency
To increase the efficiency of your propane fridge, follow these steps:
- Ensure the fridge is leveled. The cooling system works using gravity, so it should be totally perpendicular to the ground when possible.
- Put cold items in the fridge when cooling. These fridges need to be left on for 24 hours before they’re ready. In this process, putting in some ice-cold goods can help bring the temperature down quicker.
- Use battery fans like these ones on Amazon to help move the cold air around.
- Have some vent space around the fridge. The cooling process produces heat out the back of the fridge. Letting this flow away and not get trapped helps keep the system cooler. (This is seperate to venting the propane tank, which is more important!)
Are Propane Refrigerators Safe?
While propane itself is dangerous, propane refrigerators are safe. An absorption fridge will never cause an action-movie style explosion. However, you need to care with propane gas. Proper ventilation is essential since the gas is harmful yet completely invisible (though manufacturers add a horrible smell so you’ll notice if anything’s leaking).
Check out post on propane refrigerator safety.
Propane Fridges: A Quick Buyer's Guide
When it comes to propane and other outdoor refrigerators, many of the models out there are very similar.
There’s not much you can change about the cooling system, or make it too much more efficient.
Instead, when deciding between models, focus more on the general appliance quality than anything.
Below are some aspects which are worth looking at in a propane fridge before you hit the ‘Buy’ button. Consider what’s most important to you. By knowing that, it’s easier to know which model will be perfect for what you need.
1. Storage Space. This is obviously factor #1. Portable fridges range from small countertop models all the way to full family size fridges. Those greater than around 3 cubic feet also tend to have freezers. Picture the largest shop you’d fill the fridge with (i.e. for a few days trip, or a weekly grocery shop) and shop accordingly.
2. Build Quality. While this is tricky to tell while shopping online, there are some tell-tale factors. Try to gauge whether there is solid plastic and rubber construction on the doors and gaskets. A tell-tale sign is sometimes in the drawers and shelves. If they’re giving you plenty of each, they’ve likely spent the money to make a quality product. If the fridge is barebones, expect the quality to be as well.
3. Features. There’s a lot of features to expect on a good modern portable fridge. Here’s a run-down of a few – take a look and see if any would be great for you to have:
- Multiple power options – running on electric as well as propane
- Reversible doors – making it much easier to place a fridge when space is tight
- Lockable doors – some smaller models like the VEVOR recommended above have lockable doors
4. Warranty. Similar to build quality, try to gauge the warranty on the product. Especially with the price tag of larger fridges, you want to make sure your purchase is covered for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the industry standard is only a 1-year warranty. For peace of mind, it’s worth considering the Protection Plans offered on Amazon. These can be found just below the ‘Buy’ button. For a relatively small price, they offer you full coverage on your appliance. For up to 5 years!
A quality propane refrigerator is an amazing thing. It’s completely silent, uses very little propane to run, and will last for years and years.
I hope this guide has helped you find, or at least get a better idea about, the perfect propane fridge for you.
If the above refrigerators haven’t been quite to your liking, check out the bestselling propane refrigerators on Amazon for more inspiration.
Be sure to also take a quick look at our related posts below!
Have a great day.