Mod #41: Refrigerator Cooling Fan

Mod #41: Refrigerator Cooling Fan

Submitted on: 07/18/08

     Category: cooling, electrical
Mod Rating: 12345

(121 ratings)

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Mod Description:

When the temperature gets hot out, your RV refrigerator can struggle to keep it’s temperature cool enough to avoid food spoilage and to keep your beer at the perfect drinking chilliness. There are several factors that contribute to refrigerator efficiency, such as the sun beating down on the refrigerator side of your RV, or a dirty gas burner creating a poor heating flame. Even the levelness of your RV can cause inefficiency over time. One of the simplest and most effective mods that can be made is to improve the ventilation at the back of the refrigerator by using a fan to direct air up and out of the refrigerator vent column.

Mod Difficulty:

An RV refrigerator is not like a residential unit. It uses a heat absorption system rather than an electric compressor, condenser, and evaporator, as a residential refrigerator does. Heat absorption requires removing the heat from the absorption unit via chemicals and air circulation. This is accomplished by convection or draft. A narrow space behind the refrigerator allows cooler air to be drawn in to the space at the bottom of the unit. The air rises and passes over the heat absorption unit fins, and out of the vent on the roof above the unit.

Some refrigerator installations actually prevent this convection action to work. In a typical RV installation, a dead air space can exist directly above the refrigerator. This space can trap warm air and drastically reduce the draft effect. This reduction in draft is why you should do the refrigerator cooling fan mod. While not a cure all for a poor refrigerator installation, a fan can dramatically improve refrigerator cooling performance.

There are several fan types that can be used for this mod. It is recommended that you use one of the permanent-mount types as the battery-powered kind can require frequent replacement of the batteries, especially if you forget to turn the fan off when not using it. Some use computer fans that are 3 to 4″ in diameter. These require little power and move a surprising amount of air.

A thermostatically-controlled fan however, is the best way to install a refrigerator ventilation fan. These are permanently mounted and have a thermostat that provides power to the fan when the ambient air temperature reaches some set point. Different temperature set points are available with the most common switching at 80°F. A switch can also be wired in to the fan’s power supply so that you have control over when the fan is on.

There is some debate as to where the most effective place to install the vent fan. Camco, for example, has a solar powered fan and refrigerator roof vent combination. This puts the fan at the top of the vent stack, pulling air through the lower vent and up through the roof vent. Still others mount the fan at the bottom of the vent stack, right at the lower vent. This position pushes air up through the stack. Both have been found to work equally as well so the choice is your on which way to go. Either way, using a vent fan will ensure a cold beer on a hot day.

TipTry to park your RV where the refrigerator side of the RV will be in the shade as much as possible. This will help reduce temperatures inside the refrigerator vent column dramatically. If shade is unavailable and your refrigerator is on the curb side, use the awning to provide shade.

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
Valterra Products Universal Mount Fridge Vent Exhaust Fan
Valterra Products 3-Volt Fridgemate Inside Air Circulating Fan

General Reference

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37 Comments For This Mod

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  1. Bob Vaughn

    If the thermostatically controlled fan switch was used It sure needs to be a lighted one so that it would be a reminder to shut it off when putting the camper away…especially if it was a 12volt model….

  2. Bob Vaughn

    By the way the link above for the solar powered vent fan that links to the walmart web site says “not sold on line and not sold in stores”……whats up with that……

  3. ModMyRV

    That’s odd. When I posted the link, you could get it online. I guess you could just go to the CAMCO site instead:

  4. jmt

    I’m curious to see how many people have done this mod? Worth the time and expense?

  5. Jerry

    I am considering this mod myself. Amazon has the solar vent, here is the link if anyone is interested.
    Camco 42165 RV Refrigerator Solar Vent System

  6. Dan

    I did this mod last Spring, and it made a BIG difference in the effectiveness of the refrigerator.

    Regarding the reminder to turn it off, I spliced mine into the 12v power of the refrigerator itself. So, in addition to the thermostat control, it is only on when the regrigerator itself is on.

    I was originally concerned with the power draw, as I occasionally boondock, and was going to wire in a separate switch so I could run the refrigerator without this fan. In use, I’ve found the power draw to be low enough that it really isn’t ever issue.

  7. Glenn

    I’d like to do this mod.I’ve installed 200watts of solar with a 20amp mppt controller.Connections are +&- for solar, batt.& load.The refer fan I bought comes w/tstat.If fan is connected to load terms.of controller,w/in-line fuse,will the solar pnl’s also feed 12v power to fan bypassing the battery charging is needed in the heat of the day only.Will
    this work?No sun,no heat,fan not needed.

  8. chrisser

    Fan looks suspiciously like a bilge fan as used on boats to vent engine compartments.

    They’re about $20 on ebay, depending on the diameter, and run on 12v.

    If you could get a stat inexpensively, you could wire this up for less w/o gonig with a kit. Might be cool to get two bilge fans and two thermostats so you could set up a staged system.

  9. Johnny

    All I used was spare CPU power supply fans. I have 2 in there and it lowered my internal temp by 15-20F.

  10. Jim

    Are any of the fans used in this mod of the ball bearing type?

  11. Roger

    After confirming that the couple of small solar panels I had laying around (low cost “batter chargers”) didn’t generate the amps needed for the old computer fans I had laying around. I picked up the solar powered unit at Camping World for about $50 as I recall.
    Solar fan concept is nice. If the sun isn’t out you probably don’t need the extra cooling anyway. If boondocking solar is free and doesn’t drain the batteries either.
    The only problem is that the cord on the fan is the long one so you have to figure out how to “push” it up to get to the roof. No idea why they didn’t put the long cord on the solar panel end so you only need to drop the line down the refrigerator vent.

  12. rklingborg

    I used a solar fan that was out a few tears ago. the solar part went out, so I installed a switch with a LED and while I was up there put a computer fan in the top. Dont have to turn up the temp as high on hot days. The computer fan I got had built in LEDs so if I leave it on at night it has its own light show

  13. Captain Slappy

    Nice mod, but this is another area I sidestepped….actually, the original owner did, by buying a GE residential unit. Has a small freezer unit for ice trays, and barely uses any power. Luckily, he found this straight electric unit that fit EXACTLY into the original spot.

    It has never failed me, and gets so cold (even in summer), it WILL freeze tea or anything else solid. Even better, as winter approaches, I have dropped the temp in it, and won’t have to use much electricity in my full-time resident ‘78 Starcraft.

  14. Rolling Condo

    I added the ducted cooling fan to my refer.

  15. builder

    I wired in a computer power supply fan - low draw and quiet. As other mod-ers have done, I wired it into the fridge circuit so the fan comes on when the fridge is cooling. It does improve cooling efficiency.

  16. KE7FSV

    I am installing (3) computer fans running off the large solar panel I am installing.

  17. David Todd

    Can an analog 12 V heat/cool thermostat be used to control the fan?

  18. ModMyRV

    I don’t see why not. You would have to place the thermostat (or temperature sensing bulb) inside the air vent column so it can sense the temperature properly. Also make sure that the relay in the thermostat can handle the current draw of the fan motor. If you are using a computer or muffin fan, it should work fine as the current draw of those fans is very small.

  19. SG

    Some computer fans have thermal sensors to prevent overheating. The name of mine are Coolermaster.

  20. Brian Evans

    I am installing 2 110V (my fridge is a 2 way)fans with a button snap thermal switch mounted on the vent stack. The thermal switch will be 12VDC and control a relay to operate the 110VAC fans. I am installing them up top near the top vent. All in all, I have about $60 invested in it ($40 for 2 quiet fans and $20 for the switch and relay).

  21. Brian Evans

    Oh and PS, I put inline glass fuses to protect the fans.

  22. Lencactustwo

    I have “from factory” 1 cooling fan installed, looks sooo much like a RS computer fan, with a thermo switch clipped onto the top cooling coil fins. Found out I had it when it turned on one hot day. Sounded like a plane flying overhead, so I removed the top vent cover to find it barely hanging on to some angle bracket. Since then I beefed up the bracket to stabilize the fan, quieter now, and have bought another fan to double up my cooling capacity. $20 at RS with 6″ of wire attached, sleeve type bearing, I’ll splice into existing fan harness and add a curved cowling at the top to direct heat out of the top wall vent. Saw this mod done with a piece of 4″ split metal bathroom vent pipe.

  23. peach680

    can anyone give me a details on doing this in depth?

  24. Gary Weber

    Thinking about this mod any sugestions on what thermostat to use? bought 4 small fans off e-bay “″ 3 5/8″ fans $5 ea 37cf 4 will give me 148cf and they only draw .o8 amps each so .32Amps for 4 very quiet fans. just need to get thermostat.

  25. Jeff

    Installed a computer fan above the coils about a foot below the vent cap and powered it with a 12V solar panel mounted to the vent cover.
    On when needed-off when not. Very quiet and does improve cooling.
    I had ice in my beer! Had to turn the fridge down a bit. Worthwhile mod.

  26. billj0124

    I decided to use a 12 volt computer fan I picked up at a garage sale. It was approx 3″ square and I mounted it down below and under the coils blowing upward. I wired in a toggle switch that mounted to my control panel inside the 5th wheel and I just turn it on when I am hooked to 110 volt. I can run it while traveling too. Got about $5.00 invested and pleased so far. Got a good memory when it comes to turning things on and off! LOL

  27. Ben

    Snyders rv kit looks great! Tied to factory wiring harness. For cost of fans and shipping its the same as DIY? Anyone else have one?

  28. iamk2001

    I did this mod and used 4″ CPU fans one inside blowing across the fridge fins and three on the back blowing from the bottom up.
    My freezer makes ice in 2-3 hours and the fridge gets to 35F in four to five hours, it used to take 6 to 8 hours to get to the same temperature in the fridge before the MOD. I wired it the fans to the 12V supply from the converter thru a new fuse and switch it is also wired to the “all off switch on the house side.
    Best of all they only draw .18amps per fan.

  29. josh

    A friend recommended the SilenX thermistor fan to cool my fridge, and it’s been working great for me. It’s a 12v computer fan and it’s temperature controlled. You can get them from either Tigerdirect or Newegg:

  30. Mike B

    Does anyone have a picture of the computer fan solution wired up? Would love to do this, but really need to see a picture of the install.

  31. krbjmpr

    Depends on which fans you are using Mike.

    If your fans are 120vac, then you can splice them into the wires going to the heater element. If you have multiple elements, be sure to only splice into the wiring for a single element.

    If your fans are 12vdc, you have several options. 1 is to wire them direct (but through a fuse and switch) to the fridge’s 12vdc terminal block (if used) or wiring. 2nd option, and would require the manual for your fridge, is to tap into the wiring for the door heater on your fridge. 3rd option, also needing a manual, is to use a relay with coil connected to low ambient temperature switch on your fridge, and use the Normally Closed contacts on the relay.

    The really easiest way is to connect a 120volt fan across one of the heaters. When fridge turns heater on (to cool), the fan comes on as well. The only downside is that you don’t want to run the fan when ambient temp is freezing. SO, you might want to put a 120volt switch inline as well. Don’t worry about fusing this part. Since the heaters power passes through an onboard fuse (on the control board), it will already be protected.

  32. Michael Beal

    Everyone is talking about the cooling fan working when the fridge runs on electric. But how does the fan work if you are using gas ( propane)?

  33. mrgehring

    Michael Beal : The fridge always has 12 volts applied to it, even when it is running on propane. The electronics that control the fridge run on 12V. The only thing the 110V is used for is a heating element, which does the heating when you are plugged in, instead of using propane. So, this 12V fan works whether your are in propane mode or plugged in to 110. BTW, I measured the fan I am installing to draw 0.07 amps, and when the fridge is running the fridge draws 1.8 amps, so the fan draw is insignificant.

  34. Bodo

    I have 2 vents installed and there is no difference at all.
    On hot days the fridge does not cool at all, while the freezer compartment is still working fine(!!?).
    The fridge is is working good on normal days.
    I can not find out what the problem is :-(

  35. Lindsay

    Can people who’ve done this mod tell me what CFM values are optimal for cooling the condenser side (rear) of an RV fridge? I bought a Valterra A10-2618VP kit but I expect that it’s over-priced and under-powered for the job. 120mm computer case fans will attach nicely to either one of the exterior vented access hatches, and the thermostat switches are available on Amazon in a variety of cut-in/cut-out specs. Case fans come with CFM rating of everywhere from 60 - 80 all the way to a whopping 200 CFM. The tradeoff is current draw. The more powerful the fan the more current it draws when running, and the larger the drain on one’s battery.

  36. fmouse

    I just bought and installed a Valterra A10-2618VP condenser fan kit which I fear was overpriced and under-powered, although I’m experimenting in the Texas heat to see if the mod is adequate. I’m wondering if anyone if anyone who had done this mod has a recommendation for the CFM rating of the fan or fan combo to do this job for a small Dometic refrigerator in a pop-up. Thermostatic switches are available on Amazon, as are a variety of 120mm computer cooling fans, which come with CFM ratings everywhere from 65 or 70 all the way to super-fans which push 200CFM. The tradeoff is current draw, with the really powerful fans drawning in excess of 1.5 amps which could be a drain on a battery/solar dry camping setup. I’m experimenting, here in the Texas heat with the Valterra fan, which draws c.a. 0.6A (CFM unknown), to see if it’s adequate but may need to install something more powerful.

    One thing I’m finding with this project, as with others on our camper, is that many items with “RV” in their names, or sold through an RV store, can be bought on the general market for a fraction of the “RV” price. A good example is the ADDA AD1212LS-A71GL 120mm fan which can bought as a “Dometic Refrigerator Kit” from Dyers RV Parts ( for $29.99. Exactly the same fan can be bought from Jameco Electronics (×120x25-mm_2233246.html) for $10.95. If you’re cost-conscious, this can be important.

  37. fmouse

    Regarding current draw and thermostatic switches, this shouldn’t be a worry. These switches, such as the one at, are generally rated at from 10 to 25 amps. A 200CFM 120mm fan, which is probably overkill for this mod, draws nominally 1.8A (3A max) which a thermostatic switch can easily handle.

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