How To Check the Ammonia Level in an RV Fridge

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What’s that smell? If your RV fridge uses ammonia, then this is the ultimate article for you!

RVs are becoming increasingly popular, and we have learned that they can be used for more than just vacations. They are now an alternative to the traditional home, a place where you can live your everyday life. 

For many people who have purchased an RV as their primary residence, the refrigerator is one of the most important appliances. This is where you keep all of your food and drinks. 

If your fridge doesn’t work right, then it will have a huge impact on how you live in your RV. So how do you know if there’s a problem with your fridge? Here’s how to check the ammonia level in an RV fridge!

Why Do Some RV Refrigerators Use Ammonia?

12003 how to check the ammonia level in an rv fridge
Source: RVshare

The refrigeration units in most RV refrigerators use ammonia to cool the refrigerant and keep it from freezing in a cold climate. This refrigerant keeps food items cold, but the downside is that it can contain noxious fumes when there’s a leak present. 

Most RV refrigerators have a set maximum acceptable ammonia level, usually set to between 40 and 50 ppm. If your fridge’s ammonia level is less than the set limit, then there is a possibility that ammonia is leaking from the unit. 

If the leak gets too bad, then it could create ammonia fumes that could make it hard to breathe inside your RV. 

How To Check Ammonia Level In RV Fridge?

Unlike regular fridges, RV refrigerators are built to be fairly durable and are known for lasting for a fairly long time. Some RV refrigerators have operated for more than a few decades. 

Also Read: How Much Propane Does an RV Fridge Use?

However, regardless of how long they’ve been in operation, there is still a possibility that you may need to clean them out regularly. The ammonia level in your RV fridge can be checked with the process listed below.

Use an Ammonia Detector

Basic ammonia meter by forensics | 0-1000ppm with 1ppm resolution | farm, poultry, pig & livestock | soft touch rubber grip | large display & backlight |

The best way to know how much ammonia your fridge is producing is to use an ammonia detector. These detectors are pretty inexpensive, and they work well, as long as you know how to operate them correctly. 

You should wear protective clothing, and your ventilation should be shut off so you don’t get any gas in your room. As you open and close the fridge, it will emit a very small amount of ammonia gas. 

Open the fridge to release the gas and then close the vent to prevent the ammonia from becoming airborne. The detector should alert you when there is an ammonia leak in your fridge. Don’t worry if you don’t get a strong audible alert, as your refrigerator might be operating very quietly.

Check If Device Is Overheating

First, open the refrigerator door and look inside. If your refrigerator is warmer than normal it probably means that it’s overheating. 

You can always check the rear of the unit to see if the coils are heating evenly. If not this also means there is a problem.

There are thermostats on the refrigerator that will lower the temperature automatically if it gets too hot. If you have a compressor inside your refrigerator, then check if it is activated. 

If the compressor isn’t running, then it means that the compressor is overstressed and might be out of whack.

Problem with Refrigerator

The main thing that will trigger the ammonia level in the fridge is a dirty filter or a leak. Because an RV fridge has three major filters, dirty filters can affect the quality of the refrigerant. So when the filter looks dirty, you want to check the level of ammonia.

Ammonia levels are different in every fridge. It would be best to check your user manual to verify the amount of ammonia you need to have. 

The manual should show you where to locate the fridge’s filters as well 

How to Fix a Leaking Ammonia-based Refrigerator?

We have discovered that RV refrigerators are very different from those you can buy at a store. Their water level doesn’t have an automatic indicator, and they are a bit more complex, which is why it’s more likely to see refrigerators break. 

But it’s important to know what to look for if your fridge doesn’t seem to be working right. 

Check Your Refrigerator Hose 

When refrigerators work, they are powered by an ammonia-based refrigerant. But when the refrigerant is leaking, it will leave a smell of ammonia inside the fridge.

If the smell is not too noticeable in the area of the freezer,  then there’s a good chance the leak can be quickly repaired.

Pros of Using Ammonia in an RV refrigerator?

  • Ammonia makes an excellent refrigerant because it doesn’t freeze
  • The smell can tell you when you have a leak
  • Ammonia is very stable and lasts for a very long time
  • The chemical is quite cheap

Cons of Using Ammonia in an RV Refrigerator?

  • If the leak is large enough the smell will be pretty bad and you may have to clear out the RV until the smell goes away
  • Ammonia vapors can be very irritating
  • Possible fire hazard, but this is rare 


This article covered How To Check the Ammonia Level in an RV Fridge. We hope you enjoyed it. The tips above will help you determine if there is a problem with your RV fridge. 

If you follow them, you should have no problem taking care of any type of ammonia leak quickly and be able to monitor the ammonia levels.

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