Battle of the fridge – part 2

When I first traveled with the Outfitter camper in February 2015 (Denver to Miami, FL; Miami to Chino, CA; Chino back home to Denver; over 6,000 miles in just over three weeks) 95% of the time the fridge pilot would blow out while driving. Going to 12V while on the road wasn’t a viable solution as the truck wouldn’t provide the necessary amps to run the ridge (about 12-14 amps each hour) and keep the battery charged. The camper has a group 24 (about 65 amps capacity) battery that cannot power the fridge when driving for more than a few hours (best not to run a battery down below 50% capacity).

I searched the Internet for solutions and found one significant modification: install an automatic re-igniter for the propane cooling system.  The logic behind the re-igniter is solid; but not a change I wished to implement (especially with the Dometic RM 2193 still under warranty).

The most common solution discussed on the world-wide-web was reducing the size of the fridge’s external venting. I even found a wind deflector made by Dometic; though not for the RM 2193.  A BIG negative to reducing the size of the fridge venting is the chance of over-heating the fridge and a fire (fridge-caused fires is the most common cause when RV’s are burned to the axles). After much thought I decided to install a cover that reduced the lower vent size.  The upper vent remains uncovered.

I enlisted a co-worker to have a vent cover made out of a plastic sheet (a ‘perk’ when one works for a company that has CAD design programs and laser cutters). After 45 minutes I had a professional looking cover that installed using many zip-ties to assure it wouldn’t blow off the camper.

vent cover

Vent cover in place.

Since installing the cover the ‘blow outs’ have reduced significantly – only 10% of the time with more than 8,800 miles traveled. The exact conditions that blow out the pilot vary. I’ve found the fridge not cooling after driving in no wind, lots of wind, large trucks/RVs passing, and when there is little traffic.

I’m now considering having a electrical engineering friend create a sensor that will turn on a red light when the pilot goes out. The light would be located at the forward-drivers-side of the camper (or stated like a boat: port bow) so I can see the indicator in the truck’s driver’s side rear-view mirror (similar to semi-trucks with refer trailers have an indicator that the cooling unit is working).

– Dave

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4 thoughts on “Battle of the fridge – part 2

  1. Dave, if you were starting over with your outfitter build, would you choose one of the new generation 12/110v compressor fridge models? As I understand. They only draw a few amps, intermittently, in 12V mode. And you dial in the exact temperature that you want regardless of outside temp. I would think that combined with a solar panel to help recharge, this would be the way to go. Probably $1000 to replace but I have heard that they are relatively trouble free, plus have more usable space for any given external size. These new “swing” compressors are supposed to be ultra efficient.

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  2. Neil: for me a 2-way (110v/12v) versus the 3-way (propane/110v/12v) relates to how much time i will be and have been ‘off the grid’. I’ve gone seven days not hooked onto 110v nor driven the truck long enough to charge the house battery. the 95W panel on the camper can’t keep up with the use of the best 2-way fridge (most report about 4amps/hour … equaling 96 amps used in a day (worse case?). assuming the fridge only runs 1/2 the 4amps in 24 hours you still get 48amps (80% capacity for a new group 24 battery). getting more solar panels (possible as there is lots of space on the roof) would increase cost much more than $1000 (more panels, better solar controller, and then larger battery … maybe a group 31 would fit, about 100amps, at about $350 for an AGM … plus more camper weight). There are ‘better’ small 3-way fridges on in the RV market that have thermostats and auto reignition (like all things ‘it is just a matter of money).

    the 110v/12v don’t care if the camper is leveled … not leveling a propane fridge will quickly ‘kill’ the unit. i agree this, plus they don’t ‘blow out, makes the 12/110v units less trouble; but more of a challenge when one ‘lives off the grid’.

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