Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

May 9, 2011

Refrigerator Blues

Drawer Refrigerator
Last week, I took my 3 way refrigerator (circa 2006) out of my van and did the burping procedure, then tested it. It has no 110V circuit working but the 12V did heat up the back as it is supposed to but I got zero cooling overnight. I think it is dead and not worth trying to repair so it now resides in a corner of my garage until I do something about it. I now have a cavity of 32"x21x23 with no insulation on the van skin and 2 nice vents. For this summer's trip, I think I will go the cooler/ice route but with a better quality cooler than the one I used last summer.

I have a smallish igloo max cold that worked well with keeping my old cat's food frozen for 3 days in a car trip but was in the way too much last summer when I thought I had a fridge. I think another trip to Goodwill is in order for the not so cold coolers I have. The maxcold just fits in the cavity but with a fair amount of wasted space around it and it is not a large cooler.  With ice, it holds a minimal amount.  I'm going to put Reflectrix insulation on the bare van wall to provide some insulation there, at least for the short term and get a cap for the propane and 12V wires.

For a longer term solution, I'm leaning to a 12V high efficiency, low-juice compressor refrigerator. I found this http://www.vfamerica.com/eng/catalog.asp?catid=427&n=oceandrawer that looks intriguing. I don't know what they cost but suspect they are pricey and I don't know how good this particular unit is. Seems like a drawer might be a nice tradeoff in efficiency/convenience. Cold air couldn't spill out as much but I wouldn't need space above it to use it. It looks like a single drawer of this one would have the same inside space as the old refrigerator and things would stay put better in a drawer while under motion, assuming there's a locking mechanism for the drawers.

After all the problems with the 3 way absorption fridge including the annoying need to find level parking, maybe this sort would work better.  Lots of people say it isn't hard to find level but in my trip last summer, I had problems getting the van level enough for the fridge while everything else in the van was level enough to both work and be comfortable.

I measured a 2x4 foot space on my van roof in front of the air conditioner where a solar panel could fit.  If I got rid of the round TV antenna up there and put in one of the folding antennas like was original to the van, there would be another 2x4' space up there.  It looks like I could get about 80-95 watt panel in a 2x4' space.  I've been thinking of putting on a solar panel anyway to have a better power plant.  The faint rectangle shows the potential space for a solar panel.


  1. Sorry to see your refer fail that soon. Regarding your considered replacement, the problem with using a conventional refrigerator with a compressor, whether it runs on 12VDC or 115VAC, is that the motor requires a lot of power, and really limits an RV'er's ability to boondock. One would need a sizeable solar panel just to feed it.

    I assume that it worked when you just got the RV. Could you relate its failure to any operating period when the RV was not parked in a level position? I have been very conscious about leveling my MH. It irked me that, using modern electronics, it would not be difficult or expensive for the refer makers to implement a circuit to warn the users if the refer is too unlevel for its operation, or to shut down the ammonia heater if the refer fails to cool.


  2. The refrigerator barely worked after I bought the van last summer. It had 2 previous owners so I don't know its whole history. After driving for about 3 days, it started working again but stopped working when parked. But then again, it wasn't consistent when it did work. I kept it parked within the 3 & 6 degree requirements but that didn't seem to affect it. Now, it doesn't cool at all and the 110V connection doesn't even heat the back.

    Before I took possession, the dealer replaced something in the fridge, and the inverter and converter because there was short that fried all those. I currently have another short and some sparking in the fuse block so I suspect there are more wiring problems.

    I've read lots of claims that certain 12V compressor refrigerators sip the electricity and can last for days without running down the battery.

  3. I've talked with a couple of vandwellres that are using freezers asopposed to refridgerators. I like that idean! Anything you need refridgerated can be kept in a cooler and ice blockes can be made and rotated from the freezer. Freezers are better insulated so need to cycle less. One of the guys used his generator every couple of days to keep his freezer frozen.

    Cyndi and Stumpy @ RVly Ever After


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