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Author Topic: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it  (Read 26178 times)

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Offline tnchuck100

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« on: September 10, 2008, 08:04:20 AM »
There have been many questions about the operation of these refrigerators. I have posted this as a comment on another thread but I thought it warranted its own topic.

It is amazing how many different thoughts are out there about how 3 way refrigerators work. Most seem to be the result of following advice by others rather that actual experience. Here I will mix theory and experience.

First, we will assume the refrigerator is not defective in some way. It should make no difference which heat source is used. It's just heat. Be it one of the 115 watt (110V or 12V) electric heaters or a propane flame. It's just heat.

Second, the refrigerator must be level to operate efficiently. If it is not level the liquid in the system can pool and restrict or even block circulation. Damage to the system can result if operated off level for an extended period of time. While traveling level does not matter because the liquids are "sloshing around" and do not get a chance to pool.

Next, The units do take time to cool when started. The normal rate of cooling is about 3 - 6 degrees per hour. Ambient temperature and having a fan to blow air across the condenser fins will affect this rate. I start the cooling about 18 hours before leaving. Also, the food placed in the refrigerator should be cold already.

Now, when to use which heat source and why.

110V - use this whenever it is available. The thermostat will control the temperature.

12V - use this when traveling. There is no thermostatic control. It is possible to freeze things. If you are traveling less than 6 hours it should not be a problem. If you stop for less than 1 hour you should not have any battery problems. If more than an hour switch to propane.

Propane - use when 110V is not available (dry camping). Normally it should be set to HIGH. Adjusted to MED or LOW if it gets too cold. There is also no thermostatic control in this mode. Contrary to what is generally said there is no "pilot light". It is just a constant flame. The refrigerator uses very little propane.

You may have seen the sticker that tells you to use only one heat source at a time. The system has been designed to use a specific amount of heat to produce the heat exchange cycle. Increasing the amount of heat will not lower the refrigerator temperature. In the case of the propane you are decreasing the amount of heat (MED and LOW) to increase the refrigerator temperature if needed since there is no thermostat control.

To monitor the temperature in the refrigerator I use a wireless indoor/outdoor electronic thermometer. (Acurite, About $10-$15 at Wal-Mart)

It hope this clears up some mis-information on the operation of these refrigerators.

Chuck & Mary - Sparta, Tennessee
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Offline LynnAllen02

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2008, 08:20:25 AM »
Chuck:

You ought to turn this into and submit as an article!

Lynn

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Offline theseus

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2008, 09:27:03 AM »
Nicely stated! I agree with Lynn - This should be a sticky topic in the refrigerator section...

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Edited by - theseus on September 10 2008  09:27:21
Bruce        ______________
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Offline Luv2ridebikes

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2008, 01:47:42 PM »
Thanks Chuck - I remember reading your post on this subject and it certainly improved my understanding of the topic.

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Offline jushavnfun

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2008, 11:51:18 PM »
Chuck,
 Thanks...This is my next project along with the heater to be tackled on the camper rebuild/overhaul. I have the repair manual from Starcraft, but it covers how to R&R, not diagnose and service.

Marty & Elizabeth
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Offline Retired Alex

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2008, 12:00:26 AM »
For a detailed description of how RV fridges work check this site. http://www.rvmobile.com/tech/Trouble/cooldoc.htm

For detailed testing procedures on various units go here http://www.gasrefrigeration.net/dometic_manuals.htm
The link goes to Dometic but there is a link at teh top to Norcold.

Alex & Mary Burnett
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Edited by - Retired Alex on September 14 2008  00:05:45
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Offline Fiveofun

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2009, 07:55:10 PM »
So from this post, I take it if the PUP is pluged into an outlet at home, the fridge will cool down? I just want to verify.

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Offline tnchuck100

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2009, 08:47:35 PM »
Yes. As long as the 110V switch on the refrigerator is turned on (the green one).

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Offline Fiveofun

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2009, 09:31:17 PM »
Thanks for the reply. Sorry, can I clarify one more thing, this will work with the PUP closed, correct?

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Offline tnchuck100

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3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2009, 09:39:30 PM »
Yes. The refrigerator will operate while the PUP is open or closed. Just be sure it is pretty close to level.

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Offline MovingRightAlong

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Re: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2009, 04:35:56 PM »
Yes. As long as the 110V switch on the refrigerator is turned on (the green one).

This may be a foolish question, but are you talking about the switch in the back that allows you to switch from DC/AC/Propane? 

Is there another switch I should be looking for?
« Last Edit: June 30, 2009, 09:17:08 AM by pgordemer »
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Offline LynnAllen02

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Re: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2009, 07:10:25 PM »
Nope that's the switch.

We pop up, close the frig door, plug into our house current the two nights before we leave, pop pup down. 

Next night pop up, load frig with cold food, and frozen meals, forzen waters.  Pop down, keep connected to house current.

AM when we leave, disconnect from house current, turn off frig, do not forget to close frig vent (don't want to say why I know you should not forget this) drive 6-7 hours, we do not use battery power, I save battery for the campground.

Popup, turn on propane switch after leveling pup.  We monitor temp throughout he trip, day time when its hot it gets warm, need high, night time when it gets cool, need medium!  As my frozen stuff thaws and I use things up, I replace with things from cooler to keep it full, works better

Love my frig

Lynn
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Offline NHDalton

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Re: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2009, 08:34:12 PM »
Something crosses your mind and you come to the Pop Up Portal to find your answer.  Thank you Chuck.  Appreciate it.

I am going boondocking for 4 days coming up and have other such trips planned after that too.  This information helps.

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Offline MovingRightAlong

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Re: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2009, 09:51:06 PM »
Another dumb question, I had my fridge plugged in for two days.  The metal shelves were cold so it was definitely working, but it wasn't as cold as I expected, while it seemed to work better at the campground last summer.

I had it plugged in through a basic extension cord to my house, will it work better when I get a full 30V running?
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Offline suprz

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Re: 3-way refrigerator - How to use it
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2009, 08:42:15 AM »
no, it wont make a difference if you were plugged into a 30 Amp service, it is still 120 volts.  these fridges are only good to around a 40 degree difference between the ambient outside temperature and the inside temp of the fridge, Also, something to remember is that the sun hitting the side of the PUP may also have a bearing on the temp and the cooling effeciency of the fridge. The venting on the fridges for these PUPs if poor to say the least.  that is why so many of us have put on baffles and cooling fans in the space where the vents are to promote good venting of the hot exhaust from the cooling fins behind the fridge.  you can do a search on this topic and find a lot of threads about them
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