3-way refrigerator - How to use it

Discussion in 'Articles' started by JoeCamper, Jul 7, 2009.

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  1. JoeCamper

    JoeCamper Eastern, Pennsylvania

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    Jun 24, 2006
    Eastern Pennsylvania
    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
    '00 Dodge Dakota [TV] '08 Flagstaff Micro Lite 18FBR
    '03 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic [BY] '04 Timeout [PU]


    Submitted by member: tnchuck100
     
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