Understanding electricity & propane use

Discussion in 'First Time & New Camper Owners' started by Meadowbrook, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. Meadowbrook

    Meadowbrook New Member

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    We have a new-to-us 1997 Starcraft Meteor, a smaller popup (pullout bed on one side only), which seems about the right size for our 1990 Toyota 4 cyl pickup.
    I was able to find a PDF of the owner's manual online, but am still struggling to figure out how exactly to use the refrigerator, lights, and heater - the manual seems to assume you already know where/what everything is. I had no idea that propane could be used to power a refrigerator (I'm not stupid, just ignorant ;-)

    I found a sort of control panel on the side of the camper, which has on/off switches for both 110 and 12V, as well as a knob marked "High/Medium/Low/Off" with a red button next to it, which I assume is the igniter.
    3F4548DF-7D0D-4C5A-84B8-C92B3BB94389.jpeg 006869E4-7CE6-43EF-9C99-2BFF6EBCABDE.jpeg
    There is also a 12V "on/off" rocker switch behind a panel at floor level in the interior of the camper as part of the electronics panel (inverter? Converter?)
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    My assumptions (please correct me if I'm wrong!):
    - The internal control panel's 12V switch needs to be ON to use battery power in the camper
    - The exterior control panel is to control the refrigerator
    - The fridge can be run from propane, "shore power", or the battery
    - The fridge probably shouldn't be run from the battery
    - You light the pilot for this by holding down the know on High and pressing the Red button

    My questions:
    - How fast would running the fridge use up propane?
    - What happens if you leave both 12V and 100 rocker switches (in the external control panel) on?
    - Does the external 12V switch need to be ON to run the fridge on propane?
    - How do you tell if the pilot is lit? The manual says to look in the access port but gives no clue as to where it is or what it looks like. I can hear what sounds like gas being lit, but nothing seems to happen after that and the exhaust port does not get warm, so I'm thinking it's not catching. The stovetop works ok after I was able to finangle getting the "quick-release" (ha!) hose hooked up, so gas makes it from the tank to the stovetop at least.
    - When should the interior panel 12V switch be turned off?
    - How should all this be set for transport?
    - How to trouble shoot this pilot light?
    - How to use the heater? (we live in the PNW so likely won't need it often)

    Can anyone explain in simple, step-by-step instructions how to use the electrical and propane systems? It's confusing to me that there are multiple on/off switches for 12V (one inside but covered, one outside, but accessible behind a door)

    Thanks in advance for any light shed on this; I poked around a fair bit online, but have no confidence that information I've found translates accurately to this camper and really don't want to blow anything up!
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  2. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

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    Welcome from N/W Fl panhandle. Just take your time and learn how to use the you appliances etc. You will be an expert in a short time.
     
  3. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

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    Lot of questions. The switches that you described with the low med high are only for the fridge. You only use one source at at time if you run the fridge on DC the battery won’t last long. The fridge on propane barely sips propane. There is no pilot light. The small flame is the actual burner. You can stick a butane lighter in the hole with gas flowing but not lit. If it lights there is flame in there.
    When you pack up you can shut off the DC main.
     
  4. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

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    Propane use for the fridge is minimal. It's best to pre-cool the fridge on electric before the trip. Plug into 120v, set fridge to it, let it cool, then fill it up. Some folks travel with the propane on, some use the 12v, and some just leave it off until they get to their destination. You'll figure out what works for you.

    I can go 30 days running my fridge and water heater on propane and using the propane stove 2-3 times daily.

    It appears the external controls are for the fridge only. The inside is for the converter and will control all power to your trailer. Turn it off when you do not want the trailer pulling power from the battery - e.g., wheb in storage.

    I would make sure the 12v switch is off unless you are specifically running the fridge on 12v while driving. If both are on, at worst, you will drain the battery.

    In your first photo, there is a square metal box on the right with a round peephole. That peephole looks into the pilot light. If the light does not light, your piezo lighter may not work (they are often broken on older campers). If that is the case, you will need to light the pilot manually. You can unscrew and remove the metal box to get to the pilot light. Use a long stove lighter to put your flame at the pilot light. Then you have to push the knob until the propane reaches the pilot light and lights. You do not have to push the red button if you manually light the pilot light.

    If the pilot light lights but does not stay lit, then your thermocouple might be bad. It is a little metal bar that sits over the pilot light. It is easily replaceable. If the pilot light will not light at all, then you might have a blockage in the propane lines. You will need to clean them out. If it lights only when you do it manually, then the piezo igniter is likely bad. I just continue to manually light my pilot lights.

    You do want to light your stove first, then the other appliances. That helps get the gas moving through the lines. It can take several minutes for the propane to reach the pilot lights and you may have some "puffing" as the air is pushed out. Just be patient.

    Your heater should work similarly to the fridge (as will the water heater if you have one).

    I do recommend that you get the propane system checked out first. It is easy for an older rig to develop a leak. And you want to catch those before you are sleeping in the rig with the propane flowing.
     
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  5. Meadowbrook

    Meadowbrook New Member

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    Thank you all!
    Any tips on where to go to get the propane system checked? The closest Starcraft dealer is 20 miles north of Seattle; are they my best bet? Anyone have any tips on Seattle area services?
     
  6. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

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    Try calling around to any local repair shops. Not everyone will work on popups, but for something like this they might.
     
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  7. hayyward

    hayyward Active Member

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    The pilot light is difficult to see through the peep hole during daylight. We struggle to tell if it's really lit or not and will check it after sunset when the flame is more visible.
     
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  8. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    On my fridge I also couldn’t see it was lit, but I knew I heard sounds so just decided to give it an couple hours checked my fridge and found it was cooling off. If in a couple hours your fridge did not feel any colder it didn’t work. The fridge does take a long time to really get down into safe temperature hence the reason telling you to pre-cool the fridge before a trip. As far as the furnace, at least on mine it’s self lighting so as long as my thermostat is turned on and temperature adjusted and air purged out of the lines (running stove for a bit) it will turn on and light automatically assuming everything is working.
     
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  9. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    Looking at his pics the OP has an RM2193 Dometic 3-way gas absorption fridge with 3 separate controls for gas, 120 vac, and 12 vdc. As noted in this fridge's operating manual it's important to run this fridge on only one power source at any given time. This is unlike the similarly sized Norcold 323 which is a much better design because it instead uses a 3 position rotary switch which can only select one power source at a time. As mentioned earlier by tombiasi there is NO PILOT FLAME in these small, manual light fridges - the flame you see is all there is, provides the heating necessary to run the fridge in the gas mode, and is not a pilot flame to be used as a point of ignition for another much larger heating flame, such as in a manual light water heater. Gas consumption of these sub 2 cu ft gas absorption fridges is ~ 625 BTU/hr - do the math and a 20 lb tank would easily run one of these fridges continuously for well over a month.
     
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  10. Meadowbrook

    Meadowbrook New Member

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    Do I need to pop up the trailer before lighting this or is it ok to leave it down?
     
  11. Ken Lane

    Ken Lane Active Member

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    These three way refrigerators work by removing heat, not providing cold air. But they can work quite well.
    Welcome from from friendly Tennessee.
     
  12. Pozi

    Pozi Member

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    There is no need to raise the pop up to light the refrigerator
     
  13. hayyward

    hayyward Active Member

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    I erred calling it a pilot light. The manually lit flame is really not visible during daylight. More often than not, we assume it's lit until we can know either by the fridge cooling down or by the dark of night. I don't recall hearing any sounds of cooling, I'll listen for that next time. We just leave food in the cooler(s) until the fridge is ready.
     
  14. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Well-Known Member

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    Absorption fridges like these are totally silent, so you won’t hear anything. You may be able to hear the gas ignite.
     
  15. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

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    All refrigerators work by removing heat.
     

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