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Old 08-02-2013, 02:25 PM   #1
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New a122s and realistic fridge expectations

I am new to this forum and just picked up a new a122s in Billings and spent 12 night in it fishing in Montana. I have owned a variety of pickup pop ups, tent trailers, hard sided travel trailers and finished with a Bounder MH until the kids were in high school. We are now empty nesters and had been talking about getting back in RVing. I ran into an A-frame camper at the campground I was staying in, and was impressed with the ease of setup and roomy feel inside. As a plus, we can use this camper in Yellowstone and Glacier parks in the grizzly bear areas requiring that the camper be hard-sided.

My question has to do with the small dometic refrigerator in the unit. It is the same one others have pictured in this forum previously. No freezer, you can see the fins inside the refrigerator compartment, two louvered doors outside the camper, lower door has gas controls and thermostat for gas, upper door has thermostat control and switches for 12V and 110V AC. Having had multiple RVs in the past, I think I understand all the controls pretty well.

When I drove two hours to the campsite, I had it on 12V for two hpurs, which barely cooled the unit off at all. As has been mentioned previously here, the 12V mode seems more like a way to travel from A to B without having your food get too warm. It did not seem to cool down the warm items I put in there for the road trip (beer, soda, etc). I can accept that the 12V is not very effective. I think the key might be to make sure everything you initially put in the unit for the trip is as cold as possible. Also plugging the unit in overnight before you travel is probably a good idea.

My main question has to do with the wimpy performance of the 110V mode compared to the propane mode. I was plugged to 110V, so I used that mode to conserve gas for the first couple days. Granted, it was around 100 degrees during the daytime, cooling down to around 70 degrees at night, but my food and drinks did not stay very cool. They wold be a little colder in the morning, but would be quite a bit less cold (not actually warm, just not as cold) by the later afternoon. My unit was parked in the shade. I had just the 100V mode selected, and had the thermostat set as cold as possible, which I think is #7. I could feel the heat on the outside of the louvered door, so I think it was heating up the outside coils, just not getting very cold inside the compartment.

So.....I thought I would give the propane mode a try. Turns out that this worked quite a bit better than the 100V mode. Got pretty cold during the night, and stayed fairly cold during the daytime.

Does this seem pretty normal for the fridge in this unit, or do you think there might be something wrong with my 110V mode? Does it seem reasonable that I needed to set the thermostat as cold as possible, even on gas mode (#5) to get the food/drinks very cold in the 100 degree heat?

Any comments and suggestions are appreciated. Sorry for the long post.

Tony
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Old 08-02-2013, 02:59 PM   #2
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this is pretty normal - it will take awhile to get an empty hot fridge down to temp... if yo put frozen foods in it it will go much quicker.

the venting on the outside is not ducted, so its not super efficient, some install ducting (roof flashing) to force air from the bottom over the radiator plates instead of around it - this increases efficiency - you can go a step further an put a dC fan or two above or below those radiator plates to increase efficiency even more.

since the fridge inside does not have a blower - you can also increase efficiency and speed of cooling and temp recovery with either a fan kit over the condenser fins (there's a guy on ebay that sells these) or rig up a little batterypowered circulation fan for inside.

these fridges work on a different principle than the house fridge - so in cooler temps they will be able to freeze things inhotter temps it might be rare that they can get that low. figure 30 or so degrees cooler than ambient on average - more if you have some of the tricks mentioned above. on a 60 degree night you can wake up to frozen sodas but on a 100+ degree day its always going to be a bit of a struggle just because of the design. its not a freon type system....
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Old 08-02-2013, 03:03 PM   #3
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I use propane almost exclusively for initial cooling and while traveling. If hooked up to shore power I will switch to AC. I close the propane valve while fueling, and turn it back on again before I hit the highway. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-02-2013, 03:34 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum, Tony.

I use propane as the primary energy source because it cools the best. But in the winter, sometimes I use AC. I agree with rawlus that a baffle will help. I made one with reflectix. It is easy to work with and will stay in place with a few pieces of tape. Cut a small access panel to get to the electric switches.

You can help further by attaching a computer fan to the top of the fridge compartment to clear the hot air out. On a previous PUP, I ran 12V wires inside the fridge and put a small chip cooling fan on the inside cold plate. That helped too.
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Old 08-02-2013, 04:27 PM   #5
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Thanks to you all for the tips. Sounds like I am in the ballpark for performance. Now that you mention it, I do recall having a little blue refrigerator fan that we used to put inside our other small RV fridges. It would run for days on two D-batteries. I will look for another.

I am not sure I am picturing the ducting/baffling that was mentioned. Is this done on the inside of the two vented doors on the outside of the unit? any chance you might have pictures of that mod?

thanks,
Tony
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Old 08-03-2013, 01:12 PM   #6
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X2 for pictures.
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Old 08-03-2013, 06:56 PM   #7
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A quick forum search resulted in these posts. Maybe some answers to your questions are here:

A-Frame fridge fan mod

or here:

Dometic RV 4 door Refrigerator Fan MOD

or here:

Dometic RV 4 door Refrigerator Fan MOD

hth,
Deb
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Old 08-03-2013, 07:42 PM   #8
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Deb,

Thanks very much for the comments and links. I ordered a small battery powered fan from Camping world for the inside of the fridge. this one had better reviews.

I like the fin mounted unit better, but am a little nervous about running the wire to the outside of the fridge and finding a spot to wire it in. I saw a solution of the E-bay website where these are sold. has anyone actually done that on their A frame camper? There is no interior light in my fridge, which makes it a little harder.

I also like the idea of a fan on the outside to help move the hot air through the vented areas. From people's comments, it sounds like this might help more than any other mod you can add. Would this require wires from a power source to the fan mounted on the vent door that would make it harder to open the compartments without pulling a wire off the vent. Or....are they mounted right inside the compartment, allowing you to remove the vented doors as I can do now?

Assuming I add the fan inside the outside compartments, I would have to remember to shut it off when not using the unit? I would assume that it would continue to run if not shut off. I saw a solar powered unit on E-bay. Anyone installed that?

Finally, I have heard battery disconnect mentioned as way to stop the sources of parasitic battery drain, including the fan mentioned above, when stored. Can anyone point me to a simple battery disconnect that I could install on my a122? I am not very mechanical.

Thanks again for all the help.
Tony
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:36 PM   #9
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Thanks for those links, Deb.

I like the double heat sink fan, and the idea of putting a light in the fridge is great. Just a few LEDs inside would make it much easier to see and give off virtually no heat.

I've run power through the back wall of a fridge before. Perhaps not for the faint of heart, because it could damage the fringe and void the warranty, but, except for the cold plate, the back of the fridge is the two walls with insulation in between.
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:05 PM   #10
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From what I've read on another fourm, the Aliner brand of Aframe campers come with a small fan installed in the outside fridge compartment. The fans look like computer muffin fans, though some owners complain that they're noisy and have replaced them with quieter muffin fans. They're mounted on a bracket just inside the removable vent doors. Shouldn't be too hard to fabricate some kind of mount for in there. You'd have to install a switch to shut it off when not needed. I'd put that switch inside the camper for convenience. Since I have a computer that recently bit the dust this may be my next mod, though I've had no problems with my fridge, except it getting too cold and freezing the lettuce.
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