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Old 08-07-2019, 02:54 PM   #1
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Pre-cooling the Refrigerator before Vacation

When we went on vacation last month I plugged my camper in and turned on the refrigerator. Later we popped it up and found the refrigerator had not cooled, making me think that AC power doesnít flow unless I first turn on the converter on the inside of the camper.

What is the best method of pre-cooling the refrigerator and keeping it running the night before we leave? I can think of a couple of options.
1. Propane - works regardless of whether the camper is up or down
2. 12V - designed for use when traveling. Does plugging the camper into AC provide enough charging power to handle the refrigeratorís needs?

Is it possible to plug the refrigerator directly into my house outlet? It plugs into an AC outlet accessible from the outside of the camper. Does that safely power the refrigerator even if the converter is off? Is the AC plug directly to the refrigerator or still operated by the switch?
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Old 08-07-2019, 03:47 PM   #2
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You can plug the camper into a household outlet using an adapter on the end of the 30 amp cord. Once you plug in, the fridge will operate on AC, and pre-cool. Your outlet will power both the fridge (on the order of 100-150 watts) and the converter (to charge the battery) just fine.

If you can't plug in, run the fridge on propane. Running it on DC will kill the battery in just a few hours unless you have a way to charge the battery while running the fridge on DC.

You didn't say what model pop-up you have. The fridge in the High Wall pop-ups is quite different from the one in the standard height pop-ups. FWIW, pop-ups and A-frames generally use the same fridges and other appliances.

While towing, the fridge on a high wall will usually run on propane because the fridge has auto-ignition. The fridge on a regular height pop-up will generally NOT run on propane while towing because the flame blows out and there is no way to relight automatically. So a regular-height pop-up fridge has to run on DC while towing. You need to make sure your tow vehicle is recharging the battery efficiently to stop the fridge from taking the camper battery down.

hope this helps
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Old 08-07-2019, 03:53 PM   #3
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To answer your 2nd question 1st- yes you can simply open the outside fridge hatch and unplug it from your trailer and straight into a normal orange 16 ga extension cord.
The small heater needed to make it cool will not overload a normal extension cord.

And I often just turn on my LP and run mine for up to 24 hours on LP which also uses a small amount of battery to power the control board.
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Old 08-07-2019, 03:56 PM   #4
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Pre-cooling the Refrigerator before Vacation

My experience with a 3-way powered fridge:

Best way to precool is to plug into AC (AC mode). A side benefit is that the battery gets charged.

Second best way is to use 12V + Propane (Propane mode). This method does consume a small amount of battery power and propane.

Third way is to use 12V (12v mode). This relies strictly on 12V power and you have to ensure your tow vehicle is feeding 12v to the trailer power connector at the hitch. I have not had good luck at all with this mode once my battery did not have enough capacity and my tow vehicle did not pass power through to the fridge.
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Old 08-07-2019, 04:46 PM   #5
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Myron, why are you turning the converter off? Are you using the circuit breaker to do this?
I don't understand why you just don't plug into an outlet and let the converter keep the battery recharged and have shore power to the trailer.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:44 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by pgandw View Post
You can plug the camper into a household outlet using an adapter on the end of the 30 amp cord. Once you plug in, the fridge will operate on AC, and pre-cool. Your outlet will power both the fridge (on the order of 100-150 watts) and the converter (to charge the battery) just fine.
If you read what I posted, the last time I tried to plug the camper into AC the refrigerator didnít cool. Iím pretty sure I need the converter turned on for that to work. Thatís why Iím asking the question.

My camper is a Flagstaff Classic 625, so not a high wall. I usually operate it on 12V while driving, Iím just trying to figure out how to cool it before the trip.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:45 PM   #7
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Myron, why are you turning the converter off? Are you using the circuit breaker to do this?
I don't understand why you just don't plug into an outlet and let the converter keep the battery recharged and have shore power to the trailer.
I turn the converter on when we get to the campsite and off when we leave again. I assumed that we are only supposed to turn on the converter when connected to shore power and leave it off otherwise.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:35 AM   #8
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My rig- 30 amp cord is big and heavy and where I park at home it's difficult to reach the socket on the side of my trailer to plug it into.
Plus I have to get out an extension cord
and adapter to plug it in.
For this reason I've considered what the OP mentions- just plugging the fridge directly into an extension cord.

The OP says his won't cool when plugged in to shore power at home so I wonder if he is shutting off his battery switch?
The refer needs BOTH 12v and 120 volt to operate on 120v mode as the control board is still 12v and always needs power to operate the unit.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:03 AM   #9
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regardless of whether you are using AC or propane to actually cool the refrigerator, you still will need 12 volts DC to run the circuitry that controls the flame or heater and temperature. If you have turned the converter off, you must still have the battery turned on the refrigerator will not cool since it has no circuitry functioning.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:10 AM   #10
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The only way I could turn the converter Off in either of my campers was to flip a circuit breaker Off. Never saw any need to do this nor am I aware of any reason to do so.

For cooling the refrigerator (is pre-cooling cooling before cooling? ) plugging into shore power at home works or to avoid dragging the big power cord out the refrigerator can be cooled as noted earlier by simply opening the outside panel and connecting a standard 3-prong power cord. You have to open the outside panel to select heat mode anyway.

My small 3-way refrigerator would not run on LP while on the road as the flame kept blowing out so using 12v was necessary then. When camping during the summer I always use LP on any of my refrigerators as it's the most efficient. AC is fine in mild weather. Internal and external fans dramatically improve cooling.

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Old 08-08-2019, 09:09 AM   #11
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regardless of whether you are using AC or propane to actually cool the refrigerator, you still will need 12 volts DC to run the circuitry that controls the flame or heater and temperature. If you have turned the converter off, you must still have the battery turned on the refrigerator will not cool since it has no circuitry functioning.
Not true. The OP's fridge is continuous run, and does not have a DC control board. When on AC, it uses only AC power, and no DC. When on propane, uses no electrical power at all. For the record, high wall pop-ups and A-frames have a larger, more conventional RV fridge with a DC control board.

I'm guessing, but from rewiring my A-frame I suspect this is what is happening:

OP is turning off his converter at the circuit breaker. I'm not sure why, but believe he has been told to do so.

The WFCO 8735P distribution panel/converter (used in pop-ups and A-frames) in stock condition places the converter power wire on a shared circuit breaker - usually the fridge AC circuit. So when the OP turns off the converter with the circuit breaker, he also turns off the fridge AC power.

Thre is no reason to turn off the converter when the camper is not plugged in. Without AC power coming in, the converter sits there and does nothing. Just like the microwave and air conditioning. So you can pre-cool the fridge with AC, but the converter circuit breaker has to be "on" because both fridge and converter are on the same circuit breaker.

Leave all circuit breakers "on", plug in the camper, turn on the fridge on AC. Turn the AC control to "5" to cool the fastest. While you are pre-cooling the fridge, the converter will be charging the battery. A 15 amp house circuit will run all AC powered items at the same time except possibly the microwave and air conditioner (if you have them).

I suspect somebody mislead the OP into thinking he was disconnecting the battery when he turned off the converter. Pop-ups and A-frames do not come with factory battery disconnects. So one either installs a disconnect (recommended) or disconnects the wire(s) off one of the battery posts.

hope this helps
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:51 AM   #12
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Agree 100%. Converter ON. Plug in to AC. Fridge should cool. Have never turned converter OFF.
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:58 AM   #13
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Not true...
OK, stand corrected. This would mean that the reefer has self generating controls. First time I have heard of that in a reefer.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:51 AM   #14
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Agree 100%. Converter ON. Plug in to AC. Fridge should cool. Have never turned converter OFF.
X2 - The converter should normally always be on. I have never turn my converter off.

Does the OP have a light in their frig? If so when he is trying to pre-cool the frig the light should come on when he opens the door like at home showing the frig should get cool. And if the light does come on but the frig doesn't cool then most likely they have an issue with the electrical heating element (which can go bad).
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:19 AM   #15
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OK, stand corrected. This would mean that the reefer has self generating controls. First time I have heard of that in a reefer.
My gas log fireplace at home is the same thing on the gas side - no power needed. Just a switch to bypass the thermocouple flame detection/gas shut-off valve.

The continuous run fridges have thermocouple flame detection that takes no external power. The thermocouple itself generates enough power from the flame heat to open/close the propane safety valve. You have to bypass this thermocouple when starting the fridge on propane. You press in the propane adjustment valve, which bypasses the thermocouple, while you push the ignitor button. You release the bypass after about 30 seconds so the thermocouple has time to warm up. The ignitor is a piezo spark generator, no battery or external power - one spark per push of the button. The adjustment valve regulates how much propane goes to the burner, not fridge temp.

On AC, there is a SCR incandescent light dimmer that regulates how much power goes to the AC coil. Again, no thermostat in the fridge.

On DC, the DC heating coil is unregulated. You turn it "on" for DC operation, and "off" when on AC or propane.

Most people who have never owned a PUP with one of these simple, small, continuous run fridges are surprised at how they work.

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Old 08-08-2019, 12:40 PM   #16
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Refrigerator question

Actually if one goes back to earlier days of rv refrigerators they were like that. Some were actually lit with a match. Then piezoelectric (pressure) became strong enough to make a spark, formerly used for voice pressure in micro phones, then modules with spark and sensing capabilities.
Can’t figure why the converter would be turned off either.
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Old 08-08-2019, 12:42 PM   #17
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I'd love to know the exact make and model # so we can stop guessing.....
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:01 PM   #18
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Does it take that much propane? I mean, why can't you just cool it off with propane, then turn it off for the trip. If they aren't opened any fridge will hold the cold a good long while, which is the purpose of pre-cooling it. We were told propane would cool it down faster than electricity, though it might still take several hours.

Now I'm wondering about my own as we haven't taken a trip yet but it's coming up.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:05 PM   #19
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I'd love to know the exact make and model # so we can stop guessing.....
And what the reasoning is, that they turn the converter off.
Never heard anyone doing that.
I can pretty much guarantee that it's a 3-way fridge unless a previous owner changed it.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:15 PM   #20
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Does it take that much propane? I mean, why can't you just cool it off with propane, then turn it off for the trip. If they aren't opened any fridge will hold the cold a good long while, which is the purpose of pre-cooling it. We were told propane would cool it down faster than electricity, though it might still take several hours.

Now I'm wondering about my own as we haven't taken a trip yet but it's coming up.
No,, a fridge does not take much propane at all. I leave mine on auto most of the time and runs off propane when going down the road. The issue here with this post is the poster seems to have power available but is turning his converter off which does not allow the fridge to cool down off his power. there is really no reason to turn converter off and this resolves the issue. But propane would be my second choice.
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