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RV and Camper Trailer Absorption Refrigerator : How to Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement
Restored Classic Airstream
How RV Refrigerators Work
The absorption refrigeration units utilized by many RV and camper trailer units are normally one of the least problematic of owner’s problems. With little or no moving parts to wear out, these wonderful devices will often outlive the camping unit itself. But there are still things you can do to make sure they continue operating at full efficiency. This article is intended to help you keep your RV fridge operating at it’s best level.
It’s hard to imagine using heat to create freezing temperatures but this is exactly what happens in an absorption refrigerator. An enclosed ammonia solution is heated by a propane burner or an electric heating element powered by a 120 volt electrical current. All absorption units use one or more of these types of heat sources to create the desired refrigeration in the unit. A 3-way system is common in the newer camper units.
As the ammonia solution is heated it vaporizes and rises through a network of capillaries in the unit. At some point the heat is separated from the cold solution with the cold being used to cool the interior of the fridge. The heat from the hot side is exhausted out through a chimney or vent which exits through the roof of the camping unit. The solution is then merged back together and the cycle repeats itself. As long as the solution remains inside of the intact system there is no need to change it.
Absorption fridge replaced by electric model
Replacement Absorption RV Refrigerators
RV Refrigerator Parts
Check for model and part numbers available for your RV Fridge
Troubleshooting Your Fridge
There are several things which will cause the refrigeration unit to malfunction or not cool efficiently. If the unit is not relatively level the ammonia solution will not cycle effectively resulting in poor cooling or complete malfunctioning. This is one reason for always keeping your camping unit as level as possible. This is easily rectified by leveling the unit as best you can.
Another often overlooked problem can be the lack of ventilation where the heat is exhausted through the roof. This heat must be allowed to escape or the unit may not work well or may not work at all. The refrigeration units in campers can usually be accessed from the outside of the RV or camper trailer. The access door will have vents to allow air to circulate in and up through the refrigeration unit and out through a vent or chimney. It is a good idea to inspect these vents annually for blockages such as birds nests or wasp and hornet nests. It doesn’t take much of a blockage to slow down the cooling air flow to the unit.
If the electrical heating element is burned out the unit will not cool at all and replacement is necessary. This is usually an easily replaced item with the part usually found at an RV dealership or ordered on line. The gas heating unit needs to be serviced annually as carbon buildup from the heating flame will eventually become less efficient. This item is better serviced by a certified propane expert because of the safety factors involved with clean burning aspects.
The newer model of refrigerators use a circuit board to ignite the propane burner or switch on the electrical heating element. These circuit boards are often plugged into the system and can be replaced without too much trouble. Again, these may be found at your local RV supplier or ordered online. Just make sure the model and serial numbers match the replacement part. The same goes for the on/off switches and thermostats.
With proper care and maintenance these wonderful refrigeration devices will last as long as the camper unit itself. Inspecting your unit annually will ensure the unit operates efficiently on every trip you take whether to a campground or in natures wonderful wilderness. Happy camping.