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Ask RV Bill - November/December 2017

Refrigerator Safety

I have received so many inquiries regarding refrigerators I wanted to share a little bit more information with the readers. Refrigerator recalls have escalated in the past several years, not just highlighting defective parts anymore but the danger of fire is now a reality. Recalls do a good job for what they are designed to do and it’s critical you check for possible recalls on an annual basis. However, the additional small parts that are added onto the refrigerator during the recall are not designed to prevent the cooling units from overheating! The continued overheating of the boiler tube will cause metal fatigue and/or corrosion and possibly a hydrogen leak which is very flammable.

Your gas electric refrigerator boiler operates at about 350 degrees all the time, but even a brief time off level like driving up the hill, parked on the side of the road, or having your RV towed because of a mechanical breakdown without shutting off the refrigerator can send the cooling unit temperature skyrocketing. The stress that this excess heat puts on the refrigerator boiler tube can cause metal fatigue and the anti-corrosion chemical in the coolant to deteriorate, eventually leading to cooling unit failure. The ammonia, hydrogen, sodium chromate, and water solution is not complicated, but the hydrogen is extremely flammable and if the temperatures get high enough and the protection device fails, fire is a possibility. All it takes is a 5-6% grade and about five minutes to begin the damage to the refrigerators cooling unit components. Events like this produce a lot of thermal stress in the refrigerator boiler. This stress causes metal to fatigue and the anti-corrosion chemicals on the coolant to deteriorate and leading to refrigerator cooling unit failure.

When the system is level, the refrigerator cooling unit holds a constant temperature while it is running and should never experience overheating. Most RVers are fully aware that refrigerators need to be level for proper operation. When the refrigerator is off level, all the ammonia pools in the system to the point where it cannot make its way back to the boiler. The boiler tube temperature begins rise as does the pressure in the pipes and the water expands 1600 times as it changes from liquid to vapor. Ammonia boils at -28 degrees Fahrenheit and is an environmentally safe refrigerant as it is found naturally in our environment.

Dometic™ and Norcold have done a great job with their recalls in attempts to prevent premature refrigerator failure and the ever present danger of fire, but simple mechanical devices can fail and may result in a fire. If you’re lucky,the fire can be contained to the refrigerator compartment alone but the likelihood of that is slim because of all the flammable products surrounding the refrigerator. Perhaps the scariest aspect of this possibility of fire would be if it occurred in the middle of the night while you were sleeping or when your away and pets are left inside. Like so many of you, my wife and I live in our fifth wheel full-time and we would be horrified to lose everything to fire.

Recreational vehicles have been my lifelong passion and because of that, I stay informed on the latest products from A-Z. I would like to share a product with you that will absolutely improve the safety of your refrigerator. The ARP Controller (absorption refrigerator protection) is designed to protect your refrigerator continuously no matter where you park your rig or how far off level it may be. The ARP Controller continues to monitor the refrigerators temperature in two different sections of the cooling unit, 24 hours a day. When the ARP detects temperatures exceeding levels required for the system to operate, it shuts down the refrigerator and allows the cooling unit to cool down before automatically restarting after a set amount of time. After five successive shut-downs it turns the refrigerator off and warns the owner that the controller will manually need to be reset. Although this is pretty rare that the refrigerator will need to be reset five times in a row as this process could take anywhere from two to five hours.

The ARP Controller has been designed as an automatic temperature monitoring device as well as an easy installation and monitors the refrigerators cooling unit temperatures with two separate temperature sensors. ARP has a new model with two fans to help control the high ambient temperatures that can occur at the rear of the refrigerator. Also included is a defrost defeat function, this prevents the refrigerator from going into defrost mode cycle which improves cooling performance in hot weather. The ARP Controller stores diagnostics resulting in an accurate history of  the refrigerators function to make a RV repair technicians job faster and easier. The ARP Controller will add functions improving the control of older manual type refrigerators without protection devices that were never involved in a recall. The ARP Controller actively protects your refrigerator rather than a device that response only after a failure has occurred as do present recall devices.

ARP offers several different models of this kind of product. Be sure to check for more information.




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