On the importance of keeping our Class B miniature 3-way refrigerators level...
This past weekend I plugged in my Pleasure-Way and turned the refrigerator on to AC about 24 hours before my planned departure time. I have a remote temperature sensor in the fridge and had the base unit set up in my house kitchen so I could keep an eye on the refrigerator's temperature.
The temperature steadily decreased for about 3 hours and then it began to increase. The exterior vent area was definitely very hot, so I was confused as to why the refrigerator wasn't cooling. Thinking something went wrong with the AC, I turned the refrigerator on to propane. Same thing. The refrigerator temperature kept increasing and the exterior vent area was very hot.
I pulled out my Dometic refrigerator manual to see if there were any troubleshooting tips mentioning the hot vent in combination with no cooling. In the manual I noticed a couple of paragraphs about the importance of having the refrigerator level. I went out to my rig, placed my little "level gauges" on the countertop and discovered that my rig was actually quite tilted toward the front. I hadn't thought about it, but I had very recently started keeping more air in my air springs, and apparently this difference the height of the rear of my Pleasure-Way was causing the liquid ammonia to accumulate in the evaporator tubing, resulting in a loss of cooling. I put some leveling blocks under my front tires, let some air out of my air springs, turned the fridge back onto AC and, voila, the refrigerator started cooling again.
I used to take the importance of being level very lightly, but will never do so again. These Dometic 3-way refrigerators are extremely fussy.
Lynne, this is very informative. Are there brands of refrigerators that are not fussy with level? I know it's important for home a/c condensers and house fridges. Does this mean that the fridge should not be on while driving??
All absorption refrigerators need to be level to work. If you run them off level you can cause a permanent blockage very quickly. It is okay to run the firg while driving because the constant motion allows the liquid to move through the pipes.
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I had read that newer absorption refrigerators do not have to be as level as older ones. How much off level was yours? I use a level which indicates degrees because the instructions for mine say that it must be within 3 degrees of level. Have not had a problem yet but would like some confirmation on the level tolerance.
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Lynne, this is very informative. Are there brands of refrigerators that are not fussy with level?
I believe that all brands of absorption-cycle refrigerators have this issue, tho' supposedly the newer Domestics are less sensitive than the old ones. I think you'd you'd need a compressor-type or a Peltier-type (?; solid-state, anyway) to get away from it, and they don't cool too well, AFAIK.
If everything is cold, mine will do pretty well for several hours when parked without running, and somewhat better on 12V when driving. And I'm almost always slightly out of level when parked with the reefer on gas; no problems so far, but I've never measured the actual degree of out-of-level.
As mentioned earlier, running when driving is no problem, since the random motion keeps the fluid circulating.
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I think my refrigerator counts as a "newer" one. My Pleasure-Way is a 2003 model. The rig was only off by about 8 degrees. I don't know the exact number of degrees, but it will be easy enough to check when I get back home - I have a pair of those level indicators that have the degrees noted on them. It seems that the extra 5psi in the air springs is what made the difference between working and not working. It used to cool in my driveway before I added the extra 5psi to the air springs.
I can definitely see how the fridge would get ruined quickly if turned on for a long period of time while off level if there is an ammonia blockage. The vents were throwing an extraordinarily high degree of heat even though there was no cooling taking place in the refrigerator. It almost seems that it could be dangerous.
If you use a 9" level on your counter top or un-carpeted floor,
with one end touching surface, by raising the low end of the level
until the bubble is centered between the lines the raised end should
be less than 1\2" above the countertop. Actually at 9" length 15/32"=
3 degrees. I think most boxes allow up to 3 degrees side to side and
6 front to rear ( of box ) Hope this helps