Refrigerator Fires

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COCJ

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I was on another RV Forum yesterday and saw a post about ARP Fridge Defend. I have had various campers and RVs over the years and all had absorption refrigerators. We do mostly boondocking, so the fridge runs on propane most of the time. Most of the places we go are hot in the summer or at high altitude. I have never really thought too much about a refrigerator fire and they seem to be relatively rare, but always catastrophic. When I got on the ARP website, most of the cases and documentation seemed to be on older fridges 2015 and older. My questions are related to my 2016 Forest River Forester with a Dometic refrigerator. Has Dometic improved safety features in order to prevent overheating and fires? Should I invest $200 plus to buy the Fridge Defend? If so, can I install it myself?
A dealer that I bought a truck camper from said to run the fridge on propane while travelling versus 12 volt. I used to run fridges in my previous RVs on 12 volt while travelling, but if I forgot to switch to propane as soon as I stopped, batteries were quickly dead. Opinions?
 

Laura & Charles

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Could be anywhere. Originally from Ohio. Go Bucks!
If you do a search on this forum, you’ll find many threads that have discussed this product. I installed one on our last coach and the peace of mind it gave me was well worth the cost. (I would’ve installed one on this coach but it has a residential fridge.) Most anybody can install it; it doesn’t take a huge mechanical aptitude.

To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any significant improvement made to propane fridge design. Somebody may come along who knows of something I don’t.

I always drove with the fridge running on propane.
 

JayArr

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I have an older fridge but with a newly rebuilt cooling unit on it. I looked at Fridge Defend and decided it wasn't worth the money.

I was very put off by their website - if you look objectively you'll see that the entire purpose of the website is to frighten you, they want you to be afraid and then they sell you "peace of mind" for a few hundred bucks.

I want to believe that if this design was dangerous it wouldn't still be built the same way after all these years. Yes, there are rare fridge fires but that's what your insurance is for.
 

SpencerPJ

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If it was really that big of a deal, even the RV industry would be on board with the simple safety features. That said, don't run your Refer on a steep slope overnight.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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RV fridge fires are indeed not all that common, but horrific if they do occur. Your insurance isn't much consolation if you or a loved one is dead. Is that fear-mongering or good sense? LP gas and smoke and CO detectors are mandated for similarly infrequent occurrences, but fridge boiler risk isn't as tightly managed.

Both Dometic & Norcold have added some boiler overheat monitoring to their standard package but it falls well short of what modern technology can do inexpensively. Basically they shut the fridge boiler down right at the point where an explosive boiler failure is imminent. IMO the same sort of active monitoring that ARP Fridge Defend does could be built in for just a dollar or tow more than the rather ineffective measure now included. Further, the fridge could protect from the loss of food in the fridge by automatically restarting after a temporarily hot boiler. Fridge Defend does that.

It is a common misconception that RV fridge fires only occur in LP gas mode, i.e. that electric mode (AC or DC) is safe. That is false. Boiler overheating has nothing at all to do with the type of heat source.
 
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COCJ

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I also got the same impression that the ARP website was designed to scare you into buying their product. I also agree that the basic design of an absorption refrigerator would have been changed long ago if it was inherently dangerous. Maybe spending $200 for peace of mind might be worth it???? After 40+ years of personal experience with absorption refrigerators and no significant issues, I remain skeptical.
 

Henry J Fate

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All good info here. I would like to add that some of those suspected fridge fires may have been the result of other failures. There was a design period where most of the onboard systems were near each other or stacked a top each other. My current unit (2001) is a perfect example. The fridge sits over the water heater and the AC distribution panel. Abutting those stacked hazards is the stove and the converter charger. Its quite the hazard zone making it very difficult to pinpoint the fridge if the RV burned down and it almost did burn down. My electrical panel had a neutral wire fault which caused all my circuit wires to begin burning. The panel is directly under the fridge. If not for me returning in time to shut power down and save the coach, pretty much a total loss putting the fridge on the suspect list. I have not reviewed a single suspected fridge fire that I would agree with 100%. Maybe not even 75%. It is very exaggerated and some maybe just plain false or inaccurate.
 
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Heli_av8tor

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Fridge Defend is patented so Norcold and Dometic can’t use the technology without licensing it from ARP. Apparently they don’t think there’s any problem, aren’t willing to pay the price or ARP isn’t willing to license it to them.
 

Martian

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As I posted in the scare tactic thread about the ARP unit, I was staying in a cg while the house was being built and in seven months three trailers burned to the ground. Nobody hurt so that is good. They could have been fridge fires! They were surely not as each owner caught it early and saw it started where the heater exhaust goes out through the wall. Add to that the staged photo in that thread and skepticism kicks in. If you can find a documented fridge fire it will probably be on an older unit that has never had the back of the fridge cleaned and vacuumed to get webs, nests and insects out of the compartment. It takes work to keep an rv safe and functioning. Some go through the effort and some have fridge fires. No scare tactic, just reality.
 

Kirk

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Has Dometic improved safety features in order to prevent overheating and fires?
Only a very little.
Should I invest $200 plus to buy the Fridge Defend? If so, can I install it myself?
First let me say that while RV fires are not a frequent thing, the insurance institute seminar that I attended some years ago did say that since 2000 the #1 cause of RV fires, so it is a valid concern. But because the Fridge Defend also prevents overheating it probably will extend the useful life of most refrigerators that use it. I can also tell you that Mark Nemeth, technical director for Escapees Magazine recommends it's use as does RV Travel and several other RV writers. I have used one for the past 5 years and while it is very difficult to prove what has been prevented, I sleep better since I began to use it. It is quite easy to install but you probably will need to pull the refrigerator out for access to the rear to install the thermistors and if you use the one that has a built-in fan control (as I do) then that too will be much easier to do.

The old school thinking is that it isn't needed, but that was once true of things like seat-belts too. I was 2 sites from a large fifth wheel when they experienced a refrigerator fire about 3 years ago and after we discharged a total of 5 RV refrigerators trying to put it out and then watched as the trailer was destroyed before the fire department could get there, I frequently check to make sure that mine is working. I suspect that the over heating issue is probably more serious as the refrigerators age, but that is only a guess. I can tell you that the fire issue is more common today than in years past, probably due to the changes in the makeup of the refrigerant used now.

A couple of years ago, Norcold attempted to copy the Fridge Defend technology and add it to some of their new units but Paul Unmack then took them to court and Norcold lost. His device is very simple and is not connected into the electronics of the refrigerator in any way but simply turns off the 12V power doing the same as turning off the refrigerator and then restores power once the temperatures return to normal. It means that you don't need to worry if you park for a few hours with the refrigerator on and the RV not normal as it will protect you. It is true that you may never experience a refrigerator fire without one, but it is certain that you won't if you add one. At least 2 of the companies that sell replacement absorption refrigerator cooling units now install one on all of the units that they sell.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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If you can find a documented fridge fire it will probably be on an older unit that has never had the back of the fridge cleaned and vacuumed to get webs, nests and insects out of the compartment.
Fires in overheated fridge boilers has nothing to do with insect nests or dust.
The demonstration of the ARP site merely shows how quickly a faulty fridge boiler can overheat, sending temperatures well beyond the level where surrounding wood will char and ignite.

It's ok if you want to say "it can never happen to me". People do it all the time with all sorts of relatively rare events.
 

Trivet

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I also got the same impression that the ARP website was designed to scare you into buying their product.
And if the post on the other forum you saw is the one I saw, the thread reporting "yet another refrigerator fire" was started by the guy who owns Fridge Defend.

It might be a good product (although you can never actually know if it prevented a fire or if you weren't going to have one anyway) but I really don't like those kind of tactics.
 

Heli_av8tor

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Paul is passionate about the need and his solution. Is it scare tactics if it's true?
I don't he's overstating his case.
 

DonTom

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Auburn, CA or Reno, NV
is a common misconception that RV fridge fires only occur in LP gas mode,
They also happen with compressor refrigerators. Does anybody here worry about the compressor refrigerator in their homes catching fire, or worse yet, exploding? They can kill people also.

See here.

"The reason fridge explosions happen is usually due to the fridge's compressor. "

So perhaps our RV refrigerators are safer than what we have in our homes.

And I do have the fridge-defend installed in my Y2K RV, which proves I am not biased against it. But just about anything that has any type of energy, electricity, propane can be dangerous, but the odds of any of it happening to any of us is very, very low. But still does happen once in a great while.

Somehow this reminds me of a motorcycle accident in San Francisco. A motorcycle hit head on into a car. The car driver was killed. The motorcycle rider only had minor injuries. Very rare but happens. What happened in this case is the motorcycle rider went flying through the car's windshield and hit the car driver with his helmet right in the head and killed him. The leather, gloves and helmet protected the motorcycle rider from the glass, and he only had very minor injuries.

So strange things do happen. But in this forum, most of us have probably seen a total of thousands of RVs in all the RV parks and such we have been in. Has ANYBODY here saw such a fire with their own eyes? Anybody know of a house fire caused by a compressor refrigerator?

-Don- Reno, NV
 

John From Detroit

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Davison Michigan
Has Dometic improved safety features in order to prevent overheating and fires? Should I invest $200 plus to buy the Fridge Defend? If so, can I install it myself?

Dometic did a recall. they added a baffle and a thermal circuit breaker (Resettable) in the recall. I do not know how they modified production models.
Though I do recall back in around 2005-8 reading a lot about Fridge Fires.. Truth be told they are not that common.
As for the Fridge Defend.... I'd say if it gives you peace of mind GO-4-IT
As to self install.. I have no clue either as to how hard it is to install or how good you are.
Best advice is maintenance.. proper inspection and cleaning. of the cooling unit. including the "Flu" area (above the burner) is rather important.
In another thread somewhere someone complained of the Thermal Breaker needing to be reset.
Now: What I SUSPECT (They are going to check ASAP) is insect nest in the flu blocking air flow. This causes heat to build and that trips the thing to off... IF not for the breaker.. It could get hot enough to FLAME ON.
 

Kirk

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Has ANYBODY here saw such a fire with their own eyes?
As I said before, I have seen only 1 such fire and I have been RVing for more than 40 years so I do agree that it is pretty rare. The reason that I use the Fridge Defend, or ARP-RV device because the fire that I saw was so devastating and also the few RVs that I have seen after the fact were all heavily damaged or totaled. I'm not sure how many of those I have seen but think that it was probably 2 or 3 since we bought our first RV back in 1972,
Anybody know of a house fire caused by a compressor refrigerator?
As far as I know, the answer to that is no, but I'm not sure. I have seen the results of house fires but rarely if ever knew what caused them.
 

johnhicks

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Jun 28, 2013
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I put out a fire in the bottom of a household refrigerator before it caught anything else back in 2012.
 
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