Refrigerator Fires

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RVfixer

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Gary: Where does the info come from that indicates fridge fires can occur when in either the electric or gas mode? The reason I ask is because when Dometic first decided to address fires in their absorption fridges they put our a bulletin. This was when they were working on the "fire wall" recall fix. In that bulletin they stated that a fire, that could involve structure, could occur if there was a coolant leak (spray) in the presents of the gas flame. The bulletin recommended not using the gas operation until the recall fix was incorporated. To prevent the fridge from defaulting to the gas mode in an electric power failure they recommended turning the propane shutoff knob, to the left of the fire box on the back of the fridge, to the off position (they described how to do that). They went on to say that operation in the electric mode was safe, At least at that time there were no fires reported during electric operation....That was some years ago.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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I can't speak to Dometic fires, but Norcold has experienced fires in both gas & electric operation. Simple overheating is enough to set any nearby wood or paper on fire, so it doesn't have to be ignition of the boiler fluid (which does contain hydrogen). The normal operating temperature of both Dometic & Norcold fridges is around 350 F. and wood or paper begins to burn around 450, so it's not a huge stretch to cause a fire in the surroundings. Paul Unmack's demonstrations show that an absorption fridge can hit as much as 800 F fairly quickly.

While both Dometic & Norcold did recalls, I haven't seen many reports of Dometic fires. Norcold seems to be more vulnerable, but that's just my perception.
 

H3Alpha

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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.
That particular thread, "Yet another refrigerator fire", was indeed a scare tactic. No one was there when the RV caught fire and completely burned. There is no way to tell whether it was a fridge fire or something else. I, too, dislike that type of product "endorsement".

I'm not saying whether the product is necessary or not, and in theory it's a great safety device. However, the number of fridge fires vs the number of fridges in use is actually a tiny number, and seems to be mostly related to a particular model of Norcold.
 
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Both Dometic & Norcold have added boiler temperature sensors and their basic action is to shut down if the temperature ever reaches the burst threshold of the boiler. They figure that to be around 800 F. (they won't quote a spec on that). It's my opinion they go with such a high temperature because they know that their fridges hit 400+ in more-or-less normal scenarios, e.g. traveling up/down long grades or parked sloppily during a lunch break. I've driven my own coach hundreds of miles with a boiler monitor attached and can attest that seemingly innocuous things can cause a jump of 50 degrees in just 2-3 minutes. One event was a total mystery - just a 10 minute traffic jam on level ground. Since their safety logic doesn't restart the fridge, they don't dare do a preventive shutdown like Fridge Defend does.

Paul is a mechanical engineer with a background in safety control systems and his wife is also a mechanical engineer who specializes in pressure vessels (things like boilers and LP gas tanks), so the two of them are indisputably qualified to give opinions on this subject. Naturally they also want to sell their product (or sell the design to Norcold & Dometic), so it's fair to be a bit skeptical.

It's not difficult to determine where a fire started, but maybe harder to be sure that a fire at the fridge resulted from an overheated boiler or some other cause.
 

COCJ

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Montrose, CO
So can this all be installed on the backside through the access panel, or do you need to pull out the fridge?
 

Heli_av8tor

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I installed mine through the access panel. It would have been easier if I did it a month earlier when the fridge was out to replace the cooling unit.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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So can this all be installed on the backside through the access panel, or do you need to pull out the fridge?
Generally it can be installed in place, but it depends somewhat on how the RV builder installed the fridge in the RV. You need to get your hand (or at least a couple fingers) around the boiler tube to install the heat sensor. This is the same area where you would install a replacment heater element, but some RVs make it terribly awkward to get at.
 

CharlesinGA

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50 miles south of Atlanta, GA
My travel buddy/wife and I went to Mt Pisgah NC last week. He bought the 2017 model Forest River trailer in 2021. The fridge has worked ok since then but at Mt Pisgah the fridge simply was not getting below 50f. We moved most stuff to my fridge. Saturday he finally pulled the fridge out onto a stand he built to hold it in the trailer. I posted pics of what he found In post #8 of this thread about my fridge and whether it was failing. (I won't bother reposting them in this thread). It worked fine on electric, but on gas it wasn't happening and the mud daubers know why. This all occurred before he bought the trailer, as he installed bug screens as soon as he got it home from Daytona Beach. I posted Bug Screens - A Primer in the resource section and this is living proof that everyone should install bug screens on all of the openings on their RV.

Mt Pisgah in the background.

Charles
 

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udidwht

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Renton, WA.
I have noticed on my 2018 Dometic I bought that if not level (grade climb) the pilot shuts off. It must be temperature sensed for the shutoff. Comes back on it's own.
 

luckydog48

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I love these forums and discussions. You come for one topic and then just rabbit hole into another! Anyway I was looking for possible reason my fridge runs warmer on LP than on AC (AC set to 5 outdoor air in 90s) fridge high 30s to low 40s. Set to LP even at 9 I get a very cold freezer also, say in the teens rather that at 0°. But cold food compartment is killing my lettuce and souring my milk at 48-55 - it’s fluctuating. While searching for answers I came across the ARP device site and, while it’s a nightmare mess of the worst html coding I’ve seen since windows 95 era, it was interesting and full of facts.

Yeah it’s a bit scary but we don’t think twice about insurance on our homes and cars or health. So because we have an 03 Norcold NX810 which we bought from a private party (family of a man who passed away and they didn’t want to keep it) we knew nothing about it except what the son told us plus a few paltry records for oil changes etc. I went outside to look for a recall box and it was never put on. Just as well because it seems that the recall box was an improper fix. I decided to get the ARP unit for a couple reasons. First, our coach is serving as our kitchen during a total tear out kitchen remodel and my new fridge is yet to be delivered and my old one was given away. We have a chest freezer and a big summer vegetable garden but I was putting quite a few things in the coach fridge. It needed defrosting so it’s off and we have gleaned a few ideas on how to fix the temp deltas. My biggest concern is the fridge currently is in our side yard, 3 feet from out wood siding, tucked under our eaves with a propane tank right next to the bedroom. If the thing did go up in flames we’d never be able to save our house. So it’s an insurance policy. I have several hundred dollars worth of Yale Smart Locks, an alarm system and security cameras. It’s for piece of mind, thankfully no one has broken in but I feel safer. The device is just not that expensive compared to other stuff we have, one of which is our homeowners insurance.

The thermistor and burner tube are brand new. Pulled out and checked. Found the gas valve partially closed and the air fuel mixture control half closed. We turned up the gas and leaned out the mixture a bit, but we are waiting for the ARP before restarting it.

Sorry if TLDR, mingled a copy topics. I wasn’t scare tacticked into my purchase. It’s just a bit of insurance.
 

luckydog48

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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.
I agree with you. Paul is awesome. I wrote him an email before I even ordered mine - yesterday. I got a near instant reply. Not once did he urge me to buy his product. I’m working on getting in touch with the attorney who was mentioned in the Forbes article. Turns out this atty is a neighbor and is very involved in this whole mess. I’m awaiting his reply.

The concern I have right now is that my neighborhood is peppered with unhoused persons living in derelict RVs. They may or may not have propane on board. There’s no way to know this. But there have been several cases of RV immolation in our area and multiple grass fires as a result of homeless encampments. I’d like to get out the word to these people that they may have a critical event if they are using old absorption fridges.

I also contacted the storage yard where we keep our coach. I’ve been there after dark in the winter and seen that some rigs are being lived in. When we see this we contact the storage yard company but it’s been an ongoing problem for them. Legit users have key cards to access a big slowly rolling gate. Frequently it stays open long enough for folks on foot to sneak through hidden from view of the office. Cameras don’t always catch them. They break into stored rigs and sleep there. What if they decide to utilize the fridge? Not very likely but we used to go start the fridge the night before a trip and then take our food in the morning. We quit doing that but I’m sure we aren’t alone in the practice. I think the storage yard should include in their contract that fridges should be off.

I went ahead and ordered the Defense and my refrigerator is now off until it arrives. As I told Paul it’s currently at our house, 3 feet from the bedroom, partially tucked under the eaves and if it goes up in flames it will take out the house as well. This has been known to happen. We all seem to have insurance for just about everything. I have a protection plan for my phone and my other apple gear. I see this device as an insurance policy with a one time very low premium. Is it a scare tactic? Well it should be. These things are time bombs. We bought ours used when it was ten years old and we have no idea how it was parked or stored. We do know that there’s no recall box or any paperwork. So I’m feeling very confident I did the right thing.
 

Kirk

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You may want to start a new thread about your problem since this is an old one about a different issue, but I'll try and respond here.
I get a very cold freezer also, say in the teens rather that at 0°. But cold food compartment is killing my lettuce and souring my milk at 48-55 - it’s fluctuating.
While I use the Fridge Defend on my RV refrigerator and would not be without it, I doubt that it is going to help with that problem. I have known Paul Umack for close to 10 years now and he is very dedicated to both his product and to RVing. The problem that you have sound like the cooling unit in your refrigerator is failing. It is a very typical symptom for a unit that has lost some of it's refrigerant and needs to be replaced. The RV refrigerator design is such that the refrigerant goes to the freezer first, then any remaing continues downward through the chill box area. The freezer is alway first to cool and last to fail.
 

Deb&RickTX

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It's my understanding that an RV fridge has X amount of time it can run off-level before failure due to damage from restricted coolant flow, with X a true unknown. Does the Fridge Defend help extend X, at least in theory? Just that seems a reason to add it, if so.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Fridge Defend is first & foremost a safety cut-out. It monitors the boiler temperature and shuts it down if it gets out of normal range, then restarts when it cools a bit. In doing that, it prevents operation with excessive temperatures that can shorten the useful life of the cooling unit. I wouldn't say it extends life; it's more like it reduces premature failures that often result from off-level operation.

The safety cut-out provided by fridge manufacturers does not restart after a cut-off, so they allow the fridge to continue operation at potentially damaging temperatures. To do otherwise would likely result in loss of refrigeration and spoiled food in situations that are common but temporary.
 

luckydog48

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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
Just a quick off topic comment. A coworker told me her brother died at a rural grade crossing. When the arms came down he hit the brakes and was killed by a bowling ball that was in the back of his station wagon.
 

luckydog48

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You may want to start a new thread about your problem since this is an old one about a different issue, but I'll try and respond here.

While I use the Fridge Defend on my RV refrigerator and would not be without it, I doubt that it is going to help with that problem. I have known Paul Umack for close to 10 years now and he is very dedicated to both his product and to RVing. The problem that you have sound like the cooling unit in your refrigerator is failing. It is a very typical symptom for a unit that has lost some of it's refrigerant and needs to be replaced. The RV refrigerator design is such that the refrigerant goes to the freezer first, then any remaing continues downward through the chill box area. The freezer is alway first to cool and last to fail.
I posted two comments on the topic. The first was to applaud this forum for such great content. I came here with one problem and in the process of searching for it, discovered the ARPrv product. Which I purchased. After speaking to Paul via email. Had I not done that we’d be sitting here unprotected.
 
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