We were up really early this morning in case Leon was ready to put our fridge back in the RV.
Per our recent recounting of our male-female thought processes, Bill provided me with the following picture entitled:
Yeah, that about sums it up. :)
Fortunately, even though I make fun, all of Linda's "dials and buttons" have seemed to be in the right position the last few months. I'm not sure I've ever seen her quite this laid back and calm. Very nice.
When we saw Leon in the shop we went inside to check out the status. Our fridge had been running all night and had built up some coolness. We looked at the new cooling unit attached to the back.
Right in the middle, the two black things are fans to help blow the warm air up and out the vent.
We didn't even know we had fans. When Leon turned them on, they were loud and Linda was positive they had never been on before. Leon said that wasn't unusual because Dometic puts the heat sensor to start the fans in the wrong place.
On the new unit, the sensor is in a spot where the fans would be activated properly. Leon offered to swap out the large, loud fans for smaller, quieter fans. The difference in noise was definitely worth the change.
Okay, so the proper operation of the cooling unit requires three things: 1) being level, 2) proper ventilation, and 3) a proper heat source.
The cooling unit is a series of interconnected tubing (steel pipes) that houses a pressurized mixture of water, ammonia, hydrogen, and sodium chromate. With the addition of heat, these elements interact and cause a series of chemical reactions that ultimately "absorb" the heat out of the interior of the fridge and freezer boxes. The absence of heat results in cooling.
Whereas a residential refrigerator cools via a motor and compressor, an "absorption" RV refrigerator removes heat and leaves coolness behind. There are no moving parts in an "absorption" cooling unit. The RV refrigerator has worked well for many, many years although they are not as efficient as residential refrigerators, they don't perform well in extreme heat, and they are subject to failure if any of the three requirements (level, proper ventilation, proper heat source) aren't present.
Older RV refrigerators needed to be almost perfectly level. In fact, levels used to be included with them. But today's refrigerators don't require that much precision. As long as the RV is level enough that it is not annoying to live in, the refrigerator should be okay.
So, why is being level important? Well, the cooling units are designed so that the chemical mixture, via gravity, sits in the tubing in a particular place so that the heating makes it react in a certain manner. If the unit is too unlevel, the mixture won't behave properly resulting in lack of cooling or, worse, overcooking of the solution.
As the chemical process "absorbs" heat out of the interior of the fridge, that heat has to go somewhere. If that heat isn't vented out of the RV, it surrounds and heats the fridge too much causing the cooling unit to work too hard (like it's in extreme heat) or, worse, causes overheating of the cooling unit.
Refrigerators that are not in slideouts tend to be vented better. Air comes in through the side of the rig, and then the heat is vented out through the roof. Since heat rises, straight up is the best venting.
For refrigerators in slideouts, the venting is more restricted. You can't vent them out of the top of the slide, so there are two side-of-the-rig vents. The heat rises up from the back of the fridge and hits the slideout ceiling rather than naturally flowing out. If that heat gets trapped and is not forced out, it affects the performance of the refrigerator and, ultimately, the life span. That's why most slideout fridges will have fans to help push the heat up and, hopefully, out.
According to Leon, in his experience, large refrigerators in slideouts fail on average in 5 - 7 years while fridges not in slideouts last 12 - 15 years. In our case, we got eight years out of our slideout refrigerator. But Leon identified a few different ways he could help the ventilation. So, with an improved cooling unit and improved ventilation, perhaps we can get more than eight years out of our "new" unit.
A heat source is required to make the chemical solution do what it is supposed to do. It's fairly easy to make sure a heat source is present, but it's not so easy to make sure it's the "proper" amount of heat. The important thing, especially regarding the propane heat source, is to keep the burner area clean.
Okay, so here's what our empty fridge cabinet looked like.
Three things stand out. First, the floor is wet. When our refrigerator quit and defrosted, the water didn't drain out the hose through the vent, but rather into the drawer below. Leon fixed that by drilling a hole in the vent cover that allowed the drain hose to be lower to let gravity work better.
Second, there is a little scorch mark on the right below the upper vent. Leon added some bubble insulation just to be safe.
Third, the overhead insulation was hanging down and creating a "trap" for the rising heat. Leon tacked that up and added some additional help to the venting (photo later).
Finally, the fridge was hauled out on a forklift.
Leon and his assistant worked the refrigerator inside and put it in its spot.
Here's the view of the installed fridge from the outside (lower vent opening).
And here's the upper vent opening.
Then Leon installed a metal baffle at the top to help direct the heat out of the vent.
So, with fans that actually work and the baffle our ventilation should be better. Perhaps that and the better cooling unit will give us several more years of refrigerator operation. If not, the next step is probably a residential unit. :)
We settled up with Leon, and left his place a little after 1:00.
Then we drove the 25 miles to MOR/ryde in Elkhart where we backed in to one of there 50-amp RV sites. We got set up, checked in, and learned that our morning appointment for tomorrow might be a little delayed.
We met up there with Bill & Linda. There KZ Escalade was in one of the bays getting worked on. Rather than going out tonight, the gals made plans.
Linda was going to make lasagna, while Bill's Linda was going to make a casesar salad. Also, Mike & Joan, who we met at the Grand Rapids RV Show where we did seminars last winter, were joining us.
The Lindas went to the grocery to get dinner supplies. Also, Linda got food to partially restock our working refrigerator.
Linda got back and prepared the lasagna plus her Ultimate Peach Cobbler dessert.
We all gathered at Bill & Linda's and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together. Mike & Joan closed on the sale of their house yesterday, so they are now full-timers. However, Mike has a little less than a year to finish up his work before they hit the road. For now, they are parked in a campground until they can head out.
As it got later, we said our goodbyes 'cause we all had to get up early tomorrow.
We are getting our suspension and brakes checked out and also replacing our trailer tires. They have a little less than 30,000 miles on them, but they are five years old, and we want to change them out every five years.
Well, that wraps up a long day. Hopefully, we won't have to talk about the refrigerator again for a long time. :)