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Old 10-19-2017, 11:37 AM   #1
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Beware the AMMONIA Bomb!

I did a short drive in my 345 Moho yesterday to get to a dump station.
As I was getting settled back into my spot at our new place here in the fla Panhandle I did notice some smell of ammonia in the head and galley areas.
Thinking it was fumes from the now emptied tank, I opened the windows and left the coach for a while.
When coming back in the evening the smell seemed less. And to be diminishing.

So I went to bed and slept thru the night, only to find that the galley area was full of the smell this morning.

Luckily I had closed the door accross the hall which seemed to contain most of the gas to the galley area. Tho I did notice the smell as soon as I stood up in the bedroom too.

My brother had this happen to his refrigerator in his much newer AS trailer also
Apparently the refrigerant used in our rigs has a strong smell of ammonia.
I'm not sure how bad for you this could be, but My feeling is that it's not good for you to be breathing this stuff, maybe even very bad to be breathing.

Also luckily this gas seems lighter than air, so concentrated near the ceiling.
Once I started moving around in the coach it stirred the gas around and it reached the smoke/ gas detector near the door and set it off.

So I'm now sitting outside hungry for breakfast and thinking how fortunate I am not to have been gassed in my sleep.

BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO SMELL AMMONIA GAS IN YOUR RIG!

And now the search for a repair for or replacement refrigerator.
Any one done a refrigerator replacement in our old coaches.
I'm wanting to have the three way type. Is there a modern unit that fits the space well? Oh and hopefully costs less than $2 grand.

Cheers Richard
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:19 PM   #2
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I got gassed with chlorine, takes your breath right away. Huge filtration system in a small building and a fitting on the chlorine tank had cracked. Scary stuff Richard, glad you didn't do the deeeeeep sleeeep!!!!

Adios my friend, be safe

Mike
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:38 PM   #3
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Here is a really well documented thread from a '92 trailer owner who survived the ammonia bomb and fixed his refrigerator:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f425...air-23857.html
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Old 10-20-2017, 05:11 AM   #4
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Thanks guys for the replys, and that great link.

Wow what a well documented job John HD did for all of us that follow his trail.
That is one of the really good things about this place.

So after reading thru the linked thread I come away thinking that this is a doable job. Not exactly " I can do that ". I'll have to spend some more time looking thru it.

When I got back to the rig late yesterday with a small undercounter refidgerator to live out of for the mean time. The fumes had cleared out of the coach and life aboard is returning to normal.

Cheers Richard
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Old 10-20-2017, 07:45 AM   #5
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Timely thread. Three people recently died in Canada because of ammonia.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/britis...aths-1.4360521

Be careful!
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Old 10-20-2017, 10:26 AM   #6
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One ammonia bomb was enough for me! Mine went out in my 345 earlier this year, filling the living area with noxious fumes so I decided to replace it with a Vitrifrigo compressor driven refrigerator. I never was truly comfortable with the thought of having an unattended fire in my RV.
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Old 10-20-2017, 11:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Jones View Post
Timely thread. Three people recently died in Canada because of ammonia.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/britis...aths-1.4360521

Be careful!
Also one dead in Kingston, Ontario, last week, at an arena.
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Old 10-20-2017, 11:39 AM   #8
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The Servel type fridges in most (not all) RV's do ideed use ammonia, but while not meaning to downplay the situation, I think that inprespective .......

(a) It has a pretty strong smell and you would normally know of its presence before being into much danger if it leaked. It is probably not that uncommon to experience a leak in older units due to rust of the coils - and even in newer fridges if defective.

(b) the way the fridges are built, most of any leaked ammonia would I think be on the outside of the trailer where the vented access panel is located - or maybe within the fridge itself where it is somewhat contained until the fridge door is opened.

I wouldn't get overly concerned about the possibilities. These fridges have been in use for many many years, and I don't recall reading of many - if any serious health issues that have arisen.

The newspaper articles seem to relate to people working on huge cooling installations at ice rinks - may not be really that comparable.

Just my own thoughts of course, and more than happy to be corrected by anyone with more directly related experience. I certainly wouldn't want to down play anything that could represent a serious health hazard!
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tevake View Post
And now the search for a repair for or replacement refrigerator.
Any one done a refrigerator replacement in our old coaches.
I'm wanting to have the three way type. Is there a modern unit that fits the space well? Oh and hopefully costs less than $2 grand.

Cheers Richard

Just had my 85 dometic start not working as good.. after we bought the trailer and put it back in op... the thing sat for about 7 years... not good...

Anyway.. looked at new... and was told that the new dometic's are having problems with the tubing cracking and leaking... seems that they went to thin'er tubing for the cooling unit... and their have been LOTS of fires when they were on propane... burning down the coach... soooo with that in mind
I started to do some checking.. and found that the older units.. rusted through the years... or else were damaged ... while sitting off level in the parking lot while the owners were in eating dinner... kinda thing... and burned up the cap tube inside due to overheating...

What we came up with is several companies that take old units.. and overhaul 'em... as aftermarket units... that are direct replacements for the older refrig's.. cooling units... Their is one made in canada.. that makes 'em new... and when installed... the unit is as good as new.. the only thing that you have old is the cabn't and interior stuff...

So that was the way we went... at about 1/3 the cost... but, to find someone that will remove and replace the old cooling unit on the back... is few... but some of the people like PINE or RVcool etc..... will do the work if you send them the box... and pay the shipping both ways... either that or drop by their place...

You can see some of them on utube...

It is the better way to go... as the new units are not without their problem...

G.M>
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:59 PM   #10
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The conversion to the compressor type of refrigs... is not without their problems either... we did some research on them.. as a option... and found that some who had them actually said it was not the answer... even though they seemed to work better in hot weather.....and didn't have to be level... their were other issues.. such as noise and elect power.... but I am sure that the compressor kind will be the way to go in the future...once they get 'em to where they will live on the road...
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Old 10-20-2017, 01:34 PM   #11
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Last March I was at the Escapade in Tucson AZ I visited the booth of Mao and Paul Unmack who developed the ARP control module for RV refrigerators. This is a control module that prevents overheating of the cooling unit that causes RV refrigerator failures. Depending on what and how your refer is installed, there are different options, including fans to move the airflow through the condenser coil. It is well worth reading the info on the website - I did and I had them install a unit in my AS.

https://www.arprv.com/
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Old 10-21-2017, 04:49 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GM Airstream View Post
The conversion to the compressor type of refrigs... is not without their problems either... we did some research on them.. as a option... and found that some who had them actually said it was not the answer... even though they seemed to work better in hot weather.....and didn't have to be level... their were other issues.. such as noise and elect power.... but I am sure that the compressor kind will be the way to go in the future...once they get 'em to where they will live on the road...
I am sure that the compressor kind will be the way to go in the future...once they get 'em to where they will live on the road... Care to elaborate on this? Airstream already installs compressor refrigerators in it's Interstate & Atlas touring coaches. I don't think they would do this if there were serious issues with them 'living on the road'

The noise produced by a compressor fridge is very similar to a running refrigerator in you home. Sure you are living in closer quarters in your RV but I have not had any issue living with the occasional low hum of the compressor emanating from my galley. Added weight is also a concern but it is minimal. Per the specs, I have added less than 15 pounds over the fridge I replaced. This will be significant to some but I'm still well under my weight limit.

As for electrical... This could pose a problem for some but as owners of Airstream motorhomes, our units are already wired to run the fridge on 12 volt or AC, when underway the alternator provides plenty of 12 volt power to operate the fridge. Not t mention, I often find myself running the genset in an effort to keep the living quarters cool when underway so in that case the genny provides AC power to the fridge.

Boondocking is where power consumption truly becomes as issue. In that case you will want to look into upgrading your house batteries & adding solar but you're already going to be doing this if you plan on doing a lot of boon docking... Right? & the power requirements of a 12 volt compressor fridge are very modest. After all, most were designed for the marine industry where people often largely depend on solar and where keeping food fresh can quickly become a matter of life & death

That is where we get to the real issue (in my opinion) increased cost. I purchased my Vitrifrigo stainless steel marine fridge from a connection in the boat building industry. He ordered it & sold it to me for 10% over his cost & I still spent several hundred more than I would have for a basic replacement absorption fridge. Read on to learn why I was fine with paying the increased fee.

Replacing the absorption cooling unit was never a consideration for me as I had not been pleased with the construction of the door or door latches on my Dometic fridge. The latches had failed 3 times in 7 years of ownership. Twice my door swung open while underway, spilling food out & each time the door hit the wall it's plastic components would flex. This leads me to the main reason I went with a marine fridge. Solid construction. The latches are stainless steel, no plastic to be found in their construction, the door? Also solid stainless with metal hinges attached to a metal frame. This is a refrigerator I would consider replacing the cooling unit on, not the plastic box that resided in my Airstream before.

Anyhow, I'm not saying a compressor fridge is the answer for everyone, & I don't believe the original poster is even considering one I'm just not convinced the arguments you were given by others against them were all that valid. Regardless, I'm glad we have options... and can all hopefully make the choice that is right for us See you down the road
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Old 10-21-2017, 08:04 AM   #13
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I did install a Norcold 12 volt compressor unit with attached and gas filled cooling plates into the built in box on my cruising boat. This did work out very well, but the boat was allways parked in full sun, where the solar panels could easily power them. Also that setup did not freeze Ice, which has become highly desired.

The thought of mounting that sort of unit into the current box did occure to me.
Also just replacing the cooling unit in this box is a possibility I'm thinking about.

My brother replaced his with a new unit from Dometic. First one came with the doors opening the wrong way. The next one did not fit the space and required retriming the cabinetry. So even that did not have the ease of a clean direct replacement.

I appreciate all of the input as I sort the choices going forward, keep it coming.

Cheers Richard
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Old 10-21-2017, 08:40 AM   #14
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We'd absolutely love to switch from the Demonic ammonia absorption fridge to a danfoss-compressor-based fridge such as Vitrifrigo or Norcold. However, as others have noted, those fridges require a heftier battery bank and will benefit from solar input to ensure they don't run dry. Ideally, we'll put in LiFePO4 batteries, add more solar, and then swap out that Demonic fridge. All in good time and a lot of money. <sigh>
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