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Old 08-04-2015, 10:14 AM   #1
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1979 28' Airstream Excella 28
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New Aistream Excella, fridge question

I'm brand new to this motorhome, literally bought it today! I am wondering the best way to operate the fridge while on the road. What is the best workflow? Should I keep it plugged in the whole time or run it on gas? I'm guessing all of you have a great process that I should follow. Thanks in advance!
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Old 08-04-2015, 10:48 AM   #2
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Welcome to the insanity,
I run my fridge on propane while on the road, I think most people do.

As far as keeping it "plugged in", if you are talking about keeping the rig plugged in all the time while parked then it depends. If youve got the original "converter" in the rig then you dont want to keep it plugged in all the time. The original converter will continue to charge your "coach" batteries ALL the time and will eventually boil them dry and ruin the batteries. Changing out the converter is probably one of the first modifications that people do to these old coaches. Installing a mult-stage converter that senses when your coach batteries are at full charge is well worth the $150 or so that you would invest in the new converter.

The converter is the device that converts 120volt ac to 12 volt dc. Your coach has both 120 and 12 volt systems. Basically your regular household type outlets, your air conditioner(s), and your fridge (which usually has the capability to run on propane or 120volt) are powered by your 120 volt system. Everything else, your lighting, furnace, suspension air compressor, and control boards etc. run off 12volt.

Good luck with your beauty there. Ask questions here on the forum, there is a multitude of folks willing to help out.

Mike
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:02 AM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response! I guess I am not understanding something a bit more fundamental. When driving down the road doesn't the generator connected to the engine power everything? In that case why can't the fridge be plugged in, set to electric, and run that way?
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:10 AM   #4
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Alternator driven by the engine provides 12 volts. Fridge will most likely run on propane or 110 volt. If you want to run the fridge on 110 volt electricity you will either need to be connected to shore power or a generator (which your coach may have but it will be separate from the engine).
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:11 AM   #5
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When I used to have a big diesel MH I would often run the generator while driving to operate the roof A/C units as the dash A/C was not adequate to cool the coach.
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Old 08-04-2015, 12:08 PM   #6
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Congratulations on your purchase and welcome! If your new Excella has an inverter (which converts 12VDC to 110 VAC), the alternator may be large enough to provide enough 12V to run the fridge on 110 while driving. Some fridges are 3-way, i.e. they will work on 110 VAC, 12 VDC, or propane. If yours is one of those, then it will run off 12 VDC while driving, otherwise you would have to run it on propane or an inverter. Mine is 2-way, 110VAC and propane. I run it on propane while traveling, but there are documented instances where that caused a fire. Some people just get it good and cold and then turn it off while driving. You MUST shut off propane before entering most, if not all, tunnels.

Al
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:03 PM   #7
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You can do that too, run the genny and leave the fridge on 120volt while traveling. I think it may be cheaper, fuel wise, to run the fridge on propane though. Dont know for sure about that but I assume so. I have a propane genny and diesel engine. Its cheaper for me to run the fridge on propane than run the generator. Either way, youll accomplish the same thing. I was assuming you have a two way fridge, either propane or 120 volt.
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al and Missy View Post
... I run (the fridge) on propane while traveling, but there are documented instances where that caused a fire. Some people just get it good and cold and then turn it off while driving. You MUST shut off propane before entering most, if not all, tunnels.

Al
Because I would like to separate myth from fact, Al and/or Missy, please cite the "documented instances" where using propane to cool refrigerator while underway has caused a fire. Because it has long been my practice to run the fridge on propane while underway in my small airframe SBB (some better brand) -- even when fueling my tow vehicle -- I am especially interested in established fact, not myth or speculation. What's more, why write one MUST shut off propane (presumably at the tanks) before entering tunnel, when absolutely NO ONE I know in nearly fifty years of trailering has ever done that. (Ferries, sure -- "shut and tagged") Thanks for your reply.
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:14 PM   #9
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Your generator is not connected to your engine in any way except they share the same start battery. Your alternator on your engine runs your 12volt chassis related systems, nothing in your "coach". They are two separate 12volt systems. Your chassis electrical system is like any other car or truck, with its own fuse block and such. Your coach 12volt has its own fuse panel, batteries, charging system (converter). There is a battery isolator connected to your alternator that does charge your coach batteries while the engine is running. Did you get a manual with the purchase? If you didnt, that would be a good investment, about $50. I think you can buy one from Airstream. It takes a while to understand how these rigs are wired.
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:16 PM   #10
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Propane is the cheapest way to run the fridge, compared to the generator. Especially when maintenance on the generator is factored in.

I do not have a generator. I run my fridge on propane while driving. I have been informed that this may be illegal. I'm also aware that there's a fire hazard. But I need cold beer when I stop. Cuff me.

Eric
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:27 PM   #11
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... I run my fridge on propane while driving. I have been informed that this may be illegal. I'm also aware that there's a fire hazard. But I need cold beer when I stop. Cuff me.

Eric
Whoever told you it may be illegal to run your 'fridge on propane whilst underway did not inform so much as speculate.

I assumed it was a dangerous practice, but I studied the Norcold manual that came with the new 'fridge and could find nothing to suggest it is an unsafe practice. In today's hyper-litigious environment, where every manufacturer covers their ass six ways from Sunday, if it were illegal or unsafe, I'll bet it would be the biggest message in the manual.

("Cuff me!" That's a good one.)
Michael
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:12 PM   #12
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Exclamation fridge

My 2000 Excella has an auto setting which switches from elec to gas when we disconnect from shore power. I can also select , but I let the system work. BG
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Old 08-04-2015, 05:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by '55 Airlight View Post
Because I would like to separate myth from fact, Al and/or Missy, please cite the "documented instances" where using propane to cool refrigerator while underway has caused a fire. Because it has long been my practice to run the fridge on propane while underway in my small airframe SBB (some better brand) -- even when fueling my tow vehicle -- I am especially interested in established fact, not myth or speculation. What's more, why write one MUST shut off propane (presumably at the tanks) before entering tunnel, when absolutely NO ONE I know in nearly fifty years of trailering has ever done that. (Ferries, sure -- "shut and tagged") Thanks for your reply.
Sorry if I overstated the case, but I thought I was providing useful information to a new user, not writing a scholarly article where attribution and footnotes were required.

I have searched unsuccessfully for the video to which, I believe, a link was posted on here. That video showed a MH burned on the side of the road. I'm not going to quote it here, because I can't back it up, but the fire appeared to have started in the refrigerator compartment while underway

From Good Sam Insurance:
"We receive hundreds of claims a year that are due to refrigerator fires caused by malfunctions in the fridge’s cooling system. A rig can burn up in minutes as a result of these malfunctions.
...
Also be sure to follow these basic guidelines:
...
  • Do not drive with your refrigerator running on the propane setting."

From "It's an RV life", showing a picture of a Class C on fire next to a gasoline pump:
"According to the Houston area fire inspector and fire marshal that I talked to there have been several fires attributed to RVs running there systems while in gas stations. This is the key to the whole debate. Most states have laws against having open flames at fueling stations, in this case the open flame would be the pilot light on the refrigerator. Many places also have restrictions on open flames in tunnels, bridges, ferries, and a host of other locations (even a few restricting flammable liquids which includes propane)."


From "Your RV Lifestyle":
"In particular, if you do travel with the refrigerator operating on propane, you must turn off the propane and all appliances prior to entering a fuel stop. It is illegal to have any open flames while near a service station fuel pump, and some tunnels and bridges also have restrictions."


Re: Operation in tunnels:
I did overgeneralize. My apologies. I have seen restrictions listed on here and simply repeated what I had seen. Apparently the majority of the restrictions, but not all, are found in the MA/NY/PA/VA/MD area.

From Woodalls:

LP-GAS PROHIBITED:

Maryland/Baltimore: Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry (I-95) tunnels. Alternate route for RVs with propane over the Francis Scott Key Bridge is I-695.

Massachusetts/Boston Harbor: All.

New York/East River: Between Manhattan and Brooklyn: Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Between Manhattan and Queens: Queens Midtown Tunnel.

New York and New Jersey/Hudson River: Between Manhattan and Jersey City: Holland Tunnel. Between Manhattan and Fort Lee: Lower level George Washington Bridge (I-95 South) and George Washington Bridge Expressway. Lower level Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Between Manhattan and Weehawken: Lincoln Tunnel.

LP-GAS RESTRICTIONS:

Virginia/Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: RVs equipped with ICC-approved compressed cooking tanks not exceeding two 45-pound capacity tanks (or two permanently mounted containers with maximum total capacity of 200 pounds) may cross the facility provided that, in the opinion of the toll collector or police sergeant after inspection, the tanks are completely shut off and securely attached.

Texas/Houston Ship Channel: Washburn Tunnel between Pasadena and Galena Park: Maximum of two 71Ú2-gallon containers (30 pounds gas each) or one 10-gallon container (40 pounds gas) of DOT (ICC)-approved type, with shutoff valve at discharge opening. Valve must be closed when in tunnel. LP-gas as vehicle fuel prohibited. 71Ú2-gallon containers (30 pounds gas each) or one 10-gallon container (40 pounds gas) of DOT (ICC)-approved type, with shutoff valve at discharge opening. Valve must be closed when in tunnel. LP-gas as vehicle fuel prohibited.

Propane Tanks In Tunnels | RV Trip Wizard? | RV Trip Wizard Inc.


Here's what I gather from all this:
1. Since Good Sam alone sees "...hundreds of claims a year that are due to refrigerator fires caused by malfunctions in the fridge’s cooling system" odds are that some of them happened wile underway. The mechanism stated for ammonia leaks in the recall of Dometic and Norcold refrigerators was cracked lines. It seems likely that cracks would appear more often while in motion than when stationary. That said, I run my refrigerator on propane while moving, and I stated that in my reply to the OP.
2. I will not refuel my vehicle (the diesel pump is adjacent to multiple gasoline pumps) with the refrigerator operating on propane. I choose not to take that risk. I see people refueling their vehicles while they or someone in their vehicle are smoking. Just because people do it doesn't mean it is advisable.
3. When I encounter a tunnel with a sign that says vehicles with propane prohibited, I will comply. When I encounter a tunnel with a sign that says propane must be turned off, I will comply. I thought it was an NHTSA requirement, but apparently I was mistaken.

I apologize for any inconvenience my post has caused anyone.

Al
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Old 08-04-2015, 08:17 PM   #14
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Sorry if I overstated the case, but I thought I was providing useful information to a new user...
Yes, Al you did, and very informative info as a follow up. Thanks for sharing!
Just for the record, i never drive my Airstream OR pull my Airstream trailer with the Propane on. The gas lines on the 93 trailer I owned were just asking to be ripped off by some road debris....
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