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Old 07-17-2017, 08:38 AM   #1
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Simple Survey on Fridge Performance While on Propane

Several of us have reported that the Basecamp fridge will not cool to a food safe level while on propane (which is the only option while driving).

There have been references to inadequate air space in the cabinet that houses the fridge resulting in elevated cabinet temperature from the propane burner.

Since many, if not most of us, would precool with shore power prior to departure and switch (either by employing the "Auto" button or manually) to propane while towing, it is possible that, if the fridge loses sufficient cooling while on propane and we simply plug into shore power when we reach our first destination, that we would be unaware if the fridge temp has risen to an unsafe food safety level.

If this scenerio is reflective of what goes on given the current design for ventilation, then it would not be surprising that Airstream reported to me last week that they have heard of only a few instances of failure to cool while on propane.

While we have several reports of failure to maintain a food safety cooling level under propane operation, I have yet to see a report of anyone whose Basecamp actually cools adequately while on propane.

If yours does cool to an adequate food safe level while on propane, it would be helpful to know the conditions under which your fridge is operating when it cools appropriately under propane (did you precool on shore power, did the trailer sit in high outside temperature, were you boon docking and under propane for an extended period of time?)

I think that it is important to get all sides of folk's experiences with this issue. Remember that, if you don't check your box temp while on propane and simply plug in again upon arrival, you may never know what box temp was maintained while on propane.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-17-2017, 09:10 AM   #2
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Let's also include if you had the leaky fridge technical service bulletin repair work done at the dealer. I say this as it another possibility of handling the fridge and vents where it could have gotten messed up or airflow obstructed. For me, leaky fridge work done at the dealer prior to pick up. LP mode on fridge does NOT work. Last check I was at 68 degrees on LP 24 hours following being connected to shore paper. Prior to flipping to LP mode, I was 28 degrees. Thermometer (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1) is hanging from top wire rack centered left to right.
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Old 07-17-2017, 11:46 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bborzell View Post
Several of us have reported that the Basecamp fridge will not cool to a food safe level while on propane (which is the only option while driving).

There have been references to inadequate air space in the cabinet that houses the fridge resulting in elevated cabinet temperature from the propane burner.

Since many, if not most of us, would precool with shore power prior to departure and switch (either by employing the "Auto" button or manually) to propane while towing, it is possible that, if the fridge loses sufficient cooling while on propane and we simply plug into shore power when we reach our first destination, that we would be unaware if the fridge temp has risen to an unsafe food safety level.

If this scenerio is reflective of what goes on given the current design for ventilation, then it would not be surprising that Airstream reported to me last week that they have heard of only a few instances of failure to cool while on propane.

While we have several reports of failure to maintain a food safety cooling level under propane operation, I have yet to see a report of anyone whose Basecamp actually cools adequately while on propane.

If yours does cool to an adequate food safe level while on propane, it would be helpful to know the conditions under which your fridge is operating when it cools appropriately under propane (did you precool on shore power, did the trailer sit in high outside temperature, were you boon docking and under propane for an extended period of time?)

I think that it is important to get all sides of folk's experiences with this issue. Remember that, if you don't check your box temp while on propane and simply plug in again upon arrival, you may never know what box temp was maintained while on propane.

Thanks in advance.
I called Airstream this morning to 'officially' report the lack of refrigerator cooling on either propane or shore power in my Basecamp. Gretchen, in warranty, said she has had some reports on this. She is ordering the 'fan' kit and shipping it to my dealer for installation. When I've called about issues before, I've been told that they haven't heard this complaint, so I wanted to 'officially' have it reported. Mine would only get down to 68-69 degrees on either propane or shore power. Freezer would get down to 10 degrees and I believe it needs to be 0 degrees.
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:01 PM   #4
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Mine is in getting the fan/insulation fix. I'm planning to pick it up tomorrow.
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:26 PM   #5
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See if they can take some pics. I am curious as to the post repair temps!!!
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Old 07-17-2017, 03:03 PM   #6
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just got a call from the dealer. 3 fans and it's been sitting in the sun on propane for two days. temp is in the 30s.

leaving to pick it up. 200 mile round trip.
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Old 07-17-2017, 03:28 PM   #7
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So it must be an air flow problem if 3 fans fix it.
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:03 PM   #8
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More detail on fan kit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bborzell View Post
just got a call from the dealer. 3 fans and it's been sitting in the sun on propane for two days. temp is in the 30s.

leaving to pick it up. 200 mile round trip.
Can you tell me specifics on the fan kit? Item number or some reference? And 3 fans came with it or did they add to what was already installed? Many thanks!
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Old 07-17-2017, 08:48 PM   #9
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it didn't fix the problem

Just got back from my second 200 mile round trip on the fridge problem; this is not the fix I had hoped it would be. In fact, it is not a fix at all.

First off, the dealer has bent over backwards to get me to the front of the line (given our upcoming 5,500 mile trip). I have no complaints about Bay Area Airstream.

They installed two fans according to Airstream's direction in order to complement the original fan. One new fan serves the lower vent to draw in outside air, the original fan draws air over/through the coils and the other new fan exhausts heated air out the upper vent (and directly into the back of the propane tank cover; more on that later).

The dealer called me after the fridge had been operating on propane for two days in their parking lot and with 95-100 degree heat and was registering mid 30s in the main box. The dealer was excited as was I. By the time I arrived to pick it up, the box had gone up to 56 degrees. There were long faces all around.

The technician had not installed insulation around the box as he believed that the issue was not a loss of cooling in the box but rather an inability to move heated air out of the enclosure. Given the initial results, it would appear that his presumption made sense.

However, something happened between the phone call and my arrival that had underscored, in my mind, that there is an inherent design flaw with respect to the matching of this particular fridge, the limited air space in the enclosure and the passive venting system. That design issue is apparently serious enough to render the triple fan fix ineffective.

Complicating the dynamic is the proximity of the front propane cover to the intake and exhaust vents. I don't see how <1" between the cover and the screens can allow air transfer sufficient to cool the unit while operating with propane. It is possible that operating on shore power also creates heat that could overcome both the original passive venting system as well as the adding two more fans approach. I know that the fridge originally cooled to near zero in the freezer and 34 in the main box the first time I plugged it in, but it also cooled appropriately with the fan fix for a short time.

I plugged in as soon as I got home and will monitor both box temps for the next 24 hours. I also left the propane engaged to operate the fridge on the 100 mile drive home thinking that, perhaps driving might create additional draw out the exhaust vent. But, the box temp had risen 4 degrees by the time I got home.

My service manager is contacting the national Airstream service manager so that we can discuss options. We will be within 150 or so miles from Airstream in Ohio during the second leg of our trip.

In the meantime, it looks like we will need to carry our Pelican ice chest on our trip in order to reliably keep our food safe. To say we are disappointed with this turn of events does not seem adequate.

I should add that the three fans are very loud. Even if they allowed food safe cooling, they would keep us awake on hot nights.
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Old 07-17-2017, 09:21 PM   #10
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Sorry to hear this. I don't think AS knows what they are doing with airflow. They would be better off putting all three fans in the exit vent and sealing it off.

I can't even imagine the noise those three cheap fans would make in the Basecamp. If they searched these forums they could come up with a better design.
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Old 07-17-2017, 11:54 PM   #11
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Just went out (10:30 pm) and checked the fridge. It has been on shore power since 7:00 pm or 3.5 hours.

Outside temp is 72. Freezer is 5 degrees and the box is 46 or about what I would expect for this amount of time on 120 V AC. The counter top above the fridge has cooled quite noticeably. Lends additional credence to the notion that the propane pilot is the culprit.

The fans are very, very loud.

I'll report back in the morning. Also about 2-3 pm tomorrow when it should be around 90 degrees outside.
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Old 07-18-2017, 01:27 AM   #12
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Thank you for the detailed report.

Loud fans . . . say no more about AS QC . . .




Quote:
Originally Posted by Bborzell View Post
Just got back from my second 200 mile round trip on the fridge problem; this is not the fix I had hoped it would be. In fact, it is not a fix at all.
. . .
I should add that the three fans are very loud.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bborzell View Post
. . .
The fans are very, very loud.
. . .
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Old 07-18-2017, 05:34 AM   #13
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We've noticed something on two of the Basecamps we have been working on the fridges, and I'd like to ask for others that have the time, ability, and equipment for an assist:
Could you measure these temps: Ambient, countertop, fridge compartment and freezer compartment? Record those figures, then remove the tank cover, and take the same measurements, and report them back here. I've noticed something, but would like a larger group of test findings before submitting them to Airstream, and a possible fix.
Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-18-2017, 06:36 AM   #14
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We don't have a Basecamp, but FWIW, we had two refrigerators that appear structurally identical to that which appears in Basecamp photographs and videos on the internet. Ours were both called Dometic 2351 although I think Dometic may have updated the model number to something new when they made cosmetic updates to the face of it.

IMO, these are just poor fridge designs. When our first one began failing, we figured it was due to the age of our vehicle (8 years) and we had bought our rig used, so we didn't know the history of how the fridge had been treated. We tried replacing a couple of components (blog post), but that didn't resolve the issue.

So we replaced the whole fridge with a new Dometic 3-way of the same model number (blog post). We initially assumed that this would solve our problems, but this second one only lasted 20 months before the fridge temperature began bottoming out in an unacceptable range (44 F to 55 F on either propane or shore power). When I called Dometic a couple of weeks ago, they told me that they would supply both parts AND labor charges under warranty for the repair - my paperwork said that only parts would be covered at 20 months, and I wondered if Dometic was perhaps trying to save its customer base in the face of multiple claims, by sweetening the deal via the addition of labor to the warranty. I then called authorized local service centers which told me that the repair wait time was anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks.

My husand and I ended up concluding that trying to keep a small Dometic 3-way functioning was just too much overhead - too much time, too much hassle, too much disruption to our lives and to our travel plans. We swapped out the second Dometic for a Vitrifrigo 2-way (blog post; we have lithium batteries so we can support its power needs).

So if I were you guys, I'd be asking the question... is the primary problem the Basecamp's design, or is the primary problem the design of the fridge itself? If it's the latter, you will be limited in what you are able to do about it.

Good luck to you all - I know what kind of a supreme aggravation and time sink these issues are. Not to mention the impact it can have on a person's wallet.
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Old 07-18-2017, 07:08 AM   #15
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Thanks for the input Interblog. I was wondering if a AC/DC Novakool along with a second battery is a better fridge solution. I don't have experience with a fridge running on DC but I know my LP fridge isn't working right!!!
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Old 07-18-2017, 07:34 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63 View Post
We've noticed something on two of the Basecamps we have been working on the fridges, and I'd like to ask for others that have the time, ability, and equipment for an assist:
Could you measure these temps: Ambient, countertop, fridge compartment and freezer compartment? Record those figures, then remove the tank cover, and take the same measurements, and report them back here. I've noticed something, but would like a larger group of test findings before submitting them to Airstream, and a possible fix.
Thanks for your help.
Are you interested primarily in hearing from folks who have not added fans and or insulation? Also,are you are looking for data from propane operation?
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Old 07-18-2017, 07:52 AM   #17
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Went out this morning after 11 hours on shore power. Here are the readings:

Outside Temp: 72 degrees

Freezer: -8.5 degrees

Box: 26.8 degrees

Countertop: Cool to the touch.

Fans are still running and still very loud.

I was under the impression that the fan(s) ran only when needed. Maybe they will shut off next winter.

Despite the addition of the fans to the mix, it appears clear that my fridge operates within expectations while on shore power, but fails while on propane. The fact that I currently have good cooling and no elevated countertop temperature on 120V, but inadequate cooling and a very warm countertop while on propane suggests to me that this is exclusively a propane operation issue.

I considered removing the propane tank cover in order to see if that had any effect on cooling. But, given the current performance on shore power, I doubt that removing the cover would have the effect of additional cooling as the fridge/freezer temps are currently about as low as anyone might expect to see from this unit.

I am considering switching to propane as the outside temp warms up. In addition to checking on propane operation, I'd like to get some data on how long the freezer and box can maintain the current 120V temps even if running on propane fails to maintain the current acceptable temp levels.

The obvious problem with this experiment is the fact that the trailer will be sitting as opposed to traveling at highway speeds. But, considering that highway airflow should help cooling, at least I might be able to predict how much driving time I can get in before food begins to lose a food safe temperature.
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Old 07-18-2017, 07:56 AM   #18
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Thanks for the input Interblog. I was wondering if a AC/DC Novakool along with a second battery is a better fridge solution. I don't have experience with a fridge running on DC but I know my LP fridge isn't working right!!!
So long as your power can support it, a DC compressor fridge is the best way to go IMHO, I pulled out the Dometic 3 way and put in a NovaKool, The inside temp is a steady 34 and 10 and had only fluctuated 2-3 degrees from that, with outside temps in mid 90s and high humidity.

One other benefit is that I also closed off the external vents and installed 5 layers of foil insulation on the back wall, keeping external air and temps outside, all needed ventilation airflow is inside, front floor level intake and top level exhaust, this way the coolest air inside is drawn across the heat exchanger on the back, two ultra quiet low power DC fans turn on whenever the compressor runs. This model draws 4.3A whenever it runs and uses 23AH hours overnight before the sun gets to work recharging the system.

The "heat" generated by the all inside setup is virtually none, the difference is 3-5 as measured.
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Old 07-18-2017, 08:15 AM   #19
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Could not sleep last night, so at 12:30 a.m. I got out my Dometic installation booklet on the refrigerator and read it all. On page 7: Ventilation Requirements: 4th bullet point: Any obstruction of either of the vent openings is not permissible, e.g. roof rafters, roofing materials, etc. Continued on page 8: The flow of combustion and ventilating air must not be obstructed, e.g. by an open RV door. (This I assume relates to 'side' venting'). Do no install an awning too close to the upper side vent. Allow a distance of approx. 6-12". Recess Depth: Spaces of more than 1", see FIG. 6 (page 8), from rear wall to the refrigerator may create performance problems. Fresh air will not pass through the cooling unit which will reduce the efficiency. It is important to check the recess depth and add BAFFLES to increase the movement of air across the coil. (I wonder if any of our refrigerators have baffles??) On page 9: Choosing Type Of Vent Application: UPPER AND LOWER SIDE VENT APPLICATION. Choose this type of installation when a roof vent installation is not possible. BAFFLE should be added. The refrigerator MUST be equipped with fan(s).

Instead of a cold box, I think we have a hot box, closed up in a cabinet where it can't get any air flow to cool down. I am assuming that we all have at least one factory installed fan?? More on page 11 on the upper and lower SIDE vent application, talking about adding the box baffle at the back. "If required, install a box baffle above the lower access vent extending within 1/2" lower than the condenser fins". On page 14: Model RM2351, our model: Verify that there is a complete seal between the front frame of the refrigerator and the top, sides and bottom enclosure. A length of sealing strip is applied to the rear surface of the front frame for this purpose. The sealing strip should provide a complete isolation of the appliance's combustion system from the vehicle interior. (In all bold letters, I'll capitalize instead): BE CAREFUL NOT TO DAMAGE THE SEALING STRIP WHEN A REFRIGERATOR IS PUT IN PLACE! Do NOT remove the factory installed sealing strip at top rear corner of cabinet. It is NOT part of the shipping package and must be left intact.
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Old 07-18-2017, 09:08 AM   #20
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I am wondering if the fridge vents being in the front of the BC prevents any exhaust from taking place while moving. Imagine if you needed to rely on you TV radiator to have air pass back to front via a fan. Impossible!

Gail-Thanks for all your great research!
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