My view: (if anyone's interested!
I have not seen any fires that were directly caused be a gas/absorption refrigerator made by Dometic, but have heard of them in the 'industry'.
I DO have direct experience with Norcold, however. When they came out with their first 'recall' about 11 years ago, their 'fix' was an entire cooling unit replcement for their problem-plagued 1200 series. After doing 10 in one season, I got very good at changing the entire cooling units and could do one in about 2.5 hours including removal of the unit and replacement.
The next 'recall' was a heat sensor riveted to the metal column that wraps around the boiler section, as this was the primary location of the 'leaking refrigerant'. This was a series connection thru a resettable thermostat (like thermal circuit breaker) that had a series connection of the 12VDC power supply to the control board. Too much heat=open t/stat=no control voltage to the board=normally closed LP valve closes and 'theoretically' stops the combustion. Dometic came out with a similar 'recall' kit with some additional sheet metal to contain a 'combustion event' as they called it.
The present Norcold 'recall' takes the former a bit further and adds a banded heat sensor to inside the metallic wrap covering of the boiler section. This new sensor sends a signal to a 'little black box' that has the positive 12VDC feed going into it, a ground wire, positive DC coming out of the box into the control board and the sensor cable. Oh, it also has a little red LED that when lit, tells you the box has failed 'open' and it interrupts the flow of control voltage as above and removes all DC from your refrigerator.
After installing over 200 of these recall units over a couple of years, I had not seen a fire but did start to see failures of the 'little black box' for no apparent reason. It did do it's job on several occasions though, as the owner had experienced a refrigerant leak as evidenced by the bright yellow staining of the sodium chromate that is an integral part of the ammonia/hydrogen refrigerant mix and had leaked out in the boiler section. Time for a new cooling unit!!!
Note that up to this point; we are at the 8 year or so mark in my 'association' with Norcold, There has not been a single attempt to remediate the known problem of weak welds in the boiler section of the refrigerator's cooling unit that was causing the leaking and fire potential.
Fast forward a year or so, and I did experience an incendiary event to a client's motorhome. It was parked in his usual spot in this particular RV park, as it had been every year since I started in the business. I just happened to be finishing a repair in this same park, when several folks started yelling fire and someone on a bicycle came to me asking for help.
I drove a couple of blocks only to see my clients rig smoking from the area of the refrigerator. First instinct…TURN OFF THE LP AND SHORE POWER!!!! (owners were out to lunch…NO PETS)!! Next, get some additional extinguishers and attempt to but out the blaze. After emptying my 10 lb. dry chemical unit and several other 5 lb. units into the back of the fridge compartment, the fire company showed and took over. IT WAS NOT PRETTY!!!………and the fire source was obviously the fridge as the entire fiberglass wall directly above the side access door was brown/black and smoking.
The interesting fact was that this unit was plugged into shore power and WAS OPERATING SOLELY ON THE 120VAC HEATING ELEMENTS AND NOT LP.
This happened just before Thanksgiving, and the owner's insurance company (who will remain nameless lest I get accused of slander, which I will explain in a bit) had the rig towed to a restoration specialist in central FL.
On New Year's Eve day, I received a certified letter from said insurance company basically accusing me of negligence in the installation of the 'recall' kit and demanding the name of MY insurance company (Happy New year to you too!!). Knowing how these things work and that I know that the recall kit was placed EXACTLY to the given directions from Norcold, I refused and contacted Norcold and was directed to their 'Incident Response Unit'.
After a long conversation basically looking for them to give me some backing for this incident, I was told that they could not as they had no idea 'IF' the recall kit was installed correctly, even though the unit was operating on electric and the recall kit was specifically designed for LP operation and the fact that they had seen fit to have me install over 200 of these recall kits.
Time to lawyer up!!!
After finding a competent attorney, I drafted a letter, at his direction, to the unnamed insurance company stating the facts and including a 6 page dissertation of why 2 - 120VAC cal rod heating elements operating at close to 600ºF placed in steel sleeves, wrapped in insulation and a metal canister would retain sufficient heat to ignite the leaking refrigerant for a period of at least 10 minutes AFTER THE POWER WAS REMOVED BY THE RECALL KIT!!!!!!! Ever try to place your hand on an electric range's 'burner' after the power has been shut off???
Didn't matter to the company, as they were looking for a scapegoat and Norcold basically threw me under the bus. Forward to Feb. and their official 'inquiry' into the event.
I had to travel (with my attorney) to the central FL site that was housing the coach in question and met with 3 paid fire inspectors: one from Norcold, one from the insurance company and a third from Lazy Days RV, as they sold the unit to the client. Talk about the shotgun technique for claims recovery!!! My attorney was there to 'keep things honest'.
After 3 hours of using MY TOOLS, ladders, expertise AND ME, the outer wall was removed and the fire path was traced….. and do you know where it started????? RIGHT AT THAT PESKY LITTLE TUBING BEND WHERE ALL OF THE RV FRIDGE FIRES START. Yep, the very same one that both Norcold and Dometic refuse to change
even though they have experienced numerous failures at this point in their cooling units.
The Norcold guy proved that it started there by pressurizing the coil system with air and sprayed the area with soap solution…..BUBBLES!!! The consensus was that I had placed the recall sensor and additional materials perfectly, and that the little black box (remember that?) had worked as designed.
The discussion then went into the heat retention of the electric elements and how they provided the continual heat source to propel the flames. After it was all over, I asked the Norcold guy 'off the record' why they refused to directly address the problem and was told "it's cheaper to go case by case than to change the design, as doing so would open Pandora's Box of liability by admitting that there was a design problem from the start". And per the Norcold guy, it was the highly pressurized and super heated AMMONIA which is now a plasma that causes these fires and NOT the hydrogen, which is contained in the top of the cooling unit in and around the condenser section.
I WAS COMPLETELY CLEARED but learned an important lesson to the tune of $8000. NEVER TRUST A CORPORATION TO HAVE YOUR BACK WHEN THEY REFUSE TO REMEDY A KNOWN SAFETY PROBLEM.
I could have sued Norcold and the unnamed insurance company, but at that point, I wrote it off as one more expensive experience. Needless to say that as of that day, I stopped doing any work for Norcold and in fact, would not touch another LP appliance again, even though I was properly licensed and trained to do so and fully insured.
This is pretty serious stuff when major corporations that supply tens of thousands of these units refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse to address same as it would be an overt expression of their prior guilt. It would certainly give me pause if I had ANY ammonia/absorption refrigeration unit on my RV!
Does anyone wonder WHY I am such a big proponent of marine compressor refrigeration????