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Old 05-31-2013, 02:27 PM   #1
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Early Refrigerator Conversion to LP Gas

We have a 1954 Airstream Safari which I have restored to original appearance. All original appliances are in good working order. I would like to convert the original Cold Trail electric refridgerator to LP gas which would better suit our boondocking camping style. Can new LP equipment be substituted for the original electric compressor works while retaining the original refridgerator case? All suggestions greatly appreciated.
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Old 05-31-2013, 02:49 PM   #2
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While anything can be done, given enough money, essentially the answer is no.

The cycles and operations of the two different types of refrigerators are so different that even a very skilled customizer would have great difficulties doing that kind of conversion project.

You might consider converting the compressor on your original refrigerator to a 12 volt Danfoss type unit and run the refrigerator on 12 volt power, but even that would be a difficult and expensive conversion.

A third possibility would be to run the current refrigerator on an inverter, however that would take a lot of battery capacity and probably generator run time to do it.
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Old 06-01-2013, 04:33 PM   #3
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early electric refridgerator conversion

I still think that there must be a way to change the entire inside workings to an LP gas unit while retaining the original outer shell. If I find an answer, I will let you know.
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Old 06-01-2013, 04:55 PM   #4
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I mostly agree with idroba here, though I think there may be a somewhat-accessible solution for you. There are companies that sell "split system" Danfoss setups where you have a have a remote module for the compressor and condenser, a set of lines and the evaporator that can be installed inside a custom cold box. Here's an example.

I seriously doubt that this will be a cheap solution, but IF your old refrigerator is still well-insulated, it should be possible. It's perhaps not as perfect for boondocking as an absorption chiller fired by LP, but I think it would be an order of magnitude easier. You'd need plenty of battery and/or a solar setup for long term boondocking, but people use solar and battery for full-time use of Danfoss fridges in remote locations.

Did I say I don't think this will be a cheap thing to do?
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Old 06-01-2013, 05:33 PM   #5
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I have heard people talking about taking the door off the original refrigerator and "hiding" the new refrigerator behind it. You would have all of the old charm of the refrigerator with modern technology hidden. Mind you, with LP gas, you will have to use specific venting which may not have been there with your original refrigerator. We decided to toss the old original electric refrigerator and bought a new two way Dometic. We kept the original stove but the impracticality of an electric refrigerator for the boondocking we do was impossible to implement.
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Old 06-01-2013, 06:44 PM   #6
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Well there are thermoelectric coolers out there that use 12V DC. These won't freeze anything but you could get it cold in there. They still would use a lot of power. You might be able to hide a gas type fridge where it would not be obvious. Hide it behind a cabinet or closet door. It is hard to keep something all original and also make it do everything you want it to do. Keep your oldie but goodie for camping in places that have power and get something newer for boon docking.

Perry
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Old 06-01-2013, 09:12 PM   #7
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Does the Cold Trail electric have a hermetic compressor or a belt drive compressor? If it's actually a 12 V motor, I'm guessing it's belt drive, seeing as how the brushes would be a service item. If it is a belt drive unit, here's an idea that nobody's come up with yet (and yes, I do understand that that's because it's a idea):

Substitute a little electric start gas engine with a propane conversion kit in for the electric motor.

You'll need someone who shares your vision and a safe place to run the exhaust, but it just might conceivably work....
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Old 06-02-2013, 01:46 AM   #8
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^^^^^^
Addendum: Another alternative instead of the electric start would be to use an electric clutch between the motor and compressor (like an air-conditioning clutch out of a car), and just run the motor continuously.
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