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Old 11-17-2007, 08:20 PM   #1
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Dometic Fridge puzzle

So...I've entered the world of airstream owners. My wife and I were looking for a camper and ended up being given a '60 Sahara that was slowly dying in the weeds next to someone's house. From other threads I've seen that people like pictures, so I'll add a few. The interior is coming along fine. I've redone the eating area and the kitchenette is next. After I put the stove back in I'm going to fire up the fridge (Dometic, gas only). That's where my questions come in:

1. Where the vent tube comes up from the back left of the fridge there is a small cap with a steel wire going down from it with a twisty curly cue thing on the end of it. What is it and what does it do?!?

2. I've never owned a fridge like this, what do I need to do to start it and run it and maintain it? Do I need to purge the gas lines of air, where how when do I light it? Should I clean the burners before lighting it???

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. This forum is awesome!

Doug
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Old 11-17-2007, 09:03 PM   #2
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1. The twisty thing makes the hot combustion gas from the burner stay in contact with the tube wall and transfer the heat to the amonia solution. It is required.

2. This fridge doesn't really need maintenance, except for the burner (and the flint in the striker if you have one that provides for ignition from the front side). Yes, clean the burner and pilot area with a blast of compressed air. To light it, all you need is propane pressure and a match (open the little peep hole cover in the wind baffle box). You'll have to hold the pilot ignition button down for a long time--this is a pretty low flow burner so it takes up to a minute to get the air out of the line. Just keep trying to ignite the burner and you'll know when you've got gas--it will "pop." This pop is often strong enough to blow the flame out, so quickly light it again before too much gas builds up.

From you photos I have one big concern. First, you need to enclose the fridge in a manner that allows for air to enter the area behind the fridge, but doesn't allow any of the combustion gases into the inside of the trailer. Second, in order for these fridges to operate at any reasonable level of performance, you have to create a "chimney" so that cool air comes in around the lower back of the fridge and then is pulled up to exit at a higher point. The taller this chimney, the more effective it is in providing cooling air flow to the condenser part of the tubing. The requirements are coincidentally solved with a god chimney design--a wall on both sides of the fridge, a hole in the floor and belly skin under and behind the fridge, and some kind of vertical baffle between the walls and above the fridge that directs the combustion gases up to an opening in the shell that is above the fridge. Hard to describe, but an easy concept if you see one.

Zep
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Old 11-17-2007, 10:22 PM   #3
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OK...I think I followed most of that. There is a wood panel that I've removed from the side of the fridge and a formica top that is removed from the top. There is also a small vent hood sheet metal type thing that I've removed which should catch exhaust gasses coming up the tube and direct them to the vent cavity which goes up the wall and up through the roof.

From what I'm hearing I need to reassemble all of those before I test this fridge. Correct? My "chimney" as you describe it doesn't go through the floor and through the belly pan. If I understand it correctly it the air goes through the front vent just below the door of the fridge, up the back behind the fridge and then back into the cabin.

What about burping a fridge? If I have the thing 1/2 disassembled already does it make sense to do it the rest of the way and flip it over? It sounds like an urban legend, but whose to know?
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Old 11-17-2007, 10:29 PM   #4
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Not a legend. see if it works first, if not then invert.
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Old 11-17-2007, 10:41 PM   #5
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Thanks. I'm having a riot working on this thing. It's bonus that we are going to have something to camp in too.
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Old 11-17-2007, 11:08 PM   #6
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If you do get it to work, do not leave it unattended and running for long period of time. While you are testing it keep a close watch on it especially if its an old unit be careful. I had one explode and did a lot of damage to my A/S.
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Old 11-18-2007, 10:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crdouger
...From what I'm hearing I need to reassemble all of those before I test this fridge. Correct? ....My "chimney" as you describe it doesn't go through the floor and through the belly pan. If I understand it correctly it the air goes through the front vent just below the door of the fridge, up the back behind the fridge and then back into the cabin. ...
No, you can test it without putting everything back together. If it's a cool day you don't need the chimney effect. You just don't want to run it that way inside the trailer while you're sleeping (and dieing of CO).

I doubt that the air goes into a vent under the front of the fridge, but I'm a 70s vintage "expert" so maybe that's right. Just check to make sure you do have a good path for air at the bottom and that that path won't allow the combustion gases into the inside of the trailer. The top of your chimney sounds OK.

Zep
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Old 11-18-2007, 01:12 PM   #8
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Your refrigerator appears to be identical to the one I had in my '61 Safari. If so, the combustion and fin cooling air does come through the vent in front below the door.

I installed a smaller and more efficient refrigerator. This also cut a considerable amount of weight. I had nicknamed my original refer the "Pink elephant" because of its size and weight.

If you plan to use your existing refrigerator I suggest you do as I did and enlarge the hole in the wall the allows the combustion gasses to enter the wall cavity and pass on to the roof vent. Make sure this path is clear of all obstructions. I also made a new "vent hood sheet metal type thing" to better capture all the gases by making it longer vertically. I then placed a CO detector near the vent to monitor the air to make sure that no combustion gasses were escaping the "chimney". After those precautions my monitor has detected no CO in months of operation both while parked, in the wind, and while in motion.

As for "burping", try the refrigerator first to see if it works. That thing is a monster! It would take at least two people to turn it over without damage.
If it doesn't work you can have mine free. It works fine, but I will not ship it.
Enjoy your project!
Sam
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Old 11-18-2007, 01:53 PM   #9
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Those modifications make sense Sam. I think I'll do the same. Fortunately mine's not pink. The offer for your fridge sounds like a tempting excuse for a cross country trip to Oregon, but due to gas prices in Michigan it would probably be cheaper to buy a new one.

I wonder if it would make sense to cut a vent hole through the floor so the cool air from the belly pan could get sucked up into the fridge compartment.

I still a little perplexed about the design of the steel tube that the hot gases rise through. The gases swirl around the twisty thing at the bottom of the tube and then continue to rise. Once the gases get to the top there is a hole in the side of the tube (see picture up above) that the gases come out of. But the hole isn't facing toward where the gases are supposed to vent out the wall. Should the cap be off the top of the tube so the gas can come straight out?
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Old 11-19-2007, 07:25 PM   #10
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For my newer refrigerator I am still using "cabin air" for the cooling fins through a vent under the refer door. The warm air exits above and back into the interior. I did, however, make a new vent to use outside air for combustion. This vent has about 4 times the cross section area of the refrigerator combustion air chimney. It is located just below the door used to access the back of the refrigerator. I will make my first attempt at adding photos to this post.

So far my refrigerator is operating very well. It has no problem keeping the refer section near freezing and the freezer section below zero even in 90 degree weather.

Personally I would not make any modifications to the refer chimney. Yes, I did learn this the hard way, but everything worked out fine when I returned things to "stock".
Sam
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