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PatLee 05-09-2019 11:31 AM

Please check me on this
Dear all,
I am a condo dweller so my Airstream resides in a storage facility 40 minutes away. I'm making my last drop off at the Airstream on Friday in preparation for leaving Sunday morning on a summer road trip (I am unable to visit her on Saturday). I want the frig to be cold Sunday morning, so on Friday, I plan to turn on the propane, flip the inside switch from "Store" to "Use," and turn the frig "ON" along with the "AUTO" button. Here's my question: Does doing this run down the batteries?
BTW - I have 2 solar panels on the roof and noticed the battery level was at 12.6V yesterday when I was inspecting her. I use a post-winter storage check list and everything worked fine.
Please let me know if there are hazards/consequenes I haven't thought about. Usually, I just let the frig go cold on my first day of travel and then stock the frig that evening from a grocery store. Just thought I would try something different this time around and see how I like it.
Thanks so much for any advice!

teagues 05-09-2019 11:50 AM

Your plan sounds just fine (unless you are parked next to something really combustible, like an open jug of gasoline!) I would make sure that the fridge burner lights up before I left. You should be able to open the ventilation screen from the outside to visually confirm that it is burning. My fridge takes a little time to fire up after I turn the propane on, so I usually help clear any air in the line by turning on a stovetop burner until that will light, and the fridge usually lights right after.

If you have a switch for the refer fan, flip that on as well. The "Auto" switch only matters if the trailer has a 110v connection (or maybe if you have a 3-way fridge that could run off battery power). In propane mode, the fridge and its fan should use almost no battery.

Foiled Again 05-09-2019 12:07 PM

I would turn it to GAS rather than Auto. Once in a while mine has failed to switch over when I have pulled away from a campsite with power. Agree, also make sure burner turns on.

Alternately, and with an excess of caution (local tunnels require all bottles be turned off) I simply put a 5lb bag of ice in the freezer and one or two in the refrigerator along with already chilled or frozen food. Everything is good for 4 to 8 hours easily, if temps are reasonable. I have taken to setting alarms for myself to stop and turn on the gas in the fridge!


Overstreet 05-09-2019 02:31 PM

Should be fine.

Yes, the refrigerator works on gas and electric. The controls are 12 volt. The heater for the absorption system is either 110vac or gas. You will be working on 12vdc and propane. Make sure the tank is on. Make sure the battery is also on. (ie batt storage switch)

You said, " BTW - I have 2 solar panels on the roof and noticed the battery level was at 12.6V ……" What did the solar control panel say? It gives a much better reading that voltage. It also tells you if it is charging and how many amps of charge. I primarily use the batt % reading.

ps...everybody I know that worked in Washington DC lived in Alexandria. Yet you live in DC? Is that why the trailer is 40 minutes away?

Bill M. 05-09-2019 03:47 PM

I would watch the fridge for an hour to be sure it stays on when on gas. Ours sometimes requires starting several times on gas when it has been dormant for a while. Looks like it is running then the "check" light comes on. Burning the stove burner for just a while is a good idea as suggested. The fridge running on propane should be a minimal draw on the batteries. Your trailer is outside rather in a closed unit, correct.

OTRA15 05-09-2019 03:57 PM

Personally, I would not pre-chill the fridge, but rather would bring a cooler or two full of pre-chilled food, and a few bags of ice. When you arrive to leave for your trip, turn the fridge on and transfer the food/ice.

This approach eliminates relying on the fridge to operate on propane in your absence.

If you want to pre-chill the fridge, as was suggested, wait an hour or so to make sure it is working right.


PS — Frozen food will not like this approach. Large blocks of blue ice from home are a good option too.

Overstreet 05-09-2019 04:14 PM

I always start the fridge two days ahead of departure. I fill three ice cube trays and put them in the freezer. If they're frozen everything is "cool" for the stocking one day before. Of course most of the time I'm on 15amps.

This is a good test for boondocking.

PatLee 05-09-2019 07:00 PM

Thank you everyone for your quick responses. Very reassuring. Teagues - thanks for clarifying the use of the "Auto" button, makes sense. Take care all and have a great summer.

Julie-Bob 05-09-2019 09:44 PM

I live in the valley of the sun. I put dry ice in the freezer and refrigerator then pack it with the food and leave on trip. The dry ice helps the refrigerator get cold in a hurry.

PatLee 05-10-2019 07:17 AM

Overstreet - great idea to fill the ice trays and then check them to see if frig worked after turning on. Also, yes, I live in DC in a condo with no trailer parking available. To Bill M: Yes, the trailer is stored outside. Thanks again all!

uncle_bob 05-10-2019 07:34 AM


Is your storage location outdoors or indoors? If outdoors, how much shade (if any) is involved? The "typical fridge" combined with the "typical batteries" will run down by about 1/3 in a day of usage. Without any boost you are getting a bit low in two days. That *assumes* they are full charged to start.

Assuming you do have sun and two panels, if you get pretty much full sun in your location, you will get over 1/2 of a battery in a day. That will keep up with the fridge.


drbrick 05-10-2019 11:02 AM

Yep! sounds like a plan - I too am condo liv'in - and do the ice cube tray in the freezer and a couple of cans of (your choice of drinks :lol:) in the frig that way I know I am set for boondocking (PS like you I run 200 watts of solar on the roof + 2 6v batteries) needless to say I check the day before to make sure all is well :innocent:

cazual6 05-10-2019 11:41 AM

Short Answer: Yes

Long Answer: If you are on battery, select Propane. If you are plugged in, then select AUTO. Yes, AUTO is supposed to do both, but I have come across where it doesn't sometimes. Keeping it on propane while on propane has a 99.999 success rate in my book.

geo 05-19-2019 12:06 PM


Originally Posted by OTRA15 (Post 2239869)
Personally, I would not pre-chill the fridge, but rather would bring a cooler or two full of pre-chilled food, and a few bags of ice. When you arrive to leave for your trip, turn the fridge on and transfer the food/ice.

I use this approach also, and it works well for me. My trailer is also stored in a remote lot, so when starting a trip, I put my food plus a couple of blue ice packs in a well insulated cooler, which stays in my air conditioned SUV during the drive. I also purchase an additional 5-9# bag of cubes when I get close to my first destination.

On longer trips, when driving between stops, I leave the ice and packs in the freezer, keep all the food in the fridge, and turn off the gas when traveling. The fridge does a great job keeping the food cold during the drive.

One important safety tip: if you run the fridge in gas mode while driving, turn off the fridge and close the propane valves before entering a gas station. Turn it back on only when you are a safe distance away.

Rgentum 05-19-2019 12:28 PM

Like several others have said, I've had problems using the Automatic button to get the fridge started on AC after the AS has been stored for a while and the fridge is at ambient temperature. What I've learned is always to start the fridge on propane, and then once the fridge is actually down to temperature, switch the button to "Automatic" as long as I'm connected to AC. That's worked for me uniformly.

Also, like several others have said, you can do the control experiment to determine if your fridge is working on propane by opening the outer door to the back of the fridge and determining if the propane is lit and flowing into the combustion area. Sometimes it won't be, and I'll use a handheld stove propane lighter to light it and get it working, which may take some repetition with the lighter to light it. But once it's lit and flowing, it has always continued to work for me, so I've never had to wait around for an hour or so to ensure that the fridge works. It's basically now a five minute job to get the fridge going after storage.

Somewhat to my surprise, on extended trips, when we're spending a day or two at an RV park, and thus using AC for the fridge, and then traveling, using the propane, I've never had trouble using the Automatic button --- the fridge continues to work then, going back and forth between AC and propane on Automatic. It's only after I've stored the AS for a while, the fridge is at ambient temperature, and I then try to get the fridge working to prepare for a trip that I've had problems getting the fridge to work initially using the Automatic button.

Msherw 05-19-2019 02:12 PM

My 2 cents:

We leave our fridge on 24/7 (it is docked here at home with 120VAC). It appears to work fine this way. Turning fridge off after a trip, opening the door to vent and remove moisture, and remembering to turn it all back on b4 the next trip is not good for us. Yes we do have to defrost at times.

If we had to park it at an RV rental we would of course keep it off. The Dometic fridge is pretty hardy (unlike the Atwood water heater...another thread) and running it keeps it happy IMHO.

Bbelk 05-19-2019 06:14 PM

I turn the fidge on a couple days before a trip. We pack slowly. The auto system has never failed me unless there was air in the gas lines. If we have not run things in awhile, I turn on the water heater in gas mode and let it run until it is steady for a few minutes with no burps. Then I run a burner on the stove the same way. My fidge on my 27FB seems to be second only to the furnace in distance-from-the-bottles, but I can't bring myself to turning on the furnace in Texas before a trip.

You can run for weeks on full propane without killing the bottle or a healthy battery.

My theory is that if I am willing to sleep in there, I am willing to leave the gas and electric on when stored. I do turn off the water, cause if something lets go, its a mess and permanently degrading. If the propane or electric fails, the thing burns to the ground and I would just as soon that happen when I am not in it plus my darling wife never turn off a light and I hate dead batteries.

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