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Monday, October 19, 2009

Refer High

I have a Norcold refrigerator that came standard with my 2006 Holiday Rambler. From the get go, the refrigerator, while running on LP will turn off and flash (indicating electric service or issues with the LP system). This usually happens in elevations above 7,000 feet and in the early morning hours after midnight. The dealer tells me that this is normal, however I don't think this is the case since other campers around me don't have this issue. Can you tell me how much of an issue barometric pressure may be playing on this unit? Can you give me advice as to what I can do to fix/repair this issue? Please be as specific as possible with your response.
Adrian, (Albuquerque, NM)

Adrian, the first step; make sure the batteries are in good condition and fully charged. Many symptoms found in today’s appliances are due to faulty or undercharged batteries. I suspect you do have a propane problem, but we need to eliminate the electrical component first. I recommend having the batteries fully charged and analyzed with a carbon-pile battery load tester to ensure their integrity. 

Turning to liquid propane, it must be realized that, as a fuel, it is affected by both temperature and pressure. At higher elevations the air is at lower pressure making it more difficult to achieve “perfect” or “acceptable” combustion in any of the LP-burning appliances. The same for lower temperatures. Pure propane gas vaporizes at -44 degrees but there is the possibility you have a mixture of butane and propane in the container. Butane is often used in the southern portions of the country and it is a member of the LP family, but it vaporizes at 32 degrees F. At or below these temperatures the gasses will not vaporize because it is simply too cold. Near these temperatures combustion problems can develop. 

When there is a problem with the LP system in an RV, the refrigerator is oftentimes the first appliance affected. Your situation, however, may be further influenced by an incorrectly adjusted LP system. Have your local dealer perform an operating pressure test on your coach to make sure the regulator is set correctly. 

I expect the real problem, however, lies with the environment; specifically when the air temperature in the early morning is near freezing. Try to find out if your LP vendor uses butane or propane or a mixture. If it is butane, switch to propane if possible.


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