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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Non-Stop RV Refer Operation

I have been told through second hand information that it is better to let an RV refrigerator run all the time, even when the motorhome is not in use. The technician claimed that when the refrigerator is not running that the fumes from the ammonia will cause corrosion and thus will rot the aluminum to the point that it will leak. He claimed that when left running all the time you will not experience the problem of replacing the unit. Any thoughts on this?
Bob, (Sebring, FL) 

Bob, I can’t say I would put much stock in what that technician told you. There are no ammonia fumes associated with the absorption refrigerator. It’s a completely sealed system. Ammonia is corrosive, true, but 90% of all leaking cooling cores are due to moisture intrusion from outside of the cooling unit pipes, typically inside the foam pack area where it is most difficult for condensation and moisture to evaporate. All the tubing in a cooling unit, by the way, is made from steel, not aluminum. Additionally, during the charging process, a chemical called sodium chromate is induced into the sealed system which coats the inside of the cooling unit tubes, thereby protecting them from any corrosive action of the liquid ammonia.

In my opinion, running the refrigerator when not necessary is basically a waste of energy (120-volts electricity or propane), and puts more wear on the system controls than starting it up as needed. The life of the heating element will likely be shortened if allowed to run continuously on the electric mode. Plus when operating on propane, the burner and flue will need to be cleaned more often. If you have a fairly new RV and refrigerator, battery consumption would also be a concern and the constant operation of the circuit board(s) will also take its toll eventually. I honestly cannot see where there is anything to gain and actually more to lose by letting the refrigerator operate non-stop. But that’s just my opinion. 

Basically it goes back to the definition of an RV as put forth by RVIA; it’s a vehicle made for “temporary” living. A switch to a household-type compressor-driven refrigerator, however, would be a viable option for those RVers with full time hookups and no need for LP operation.

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