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Pop Up Refrigerator

All photos are thumbnails, click on a picture to see a larger version

I guess I have to admit, I'm kind of a wimp.  I really like my creature comforts. One of those is my refrigerator in the pop up.  

Most pop up trailers use refrigerators based on ammonia systems. An ammonia absorption cooling unit is the set of cooling coils in any refrigerator that uses heat (such as propane) to operate. Hard to believe, but yes - heat makes it cold.  If you really want to know how this works, Click Here.

For those units which are multi powered, i.e. LP Gas, 12v Dc electric or 110v AC electric all they do is use a different heat source to heat the ammonia.

Some things to keep in mind when using on of these refrigerators:

  • You must pre cool the refrigerator. it may take up to 24 hours to get down to it's working temperature.
  • Try to load it with pre cooled items. Placing something like a warm 6 pack of soda will delay cooling of everything inside.
  • These refrigerators want to stay level! As a matter of fact if you use them too far off level you can damage the refrigerator. As a rule of thumb, if you are comfortable with the level of the trailer the refrigerator will be comfortable.  The damage from using them out of level is cumulative and is generally difficult and expensive to repair. This means even if the unit is out of level for only a short time, there is a small amount of damage done. If repeated often enough, it will result in diminished capacity and eventual failure.
  • These refrigerators are prone to warm and cold areas. A small battery fan placed inside the refrigerator box helps to move air around and keep a constant temperature in the entire box.
  • If camping in very warm areas, you may need to add a fan to the rear of the refrigerator to cool the "heat sink" fins on the rear of the unit.

For more information, check out the web sites of the two most common units:



Usage in a Pop Up Camper

As there are very few pop up campers that allow you access to the refrigerator with the pop up top down, it usually requires special considerations for use.

First of all you can power up and run the refrigerator with the pop up in a closed condition.  As a matter of fact it is recommended, because it takes a good 12 (if not more) hours to cool the interior of the refrigerator down.

We always leave the refrigerator door slightly ajar when we close the pop up. This helps reduce the possibility of  mildew from forming on the refrigerator interior.  This does require a little planning as you need to have the refrigerator as dry as possible when you close up.  On our last morning of camping we try to transfer all cold items to a cooler and turn off the refrigerator.  This allows time while we are packing up for the refrigerator interior to warm up to the surrounding air temperature.  In our Santa Fe, the refrigerator is below the galley area.  After the Swing Level® Galley is  lowered I wrap a towel (which is rolled into a log shape) over the top of the refrigerator door.  This both blocks the door in an open position as well as padding the outside of the door from rubbing against the galley.  But, using this system requires you to crawl into the pop up to remove the towel and close the door to pre-cool.  On more than one occasion I forgot this step and did not have a cold refrigerator upon arriving at the campsite.

We usually pre cool on 110v AC before a trip, tow running it on 12v DC then use LP while at the campsite. Some pop ups are equipped with a power safety switch, which disconnects power when the galley is in the lowered (travel) position.  Not all power is disconnected by the galley safety switch, and the refrigerator is one item that will still work on most pop up, check your owners manual. The main purpose of this safety switch is to assure that you don't leave an interior roof light on, which when popped down may cause a fire (as it contacts the bunk/bedding).

It is safe to run the refrigerator while traveling. The movement of the trailer "sloshes" the ammonia coolant around so it can not pool in "bad places" as it can when operated off level and standing still.   Just don't park in a severely off level position and go in a restaurant for a 2 hour lunch.

Should your refrigerator require repair, you can either contact the manufacturer for a list of authorized repair centers, or you can contact an aftermarket repair company like RV Mobile, Inc.  As a matter of fact, RV Mobile runs a web message board for refrigerator questions.  You can find it HERE.

   Revised: May 08, 2007


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