Using Dometic refrigerator on 12 volts - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-06-2018, 11:05 AM   #1
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Name: Nigel
Trailer: Scamp 13
Minnesota
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Using Dometic refrigerator on 12 volts

There may be an existing thread for this question that gives an explicit answer, but I haven't found one and I'm finding the math confusing.
How long can I run my Dometic fridge on 12 volts when travelling in my recently acquired 1997 Scamp 13? Alternatively, should I NOT run it on 12 volts because I have a four-pin trailer electrical hookup? (I don't think this provides any charging to the battery)
I have a new deep cycle battery, 130 RC, understand it should not be run below half charged. The Dometic manual says it draws 10.5 amps and is rated at 25 watts. I'll be in Florida next week, with temps in the 70's so I figure the fridge compressor will be running at least half the time it is on.
Thanks!
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Old 01-06-2018, 11:33 AM   #2
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Nigel, does your refrigerator also run on propane? If it does, you have an absorption refrigerator which does NOT have a compressor, but rather a heating element to heat the fluid in the system to turn it into a gaseous state, then circulate through the condenser and back to a liquid state. There is no duty cycle, as the heating element will stay on all the time. There have been discussions on this site about some WITH a 12 volt wire from the tow vehicle to keep the trailer battery charged while under way, not being able to keep up with the demand/draw of the heating element. This situation leaves the trailer battery dead upon their arrival to their destination. I would estimate your situation to leave your battery 50% discharged in a few hours.
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:04 PM   #3
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Thank you! Yes I do have a three-way. I read a few posts from people who keep their fridge cold using propane while driving, I'll go back and see what the downside of that might be. I can always just bring along a cooler and transfer things to that while I'm driving.
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Old 01-06-2018, 05:00 PM   #4
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Hi Nigel, there are lengthy discussions on this forum about the questions you asked. We had the same 3-way 1.9 c.f. fridge you had on our Scamp 13. We found the best solution to traveling with foods that need to be refrigerated was to freeze a couple juice bottles in your home freezer and use them as ice and the fridge as a cooler. When you get to your destination, there will still be ice in them. Those square shaped juice bottles (Ocean Spray, etc.) fit very well. Sometimes we use water, sometimes the juice they contained. Drain a little for expansion and freeze. If you don't open the fridge much, you will be surprised how long the ice lasts. A friend with much more experience than us showed us that method.

It helps to run your fridge for a day or two on 110 AC before you leave. We also traveled with a small cooler for the things we needed for the trip, and for side trips when in camp. The juice jugs work fine in there as well. Seems like 50-50 split on how safe it is to travel with the fridge running on propane. Most say you vehicle won't keep your trailer and your tug battery charged when fridge is running on 12V. I found neither of those options were necessary by using the fridge as a cooler. Enjoy your Scamp!

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Old 01-06-2018, 08:05 PM   #5
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Using 12 volts to run a heating element in the fridge will run the battery down quickly. If you can charge it while driving you can overcome this load, but with a four pin connector I don't think you have a charging wire. Even if you do, you'll have to determine if the TV provides enough power to run the fridge and charge the battery. Then, when stopped for the night, you'll have to shut off the 12 volt system and start the propane system to protect your battery power.

Probably better to run the fridge on propane while driving, and on 120 volts while plugged in. I do and it's never been a problem.

Some have expressed concern over running the propane system while driving, or that there are some spots, like tunnels, where you can't.
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Old 01-07-2018, 12:00 AM   #6
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The majority of TV's can't charge the battery and run the fridge while towing. A few can. It depends on the size of your alternator and the wiring to the trailer. It's safe and legal to run your fridge on propane the road. There are a very few well marked tunnels where you need to turn it off as well as all ferries. Many RV refrigerators don't even have a 12V option. I have the same fridge in my Casita and always run it on propane. In a poll on the Casita Facebook page with 221 respondents, 69 said they run the fridge on the road on 12V and 152 said they use propane. Any formula to determine how long you can run your fridge while towing would have to take into account the output pf your alternator and the voltage drop over the wires between the alternator and the battery for your particular TV and trailer.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:39 AM   #7
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Hey Nigel,
I use propane when traveling. 12 volts sucks the battery dead rather quickly.
I am headed to Florida on Tuesday. Was going today but the weather isn't in agreement. Where in Fl are you headed? I'm going to St Pete.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:41 AM   #8
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Thanks, everyone, for the advice. Since I'll be starting from Minnesota, the fridge will be cold to start with (and too cold for some items). I'm going to use the fridge as a cooler as suggested by TomK and use the propane option if needed - definitely not 12 volts. I'll be doing a lot more camping than travelling, all with electrical hookups, so I think I'm all set!
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:46 AM   #9
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Charles, I'm heading to Fort Lauderdale (Easterlin Park) for the South Florida Folk Festival over MLK weekend and then Highland Hammock until 10 days at Fort Desoto beginning 1/21.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:55 AM   #10
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Awesome! I'll be about 10 miles from Fort DeSoto thru 3/6 at Roberts RV Resort in St Pete
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Old 01-07-2018, 10:58 AM   #11
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In some jurisdictions it is illegal to have the propane fridge on while driving. I would check the motor vehicle code for each area in which you are travelling. There is the ever present danger of fire should you be involved in an accident or when refuelling. Running with the propane on is a bad idea.
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by penderpaul View Post
In some jurisdictions it is illegal to have the propane fridge on while driving. I would check the motor vehicle code for each area in which you are travelling. There is the ever present danger of fire should you be involved in an accident or when refuelling. Running with the propane on is a bad idea.
Not true.
If you can find such a law anywhere, please post it and the source.
You do have to shut propane off in some tunnels and ferries.
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:54 AM   #13
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Charles, I'm looking for a CG in or near St Pete from 19 Feb thru 6 Mar. when we leave Sebring. They changed the reservation rules at our normal CG at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Getting in there looks like it may not happen. Do you think Roberts may have any openings? Recommend it? Maybe send a PM so we don't tie up Nigels thread. Thanks.

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Old 01-07-2018, 12:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
Not true.
If you can find such a law anywhere, please post it and the source.
You do have to shut propane off in some tunnels and ferries.
While traveling with propane on is legal in every state in the U.S. and it's commonly done, it is restricted in a few areas in Canada.

RVDA of Canada - Provincial RV Regulations
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