Educate me on the 3 way RV fridge.

QQQ

Member
Absorption propane fridges are a joke, they are overly complex, unreliable, and still require 12v to run the electronics.

The one in my travel trailer (1 year old dometic) can barely cool the fridge down to 40 and that is only at night, during the day it can't cool below 50. And yes, I've checked all the common issues and the fridge has fans for the coils, it is a POS.

Will be removing it soon and installing 2 Engel 12v compressor fridges, I'll lose some capacity but will have a fridge that actually keeps things cold.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
My experience with the 3 way fridge has been good overall.

Previously we had a T@B Clamshell with the 2 way (12vDC/120vAC) compressor fridge and it was pretty terrible. The compressor was noisy as hell and it was right by where our heads were when we slept. It would suck the battery down in just a few hours of use, so for that reason we ONLY used the fridge during the day and ONLY when we were hooked up to 120vAC power. For all practical purposes it was useless to us and we only kept non-spoilable food and drinks in it. Anything that could spoil went into the Truckfridge in the Suburban.

After 3 years in the T@B, we decided we wanted a bigger camper, and one with a bathroom inside (getting older!)

We went with an R-Pod 179, which we purchased in January of 2018. We didn't buy it new, we bought it from the original purchasers and they barely used it (I think they used it 3x last year after buying it new) so for all practical purposes it was a "new" trailer to us, it just didn't come with a warranty.

One of the features I was most interested in on the R-Pod was the 3 way Dometic fridge.

We have used ours in all 3 modes. Since we store the trailer at home, in our side yard, we keep it plugged into a 120v AC power source and the fridge stays on 120v. When we travel we put it into 12v battery mode, and when we are camping without shore power we run it on propane. It seems to run very well on propane, certainly cold enough to keep our food cold and there is even a freezer compartement up top and yes, it stays cold enough to freeze ice cubes. About the only thing we have to do is when switching from 12vDC to propane, we first have to light the stove (which is downstream from the fridge) and let the stove burn for a few minutes to bleed out any air from the propane lines. Once we've done that, it's as simple as pushing the button for "gas" and the fridge will run fine. It uses very little propane in that mode to keep the fridge cold.

I'm on a couple of Facebook groups for R-pod owners (there's a huge R-pod community which makes it very easy to resolve problems because I can tap into the "hive mind" whenever I have a problem - that's literally the main reason we went with a "real" R-pod instead of one of the many R-pod "clones" out there) and others seem to have had issues with their 3 way fridges not cooling, or not cooling very well. I don't know if the issue is maintenance or just the luck of the draw but (knock wood!) ours has worked fine for 12 camping trips so far (8 with shore power and 4 without) and it's worked fine every time.

EDITED TO ADD: I should point out that we also are currently running 2 x 12v deep cycle batteries hooked up in series, and I also have a 100w solar panel that plugs into the side of the trailer. When we camp without shore power I always use the solar panel to keep the batteries topped off. I have a set of 6v golf cart batteries, too, and if I get motivated this winter I might install them in place of the 12v (the 2 x 12v batteries were on the camper when we bought it, as were the dual propane tanks.) Our Pod is the "Hood River Edition" that has the higher suspension and "off road" tires, which makes it a little nicer for dirt-road camping (we'd never take it on a "serious" off road trail but Forest Service roads are fine.)

As I said, it keeps food ice cold, literally. And only have the temp setting on 3 out of a possible 5 bars. I actually had to turn it down because on one trip I had it set to 4 bars and a soda can froze and exploded in the fridge.
 
On my 2nd 3-way. Last one was great. Sold with my last rig. The 6cu ft we have now is awesome. Makes ice cubes all day long. When working properly they are great.


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PV Hiker

Observer
All new propane systems have the green acorn nut that shuts off the flow of gas if there is a rush of propane like with a leak or line breakage. If you have a older system consider installing one of these.
 

Verkstad

Raggarkung
All new propane systems have the green acorn nut that shuts off the flow of gas if there is a rush of propane like with a leak or line breakage. If you have a older system consider installing one of these.
You probably meant to write ”green acme nut”.
Further, upon excessive surge due to rupture or something. Gasflow is not shut off, its just restricted to about 4.5 liter/min.
Also contains a thermal element what disconnects completely at about 120°C.
 
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PV Hiker

Observer
Yep... that's the one. On the road and was in a hurry and darn spell checker.

Should be able to buy on at a RV store or local propane gas company. Maybe even Amazon.
 

Alloy

Member
In winter the 7amp draw from the furnace in the trailer along with some lighting will knock a 440Ah (220Ah usable) battery bank down in 28 hours.

Recently I replaced the cooling unit in our absorption fridge, installed an ARP alarm with fan control, added 1" EPDM foam to the fridge and the paneling behind/above the fridge.

https://www.arprv.com/
 

JCTex

Observer
I removed a 3-way from my motorhome for a 120VAC house type. The RV internet is full of instances of near fires from 3-ways, particularly with Norcold brands. The heat required to operate that type of refrigeration will eventually cause lots of problems. I use a marine type electric only refer/freezer in my Jeep. It will work on 120VAC if I want to plug it in to “shore power.” But mostly it uses 12VDC. Because it has a marine grade compressor, it uses very little power. My meters show an average of 3.5A in 24 hours in reasonable weather. Over 80 degrees ambient requires more. I power it from an in-cabin auxiliary electrical system. Its battery gets charged with solar when parked. However, I also have it connected to my alternator with a Hells Roaring isolator combiner; so, most of the recharging comes from driving. I carry a small propane bottle for heating and cooking; so, it’s not like I’m afraid of the stuff. I just think it’s a very inefficient way to refrigerate. It’s even worse for space heating because of the huge amp draw needed by the blower fan. When your 3-way begins to wear out, you’ll know it. The ice cream won’t be, and the milk will die a quick death. At that time, I recommend a combo 12VDC/120VAC, portable solar panels, an auxiliary battery, and an isolator/combiner.

Jerry
 
I LOVE my 3 way and loved the one in my last rig. Makes ice cubes all day long and runs for over 6 weeks on a propane fill. I had a nice 12v unit for awhile and loved it BUT.... a few cloudy days just crush a battery/solar system. Everyone’s needs are different but for me a 3 way is the cats a$$.


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Trikebubble

Adventurer
I LOVE my 3 way and loved the one in my last rig. Makes ice cubes all day long and runs for over 6 weeks on a propane fill. I had a nice 12v unit for awhile and loved it BUT.... a few cloudy days just crush a battery/solar system. Everyone’s needs are different but for me a 3 way is the cats a$$.


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Same here. We live in BC and camp in the fall and winter in places with a serious lack of sun. Our 3-way fridge has never failed to freeze ice or keep beer extra cold. We spent over 3 weeks travelling to Tuk and back this past summer, the frudge ran the entire journey and combinedwith stove use (and a little funace use way up North) we used just less than 2 tanks. That's less than $20 propane for the whole journey. I have a single battery and solar and haven't had to consider adding a second battery to deal with anything yet. I'm totally sold on our 3-way fridge.
 
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