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Absorption refrigerators use extremely pure ammonia as a refrigerant. Ammonia has pungent, sharp and irritating odour to it. In high concentrations it will burn the eyes often causing blindness. If inhaled in high concentrations it will burn the lung tissue. In sufficiently high quantities it will cause death. If a refrigerant leak is suspected in an absorption refrigerator leave the area immediately.
cut or drill into an absorption refrigerating mechanism. The refrigerant can be
under extremely high pressure and is very toxic (see above).
use an open flame to check for propane leaks on any gas appliance. A non-ammonia
based soap and water solution should be used. Bubbles produced around a fitting
after soaping indicates a leak. Any leak found should be repaired immediately
before attempting to light the burner.
flue on your propane refrigerator should be inspected and cleaned at least every
two months minimum. Any time the refrigerator has been idle with the burner off
the flue and burner should be checked before lighting for the presence of spider
nests and webs. ( see troubleshooting
approved materials and fitting should be used to install a propane appliance.
Generally speaking most jurisdictions require a two stage regulator with full
relief capacity between the propane tank and supply line to the appliance.
Rubber hose is normally not permitted inside a residential or commercial
structure to supply propane to the appliance. If in doubt about the safety of
the installation contact a qualified licensed gas fitter or your local gas
safety inspection branch.
block the flue on a propane refrigerator. If the flue is to be extended outside
the building use only an approved flue extension kit and follow the
the propane refrigerator also uses a 12 volt or 120 volt heater make sure the
electrical supply for the
refrigerator is installed to electrical codes in your area. Please consult a
qualified licensed electrician or your electrical safety officer.
use a sharp object such as a screwdriver, chisel or pick to chip ice from the
evaporator inside the refrigerator box. You risk puncturing the sealed system
and causing the ammonia refrigerant to leak out ( see notes above )
not store flammable liquids near the refrigerator. Your absorption refrigerator
uses an open flame which could ignite any flammable liquids placed nearby.
you smell gas open windows, do not touch electrical switches, extinguish any
open flames, shut off gas supply at bottle and call your nearest service company
or gas supplier.
items below are of a general nature. Always consult the owners manual that came
with the appliance for manufacturers recommended installation and
is strongly recommended to install the refrigerator with an approved shut off
valve and an approved stainless steel flex connector of the appropriate size and
length. This will allow the refrigerator to be moved should something fall
behind it or maintenance must be carried out.
The absorption refrigerator does not have an electrically driven compressor like the refrigerator you have at home does. As a result it is noiseless in its operation. You cannot tell if it working simply by listening. Within about one hour from the time it is lit the freezer compartment temperature should start to noticeably drop. To reach proper operating temperature often takes from six to twelve hours depending on the size of the refrigerator and the ambient temperature in the room. Leaving the refrigerator empty for the first few hours will decrease the time required for the refrigerator to reach operating temperature. See also troubleshooting guide on loading your refrigerator with food.
the gas supply is on. It’s amazing the number of times we miss the simple things !
sure the refrigerator is level. Absorption refrigerators must be level to operate
correctly. Most cabin type propane fired refrigerators have adjustable leveling
legs that can be screwed or unscrewed from the four corners of the body of the
refrigerator. Use these to properly level the refrigerator.
the door gaskets and doors for a proper seal.
Door gaskets can tear and door hinge screws can loosen causing doors to not
close properly. A partially open door or torn door gasket can lead to reduced
cooling and excessive consumption of fuel. Check the door hinge screws to make
sure they are not loose. If they are loose square the door to the body of the
refrigerator, make sure it closes properly and retighten the hinge screws. If
the door gasket is torn contact your dealer for a new gasket.
ice buildup in the freezer compartment. Your absorption refrigerator must be manually
defrosted on a routine basis to prevent excessive ice buildup in the freezer
compartment and loss of cooling ability. If excessive ice has built up in the
freezer compartment the refrigerator should be shut down, empty the freezer
compartment and door left open. Never use a sharp instrument to
chip away at the ice as you risk puncturing the sealed system. (See safety
around propane refrigerators). Never use an open flame, heat gun,
boiling water etc. to melt ice. Allowing the ice to melt naturally, while more
time consuming, is the safest way to defrost the refrigerator. While the ice is
melting a maintenance check of the burner system should be carried out and the
flue cleaned as required. If you defrost the refrigerator on a regular basis
before the ice becomes too thick defrost time and propane consumption will be
sure the flue is not blocked. Sometimes something may be rested on top of the
refrigerator that will block the flue ( a book for example ) or the refrigerator
may have been placed under a shelf which is blocking the flue gases from exiting
the flue. Something may have fallen off the top of the refrigerator into the
flue and cause a blockage.
sure the flue (chimney) on the refrigerator is clean.
If the propane burner on your refrigerator is working properly there should be
virtually no soot in the flue. If soot is present the burner requires servicing.
Soot would also indicate the production of carbon monoxide. If this is the case
use of the refrigerator should be discontinued immediately until the sooting
problem has been found and repaired. When cleaning the flue it is important the
burner assembly be off ( no flame present ). The burner should be covered to
prevent rust etc. from falling into the burner. Most propane fired refrigerators
come with a long handled brush to clean the flue. If you do not have this brush
you should obtain one at your local propane refrigerator parts depot. Sometimes
the flue is in two pieces. You must remove the top portion of the flue as the
flue cleaning brush is often not long enough to completely clean both pieces of
the flue at once. Always make sure the flue is reassembled correctly after
cleaning. Carefully remove the protective cover from the burner, making sure you
do not drop and rust etc. into the burner when doing so. Relight the burner as
recommended by the manufacturer.
flue baffle for correct position. The flue baffle is an auger shaped piece of sheet
metal about 6 inches long that hangs in the flue by a wire attached (usually) at
the top of the flue. Should the flue baffle fall down it can block the burner
passage to the flue. If this is found to be the case recover the flue baffle and
install it in the correct position in the flue. See also procedures for
inspection and cleaning of the flue.
for spider webs and nests. Spiders will often build webs or nests in both the
refrigerator flue and burner orifice holder. They can accomplish this task often
in just a few hours. Any time the refrigerator burner is not working for any
length of time an inspection for spider webs and nests should be carried out. If
a web or nest is detected it should be removed before lighting the refrigerator
burner. A spider can build a web or nest in a matter of a few hours. The web or
nest can block air into the burner assembly causing poor combustion that leads
to carbon monoxide. The webs will also prevent flue gases from exiting properly
from the flue so it is important to be vigilant for spider activity in and
around the burner and flue area of your refrigerator.
sure the fins inside the refrigerator box and on the back of the refrigerator
If the fins are dirty poor airflow will result around these components. This
leads to inefficiency in cooling.
gas supply pressure. Typically a propane fired absorption refrigerator requires a propane
inlet pressure of 11 inches water column ( W.C. ) pressure. Testing the pressure
requires use of a manometer and knowledge of gas fitting. If in doubt about the
gas pressure supplied to the refrigerator contact a local licensed and qualified
gas fitter to check the pressure. When operating correctly the burner should
have a blue flame with no yellow tipping or soot being produced.
the refrigerator to remove a possible blockage in the sealed system. If the
refrigerator burner is lit and the refrigerator is not cooling tilt the
refrigerator to the right for about 30 seconds then tilt it to the left for
about 30 seconds. Do this three or four times then put the refrigerator in the
upright and level position. If the refrigerator does not cool you may have a
fault in the sealed system.
the pipe on the back of the refrigerator to the condenser for overheating.
If the pipe is overheated excessive blistering of the paint and possibly
corrosion will often be evident. If overheating
is suspected shut off the gas supply, disconnect the refrigerator from the
supply line and make the gas supply line safe from leakage. Turn the
refrigerator upside down to put the fluids in the sealed system in their proper
place. You may have to do this several times. Reconnect the refrigerator to the
propane supply once this is completed. Leak test all joints and make sure no
propane joints are leaking. Relight the burner and restart the refrigerator with
a lower heat input to the boiler (generator).
for leaks in the sealed system. Absorption refrigerators use pure ammonia as a
refrigerant. A yellow deposit will often collect at the source of a possible
refrigerant leak and an ammonia odour will be present. Ammonia is extremely
toxic and corrosive. If a leak is suspected the refrigerator should be
disconnected immediately and removed to a well ventilated area. The propane
supply line should be made safe.
supply line kinked or clogged. Older installations often left a loop of copper
propane supply line behind the refrigerator to allow the unit to be moved away
from the wall for cleaning etc. This type of installation is prone to kinking of
the supply line. A stainless steel flex connector in place of the loop of copper
will solve this problem. There is also a possibility that oil has migrated with
the propane causing regulator diaphragms or control valves to stick open or
closed. Generally speaking if oil has found its way into the propane supply
replacement of the suspect part is usually advisable.
Placing large quantities of very warm food or putting hot cooking vessels into
the refrigerator to cool them will have an adverse effect on the refrigerators
ability to cool.
gas pressure regulator. It is possible for the diaphragm in the regulator that regulates the
pressure to the propane appliances to freeze. The regulator has a vent opening
in it. If the regulator is mounted on the outside of the cabin or house with the
vent pointing “up” it is possible for water to get into the regulator. If
the temperature outdoors drops below freezing the water inside the regulator
will freeze causing the regulator to lock up. If this happens the gas supply
should be shut down and the regulator disconnected from the system. The open
lines left after disconnecting the regulator should be capped so no dirt can
enter. The regulator should be taken into a warm area and gently thawed. Once
thawed the water can be shaken out through the vent opening. The regulator
should be thoroughly dried before reinstalling it. Never try to
thaw the regulator while it is still attached to the propane system. Never
use an open flame, heat gun or similar device to thaw the regulator. It
should be allowed to thaw at room temperature. Using excessive amounts of heat
to hurry the process could warp the regulator casting causing the regulator to
leak. If, after thawing, the regulator freezes again you should replace the
regulator with a new one as there is still water in it. Regulators are normally
not field serviceable so never attempt to service one. Make sure
when reinstalling the regulator the vent is pointing “down” so water cannot
the thermocouple. Most propane appliances use a thermocouple as part of a flame safety
device. A thermocouple is a device that has two dissimilar metals, that when
heated, produce a small DC voltage. The output of a single thermocouple is very
small – in the order of 30 millivolts. A millivolt is one, one thousandth of
one volt ! The thermocouple has a tip on it that looks like the end of a large
finishing nail and normally is mounted on the appliance burner where the flame
from the burner can heat the tip of the thermocouple. If the thermocouple has
moved for any reason and the burner flame cannot impinge on the tip of the
thermocouple the gas valve will not be held open allowing gas to flow to the
burner. When you depress the gas valve to light the burner it will light but as
soon as the valve is released the burner will go out. This could be an
indication that the thermocouple is not getting hot enough. If the flame is
impinging on the thermocouple properly then check the connections to the gas
valve and make sure the end of the thermocouple going into the gas valve is
clean and snug. If this is all correct then possibly the thermocouple has simply
failed due to age – at which point it must be replaced.
the safety device. Most modern propane refrigerators are equipped with a carbon monoxide
detector. The purpose of the detector is to monitor room air for the presence of
carbon monoxide. If it detects the presence of CO it will shut the refrigerator
down to stop further production of deadly CO. Never ignore the
warning given by the CO detector or bypass the CO detector feature. If the CO
detector goes sounds an alarm immediately shut the refrigerator off. . Check the
battery in the CO detector to make sure it is not weak. Replace the battery as
required. Follow the manufacturers recommendations included with the
refrigerator and/or CO detector. Follow the troubleshooting guide for incorrect
combustion. Never restart the refrigerator until any problem has
been found and corrected.
the orifice. If you should decide to remove the burner orifice for inspection never
try to clean it using a drill bit, wire etc. The orifice hole is extremely
small, often less than 13 1/1000th’s of an inch in diameter ! If
you pick at it with a metal object it is very easy to enlarge the orifice hole
significantly which can lead to over fueling and possible carbon monoxide
production. If you must attempt to clean the orifice a piece of straw from a
straw broom is soft enough to clean the orifice but not enlarge the hole. If the
orifice is of the ruby style be careful you do not push the ruby out of the
the temperature thermostat. On most cabin type propane refrigerators the
thermostat is an analogue type of control. This type of control regulates
temperature by sensing the temperature inside the refrigerator box and
automatically reducing or increasing the flow of fuel to the burner. This type
of thermostat is generally not field serviceable. Before condemning a thermostat
always make sure the capillary tube is attached to where it should be in your
particular refrigerator. If the capillary tube has been moved it may not be able
to sense the temperature properly thereby causing the refrigerator to freeze
everything or run too warm.
Dirty or loose thermocouple
connection to gas valve
Safety device failed
Replace safety device
Clean or replace orifice
Thermostat at “max” but
Door gaskets not sealing Repair
or replace gaskets
Thermostat out of calibration
Supply gas pressure too low
gas supply & regulator
Gas supply cock closed
Open supply cock
Clean or replace orifice
Thermostat at “min” but
Thermostat out of calibration
Thermostat capillary out of
Install thermostat capillary
Burner flame is soft or
Burner air passage clogged
Clean air passage
Improper orifice function
Clean or replace orifice
Burner not centred under flue
Centre burner under flue
Burner flame is hard
Improper orifice function
Incorrect gas pressure (too high)
Check gas pressure
Baffle missing in flue
Refrigerator not cooling
Check propane level in tank
Refrigerator not level
Leak in sealed system
Check for leak
Liquid in sealed system in
Tilt refrigerator or turn