gdroke

Any Danger In Using The Refrigerator On LP When Driving?

29 posts in this topic

I just read an article that said it was not a good idea to use an LP appliance while driving.

I've only had the motorhome (2008 Safari Simba) for a couple of months, so I have a lot to learn about it.

I checked the motorhome manual and did not see any thing that said don't do it.

What is the consensus, is that a real danger or not?

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I do not believe that this is a real danger. While my current coach does not have a propane fridge, my last one did and we never turned off the fridge while traveling. The fridge would not stay cold in that condition and it takes time to get things cold again if you wait to stop before turning the gas back on. I suspect that nearly 100% of RVers keep the gas on to the fridge while traveling unless they have set them up to run on the inverter while underway.

It's my understanding that the concern for gas while underway has to do with what would happen should you be in an accident and not an issue with the fridge using gas while driving. They were designed to be able to do that.

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Like Bill, we drive with the refrigerator on propane 100% of the time.

Indeed the systems (both propane system and refrigerator) were designed to be operated while driving.

Is there any danger-- sure. Any time you have a flammable, there is some danger. Just as there is with gasoline. Most will conclude that the risk is minimal and within their "acceptable range"-- that is your choice.

I would suggest, particularly in the summer, that your risk of food poisoning if the refrigerator is left off all day while you drive is a LOT more of a danger to you and your family than leaving the refrigerator on and running on propane.

As with many decisions, you need to weigh the risks/rewards.

Brett

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Thanks for the responses.

I have been using it that way, but this is all new to me and I wanted to make sure I wasn't playing with fire, literally and figuratively. You know how it goes, you read one thing from one source, and something exactly the opposite from another source. I like this forum because it gives me easy access to years of experience.

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I have heard (not verified) that running with the LP on is illegal in most states, particularly when fueling up at gas stations, going through tunnels, and on the ferry. The latter was verified personally by myself in the summer of '09 when I took a series of ferries in Washington State. Each of the four times I was given a bright pink tag to put on the handle of the LP to show ferry employees that the LP was off. They took it seriously enough to watch me while I affixed the tag and turned the handle.

I think it was on this forum a couple of years ago that the wife of one of two couples who were traveling to Florida together told about the lead rig at one point couldn't see the following rig, turned around, and came upon their friends' rig nearly burned to the ground at the side of the road -- all within twenty minutes or so. Nothing was wrong with the LP unit; it just hit a rock when a tire blew and set off an explosion. They lost two friends that day. That story had a huge impact on me -- enough so that I never travel with the LP on.

Yes, it's a huge inconvenience to travel without the fridge on. The best solution I've come up with is to either plug in or turn on the LP a couple of days before the trip, let the fridge get to a "safe" temperature (via a fridge thermometer), put the food in (cold food), shut the door, turn off LP/Electric, and leave the door shut until arriving at my destination. If your fridge has a good seal and the food was safely cold when it was put in, it will be safe. I usually freeze a couple of bottles of OJ and put those in the fridge section when loading the other food just to be extra safe.

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I have heard (not verified) that running with the LP on is illegal in most states, particularly when fueling up at gas stations, going through tunnels, and on the ferry.

Certainly, part of that statement is true. Running with LP on while driving is NOT illegal in any state. But it is (and should be) illegal in high-danger areas.

These include: while refueling, in some tunnels and on ferries.

BTW if you are at the RV island even with a diesel rig, you should (and legally are obligated to) TURN OFF ALL PROPANE POWERED APPLIANCES AT THE SWITCH.

Turning off the propane at the tank/solenoid does NOT meet the standards, as having a furnace, water heater or refrigerator igniter start sparking (even with the propane turned off), could ignite a gasoline spill from someone else's rig.

These basic safety precautions all make sense, but do not have anything to do with the use of propane powered appliances while driving.

Brett

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Will the fridge work on engine supplied power (electric) while driving?

No simple answer. Some older absorption refrigerators were 3 way (propane, 120 VAC and 12 VDC) The 12 VDC heating element in these was lower wattage than the 120 VAC element or the heat produced by the propane flame, so it was considered more for "maintaining" the cold. Said another way it was not as effective as either 120 VAC or propane.

Most newer refrigerators are 2 way (propane and 120 VAC). Yes, all except the REALLY old ones also need a source of 12 VDC to run the PC board-- irrespective of "heat source".

Can you run a 2 way refrigerator on electricity while driving? Maybe. If you have enough alternator capacity to supply your vehicle needs with enough left over to power an inverter to run the refrigerator, then the answer is YES. Is this less efficient than running on propane-- YES.

Compare producing the same BTU's of heat in the refrigerator: With propane, you burn a small flame. When on 120 VAC from the engine, you loose efficiency at each of these steps: Turning diesel into engine RPM. Loading the alternator harder to produce more electricity. Converting 12 VDC to 120 VAC in the inverter. Converting 120 VAC into heat.

One other comment on using propane while driving or any other time. A properly maintained propane system and appliances are safer than ones that are not maintained (about the same holds true for most systems-- no big surprise!).

Brett

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Here is an rv fire investigation pdf file discussing RV Fire Investigations. It has a couple of pictures, but the one I found most interesting was an xray picture of the back of the fridge. To me it was interesting reading.

http://cjbfire.com/ManSample.pdf

It doesn't discuss traveling with the propane on or off.

That said, when we stop for and extended time, I use a soap/water solution in a spray bottle whenever I use the extend a stay with an auxiliary propane tank. The main reason is if a connection is not complete, threads compromised, I want to know it before it goes bang. Connecting and disconnecting hoses causes wear and I feel better knowing I don't have a leak at the main connection or at the auxiliary tank. Also, I will use the water/soap solution once a year to check other propane connections in the back of the fridge, furnace, stove, and any other location I can find gas fittings. I keep a small spray bottle in the bay next to the permanent propane tank, and I do use it. I sleep a lot better.

I have RV'd since 76, yea, I know that's in the last century and have had 8 RV's....I have always traveled with propane and refrigerator on. The Desert can get HOT. Refueling, I always err on the side of caution. Fuels pumps are equipped with anti-explosion devices. That may not mean that fumes while fueling couldn't contribute to a vehicle explosion. Many states now require the rubber ring around the pump nozzle which does not allow the escape of fumes.

I always fuel using an outside pump, even with the propane off, and propane devices on my RV are located on the opposite side away from the fuel spout.

A number of the recent explosions involving homes and neighborhoods is most likely as a result of natural gas leaks that have gone undetected. Doing gas line surveys, there are many, many gas leaks, most which are harmless, but others can be very dangerous.

I'm not advocating one way or the other, folks have to use their own judgement and be comfortable with their decisions. Rv's that I have actually seen burned have been as a result of electrical/battery issues, some sitting at an Rv site in a camground.

Traveling through tunnels, etc, there are usually signs that prohibit RV's with propane. Some require the propane to be off. Some even provide escorts. If it's illegal to drive with propane on or off, generally, there should be a sign prohibiting it.

Hope this helps, differing opinions can be confusing, and overwhelming in making a decision. Remember, the decision is yours. You have to be comfortable with what you decide to do.

After thought,,,,Do propane/natural gas powered vehicles drive with the propane/gas on?

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I let the fridge run on propane while driving for many years but no longer do so.

I have found that with our short driving times of four hours or so there is little change in the internal temperature - +4 or 5 degrees.

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Gentlemen,

As a newbie myself this has been an interesting thread. How about traveling with the gen set running and the fridge on ac power. I have been told

by some people that they run with the gen set running especially in the summer time so they can use there front A/C unit, because the dash A/C just

isn't cold enough. I realize you use the same fuel as the coach does and fuel stops would probably be more frequent, any comments?

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kikeehn,

Welcome to the FMCA Forum.

Yes, it is quite common to run the generator while traveling, particularly if the temperature is high enough to require more than the dash A/C to keep you comfortable. This is true whether the generator is fueled by propane, gasoline or diesel. Very few people even give this a second thought. Is it an additional risk? Sure, but, the vast majority of us conclude it is a very small risk and do it. Heck, driving, just by itself is more of a risk than sitting at home-- again we do it.

And if the generator is running to power other things (such as roof A/C) then running the refrigerator on generator produced 120 VAC makes sense. It would not make sense to run that large additional motor (the generator) JUST to run the refrigerator, however. If you do this and have the ability to turn off your converter while running the generator while driving, do it. It "confuse"s many alternators to have competing sources charging the batteries.

All the equipment discussed in this thread was designed to be used while driving as well as while parked. But, risk/reward is each person's decision.

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I have to agree Xplorer. I also must state that I personally do not drive with any propane appliances on. When we pack up to go, we make sure the propane is shut off. I used to drive a tow truck years ago....and having towed the remains of several burned to the ground Travel Trailers and a Class-A also a Class-C. I would rather fill an ice chest full of ice rather than take the chance of my RV burning to the ground.....but that's just me. I don't carry the cost of a RV as pocket change. :blink:

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There are as many different opinions as there are posters. I do it but that doesn't mean it's right. And just yesterday, I was asked to turn off the propane before boarding a ferry.

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We run the refridgerator on propane while traveling as well. Like Wolfe stated, there is a risk involved but I feel it is minimal since the system was designed for such use. It boils down to what one's personal feeling on the matter are. John 2006 Monaco

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Wolfe,

Thanks for the advise. You mentioned about turning off the converter if you just use the gen set to power the refridgerator, would unplugging it accomplish the same thing since I don"t see any kind of shut off switch on the converter.

Thanks in advance

kerryk

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Yes, turning off or disconnecting the converter accomplishes the same thing. It means the alternator and converter are not "competing".

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Wolfe,

Thanks for all your help, us newbies would be flying in the dark if it wouldn't be for RV'ers such as yourself.

Again Thanks

KerryK

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All the manufacturers agree that running on propane while on the road is a very bad idea.

The movement of propane within the line can possibly create a momentary surge of pressure forcing more propane into the system than it needs creating a flareup. There is also a possibility that the pilot light can get extinguished leading to explosive gas in the camper body.

It also voids your warranty.

Run it on 12 volts if you have that option. If you have to you can get a 12v-110v-propane cooler (they have those now) to keep the essentials cold during transportation.

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Whoa, "all the manufacturers"? I never heard that nor is anything in my manuals about it. Same for "voiding the warranty". We have it on when driving, off when fueling.

If my pilot/flame goes out, there is a valve that shuts off the propane to the fridge.

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All the manufacturers agree that running on propane while on the road is a very bad idea.

The movement of propane within the line can possibly create a momentary surge of pressure forcing more propane into the system than it needs creating a flareup. There is also a possibility that the pilot light can get extinguished leading to explosive gas in the camper body.

It also voids your warranty.

Run it on 12 volts if you have that option. If you have to you can get a 12v-110v-propane cooler (they have those now) to keep the essentials cold during transportation.

It is a gas vapor at 1/4 lb pressure and does not surge in the line. Nothing wrong with driving down the road with it running on propane.

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I didn't see any reference to solar power here. With an inverter and solar panels, you can run the frig on AC while moving assuming the sun is shining! Also if you have sufficient batteries you can run the frig between stops with battery power and the inverter. I am thinking of getting rid of my AC/LPG frig and getting a conventional compressor type.

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...All the manufacturers agree that running on propane while on the road is a very bad idea....

...It also voids your warranty...

We've been RVing since the early 70s...never heard of this before. These units are designed to run on propane when driving, and that's what we do.

Do you have a reference for these comments?

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I will add my concurrence with keeping the fridge on propane during travel. As noted by others, we ran into two ferries on our trip south this year that did require the propane to be shut off at the tank but there was plenty of warning and a worker to watch/check the valve before we boarded. I've seen some signs (not RVing ) some bridges/tunnels but didn't pay much attention. Many of the good road atlases may also have information about any limitations. I've never seen any info that restricts on road propane in the US or Canada, just specific sections of roads/bridges/ferries.

Alan

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We used the frig on propane while driving for many years. We did turn it off while fueling and complied with tunnel and ferry requirements.

The Norcold died a horrible death (ammonia fumes).

We now have a household frig with a motor that is compatible with the inverter (many are not). It has a e-save feature to reduce power. In general!, refrigerators are not a huge draw on the inverter and our inverter and alternator are beefy enough to carry the load.

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