Impact of High Altitude on Propane Fridge Operation - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 08-16-2016, 01:07 AM   #1
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Impact of High Altitude on Propane Fridge Operation

Has anyone had a problem keeping their fridge running on propane at high altitudes? Recently we spent a couple of nights camped right at 10,000 feet and the fridge (the standard Dometic smaller model) in our 2016 19 periodically cut out and sounded the error alarm.

The fridge seemed to operate for a while (periods of hours), but then at some point I would inevitably hear the repeated clicking of the ignitor for a few tries before the error lights beeped (the triangle warning and gas flame lights). I finally gave up and ran it on battery (dual 6V with solar). This worked fine for that particular trip, but I would rather have the flexibility of running on gas as we never really camp with hookups.

Other relevant info: nighttime temps were around 32F, with daytime highs in the high 50s/low 60s. The problem occurred both at night and during the day. We were using the furnace, water heater, and stove during the trip.

Also, we have used the fridge on propane with no issues at altitudes of up to 8500-9000 feet or so both before and after this particular trip, which makes this more puzzling to me. Would an additional 1500 feet make a difference? Is there anything I can do to address this issue?
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Old 08-16-2016, 01:18 AM   #2
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Ours is the larger Dometic RMD8555, but yes, I posted a similar comment/question recently on the Dometic RMD8555 Frustration thread, (There are several replies.) Basically, we couldn't get ours to even light at 9800 or 9300 ft, but at 6900 ft it fired right up and ran all night.

Others indicate theirs does run on propane at somewhat higher altitudes than 6900 ft (although not sure anyone's is working at over 9000). Even though ours isn't the same model, I think the answer is yes, higher altitude does affect it. Can it be adjusted to allow a better air/oxygen mix? I sure hope so...
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Old 08-16-2016, 08:41 AM   #3
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Perhaps it is not designed for altitudes higher than x feet? If it works fine otherwise I'd be really happy and limit my high altitude excursions to battery power. How often does one need that altitude/camping experience could be the limit placed on the design. I'm sure those in hot air balloons have similar experience with heaters, they either adapt or limit their height.
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Old 08-16-2016, 09:53 AM   #4
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My driveway is 8600' and my RMD8555 works well. Obviously, it's plugged in at home; but it switches over to propane just fine when I unplug it. I'd prefer my beer a bit colder; but it keeps a gallon of milk good for a week or longer.

My understanding of the refrigerator is that the propane is simply a heat source and flame. Carburetion or fuel injection would require a specific mix of air and fuel. An open flame would just use what it needs.

I really need to pick up a remote thermometer and a manometer to measure things; but I'd bet it's a regulator issue and I just got lucky. A mechanical regulator would compare tank pressure with atmospheric pressure. Mine is very tempermental with switching over, to the point that I just do it manually; but zero issues with the refrigerator.
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Old 08-16-2016, 09:59 AM   #5
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Thanks, Stan. We're going to change our regulator... Although it will be awhile before we can test it at altitude again.
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Old 08-16-2016, 10:09 AM   #6
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Mary and Stan, thanks for the additional data points (and for reminding me that there is an "Escape Systems" subforum for this kind of question!). I agree that it could be a regulator issue. I may just leave things as is for now and see how it does on a few trips this fall, as it works great up to 9000 ft. and is otherwise cooling just fine.
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Old 08-16-2016, 10:36 AM   #7
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Quote from 19 Pickup Trip Report and Initial Impressions
I notice in the installation instructions for a hot water heater, they consider no special actions are required for up to 2,000 feet. Above that they say that models are available up to 4500 feet. So altitude is definitely a major factor. I've seen similar altitude related comments in the installation instructions for gas furnaces.

Probably your issue could be solved by re-jetting but then it wouldn't be suitable for sustained lower altitude use. I guess it would depend on the percentage of time you need to use it at high altitudes.

Ron


another reply, same thread
Thanks for the fridge comments, all. Nice to confirm that there is an altitude factor most likely at play, and not some other malfunction. If the fridge continues to work well up to 9000 ft or so on propane I don't know that I will be bothered to mess with it. That would cover 85% of our camping, and for those times when we are closer to 10K I might just stick to 12V.
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Old 08-16-2016, 10:36 AM   #8
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Folks:
We have the 4.3 cu. ft. #8551 in our 17B. We camped at Beartooth Lake, MT (9,000 ft.) last week and fortunately our fridge worked fine. Hopefully it will continue to do so, as we frequently camp at higher elevations. Good luck with yours!

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Old 08-16-2016, 11:21 AM   #9
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I spent a fair amount of time at the Forest Service campgrounds at Turquoise Lake, and Camp Hale, both near Leadville CO, and just a bit under 10,000'. No problems with the furnace (yes, I needed it in August), the water heater, or a Dometic RM 2510 refrigerator.
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Old 08-16-2016, 12:22 PM   #10
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"No Malfunction" ?

As seen in many Dometic Manuals, what does 'no malfunction' mean? I can read it as it will have faults but 'no malfunction'? The ! exclamation mark is in the manual as though they are trying to make some point?

I would like to read it that way .....


For physical reasons, gas ignition faults could occur starting from an altitude above sea level of approx. 3280 ft. / 1000 m (No malfunction!)
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