Contributors: Andy Baird, Larry Wade
Keeping the contents of your refrigerator safely cold (the ideal temperature is around 37° F.) can be tough, especially in hot weather. The absorption-type Dometic or Norcold refrigerator used in your Lazy Daze doesn't cool as fast as the compressor-type unit in your house, and it's subjected to much greater temperature fluctuations...so your rig's fridge needs special care if it is to do its job well. Here are some tips to help you get the best performance from your RV's refrigerator. PRE-COOL If possible, start up the fridge the night before you leave on a trip, giving it plenty of time to cool down. It can take 12-24 hours for an RV fridge to reach its optimum temperature, so the more of a head start you give it, the better. PRELOAD Before a trip, freeze a bunch of "Blue Ice" or similar freezable packs in your freezer at home...then transfer them to the RV's fridge to jump-start the cooling process. FILL 'ER UP You might think that having more stuff in the fridge would make it work harder, but in the long run the opposite is true: packing the shelves really helps keep things cold. Think of it this way: any mass stored inside the fridge--especially water--will "store up cold" during the night, and then help to retain low temperatures during the day when the outside temperature is high. A half-empty fridge experiences much bigger temperature swings than one that is full. Just loading the unused space with bottles of water made a huge difference in my old Dometic's ability to maintain a cool temperature throughout the day when I was in Arizona. So pack those shelves! PUT COLD WHERE YOU NEED IT Speaking of packing shelves, that goes double for your freezer: fill it up with a mix of food and "Blue Ice" type freezable packs. Not only will it help keep temperatures down, but if you need to turn off the fridge (if you prefer to shut it off while driving, for example), you can transfer the ice packs from the freezer to the refrigerator section to keep that part safely chilled. Put them back in the freezer to refreeze overnight. KEEP THE AIR MOVING It's important to keep air circulating inside the refrigerator, so that warm and cold spots don't form. Otherwise you could end up with spoiled meat and frozen lettuce, even when the "average" temperature is close to ideal. Buy a Valterra FridgeCOOL--a tiny fan that runs for weeks on a pair of "D" batteries--and put it on a bottom shelf where it will help keep the air moving around. It's Camping World item #6675, and only costs about $17. Another approach is to insall a small 12-volt fan wired across the interior light switch contacts. The interior light acts as a dropping resistor, slowing the fan down and reducing the current draw to a very low level. It isn't super powerful but provides enough circulation to keep the thermal layers broken up. A couple of zip-ties will keep it in place. For some photo details, see http://www.flickr.KEEP THE AIR MOVING, PART 2
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Something most people don't think about is the heat-exchanger coils on the back of the refrigerator. But they perform a crucial function: all the heat that your fridge sucks out of its interior has to be transferred to the outside air via these coils. If they don't have good air circulation to carry away that heat, your fridge won't be able to do its job. That's why there is a vent on top of your rig above the fridge: to let the hot air escape. But how about giving it a little help? It's easy to install a solar-powered Valterra Solar Exhaust Fan under that vent, with a tiny solar panel that powers it independently of your rig's electrical system. One of these can make a big difference in hot weather. It's Camping World item #19710, and costs about $40.
DON'T OPEN THE DOOR TO CHECK THE TEMPERATURE Instead, buy an inexpensive (as little as $10) digital indoor-outdoor thermometer and put its sensor in the fridge, with the digital readout stuck to the door. Now you can tell how things are doing without opening the door! Don't worry about the cable--it's thin enough to snake through the door gasket without causing any air leaks.
Revised 22 Jul 2011