Mechanics Corner (Utilities, Appliances, Towing & More) => Appliances => Topic started by: JoeCamper on January 27, 2011, 10:08:02 PM

Title: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: JoeCamper on January 27, 2011, 10:08:02 PM
The 3 way fridge is one of the most popular choices for use as a camping refrigerator and there has been questions about how a 3 way refrigerator work so I thought I'd post something to help explain.

The ‘3 Way’ in the title relates to the 3 different power sources these small portable fridge freezers can operate on. Usually they can be powered by any of the following:
1) 120v AC (Standard Electric)
2) LSP (Liquid Propane Gas)
3) 12v DC (Battery)

1) A regular power outlet for powering a 3 way camping fridge is very useful. This is the same power source a standard in house refrigerator uses. By liberating the operator from the restrictions of their car battery, they can run the fridge full time. Of course, the related drawback is that mains power is not always available everywhere you might want to run your 3 way refrigerator.

2) A second option is the use of LPG gas.  Having this final power source available lets a three way fridge owner fill in the gaps when electricity to power the refrigerator is not available.  Running the camping fridge off gas does, of course, require that the owner keep a supply of gas on hand.

3) The third option can be powered using 12V DC, such as that found within a car battery.  As when powering a car fridge, limited battery life is a drawback.  If you operate the 3 way refrigerator too long without the car running, you can run down your starter battery leaving you stranded.

Some things to keep in mind when using on of these refrigerators:
First, we will assume the refrigerator is not defective in some way.  It should make no difference which heat source is used.  It's just heat.  Be it one of the 110V or 12V electric heaters or a propane flame.

Second, the refrigerator must be level to operate efficiently.  If it is not level the liquid in the system can pool and restrict or even block circulation.  Damage to the system can result if operated off level for an extended period of time.  While traveling level does not matter because the liquids are "sloshing around" and do not get a chance to pool.

Next, The units do take time to cool when started.  The normal rate of cooling is about 3 - 6 degrees per hour.  These refrigerators are prone to warm and cold areas. A small battery fan placed inside the refrigerator box helps to move air around and keep a constant temperature.  You must pre cool the refrigerator andit may take up to 24 hours to get down to it's working temperature.

Try to load it with pre cooled items. Placing something like a warm 6 pack of soda will delay cooling of everything inside.

Probably the best known manufacturer of 3 way camping fridges is Dometic; so if these devices sound like something you might want to buy, you might start with their model line.  Another well known manufacturer is Waeco refrigeration – a subsidiary of Dometic. Also worth considering are Norcold and Engel.
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: BigDawgGang on February 28, 2011, 04:33:32 PM
They do take a while to cool.  I keep to 2 litter bottles of ice in the freezer at home and put them in the camper fridge to help with the cooling process if I forget to turn it on the day before we leave.
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: ridenred333 on May 28, 2013, 05:37:18 PM
Bigdawg I always turn my on the day before I use it.  However here lately I usually just us a cooler.  The only time I end up using the frig is if there is leftover on a plate then I will stick it in the frig.
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: weily68 on April 06, 2015, 06:54:28 PM
Noobie question from former a cooler-only user about the Dometic.  There are two switches for the electric power source, one for 120v and the other for 12v.  I currently have the pup sitting in my dirveway prepping for our first "trip" this weekend.  It's connected to the house via extension cord and the fridge is on via the 120v switch.  Should I turn the 120v switch off and the 12v switch on while towing to our site?  Are there any issues with having the fridge on while travelling?
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: acenorm on April 06, 2015, 07:27:29 PM
Yes, that is how I used to do it.

Best Regards,

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Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: R00 on April 06, 2015, 11:09:49 PM
Only run 12v when towing if your trailer wiring is set up.for it. Otherwise you kill your trailer battery
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: applewoodsb on July 23, 2017, 05:53:14 PM

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Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: chiefbowes on July 24, 2017, 03:01:05 PM
Don't park anywhere to eat with it on 12 volt and hooked up to the TV. Both the camper and the TV will be dead. Don't ask how i know.
Title: Re: 3 way camper refrigerator
Post by: MadMac66 on July 25, 2017, 03:54:28 PM
I love the tip about freezing up a couple of two liter bottles to help cool the fridge. Absolutely going to do this. Thx

How do I check or set up my trailer battery to charge from the TV alternator. Be nice to keep cooling while we are on the road.