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Old 31-01-2009, 06:43   #1
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Propane Refrigeration

I have read propane refrigeration is shunned due to the dangers of explosion, how is a propane refrigerator different from a propane stove? I am sure they have a safety shut off if the pilot light goes out.

Does anyone use propane on their boat? Would the propane use be worth the Amp hour savings?

What if you put your box in the cockpit rather than galley? Would that make them safer?

Thanks.
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Old 31-01-2009, 07:04   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenman View Post
I have read propane refrigeration is shunned due to the dangers of explosion, how is a propane refrigerator different from a propane stove?
... What if you put your box in the cockpit rather than galley? Would that make them safer?
I don’t think propane heated absorption refrigerators present any significantly increased danger of explosion over other propane appliances.
Separating the appliance from the living space may improve overall safety somewhat.

It’s important that a propane refrigerator (absorption cooling system) be level, particularly when running. Because gas refrigerators are based on gravity, if the appliance is not levelled, the circulation of ammonia coolant will be slowed down, which could inhibit its effective operation. This would require a gimbaled mount.
This may be one of the prime reason these units are not more commonly used on boats.

As an un-attended* appliance, some might recommend that a propane-fired fridge (or heater) be installed in a vented & scuppered compartment, separate from living-spaces.

* A stove is an attended appliance, because someone might always be expected to be "in attendance" when it’s in use.
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Old 31-01-2009, 07:07   #3
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So in a protected anchorage or a dock the fridge may be "okay" but not practical on passage.

Thank you.
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Old 31-01-2009, 07:33   #4
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Originally Posted by Greenman View Post
I have read propane refrigeration is shunned due to the dangers of explosion, how is a propane refrigerator different from a propane stove? I am sure they have a safety shut off if the pilot light goes out.
Its the pilot light itself that is the danger, as it could ignite gas(LPG) in the bilge.
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Old 31-01-2009, 07:58   #5
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A leak in the ammonia system could be nasty too.

Propane/ammonia systems are efficient and dependable. The rural area where we live was not electrified until right before WW2 and all of the old timers used propane refrigeration.

Someone will come up with a way to overcome the safety issues with a simple idea that will have everyone wondering why they didn't think of that. (maybe having the unit vented to the cockpit) I would not mind having the fridge in the cockpit for that matter.
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Old 31-01-2009, 08:09   #6
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I work on propane cookstoves (flying kitchens) as part of my job as a Weapons Technician in the Military. So I am pretty familiar with the stove/oven applications. I am just looking outside the box a bit for marine refrigeration applications. That I know very little about, other than when I was a kid we had a propane fridge in out tent trailer.

I suppose with any system you have to consider the risks. Any number of risks can endanger a boat, it's how you manage the risk that matters (safety precautions).

So far it seems unrealistic as the ones I have seen online burn 1+ lbs in 24hrs @ 70 deg F. So less than a month on a 20lb tank.

I did find this site. It has some cool info.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/article.../yago102-3.gif

Thanks for the insight, I will keep researching and taking notes from the posters here.

Thanks again.
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Old 31-01-2009, 09:03   #7
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Concerning the safety of the propane gas itself what is different on a boat, is that since propane sinks, the boat acts as a huge dish]which can collect an very large volume of propane gas which can be very explosive. Unlike a refridgerator, a stove only needs to be turned on when in use and is thus an attended appliance as Gord May said above. Also, since no propane is needed until the next time you cook, the propane line can be shut off before it ever reaches the interior of the boat, possibly by a remote valve wired to the circuit board. This not only safeguards a potential leak at the appliance itself but anywhere along the line. I should point out, that it's important to sure the propane locker itself, if you use one , is properly vented.

I should note that some mariners feel even with the above safety precautions in place, propane is a dangerous fuel to have on board. The more continual, unattended operation of a fridge means that when trying to manage the risks, the above protocals are not an option, so you will likely need to accept more risk of a propane leak and catastrophic explosion with a fridge than a stove. As you said one needs to understand and manage the risks onboard. Given a choice, many mariners manage this risk by choosing another refridgeration option.
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Old 31-01-2009, 09:09   #8
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My understanding is that propane refrigerators are banned for boat use because they have to be reasonably level to work.

Quote:
Never install a gas refrigerator designed for residential use in a moving vehicle The Servel RGE400 units are not designed for mobile home, boat or recreational vehicle use. When a gas refrigerator is in motion, say in a vehicle, boat, or trailer, the continuous rolling and pitching movement will not affect the actual cooling operation of the unit, but not being level will. Safety with gas appliances is the main issue and an open flame is simply dangerous in a moving vehicle. Once you reach a stationary point for an extended period, the gas refrigerator must be level and stable for correct operation. Operation on back-up electrical power is the only option when in motion and even then it is not assured.
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Old 31-01-2009, 10:21   #9
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They use them in motorhomes and travel trailers. Years ago, the units had to be table top level if they were not moving but were OK if they were moving around. Newer units can't come to rest at a 45 degree angle but they can stand some degree of tilt.
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Old 31-01-2009, 11:21   #10
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I chartered a PDQ cat in the BVI years ago that had a propane fridge. Obviously, cats are level (at least compared to monos) and it seemed to work well for the week I was aboard.
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Old 31-01-2009, 11:33   #11
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Tex, I think that you will find that the manufacturer will tell you to never run your frig. on propane while moving your motorhome/ camper. They always recommend using electrical system while on the road. At least that was the way it was with my system in my camper. The propane unit was to keep the frig. cool while stopped without draining the battery.
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Old 31-01-2009, 13:19   #12
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I haven't owned a motorhome for years so my info is probably out of date. The fridge that we had did not have an electrical option. The flame and guts of the thing were vented to the outside.
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Old 31-01-2009, 14:13   #13
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Mine was vented to outside as well.

I just emailed a friend who lives in a new 34' diesel Motorhome and he said his frig. is switched to electric (automatically) when he starts his engine.
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Old 31-01-2009, 14:40   #14
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I had a propane fridge in operation on my cat for 21 years without a problem. It had a 12v dc and a 240v AC capability, - 12v used at least 8 amps, so I never used it with electricity.
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Old 31-01-2009, 14:52   #15
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there was one in a boat that I bought. The PO told me to keep the port holes open to get rid of excess heat. I only used it a short time and it stopped working. When I removed it the panel walls were charred from the exhaust heat, From the amount of damage I don't know why it did not burn up.
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