View Full Version : Installing Propane Refrigerator

Todd Heyn
10-12-2010, 09:02 AM
I am getting ready to install my small propane refrigerator in my 12x16' cabin. The refrigerator is a pull out from an RV. Small, just like a dorm size one.

I plan on making a plywood box that the fridge slides in to that will be fixed to the exterior wall and then installing a lower and upper vent on the outside just like the specs call for.

Here is my question - With the heat the the burning propane puts off, do I need to worry about the plywood box getting to hot? Do I need to line the inside of the box with metal or something else to prevent a fire hazard?

Looking for your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks in Advance,

10-12-2010, 12:40 PM
I've been working on my fridge in my RV the last few weeks. I have a Dometic RM3801 which is a larger unit and heat isn't any problem for me. The floor of the compartment is plywood but the sidewalls are covered with sheetmetal. No idea what is behind that but it's probably plywood too. If you follow the manufacturer's install spec you should be good to go. Just think about what your fridge is designed to be installed in. Most RVs are nothing but sticks and staples.

One thing that really helped keep things cool for me was installing a vent fan. It made a world of difference when the outside temps go up.

10-12-2010, 02:11 PM
The propane fridge on our camper is installed inside a wood box with no real protection.

The actual propane burner is pretty well insulated and does not come in contact with the surrounding structure.

Personally, I'd put in a light gauge sheetmetal envelope just as another layer of security and to help with the convection and cleaning down the road, but I tend to go overboard.

Keep in mind that the vents serve two purposes. One is to provide combustion air for the burner and exhaust the gases. The other is to carry away the heat liberated from the coils.

Most RV propane fridges use convection for the latter by default, but a lot of RV'ers find that adding a small fan helps move more air through the chamber and keeps the fridge cooling better during warmer weather. There are solar-powered fans out there specifically for this purpose and they have the advantage of operating pretty much when you need it most without additional wiring/power.

I would think that a fan would increase the efficiency in any weather, and that would translate into lower propane useage so it's probably worth looking into in a permanent installation.

We just went camping this last weekend. Our old Dometic fridge is 33 years old and is still chugging along - we had to turn it down by the end of the weekend because it was getting too cold. We happened to be running it on 110v (we have a 3-way 12vdc/110vac/propane), but I find it works even better when on propane.

Ya just can't stand there with the door open like you would with a compressor fridge...

10-14-2010, 08:35 AM
Most of the heat is at the top of the chimney above the burner so be careful in that area. Don't box it in tight. The sides would be fine but leave the top and the bottom towards the back open so air can move easily.

I flush mounted mine in a wall and let the back of the unit stick out into my mud room. It's totally open so it ventilates very well. I just built a frame the size of the unit and mounted it using the flange on the front around the door. I ran wood screws into the frame. I didn't build a shelf.

10-14-2010, 09:23 PM
I have a little, older Dometic fridge from an old camper and recently added a new, larger upright Danby unit. The small camper unit vents out the top, so I put a vent in the back wall to the outdoors, the top would get rather warm, so in the enclosure I built I put a 12" x 12" heat shield (just a piece of sheet metal) about 6 inches directly above the 'chimney' with a couple inches of airspace above it to the enclosure top, (enclosure is made from plywood). The top stays quite cool now.
The larger one also vents up but the top but is only 2 feet from the ceiling, I enclosed that and put a screened vent in the ceiling directly above it. The eaves & gables were already vented in the cabin and it works great. :)


10-15-2010, 08:50 AM
Todd, do a search to see if you can find the installation manual for your refrigerator. That should have clearance info and what you need to know about venting.

We put a larger version in our camper. This one was installed in a cabinet that we built to fit it. Used 2x2 framing with thin plywood on the outside of the cabinet (box). One thing we had to do was build the equivalent of a chimney on top of the "box" that connected to a roof vent designed for the refrigerator. Maybe a better way to say it......

Used 2x2 framing that went from floor to ceiling. Each side was covered with thin paneling. It was in 3 sections. At the appropriate height, put in a floor to support the refrigerator. Below this was storage space with a cabinet door. Also provided access to the propane line that went to the refrigerator and to the furnace.

At the appropriate height above the refrigerator, added a top to form another storage area, with an cabinet door. Here this area didn't extend all the way to the back wall. The depth of this was about 6" shorter, which left an open space over the refrigerator, itself, all the way to the top of the camper. Ordered a refrigerator vent kit from an RV supplier. Cut an opening in the roof to install. Also ordered a vented access door for the side of the camper. The combo of the access door, open area above the refrigerator and the roof vent provides air intake and escape route for the heated air.

Wish I could make a drawing. (sigh) This is one time a pix would be worth more than a 1000 words. Hoping you can find the install manual for yours, so you can be sure you have it vented according to the manufacturer's recommendation. With these, I don't know how much of a factor that carbon monoxide comes into play. Installing it according to the manufacturer will ensure that isn't a problem.

Hope this helps, a bit.

Edit: One thing that was a help to us when we gutted and re-did our 5th wheel rig was to go RV shopping. Study how it was done in new units really helped figure out how to design and rebuild ours. While you're not re-doing a camper, much of the same concept will apply that you can utilize, regardless of where you're installing your refrigerator.

02-11-2011, 12:21 AM
Camper models are made where you shouldn't have to worry about the heat. We have a large servel and its on inside wall and is not vented, of course our old house is drafty enough to give us an adequate air supply. Maybe you'd need to worry if you lived in one of these new tight houses, but then if you were a yuppy like that, you'd probably not be having a gas fridge either but some huge stainless steel thing that really is too big for your needs anyhow, lol

02-11-2011, 02:40 PM
Since it's a self-install, any problem that comes up, such as a fire, will be blamed on your installation. So, I'd go with the over-engineering if at all possible. Something as simple as lining the plywood that faces the fridge with aluminum foil will go a long way to prevent the wood from getting hot.

As I'm sure you know, the flame from the fridge is pretty small, about the size of two or three ordinary pilot lights. So, not a huge amount of heat to deal with.