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Old 08-20-2016, 07:23 PM   #1
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Atwood helium fridge any good?

The fridge in our 88 Itasca has several major issues and the box is wArped so not worth fixing. We are currently in Michigan on vacation from Az. I'm thinking of purchasing an Atwood fridge with helium instead of hydrogen but can not find much for reviews on my phone. I'm unsure if this will cool enough for use in the Az desert. Does anyone here have any personal experience with them?
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Old 08-20-2016, 07:27 PM   #2
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our friends bought one and like it
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Old 08-21-2016, 06:59 PM   #3
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I think that the principles behind helium refrigerator's are good, and Attwood typically makes good products. I have thought about upgrading the from the Dometic unit in my 2001 Lance truck camper due to the fact that helium units are not as critical for leveling, and that helium is not flammable. The old Dometic still works but is starting to show its age. Helium refrigerators have not caught on, and I am concerned about parts and service later on. That is my main concern. If they don't become popular and common, Attwood will have little motivation to make replacement parts in coming years. My experience with mechanical things is that the more popular the item, the better chance that parts are available for a longer period of time.
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:57 PM   #4
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I spoke with a guy that rebuilds rv refrigerators and he replaces the helium with hydrogen since that is the gas he has on hand. He explained to me the purpose of either gas is to keep the ammonia from boiling. The gas has 300 psi in the tubes. Don't know if the other parts are interchangeable or not.
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Old 09-02-2016, 12:41 AM   #5
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I passed on buying the Atwood helium refrigerator. I called Atwood an found out they were purchased by Dometic about 2 years ago and the helium fridge was discontinued and Atwood is already out of some parts.
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Old 09-05-2016, 02:03 PM   #6
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First of all you just don't have Helium "on hand". That's an expensive gas to have laying around, and it's part of a magic mix for the fridge.

I talked not only with David Force of RV Cooling unit warehouse, but also the owner of Pines RV that is the largest Amish manfacturer about all this. He said that Atwood has had issues with the He fridge because they attempted to just replace the gas in the existing design then started having issues. He said that the Helium apparently moves slower and certainly is hotter and the old design just couldn't do it. If you look at the Pines Helium design, the tubing is larger, and there is twice the heat exchanger coil in the back. Our Helium unit cools down far faster and gets far colder in hotter temps than the ammonia unit it replaced. I installed it on a weekend where it was 104, and the fridge was in the 30's within an hour of testing it on AC (usually way slower to cool). We recently came back from a trip and I left the fridge on and full with the outside temp at 104+, in the sun, with the coach HVAC Off, and the fridge never budged from 31 and ~-4-+5 depending on where you measure it.

I asked about failure rates and they said they had several hundred installed and only one leaker that they think was damaged in shipment
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:17 PM   #7
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SCJeff, The guy rebuilding the refers has hydrogen "on hand", not helium.
I would have preferred the helium but can't justify the expense to buy a unit I may not be able to repair down the road.
It does seem that I can't win in this situation though. I bought a unit off Craigslist (I know!) that was supposed to be new, and it looked it. Price was great and ran it on 110v and it worked fine and cooled fast. Problem is with the propane. I did get it to work for awhile but now it won't light. When the ignitor is sparking the 12v to the gas valve coil is pulsing along with the ignitor. Not sure if it is the fridge or the wiring in my old unit. We got home yesterday from a month long trip (4771 miles) and will tackle the issue tomorrow. At least the box is not falling apart like our 1988 fridge was.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:23 PM   #8
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I understand also that Helium is getting less abundant. I am not sure what that really means long term. Or how and where Helium derived.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:35 PM   #9
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There is a long story on Helium, where it comes from and where it's currently stored.. I need to go back and read up on it cuz it's interesting. At the end of the day the last thing I want to worry about is needing to refil a leaky cooling unit and where that happens. There are so few shops around it's going to get shipped no matter what. NORCOLD had proven themselves enept for years, so that leaves the aftermarket crowd. In my extended conversation with Pines, I think this is the only way to go to get away from NORCOLD and Fire. When the balloon market dries up entirely I might worry about where He is coming from. But it shouldn't be leaking anyway. I would rather have an He leak than the current cocktail mix we all know can be extremely flammable.
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Old 09-07-2016, 10:04 PM   #10
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Has anyone designed a device to let the owner of a hydrogen fridge track the temperature like with do with engines and transmissions? The truckers used to have pyrometers in the cab to track the exhaust temperatures. Been away from that for quite awhile now so don't know with the computers in trucks if they still have pyrometers.
I build devices with mini computers in them and a thermocouple to control the temperatures of my lead melting pots and ovens for baking the Hi-Tek coating on my cast bullets. The temperatures ranges of these are probably witthin what a fridge runs at.
Something very similar could be made to display the temperature of the cooling unit and also could be set to turn off the gas or electricity if it got too hot.
When I get back with Dinosaur Electronics I'll ask them about this. I'll do some searching around to see if the parts can be reasonably sourced to do this. I'm no electronics whiz but I can probably build this.
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Old 09-07-2016, 10:33 PM   #11
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Helium replaces the Hydrogen gas otherwise the coolant solution is the same......ammonia, water and sodium chromate

The helium or hydrogen gases cause the ammonia liquid to FLASH into vapor which then absorbs the heat from freezer/food sections via their evap sections

Atwood fridges have temp monitoring & tilt monitoring

Back in 2012 Atwood and Dometic RV Absorption Fridges were tested/evaluated (Norcold chose NOT to be involved)
Conclusion........no real difference in cooling abilities between the helium or hydrogen units.
http://rvrefrigeration.com/wp-conten...eport-rev4.pdf


ARP makes a temp control device that will monitor fridge temps, shutdown operation if temps get too high and then restart again when temps come back down within range
https://www.arprv.com/index.php
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Old 09-07-2016, 10:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leadman View Post
Has anyone designed a device to let the owner of a hydrogen fridge track the temperature like with do with engines and transmissions? .
Yes! https://www.arprv.com Also prevents over temp if the fridge is off level for too long or if there is a malfunction.
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Old 09-08-2016, 03:37 AM   #13
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I read that report. All I can say is that 3 NORCOLD owners including me changed out my fridge, and my friend who helped did his the following week, and we all agree that both of these units cool down considerably faster than OEM. Meaning it's moving more heat out of the box. It's also shutting off more. I would love to see that test repeated with the Pines He unit.

That's the ARP unit in the shadows displaying the boiler temp
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Old 09-08-2016, 01:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by SCVJeff View Post
I read that report. All I can say is that 3 NORCOLD owners including me changed out my fridge, and my friend who helped did his the following week, and we all agree that both of these units cool down considerably faster than OEM. Meaning it's moving more heat out of the box. It's also shutting off more. I would love to see that test repeated with the Pines He unit.

That's the ARP unit in the shadows displaying the boiler temp

Notice in that report that NORCOLD did NOT participate ........maybe because they already knew their units would not function as well as the Atwood

Dometic did participate and functioned as well as Atwood.
No real discernible differences
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