Fan Mod: Giving Your Absorption Refrigerator a Boost

As most RV owners know, RV absorption refrigerators can sometimes be very finicky. One common problem is poor performance on summer days when ambient temperatures are high (90 degrees and higher). Not long ago, our little two-way, 2.7 cu Norcold refrigerator was having a difficult time keeping up with the 90 degree temps. Fortunately, solving this problem was fairly simple. All we needed to do was flip the switch to a 12 volt exhaust fan we installed a few years to provide some much needed air flow behind the refrigerator.

Why is an exhaust fan needed and how does it work? Well, the heat source for the refrigerator—either the propane flame or the electrical heating element—is used to “elevate” the ammonia/water mixture up to the top of the refrigerator’s cooling unit. Once the mixture is there gravity and a chemical reaction begins and cooling is accomplished. Air flow is needed to dissipate the heat collected on the refrigerator’s evaporator fins and from the refrigerator’s cooling unit. A 12 volt fan helps to accomplish this by circulating the cooler fresh air received from the side vent and across these fins.

Exhaust fans can be purchased at any RV parts store or on Amazon.com like this 12 Volt Exhaust Fan. You can buy either battery operated fans or ones that come with 12 volt power leads that tie into your RV’s 12 volt system. I went the latter route. Connecting the fan to the power source was the easy part, the more difficult problem was finding a place to attach the mounting bracket. There was no place. After looking at all the options, I decided to screw a small block of wood to the floor. You can see in the picture how we was able to attach the bracket to it. Pretty simple! Oh, a quick note. When you install the fan ensure it’s facing the right direction and pushes air up when you install it on the motor. We’ve come across some guys on Internet forums who installed their fans backwards and wondered why no cooling was taking place.

We installed this exhaust fan three years ago and this has been, without a doubt, one of the most important mods we’ve made to our camper. The fan significantly improves the cooling of the refrigerator and does so well at times I have to turn the refrigerator down to prevent freezing. So if your refrigerator isn’t cooling well when it’s hot you might want to give this modification a try. It’s cheap and easy and well worth the time and effort to install.

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About Mello Mike 536 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side.

6 Comments

  1. I like your install. Looks quick and easy & simple. I have seen this all over the internet. I like the one that uses a solar panel and pancake computer fan, I have one but need to get the pancake fan. Like your install it looks quick.

    • Yeah, I considered the solar units but since I already have 240 watts of solar I didn't see a need so I decided to go simple.

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