How Does a Starcraft Camper Refrigerator Work?


What is a Starcraft Camper Refrigerator?

  • A Starcraft camper is a specific brand of camper or recreational vehicle. Alhough the appliances within sport the Starcraft logo, they are functionally identical to any other type of camper appliance. One of the most innovative designs you're likely to find in any camper is the refrigerator. It does not run on electricity, having no electrically powered pump to push coolant through it whatsoever. Instead it runs off a heat source such as a gas or propane burner. Within the fridge's closed system, a series of chemical reactions take place which, thanks to the cunning design, are able to cool the contents of the fridge. This design is best known as an ammonia-absorption refrigerator. The design was developed in Sweden during the early 1920s and was promptly bought by Electrolux. Aside from use in campers, ammonia-absorption refrigerators are used in military field hospitals to store temperature-sensitive materials such as blood and plasma.


  • The standard Starcraft camper refrigerator stands about 3 feet high and is a little deeper than average. This extra depth is taken up by the five main chambers within the cooling system, which are all interconnected. In most cases the gas source such as a portable propane tank would be kept in an adjacent cupboard or chamber in the wall, specifically designed for that purpose. The five chambers are: generator, separator, condenser, evaporator and absorber.

How Does a Starcraft Camper Refrigerator Work?

  • The tank of flammable gas is connected by a rubber hose to a burner, which is bolted to the generator. The generator contains a mixture of water and ammonia. When the burner heats the generator, the boiling fluid is forced up a pipe by the expansion of matter as the ammonia turns into vapor. The solution reaches the separator, where the ammonia gas rises up a pipe to the condenser, and the water flows down into the absorber. The ammonia condenses back down into liquid as it cools and then flows down into the evaporator. The evaporator contains hydrogen gas, which endothermically reacts with the ammonia. This means it becomes a very, very cold vapor. The vapor passes through the coils surrounding the fridge's container, cooling the contents as it goes. At the end of these coils, the vapor passes into the absorber. The water already in the absorber reacts with the vapor, causing the ammonia to condense and combine with it, leaving the hydrogen to go back up into the evaporator. The liquid mixture of ammonia and water flows back down into the generator to await the repetition of this cycle.

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