Many people living off grid have a propane fridge. Itʻs a great option if you donʻt have enough electricity to power up a conventional, electric fridge. What few propane owners fail to do though is keep their propane fridges clean.
Every 6 months, you should inspect the color of the flame burning in your fridge. If it is not blue, it must be cleaned by cleaning the Flue Baffle, Flame Tube Cover, The Orifice, Burner and any Propane Tank Fittings.
By keeping your propane fridge clean and in good operational order, not only will it operate more efficiently with cooler temperatures, it will last you much longer. Letʻs get into the nitty gritty details on how to clean your propane fridge.
How Do You Know It is Time to Clean Your Propane Fridge?
As I already mentioned, regular checks are necessary to help you know when it is time to clean your propane fridge.
When the blue flame appears orange/yellow, you know it is time to clean your propane fridge. Propane naturally burns blue, so if you’re seeing a yellow flame that is a sign of dirt or soot build-up.
All appliances need to be cleaned and maintained at some point, even a propane fridge. Once or twice a year, you should take a look at your fridge’s flame and see the color. If it is no longer bright blue, then it’s time for a clean. Here are a few tips and tricks to cleaning your propane fridge.
Steps To Cleaning A Propane Fridge
Prepare Propane Fridge For Cleaning
- Shut off the gas supply.
Ensure the gas supply is shut OFF before attempting to do any cleaning. This is the first step and the most important safety measure.
- Open the fridge access door.
You might need a tool to help unlock or pry open the door.
- Wipe off any debris (spider webs are common).
I like to use a soft, dry paintbrush or hand broom for this.
Allow the propane components to cool down. Nothing should be hot while you are cleaning.
Clean The Flue Baffle
The flue is the long pipe or tube which controls the airflow for the flame. You might need pliers or another tool to open the flue and catch the thin wire inside (this is the baffle).
- Cover the jet or burner orifice with something to prevent any bits of soot from falling in.
I like to use a bit of aluminum foil because it can easily cover the area and is air-tight.
- Underneath the flue, put a piece of newspaper or regular paper to catch any dirt or soot that falls down, so you can easily clean it up.
- Now, pull out the baffle. Depending on the size of your fridge, this may be quite long. The end of it should be a wavy or irregularly-shaped piece of metal. It may have soot on it, which you need to clean off.
You can wipe it off with a cloth or use a flue brush. A flue brush is a fine wire brush with a very long (3-4 ft) handle.
- Now, use the flue brush again to clean soot out of the flue. Gently put it up the length of the flue and turn it 5 – 6 times, or until you stop seeing soot removing.
Your fridge may have come with a flue brush, but if you’ve lost it, then you can get a new flue brush at some home depot stores, or places that sell items for RVs.
Open Flame Tube Cover and Clean Out
You probably need a screwdriver for this step. Unscrew the cover to remove it and gently wipe off the area with a cloth.
Blow out the flame tube with compressed air
Compressed air can easily be found at an electronics store (used to clean out keyboards and such). It is ESSENTIAL that your unit be cooled first, as compressed air is highly flammable!
Spider webs are common around here, because they like the smell of the burning propane. Don’t be alarmed if you see any living ones, but make sure if you see a nest that you remove it entirely (scrape with a pencil or other item to get all bits out).
Remove And Clean Orifice (Jet) With Alcohol
It is unlikely that anything has managed to get into the orifice, but if you notice your flame is very small, this could be the case. If so, do not attempt to put anything at all in the orifice to expand it – you will void your warranty and possibly damage the entire system!
Instead, you need to remove the orifice (also called jet) from the burner and clean it with alcohol. This step requires some basic small wrenches and a screwdriver. You may need to unscrew some wires/lines (one is probably the igniter) that are with the burner and put them aside. Then, use one wrench to hold the burner, the other to unscrew the line into the burner.
Now you can access the orifice.
First, spray it with compressed air, and then drop it on a plastic lid to soak in alcohol or solvent for around 3 minutes. This should remove any soot or debris.
Dry it off on a clean towel or cloth that will not remove any fine pieces of fiber. Cotton balls or q-tips are not advised for drying off the orifice.
Return the orifice to the burner and re-assemble everything, including returning the igniter and screwing the burner and tubes back in place.
Clean The Burner
Give a few puffs of compressed air around the burner to ensure no debris or soot is blocking it. Wipe any debris away with a small towel.
Clean Propane Tank Fittings
Make sure your propane tank fittings are clean, free of rust and without any spiderwebs or thick dust before attaching the hose.
Clean Inside Of Fridge
Avoid using chemicals to clean your propane fridge. A solution of simple soap and warm water should be enough to clean out your refrigerator.
For bad odors or mouldy areas of your propane fridge, clean with a paste of baking soda and water (1:10 ratio) and allow to sit for 30-60 minutes before wiping off.
No scratching or wire brushes inside, either. Just a soft sponge or cloth.
If you’re doing basic maintenance and not intending to turn off your fridge, then you can defrost it without turning it off.
Just reduce the temperature of your fridge by turning down the thermostat (lowest setting) in the evening, and leave it overnight. Put a towel under the door, just in case of any dripping.
In the morning, any built-up ice should be soft and able to be removed with regular kitchen tools. Any drips easily collected by the towel placed under the door.
Don’t forget to return the temperature back to the normal setting after you’ve finished defrosting!
If you’re heading away for several weeks, or closing up your vacation home for the season, then your defrost process will be different.
- Remove all food items and wipe down the inside of the fridge
- Turn off the fridge and disconnect the gas.
- Open the fridge doors and lay a towel down under the fridge door.
- After 4-6 hours, check the fridge and clean up any melted ice.
- Close the fridge doors.
Clean Outside Of Fridge
This part is pretty basic: clean fridge doors with warm, soapy water.
The part most people don’t think about is the floor around the fridge. Dust particles are what can build-up over time and cause issues with the burner and flue of your propane fridge. That’s why it’s a good idea to vacuum around your fridge, instead of sweeping with a broom
A broom can move dust particles around, while vacuums suck them up. If an electric vacuum doesn’t make sense for your homestead, try a chargeable vacuum designed for cleaning cars to suck up dirt and dust around your fridge.