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FAQs

How to Check the Ammonia Level in RV Fridge? – 4 Ways

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by Yessenia Blanda

/ fact checked by Sam Howard

how to check the ammonia level in rv fridge

For your travels and staycation, a refrigerator is a must-have to store your food. Preventing the fridge from leaking ammonia will be one of the important things for RV-ers.

Ammonia is an inorganic, colorless compound widely used as an affordable refrigerant. It is cheap and environmentally friendly. However, ammonia may be dangerous if there are problems with the operating system or leaky valves.

Therefore, you want to know how to check the ammonia level in RV fridge to prevent its hazardous effect when released in high quantities.

Ways to Check the Ammonia Level in RV Fridge

Method 1: Use Ammonia Detector

ammonia-fridge

The ammonia detector’s function is to analyze and monitor ammonia. Its battery lasts long and vibrates or alarms when it detects the chemical in the air.

For proper use, follow the guidelines in the manual. Here are additional tips:

Instruction
  1. Make sure that you turn the detector on with the power button.
  2. Turn on the switch on fresh air and press the test button.
  3. Then, place it near the gas source. The ideal place is above the compressor of the fridge.
  4. After some reading, it will alarm if there is too much ammonia in the refrigerator.
  5. If a high level of ammonia is detected, you should ventilate the area by opening your windows.

You are safe when the ammonia level is 0 ppm (parts per million). However, you must take immediate action when the reading exceeds 30 ppm, and up to 50 ppm is a hazardous level.

Furthermore, exposure to 100 ppm ammonia is just 8 hours only, which can make you sick if you stay in the RV for long.


Method 2: Test with a Phenolphthalein Test Strip

Another method to check the RV fridge level of ammonia is using phenolphthalein test strips. It is available in many hardware stores or online stores and is easy to use.

To use phenolphthalein test strips, do the following:

Instruction
  1. Remove the phenolphthalein strips from the vial.
  2. With your fingertips, grip its corner, and be cautious. To ensure its effectiveness, do not contact it anyplace other than where you are holding it.
  3. Then the strip will become colorless after being submerged in water.
  4. Now, place it near the compressor for a few minutes.
  5. The strip turns pink or red when ammonia is detected in the fridge. The darker the color means higher levels of ammonia are present.

Method 3: Check it with a Sulfur Stick

Just like a phenolphthalein test strip, using a sulfur stick will allow you to know whether ammonia leakage is present. It is simple to use and requires less effort.

You can do the following:

Instruction
  1. Get a sulfur stick opposite from the wick.
  2. Then, light up the sulfur stick using a match or a lighter.
  3. Make sure to light the candles before you bring them near the compressor of a domestic fridge.
  4. If the candle’s sticks are colorless, no ammonia is present. However, an ammonia leak is present in the fridge when white smoke is visible.

Method 4: Use an Ammonia Test Kit

ammonia-leak-repair

If you are looking for a simple and cost-effective way to check the ammonia level in an RV refrigerator, using an ammonia test kit is the best option. It gives an accurate reading of the ammonia level.

Just like how people use this kit in fish tank, you only need to do the following:

Instruction
  1. Get the test tube and make sure that it is clean.
  2. Now get a sample of fridge air using the vial provided.
  3. Mix a few drops of the solutions with the tube and shake it carefully.
  4. After a few minutes and the color changes, there is ammonia leakage in the fridge.
  5. To check the ammonia level, place it near the color scale and compare the colors.

Troubleshooting High Ammonia Levels

remove-ammonia-from-rv-refrigerator

If your RV fridge smells like ammonia it is better to check it as soon as possible to prevent risks. You can use the abovementioned techniques to check the ammonia level in your RV refrigerator.

You can also take the following actions to reduce the ammonia level in your fridge:

  • Freshen the air in the room

Make sure that fresh air can enter the motor pool. You can open the windows and doors to let the ammonia smell leave the space. If you cannot open your doors, using an air freshener can help.

  • Deep clean the fridge.

Cleaning the fridge can remove the ammonia smell in the fridge, and you will be able to organize it afterward.

  • First, you need to unplug the fridge before removing all the food stored in it.
  • Make sure that it is empty by removing all cabinets and throwing out the expired foods.
  • Then wipe all the sections and disinfect them using a sanitizer for fridges.
  • Don’t forget to clean the top and bottom of the fridge.
  • After ensuring that it is clean, you can now reorganize the fridge.
  • Replace the cooling unit

If there is a strong smell of ammonia, you need an ammonia leak repair. And the last option would be to replace the cooling unit.

Frequently Asked Questions

rv-fridge-ammonia-recharge

How do I get rid of ammonia in my RV refrigerator?

You can never remove ammonia from RV refrigerator, nor do an RV fridge ammonia recharge because it is sealed and used as a refrigerant. It is a secure and environmentally beneficial technique to chill the fridge.

Instead, you can clean the fridge and reduce the ammonia odor. You can do this by putting coffee grounds on a plate and placing it in the fridge for one whole day. Once the smells are completely gone, you can remove the coffee grounds.

Can you replace ammonia in RV fridge?

No. You must replace the entire cooling system if the refrigerator is leaking ammonia. An ammonia refrigerator repair could cost more than getting a new one.

As a result, you can purchase a replacement cooling unit and perform the installation yourself.

How do I know if my RV refrigerator cooling unit has failed?

When you suspect a leakage of ammonia, the fridge can give you a cue.

  • First, you will see yellow streaks on the walls or panels of the fridge.
  • Checking ammonia levels by sniffing the refrigerator is another option. If there is a strong ammonia odor, there is a leak, and you need to act right away.
  • You can tell whether there is a problem with your RV fridge by touching the coil. Coils have a small amount of warmth outside and are naturally cold inside. Consequently, if you touch it and it is hot, there may be an ammonia leak.
  • Last but not least, look in every nook and cranny of the refrigerator for any holes or damaged tubes.

Conclusion

Most RV fridges use ammonia to save energy, the Norcold RV refrigerator is among the typical choice. However, since ammonia can leak, you should be aware of how to check the ammonia level in RV fridge.

You can check by using the tools indicated above. If the result shows a high level, make an effort to reduce the ammonia smell and maintain a clean refrigerator. After stopping the discovered ammonia leak, you should prevent future leakages.

Feel free to share the article if this has been helpful to you.

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Yessenia
About
Yessenia Blanda

Hi, I’m Yessenia. I love traveling and being on the road, and I want to share my experience with people who are looking to have some adventures of their own. 

Whether you’re a new or experienced RVer, I hope you’ll find something here that helps you on your journey.