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BrianT

RV fridge death... fork in the road, which fork to take?

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Greetings,

Hoping a  few of you who have been down this road can offer a suggestion. After 12 years in an RV, it was bound to happen eventually, and it did.

The RV refrigerator is dead. It has offgassed it's ammonia and there is still a residual of stink that we get inside of the RV at times. I  discovered the yellow powder after noticing it wasn't cooling and the sound of what sounded almost like an air leak coming from the outside refrigerator cover kinda reiterated that it's definitely dead.

Three possible alternatives seem  to be presenting themselves. 1) replace the refrigerator with a brand new unit, 2) replace the cooling unit with either a new or reman unit (Amish built seem to be popular), or 3) replace the refrigerator with a residential model that fits in the hole. #1 is about $1200 + shipping. #2 is about $500. #3 is probably close to $500, maybe a little less, maybe a little more.

The old fridge (RM2862) is a 2005 model so it doesn't matter if the cooling unit is new, the rest of it is still 12 years old. I've read varying reports of the replacement units, some good, some not so good, but none all that recent. Kinda sounds like a bit of a crap shoot.

New residential seems like about the same inside space, at least pretty similar, so there wouldn't be any significant increase in refrigerated space. I would also lose the propane option that comes into play on occasion. The power was just out for about 7 hours this weekend. But that wouldn't be the end of the world if one kept it closed. The difference between a new RV fridge and a new residential fridge would probably be enough to put a serious dent into buying a small inverter generator.

Also, I wondered about how changing to a residential unit might affect resale value. I am seriously looking at making a change soon. This being a 39' fifth wheel with 4 slides and a rear deck, it's not a unit that lends itself to boondocking so running off of propane may not be a big deal. I doubt many would care, especially if someone wanted a solar setup with the batteries and inverter to run it.

So which way would you recommend? Replace with OEM? Repair? Or replace with residential? Or... something else?

Thanks for the thoughts!

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45 minutes ago, BrianT said:

New residential seems like about the same inside space, at least pretty similar, so there wouldn't be any significant increase in refrigerated space. 

Unless you're doing something unusual, the change to a residential fridge almost always yields a big increase in refrigerated volume.  Even though the height and width of the fridge appears the same, it is much deeper inside than an RV one.  Don't forget that there's a lot of plumbing behind the back wall of an RV fridge.  In our case we replaced a 12 cu ft Norcold with an 18 cu ft Samsung with only a ~6 inch increase in overall height.

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Thanks, Doc. In my case, I'd have to do some pretty serious cabinet renovations to get an extra 6 inches. My opening is aprox. 60" high, 24" wide and 22" deep. I might be able to carve out an extra half inch on the sides or an extra inch, maybe two, in height, but more than that will be major cabinet destruction time. Sticking out an extra inch or two from the front wouldn't be an issue.

ETA: I went and looked. The old fridge is 8 cu  ft. The ones I'm looking at to replace it are a little over 10 cu ft. So it would be bigger. Thanks for making me go look. :)

Edited by BrianT
Adding a thought...

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Brian, since you stated " it's not a unit that lends itself to boondocking"  and if you seldom boondock but spent the majority of your time plugged in, to me the choice is easy GO THE CHEAPER MORE ROOMY RESIDENTIAL UNIT.

Of course, if you're like me and boondock much of the time and even though I have sufficient solar and a large PSW Inverter and could run a residential, I just don't like to use up so much of my precious solar and battery storage for that purpose, so I opted for a standard LP Gas/Electric RV Fridge. I do have a small 120 Volt Haier fridge I run 24/7 to supplement my LP fridge (OJ, soda and barley soda pops kept nice n coldddddddd).  If the existing electric service to the fridge arear isn't sufficient, it would be easy to run a new dedicated 120 volt branch circuit to power it.

 It all depends on your use and lifestyle so the choice is strictly yours.

 

 John T

 

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Thanks, John.

It's been pretty rare that we've needed the cooling capacity of propane power with the fridge as we're rarely unplugged. But you're someone who would probably appreciate the dual power option.

At this point, even though we're still living in it, I'm just as concerned about resale as I am livability for us.

Spoke to the owner of the RV park where we are. He basically said it's "6 to one, half a dozen to another" and that lots of new RVs are coming through with residential refrigerators anyway. It being a 12 year old RV, I wondered whether having a new residential would be a plus not to have to worry about a 12 year old RV timebomb. And thus, the post...

:)

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If I was looking to resell in the near future I probably would eliminate your option 1.

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18 minutes ago, Daveh said:

If I was looking to resell in the near future I probably would eliminate your option 1.

Definitely leaning in the other two directions but with an open mind.

Thanks!  :)

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We had a Norcold 8.1 cu/ft that I sold on CL's last fall for $500 and replaced it with a Vissani from Home Depot for $360 that is 10.1 cu/ft. The extra space seemed like a huge difference for us and the freezer is a lot colder. The Vissani required the side cabinet opening to be trimmed by 1/2" with a circular saw and then 2 small trim oak boards were used to fill in the top and lower gap. We seldom used LP and even our 10 hour travels it remains cold w/o power.

Greg

 

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1 hour ago, gjhunter01 said:

We had a Norcold 8.1 cu/ft that I sold on CL's last fall for $500 and replaced it with a Vissani from Home Depot for $360 that is 10.1 cu/ft. The extra space seemed like a huge difference for us and the freezer is a lot colder. The Vissani required the side cabinet opening to be trimmed by 1/2" with a circular saw and then 2 small trim oak boards were used to fill in the top and lower gap. We seldom used LP and even our 10 hour travels it remains cold w/o power.

Greg

 

Thanks for the post. One of those would fit into the slot the old one would be coming out of with pretty minimal effort. I might have to shave the sides of the cabinet just a tad, not quite sure, but it wouldn't be much.

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When our Dometic 8 cu ft fridge died in 2013 we replaced it with a 10.7 cu ft fridge from Sears.  The door has storage and sticks out about 5" but it's not an issue.  The only cabinet mod was removing 1/4" on the left side of the cabinet and making 2 notches on the left side for the new fridge's hinges.  Very easy and the new fridge is a tight fit so it's not going anywhere.  We use a large bungee cord from the top cabinet to the furnace compartment below to hold the door closed when traveling.  The fridge cost was $425.  We gained a lot of fridge space and now have a very cold freezer.  We have no inverter as we do not boondock, our longest travel day was 9+ hours and everything was fine and my wife is picky about food.  If we every did boondock or go to Alaska I'd buy a small 1000 watt Honda generator and run it as needed.  This was the right decision for us.   Greg    

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Thanks, Greg!

The sears refrigerators (Kenmore) tend to have pretty good ratings.

Thanks for your input! I appreciate it.

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Seeing as Cabinets are my bag,  here is my slant on it.  You can get 2 depths of fridges, one normal and the other cabinet depth.  Now, is the door included in the measurement, not always but non the less the counter depth fringes are generally shallower.  My mom had a Fisher Paykel counter depth fridge and it would have fit perfectly in my RV. 

I pitched the old rv fridge years ago, replaced it with a 26" wide retro 50's fridge.  I also installed 4 golf cart batteries and a Magnum 2812 inverter charger to keep it running while I'm on the road.....I also added a charging line from the truck alternator/batteries to the trailer batteries to keep them charged.

If you plan to keep the trailer, I'd go with the upgrade to residential.

 

Roger

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Thanks, Roger! I hadn't considered more than one depth of refrigerator but now that you mention it, they're not all the same.

I'm really not sure if I'm going to be keeping the RV for a long time or not. I had thought I was going to need to sell it soon as a part of a deal on a small farm. The deal pretty much fell through so we're here, at least for the time being. Might as well enjoy the extra space of the larger residential fridge.  :) ... Right now, it's a tiny 3.3 cu ft refrigerator that's keeping a minimum of stuff cold, in addition to the 5 cu ft freezer we've always had. My dear wife will be very glad when there is a better setup... Mama wants her kitchen back. LOL!

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Don't trust that you can leave any fridge off for 8 to 9 hours without testing.  I put in a wireless fridge thermometer when we moved to a residential and our freezer got into the 20s with the power off for 5 hours.

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1 hour ago, Bill Joyce said:

Don't trust that you can leave any fridge off for 8 to 9 hours without testing.  I put in a wireless fridge thermometer when we moved to a residential and our freezer got into the 20s with the power off for 5 hours.

I agree also.  Have never understood, if a power source was available such as onboard generator, inverter, etc, why folks keep their residential fridges shutoff when moving.  If you have an onboard genie, use it; an inverter, use it, etc.  We have used  a thermometer with (2) battery powered remotes , as shown in the following link, for many years.  One remote in the freezer and one in the fridge section.  The main readout unit has a magnet on the rear and attaches to the door on our Haier 10.1cu residential which we installed to replace our less than optimal  Dometic NDR1062(10.6cu) rv fridge.  The main display unit not only gives you the current temp for each of the sensors at a given time but will also show the highest temp each sensor area may have recently attained.  https://www.amazon.com/AcuRite-Refrigerator-Freezer-Wireless-Thermometer/dp/B004QJVU78/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426793751&sr=8-3&keywords=acu-rite+wireless+thermometer

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We installed a residential fridge 3.5 years ago.  We have no inverter and our longest travel day has been 9+ hours.  We usually don't open the fridge doors while traveling and have never had a problem and my wife is picky about food quality.  When we had the sticks & bricks years ago we would lose power in winter storms for hours and sometimes a day.  We never had problems then either if the doors were kept shut.  I did install a generator after power was out for over a day (it got real cold inside the house) but have never felt a need to power the fridge in the RV when we travel, the normal travel day is 5 or 6 hours.      Greg    

edit.....if I felt I needed an inverter I could have installed one but after 3+ years don't feel the need. 

Edited by Big Greg
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6 hours ago, Bill Joyce said:

Don't trust that you can leave any fridge off for 8 to 9 hours without testing.  I put in a wireless fridge thermometer when we moved to a residential and our freezer got into the 20s with the power off for 5 hours.

What is wrong with 20's for freezer temp? We never did run our refrig while traveling, sometimes for 12 hours plus and never had food go bad in 5 years. Generations before ours lived w/o freezers and spoiled food was a way of life, they didn't throw the food out, they cooked it.

Greg

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We're in the middle of the same quandary...or were...as we get ready to order a new coach.  We plan to boondock most of the time so a 2-way fridge seems the obvious choice.  But there are some conditions that have us ready to order our unit with a res. fridge.  First, 2-way RV fridges are finicky, expensive to repair and prone to starting fires (yes, we know its a tiny percentage but if you ask us, it's too much risk).  Any thread or forum about fridges are full of 2-way fridge complaints but most folks seen to love their res. fridges and wouldn't go back.   Second, our coach normally comes with two house batteries in the forward engine bay (Newmar Bay Star 3113) but the res. fridge option means we get four batteries mid coach on a sliding tray.  That's a personal thing but for us, it's a real bonus.  Lastly, res. fridges work.  The get cold faster, stay colder, are better insulated and run forever (not to mention they don't start many fires).

We will upgrade to 4 6v batteries right up front.  We'll follow with solar as soon as possible and probably sink money into a portable gennie to avoid using the big 5500w coach generator all day to charge batteries (much cheaper and quieter).  We also plan to put the fridge on a timer to shut her down at night (when outside temps allow) to save amps.  It's a choice we're willing to live with because, in our opinion, residential refrigerators are far superior to 2-way fridges. 

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I had a typo on my other post, the fridge is 36" wide not 26.  Anyway seeing more posts presents the need to input some more.

Minimum 4 golf cart batteries, all purchased at the same time.

Go with a Magnum 2812 Inverter Charger or its equivalent.  It will convert battery power to 12v and also allow you to use the micro to nuke food when on the road.  It also has a hefty charger to boot the batteries when plugged into shore power or the generator.  The control  panel which could be wired on the inside bedroom wall or close to your electrical panel, gives you the option to turn the charger on or off or regulate the incoming charge amount so you can run other things without blowing breakers.  Powersharing.

Something else I did to keep the batteries up when driving was to put a charging circuit in between the truck batteries and the trailer batteries.  Using hefty cable and forklift plugs at the back of the truck, then up the pinbox area into the trailer to the batteries.  This will keep the batteries up during the day while on the road so as to not need to turn off or down the incoming charge from the inverter. 

All this is doable, I've done it.  I also have a small 1.4 cubic ft freezer to carry a bunch of frozen meals when I go on my migration south.

I've caught onto posting pictures so Monday when I get the truck back, I'll take some pics to give you an idea of how this looks.

You may also consider an automatic battery fill system.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wh4MVopY3c

Trojan as well as others make them.  If your batteries are at the back of a compartment, it saves you putting your face over the batteries to try so see the water level. Bad news in my book.  Battery acid in the face, not a pleasant thought.  Less than $100 and easy to install.  Hook up the turkey basting bulb to the battery hose side, drop the tube in  water and squeeze 'till it won't.  Your batteries are now full.

The Fisher Paykel unit my mom had was the shallowest I've seen.  But even that was better than an rv fridge which took eons to cool down and quick to warm up when shut off.

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I just went through the same process with a Dometic 2652 and replacing the failed unit with another absorption fridge was NOT an option. RV fridges seem to fail with regularity after 4-5 years of use. I know, I know, some of you have fridges decades old that still work fine but that seems to be an anomaly.  Second-  absorption fridges fail to perform adequately is a hot environment.  My 2652 always struggled in a South Texas summer and it was routine practice to relegate it to cold drink only storage when it got hot down here. It would NOT keep fresh food at safe levels.

2 years ago I added a Vissani residential fridge in addition to the Dometic. When the Dometic failed it was replaced with a marine compressor fridge for just a few hundred more dollars than the absorption fridge. The marine 120/12v fridge is a beast and I am happy with it.

 

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I wonder if part of the problem with gas refrigerators not working good is while traveling the ref is not level due to the crown of the road.would this be enough to not cool at max. While traveling the other day at 90 outside temp my brand new dometic 8 cf started at 34 degrees and by 6 hours was up to 45 degrees. Same story as my 98 class a. Nothing has changed. I wish I had not let the salesman talk me into a dometic when I wanted a 9 cf 120 refrigerator.

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41 minutes ago, Dan Johnson said:

I wonder if part of the problem with gas refrigerators not working good is while traveling the ref is not level due to the crown of the road.would this be enough to not cool at max.

I have operated an RV refrigerator on propane while traveling for many years with no problems at all. The constant movement will prevent the off-level issues for all but the very worst situations while moving. As an additional precaution, I also use the ARP-RV device on our refrigerator just for safety. 

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 Dan, to your question " I wonder if part of the problem with gas refrigerators not working good is while traveling the ref is not level due to the crown of the road"

   While its true the fridge may not be absolutely perfect level when driving (but how many are level when parked ???) after years and years of experience with a ton of different RV's using LP Gas refrigerators, ITS BEEN MY EXPERIENCE THEY ACTUALLY COOLED THE BEST WHILE DRIVING !! I once read its due to the fact the vibration and movement actually helps circulate the refrigerant in those tiny tubes back down to the bottom where the cycle repeats itself. Additionally, the air movement while driving can affect performance.  Of course you or others may have different experiences or there are other factors at play while driving versus setting, I'm ONLY relating my own experiences.

 John T

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Hi Guys,

Just thought I should update the thread and tell you what ultimately happened.

I made the decision to go with a NEW RV cooling unit that I replaced myself. It ended up somewhere in the $700 area, which seemed a bit steep, but it felt like the best of the options that I had at the time. It's a new cooling unit, not a rebuilt one.

It was a pain installing it and it took me longer than I thought it would. But it's in and working, and I have no complaints about it. It seems to cool better than the old one did.

I went looking at 120v units and found that for the ones that would fit in the old hole, they had horrible reviews, even worse than the RV units. They were also more expensive than larger ones that there just wouldn't have been room for. I looked at the possibility of cutting out the hole to fit a larger fridge but there just isn't much room to be had without MAJOR renovation. Just wasn't wanting to do that.  Had it been practical to enlarge the opening, I'd have definitely went with a 120v unit.

As it is, the old unit fit right back into it's old space and looks like it belongs there, no cabinetry modifications needed. I hope it lasts long enough that I won't have any need to replace it again. It does have a warranty if I have to.

So that's how it worked out. :)  Figured it was only right that I update the thread and let you all know what happened.

Safe travels!

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