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Replacing RV refrigerators with Residential Units

OK, you are tired of the poor performance of your RV absorption refrigerator. You are also wary of the possibility of a refrigerator fire. So you decide to replace the RV refrigerator with a residential unit. Here are the major steps.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

There are several major issues to contend with if you are contemplating changing over to a residential refrigerator. First you must very carefully measure the current refrigerator opening.

Your most important measurement will be depth with the doors off. You will most likely have to look for a "Counter Depth" residential unit. You must also measure the distance from the new unit door to anything that may interfere with it. There will usually be some room to "adjust" for differences in height and width. That is why French door models are preferred.  The Samsung counter depth 18 cubic foot bottom freezer unit is very popular.

While doing these measurements, take into consideration the width of the RV's door. Will the new unit fit through it. If not, you may have to remove the driver's side window assembly to both remove the old unit and receive the new one.

Go Shopping

Now that you have the measurements, it's time to shop for the new unit. You will also have to decide if you are capable of doing this work yourself. Considering the weight of refrigerators, most folks have this job done by professionals at an RV repair and refurbishment company. You will need to replace the RV refrigerator with a "counter depth" model that will look good and fit in the opening.

Replacing RV Refrigerators

The old Refrigerator comes out from the inside. A small mover's dolly modified to the height of the bottom shelf helps quite a bit. First you must disconnect 12 Volts, 110 volts, Propane line (Turn Propane off), and ice maker line if so equipped. Then pull it into the rig. Do not remove the cooling unit on the back as caustic ammonia gas can escape. Take the doors off. That will make it thin enough to go out the door or window. You will need help with all this. Find a way to cap off the propane line. The special cap fitting for this is available at most hardware stores. Also you must terminate the 12 volt wires so they do not short together.

Take the doors off the new Refrigerator and bring it in. Again the movers dolly will be helpful. While the modifications to the opening are being made, power up the new unit and put your food in it. It may be several days before it will be moved into the opening.

Move the new unit near the hole. Connect the ice maker water line and the power cord. Lift it up and place it in the opening. Push it back as far as needed and put the trim back on. Find a way to secure the unit at the top and bottom so it won't fall out when your rig is moving. Put the trim back on, and turn the unit on. Try to find a way to secure the doors during transit and you are home.

Later on you might consider connecting the refrigerator to a circuit that is on the inverter so it will run normally when moving. Some residential refrigerators will need a pure sine wave inverter to operate properly.  If you have one, fine. Otherwise, find a unit that will operate on a modified sine wave inverter.As of this writing, Samsung models work fine on modified sine wave inverters.

Most residential units require 1.5 amps to operate, 3.5 when the defrost heaters are on, and 3 amps when the compressor cycles. If you will be boondocking, look into adding batteries to the existing battery bank.


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