Motor Home Project: Install a Residential Refrigerator
Part 1 - The New Fridge Arrives
Bushnell, FL - Events of Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012
RV refrigerators are gas absorption type while most refrigerators used in homes operate by means of a compressor. We won't get into the mechanics of how each type of refrigerator works, but gas absorption RV refrigerators, especially the larger ones, are notorious for not cooling well. The reason gas absorption refrigerators are used in RVs in the first place is they can operate on either 120V electric or LP gas (some models also operate on 12V electric) whereas standard residential refrigerators in the U. S. require 120V alternating current.
Our motor home came equipped with a 12 cubic foot, 4-door Norcold RV refrigerator.
Some newer motor homes offer residential refrigerators as either standard equipment or as an option. Because of all the problems with RV refrigerators, many owners of RVs that originally came with an RV refrigerator are replacing them with a residential model. Over the past year, several of the RV forums in which Paul participates have had topics on the subject of replacing an RV refrigerator with a residential refrigerator.
We have not been happy with the cooling of our Norcold ever since it was new. It was slow to make ice, and it never kept ice cream hard. The shelves inside were close together making it hard to find anything. As we found out last spring when our cooling unit failed, RV refrigerators are expensive to repair.
Norcold has also had a good bit of trouble with their 12 cubic foot RV refrigerators. There have been several recalls over the past few years because of fires. The new cooling unit we had installed last spring came equipped from the factory with the latest recall sensor already installed, but the control box for the sensor failed after only about a month, so we had to have the box replaced.
Even though we installed a new cooling unit less than a year ago and even though our Norcold was protected by the latest fire-prevention recall device, we finally made the decision to replace our 12 cubic foot, 4-door Norcold with an 18 cubic foot, French-door Samsung RF197 residential refrigerator. Because our refrigerator is located in the hallway, we needed either a French-door or a side-by-side model so we could open the doors fully.
We chose the Samsung for several reasons. First and foremost, it is a counter-depth model that we calculated would fit through the door of the motor home with the doors of the refrigerator removed. Every other model we found would require the removal of a side window or even the windshield to get the refrigerator inside.
The second reason for choosing the Samsung is it would fit into the same space where our Norcold was located. The Samsung is 6½ inches taller than the Norcold, so the height of the space had to be increased, but we determined the width and depth of the Samsung would fit quite easily. Also, because the Samsung it is counter-depth model, it would not intrude as far into the hallway as some of the other models would.
We don't boondock anymore so we don't really need to run the refrigerator on the inverter, at least for long periods of time. However, it would be nice to run the refrigerator on the inverter for short periods if we wanted to. The Samsung will operate on a modified sine wave inverter, which is the type of inverter our motor home came equipped with; and that is the third reason we went with a Samsung. Without getting into a lot of technical details about different types of inverters, let's just say most other residential refrigerators would have required us to replace our modified sine wave inverter with a pure sine wave inverter in order for us to have the ability to be able to operate the refrigerator on the inverter even for short periods.
We ordered the Samsung RF197 from Lowe's near The Villages right after after New Year's. We chose the silver platinum version (simulated stainless steel finish) over real stainless because the simulated stainless shows fewer fingerprints. The original delivery was estimated at about 5 weeks, but it arrived in about 3½ weeks. Waiting for the refrigerator to arrive and doing some of the prep work for the installation is the reason we have been just hangin' around so much lately.
We got a call on Wednesday scheduling our delivery between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on Thursday. The truck showed up around 2:00. The delivery guys knew the delivery was to an RV park, but they were apparently hoping it was going into a park model or mobile home. They were a little chagrined they were going to have to squeeze the fridge into a motor home.
The first thing they did was measure the motor home door. After they measured the fridge, one of them announced it wouldn't fit. Our door is 24 5/8" wide, and the Lowe's web site said the refrigerator was 24½" with the doors removed, so Paul knew it would be tight. However, on the back of the refrigerator there was a plastic box covering the water connection for the ice maker and a metal grill that provides access to the coils and compressor that stuck out an additional ¼" from the back of the refrigerator making the total depth 24¾. Uh oh.
Paul tried to convince the workers the fridge would fit if they would remove the plastic cover and metal grill from the back. More measuring and much discussion took place.
Paul watched patiently from the tailgate until they finally decided removing the rear covers was worth a try since they had driven so far to deliver the fridge in the first place.
They removed the covers from the back, rechecked the dimensions, then unloaded the fridge and began removing the doors.
With the doors off, the workers wheeled the fridge over to the motor home on a dolly and got it lined up with the door opening.
In it goes. We're committed now!
Phew, they made it!
Even with the covers taken off the back of the refrigerator and the doors removed it was still a tight fit. There were little plastic clips on the front that hold the bottom grill in place that got hung up on the door frame just as they got the fridge almost all the way in. The lesson learned is to check the dimensions of the refrigerator yourself (including any clips, covers or extra projections) before ordering if possible. The problem was this model is a special order and is not stocked anywhere, and since we had to go by the dimensions provided, we almost cut it a little too close.
Fortunately, the delivery guys didn't give up, and they eventually made it work. If it hadn't fit, Paul would have probably had the guys leave the fridge anyway. He then would have had to pull out the side window and get several of our neighbors to lift the refrigerator onto the back of someone's truck. We then would have had to slide the refrigerator in through the window.
Once the guys got the fridge in, they removed the tape and packing materials from inside and put the doors back on.
After the delivery guys left, we plugged the refrigerator in. While we waited for it to cool, Paul checked the current draw with his Kill-a-Watt meter (a Kill-a-Watt meter is an electrical meter that measures electrical current and electricity usage, among other things) and found the maximum reading of about 3.5 watts when the compressor started and less than 2 watts while the compressor was running. He also disconnected the motor home from shore power and plugged the refrigerator into an electrical outlet supplied by our 1000 watt inverter. He was pleased to find the inverter had enough output to start the refrigerator compressor and continue to run the refrigerator even while the inverter was powering the TV, DVR and computer at the same time.
The refrigerator is quite large standing there in the middle of the motor home. It will be a little inconvenient, but we'll have to work around it until Paul gets the old Norcold out and gets the cabinet modified so the Samsung will fit in.
It took the refrigerator about 2½ hours to cool down to the temperatures recommended by Samsung (38º for the fridge and -2º for the freezer). After dinner we transferred the food from the Norcold to the Samsung.
The next step will be to get the Norcold out and to begin modifying the cabinet. We'll tell you how that went in our next post.