Motor Home Project: Install a Residential Refrigerator
Part 3 - Making Modifications
Bushnell, FL - Events of Sunday, Jan. 29 to Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012
There were a lot of details to tend to before Paul could install the new Samsung residential refrigerator. The first thing he tackled after removing the Norcold was to run a new electric line from the inverter.
We only have two 6-volt house batteries, so we won't be able to run the refrigerator for very long on the inverter, but that isn't a big concern since we don't boondock anymore. However, with the alternator of the motor home charging the house batteries, we're hoping to be able to run the refrigerator while we're driving. If it turns out we can't, it's not that big a deal because we usually only travel less than 4 hours a day. We'll just leave the fridge off because it won't warm up very much in that amount of time. If we have a longer drive, we can always run the generator for a while to make sure the fridge stays cool. Even if we end up not running the fridge while we're driving, Paul still wanted to run the wire from the inverter now while he had easy access to the area behind the fridge because there is also the possibility of adding a second pair of batteries sometime in the future if we decide we want to do that.
There is a receptacle connected to the inverter below the dash. This was a very convenient location to connect a wire to run to the refrigerator area because Paul found a small opening in the firewall right behind that outlet that was sealed by foam. He tapped into the inverter outlet, ran the wire out the opening and under the floor of the motor home along side several other wires. He then found a place where a furnace duct ran up through the floor under the kitchen sink and pushed the wire up along side the furnace duct. Once the wire was under the sink, it was fairly easy to run it behind the cabinet to the refrigerator area.
After he got the wire in position, Paul climbed back under the motor home to zip-tie it into place so it wouldn't sag or rub on anything.
The next job Paul took on was to close off the old refrigerator vents. The back of Norcold needed to be open to the outside air because of the cooling requirements for the coils and because of the fact is has the capability of running on LP gas. The inside face of Norcold was sealed to the cabinetry with weatherstripping to prevent hot or cold outside air from infiltrating into the RV.
Residential refrigerators have cooling fans that draw room air over their coils for cooling and don't require outside ventilation. Leaving the old vents open would have allowed outside air into the motor home since the Samsung would have air space around it and would not be sealed to the cabinetry, so Paul closed the vents off by constructing a box from foam insulation board and foil tape. He attached the box to the inside of the access cover.
The next photo is a view of the cover in place from the inside. Paul later added weatherstripping to cover the small gap around the perimeter of the cover. This arrangement will allow easy access to the plugs and water connection behind the refrigerator from the outside. Also visible to the right in the next photo are the new inverter/shore power electrical outlet (bottom) and the relocated outlet that is for shore power only.
Paul covered the inside opening of the roof vent with another piece of foam board.
Just to be absolutely sure no rain could blow in under the vent cover up on the roof and leak inside, he fashioned a cap out of aluminum flashing to put right over outside of the vent opening. The photo below shows the roof vent with the cover removed.
And the next photo shows the aluminum cap. The cover went back on over the cap.
While we're on the subject of closing up holes, Paul noticed when he was removing the LP gas line that the opening in the floor that the line passed through had not been completely sealed up at the factory. There were several air gaps in the foam sealant down to the storage compartments below. Paul bought a can of spray foam insulation to closed off those gaps. He also used the foam to seal the opening beside the furnace duct and the hole in the firewall where he had run the new electric line from the inverter.
With most of the secondary work done. it was time to determine the exact location for the false floor that the Samsung would sit on. The location is critical because not only did the new refrigerator have to fit properly in the space above the floor, we wanted to maximize the height of the storage drawer below the refrigerator. After many measurements, a lot of calculations and numerous sketches, Paul put in the supports for the new floor.
The old floor was made from treated plywood to resist rot from possible water leaks either from the water line to the ice maker or from an overflowing condensate pan. Paul liked the idea of using treated plywood, so he bought a new piece because the old one was covered with unsightly black adhesive and sealant. The old one was also a little warped. Paul cut the plywood to size and temporarily screwed it into place.
Once the location for the floor was established, Paul could get to work on the new face frame for the refrigerator cabinet. We picked up some maple lumber a few weeks ago at Hardwood Lumber & Millwork down in Lakeland, FL. That was the day we had the brake problem, and the owner of the lumber store even stayed a few minutes late so we could get back to pick up our lumber after getting our brakes repaired.
Hardwood Lumber & Millwork has a fairly large warehouse full of cabinet-grade hardwoods in various thicknesses. They also make custom millwork. There aren't many sources for hardwood lumber in central Florida, and if you need some, Hardwood Lumber & Millwork is a good place to go.
Since picnic tables aren't provided at Blueberry Hill, Paul needed something for a work table so he purchased a pair of inexpensive, lightweight saw horses and used the piece of plywood he bought for the false floor as a table top. The photo below shows Paul setting up to make a cut...
...and actually making the cut.
This is the type of project that causes Paul to really miss his workshop, especially his table saw. He bought a new, carbide-tipped blade with finer teeth for his 7¼" circular saw. The new blade helped make smoother cuts, but doing finish cabinet work with a hand-held 7¼" circular saw still requires a lot of extra sanding and other hand work.
After all the pieces of maple for the face frame were cut, Paul took them inside for a test fit. After some adjustments, the parts were ready for assembly. We'll cover the assembly of the face frame and the installation of the new refrigerator in the next post.