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Old 07-30-2020, 12:43 PM   #1
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Replacing 3 way fridge with compressor fridge

Hi All-

We have a 2017 Navion with a Norcold 3150 fridge. We primarily boondock and for that reason we wanted a unit with a 3-way fridge instead of the power hungry compression fridge.

However.. the more I read about all the fires and other overheating issues with absorption fridges I am little concerned. Mainly because my wife takes the MH on trips all the time with the kids and the chance of parking off level for a while is high.

Has anyone replaced their 3-way with a compression fridge? Do they have models that fit in the same space w/o modification?

I've looked at the ARP Fridge Defend but have seen some posts where that thing can fail as well and stop your fridge from running so not sure how viable of a solution that is.

Any feedback greatly appreciated!
thanks
tim
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:40 PM   #2
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Be aware that the residential style frig is a pretty big power hog and many find they need lots of mods to the power system to boondock much.
Perhaps a look at the good side of the older style? One is that it is a really old, really reliable system that has been around for ages without a terrible amount of trouble. Not to say it doesn't happen but we have used the same method on frigs since about 1967 and never had fires or problems with the frig going out---except one time when we parked on a street in San Francisco near Coit's Tower! But we also had trouble walking on that slant! As I understand the problem, it has to be so off level that the flame doesn't go up to hit the correct spot and doesn't cool then.
Propane is like any fire and does come with some hazard but I never worry about it, other than keeping it cleaned of debris that might catch fire. Considering almost every RV had the type until recently, I don't see them being too much more trouble than most anything we use.
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:51 PM   #3
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There are both 12vdc and 110v AC compressor fridges available in different sizes. So you’d need to research both. I don’t know the physical size of your current fridge but that would be the first thing to find out.

I’ve seen YouTube videos of folks changing out their fridge in Class B and Vans all of those took some cabinet mods too.

Do you know the exact model number and make of your fridge? If so, ask the manufacturer if they have a compressor model that is a close replacement in size?

No doubt you’ll find a great many other alterations will have to be made at considerable expense to accommodate the power requirements of such a change.
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Old 07-30-2020, 03:35 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by tbrady View Post
Hi All-

We have a 2017 Navion with a Norcold 3150 fridge. We primarily boondock and for that reason we wanted a unit with a 3-way fridge instead of the power hungry compression fridge.

However.. the more I read about all the fires and other overheating issues with absorption fridges I am little concerned. Mainly because my wife takes the MH on trips all the time with the kids and the chance of parking off level for a while is high.

Has anyone replaced their 3-way with a compression fridge? Do they have models that fit in the same space w/o modification?

I've looked at the ARP Fridge Defend but have seen some posts where that thing can fail as well and stop your fridge from running so not sure how viable of a solution that is.

Any feedback greatly appreciated!
thanks
tim
Our Sunstar had an Atwood 2 way, 120VAC or propane, that had a safety feature that prevented propane function if the fridge wasn't level. Maybe they've got something that would fit your fridge alcove, with the propane lockout feature? Then you could stay with a 3-way, and be more confident that it would be less prone to off level problems/fires.
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:49 PM   #5
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I it seems like as long as RVs have been around - and as much as they cost - SOME COMPANY would have by now come up with a gimbal frame system to hold at least the smaller propane powered refrigerators SO THAT THEY WOULD NEVER BE OFF- LEVEL no matter how the RV was parked!!
The frame could be aluminum ... and I'd gladly have spent $1500 more and gave up the slight loss of interior volume ... for our RV to have it's propane refrigerator mounted in a heavy duty gimbaled frame.

A propane powered refrigerator can be priceless for anywhere anytime drycamping peace of mind.

Even this guy thought it was pretty nice being able to keep stuff cool using heat:
https://www.wired.com/story/einstein...-refrigerator/
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:58 PM   #6
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Here is a reputable series of 5 videos showing now one guy replaced his three way fridge with a compressor fridge -
https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/rep...-fridge-sucks/
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:01 PM   #7
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I installed an automatic fire extinguisher behind my Norcold refrigerator. I also have an ARP Fridge Defend but haven't installed it.

Dimensions aside, since this question isn't limited to Winnies, you might want to check out Winnieowners' sister site IRV2.com.
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Old 07-30-2020, 08:44 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the great information guys! I have some digging to do obviously.
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Old 07-31-2020, 05:44 AM   #9
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Not enough has been said about the power requirements of a compressor fridge. Absorption fridges use propane or 120V AC while hooked up to shore power and a tiny bit of DC power for the controls and propane solenoid.

There are two types of compressor fridges that are often installed in RVs: AC powered ones and DC powered. The former are residential fridges. Unless they are Energy Star rated they are power hogs. They have to be run from an inverter to operate without shore power. The DC input to the inverter can be more than 100 amp hours daily. Medium size Energy Star fridges of 10 cu ft are more efficient, less than 100 amp hours daily.

DC powered fridges were developed mostly for boats which can't use propane and are now being installed in many newer RVs. They vary from 50 Ah to 75 Ah daily DC use mostly dependent on size-4 cu ft for the lower and 7 for the higher Ah usage.

This much DC power usage can require significant upgrades to your DC system: more batteries or switch to Lithium, solar panels and perhaps a battery to battery charger to manage chassis alternator charging. You can easily spend more on upgrading your DC system than the cost of the fridge.

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Old 07-31-2020, 07:58 PM   #10
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I installed a Samsung Res fridge in my Journey. I would never go back to the gas RV fridge. The fridge works extremely well. I have 4 group 31 AGM batteries powering it along with 4 100watt solar panels. All self installed including the solar 7 years ago. Solar is very easy to install, cost effective and ultra reliable as long as you are outside. The solar's primary role is to keep the battery bank topped up. It also extends battery life significantly if the RV is stored outside.
Stories of horror with residential fridges are few and far between if a proper system supports the coach and draw very little power - in my case 3 plus amps when running. Good luck,
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Old 07-31-2020, 09:52 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by tbrady View Post
Thanks for all the great information guys! I have some digging to do obviously.
We have two residential refrigerators running in our unit. I just went out and measured the usage for you. Of course, we’re not opening and closing the door right now, but I’ve tested it at home and it seems that our current lead acid batteries can hold well overnight, with the tv and lights on until 11:00 pm, draining only 55%.

I typically see a 1 to 2 amp draw during the day.

One is a smaller 1.6 cu ft outdoor kitchen one and the other is a Danby for the main coach (doesn’t list its power requirements or size, but it’s a single door with a freezer).

Along with whatever small loads might be onboard right now, here’s the picture, if that helps you decide.
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Old 08-01-2020, 06:53 AM   #12
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One of the problems with using solar to get the batteries back up is going to involve personal choice on where you want to park and how you feel about the sun. We live in sun country and DO NOT want to park the RV in the sun, so solar is pretty well out for us.
We all have to look at what we each like and it will involve tradeoffs of this sort.
We want to put the RV in the shade to reduce run time on listening to the AC and are fully willing to go simple on the electrical but on the other hand, I do have a couple long coax to get the dish out from under the trees as I do want my TV programming!
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:20 PM   #13
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One of the problems with using solar to get the batteries back up is going to involve personal choice on where you want to park and how you feel about the sun. We live in sun country and DO NOT want to park the RV in the sun, so solar is pretty well out for us.
We all have to look at what we each like and it will involve tradeoffs of this sort.
We want to put the RV in the shade to reduce run time on listening to the AC and are fully willing to go simple on the electrical but on the other hand, I do have a couple long coax to get the dish out from under the trees as I do want my TV programming!
The friends we RV camp with use foldup portable solar panels to keep their batteries topped up. When we camp together in shaded campsites (of course our preference), they put their panels out into any spot of sun peeking through the trees. They have a LONG cable they can run between the panels and their RV.

As for me, I just fire up our little ultra-quiet (56dB at full power) 650 watt Honda portable generator to do the same -> in the shade, or at night, or in a rainstorm, or in a blizzard.

P.S. Both of our RVs have two-way 120V/propane refrigerators that work just fine on propane when drycamping . When operating on propane, our Norcold two-way propane refrigerator keeps it's freezer compartment at 10 degrees F on it's setting of 3, and keeps it at 0 degrees F on it's setting of 4 (out of 5 settings). I have no idea why some RV refrigerators don't seem to work - other than our friend's and our refrigerator are both units under 7 cubic feet. Maybe the problem is with larger propane powered refrigerators?
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Old 08-02-2020, 08:57 AM   #14
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Portable Solar Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morich View Post
One of the problems with using solar to get the batteries back up is going to involve personal choice on where you want to park and how you feel about the sun. We live in sun country and DO NOT want to park the RV in the sun, so solar is pretty well out for us.
We all have to look at what we each like and it will involve tradeoffs of this sort.
We want to put the RV in the shade to reduce run time on listening to the AC and are fully willing to go simple on the electrical but on the other hand, I do have a couple long coax to get the dish out from under the trees as I do want my TV programming!
Morich, understand, we live in Arizona and seek shade anytime it's possible. That is why we use a 200 watt solar suitcase. We are able to park the rig in the shade and place our panels in the sun. It also allows us the ability to move the panels throughout the day as the sun's position changes. Because we use a long cord we do experience some degradation capturing about 135 watts per hour with full sun.

Regarding absorption refrigerators the technology has been around commercially since 1923 and is used on the space station today. I am not concerned about the safety of it.
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Old 08-02-2020, 11:39 AM   #15
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I'm not overly concerned about the safety, either. There are many, many, threads on RV forums about absorption refrigerator fires, but I've never seen any statistics about the frequency or incidence of such events. From the forum posts you'd think RVs were burning up in RV parks on a daily basis. Gas stoves in RVs are probably a greater fire risk.

On the other hand, I'm taking some precautions, as I previously stated, just in case.

I often dry camp without shore power and hate running my generator so I'll stick with my Norcold. I've had two TTs and now an RV with them over the course of 15 years and they've always worked well.
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Old 08-02-2020, 01:00 PM   #16
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I'm not overly concerned about the safety, either. There are many, many, threads on RV forums about absorption refrigerator fires, but I've never seen any statistics about the frequency or incidence of such events. From the forum posts you'd think RVs were burning up in RV parks on a daily basis. Gas stoves in RVs are probably a greater fire risk.

On the other hand, I'm taking some precautions, as I previously stated, just in case.

I often dry camp without shore power and hate running my generator so I'll stick with my Norcold. I've had two TTs and now an RV with them over the course of 15 years and they've always worked well.
I'm curious ... what cubic foot sizes have your absorption refrigerators been that worked well?
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Old 08-02-2020, 01:30 PM   #17
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Mine is 6.3 cubic feet.
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Old 08-02-2020, 02:12 PM   #18
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Yep, maybe just as I suspected .... it's the larger cubic footage propane RV refrigerators that are disappointing their owners.

Maybe that's another reason to "stay small" in overall RV size for the most flexibility when one wants to drycamp conveniently in the largest variety of situations.
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Old 08-02-2020, 02:23 PM   #19
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I'm curious ... what cubic foot sizes have your absorption refrigerators been that worked well?
I don't know about the previous ones, but the Winnebago parts catalog list my current one as part # 121569-05-01A which cross reference to an N822, which is listed at 7.5 cu ft.
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Old 08-02-2020, 02:28 PM   #20
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PhilG, you will notice from my signature that we started out with a large 5th wheel, then moved to a smaller 34' Super C and finally to a 25'. We live outside most of the time so the extra space is not needed. For us we wanted small, nimble, no slides, no auto levelers, no complicated systems. We had 4 slides in the 5th wheel and a full wall slide in the Super C. We've had our share of problems. For us, smaller is better, this has been the most trouble free RV we have owned. I better go find some wood to knock on!
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