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Old 05-25-2024, 07:54 AM   #1
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2017 ERA 170M refrigerator replacement

We have a 2017 ERA 170M and the compressor refrigerator that runs off of 12v kills the batteries on hot days when trying to boondock - even with solar. Has anyone replaced the 12v refrigerator with an absorption refrigerator - that runs on propane + either or 12v or 120V? If you have, would you do it again?
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Old 05-25-2024, 08:21 AM   #2
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While I can't respond to pulling out a 12v compressor fridge to replace it with a gas absorption fridge - which would be a massive and costly undertaking - I do know many have upgraded their electrical system to accommodate off-grid camping.

Both approaches would be expensive but the pluses of spending that money on improving the electrical system would yield many benefits beyond going the other route.

If you are wondering what it would take to improve the electrical system you would need to replace your House batteries with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries with a greater amount of amp hour storage. And, add to the solar charging system with either more panels on the roof or portable panels on the ground... or both.

However, having more power available overall will be felt in many other places during your boondocking experiences than just longer fridge run times.
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Old 05-25-2024, 08:29 AM   #3
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Here's a video from The Fit RV at the introduction of the ERA 170M - notice when the product manager says, "It's got a 12v compressor fridge" and the Fit RV people go.. "YES! Love a compressor fridge."

I'm pretty sure the ERA line, especially the 170M was not designed to be a boondocking machine. But that doesn't mean you can't make it fit your needs.

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Old 05-27-2024, 06:47 AM   #4
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Thank you for the replies - changing our current batteries to Lithium and adding portable panels (we have solar panels on the roof) could be a potential solution and I understand the cost. And I understand there are those who like compressor refrigerators.

Our "boon-docking" usually consists of nights at Harvest Hosts. On a hot day, our current setup cannot keep up with draw from the 12v compressor refrigerator. We often have to run our generator at the end of the evening to survive the night.

I repeat my original question - Has anyone replaced the 12v refrigerator with an absorption refrigerator - that runs on propane + either or 12v or 120V? If you have, would you do it again?
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Old 05-27-2024, 07:59 AM   #5
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I have no experience with that smallish RV nor changing the frig. But there may be a more cost effective alternate to consider?
Much depends on the personal things involved but one of the limits to smaller RV is that we can't drag as much stuff along and that includes all the gear needed to retrofit to cover the electrical needs of a compressor frig!

My thought might lean toward a solution somewhat in between none and a total rebuild of the electrical? Is this a constant need and how much frig do you need and how often?
Would a simple change to add a portable frig for the times when you do the boondock, fit the need?
While not the greatest, they can be much less expense and certainly less drama to change things! A portable as used by truckers might fit in with less storage space lost than the added weight and problems of the extra to upgrade the electrical storage?
Possibly load it up when the trip says you might need it, don't carry it when not needed?

Point to consider in the above video? I would never consider the opinion expressed by salesmen as a good, reliable source! Occasionally most of us have run into sales folks who might slant their views to make a sale!

But that is where the individual users have to make those tough decisions!
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Old 05-27-2024, 08:57 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morich View Post
Point to consider in the above video? I would never consider the opinion expressed by salesmen as a good, reliable source!
Small correction Richard - James is not a salesman. He's actually an Engineer at NASA.

They've been RV reviewers on YouTube many many years with 3 or 4 Class B vans and made constant upgrades to his rigs. Including removing gas absorption fridges and replacing them with 12v compressor fridges.

I know the OP is looking for others that might have done this and hopefully someone with first hand experience will come along to respond. It will be interesting to see if any one has done this in that RV.
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Old 05-29-2024, 07:23 PM   #7
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What kind of temperatures are you operating in? Just wondering if there is something preventing airflow around the fridge coils.
We have an older Era which came to us with a dorm style 120v fridge hooked up to a pair of lead acid coach batteries via a 1000w inverter as a janky replacement for the original failed absorption fridge, courtesy of the dealership we bought the rv from. We could only boon dock for a couple of days before the inverter started warning of low battery voltage. I changed the two batteries for one 100Ah LiFePo4 and we could go about twice as long in part because the voltage discharge curve on the battery is shallower than lead. I did originally consider replacing the fridge with an absorption type but figured the money was better spent on adding more (LiFePo4) batteries, solar panel and upgrading the inverter so that all 120v circuits could be powered while boondocking.
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Old 05-30-2024, 12:53 PM   #8
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Have you considered that it is a 2017 RV, and the fridge is older , so could it be low in freon .. Therefore it runs longer to maintain temperature? Just a thought.
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Old 06-04-2024, 10:01 AM   #9
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We have some vents around the refrigerator box - I will test the airflow around them. To completely check, I might have to pull the fridge.

Checking the freon level is also a good idea. We purchased the 2018 ERA in 2021 - with about 4000 miles on it and it had been used very little (microwave and black tank never used). It is possible the refrigerator has just sat too much. A residential compressor refrigerator (like a spare in the basement or garage) should be run periodically. Van now has 19,900 miles on it.
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Old 06-08-2024, 12:44 PM   #10
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Took the ERA out for a overnighter in the Finger Lakes - we had a good time. But...
the refrigerator still completely drains the batteries, and now, has stopped working - well it cools the to 50F. It is a Nova Kool RFU 6209 DC. Tried to pull out this afternoon - comes out about half way and then is hanging up on something in behind the refrigerator.

Anyone pulled out a refrigerator? What can it be hanging up on? I have removed the doors (to have more clearance to the kitchen counter, have some hand holds to lift and to reduce weight. The refrigerator is held in by 6 screws - those are all removed.
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Old 06-08-2024, 03:23 PM   #11
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Wandered the internet - there is a safety cable that only allows the refrigerator to come out about half way. Disconnected the cable and refrigerator came out to the point the 12volt power wires are preventing further movement. Will figure that out next.
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Old 06-09-2024, 09:32 AM   #12
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An old-school approach

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silverwin View Post
We have a 2017 ERA 170M and the compressor refrigerator that runs off of 12v kills the batteries on hot days when trying to boondock - even with solar. Has anyone replaced the 12v refrigerator with an absorption refrigerator - that runs on propane + either or 12v or 120V? If you have, would you do it again?
An entirely different point of view...

Our first night out in our new-to-us (used) 2016 ERA 170A we left the refrigerator on running on the 12V batteries in a Walmart parking lot. The batteries drained in a few hours and shut down the electrical system, which cut off power to my respiratory equipment, a potential life-affecting issue.

Our refrigerator can also run off propane, which sounds great. However, from what we've heard it would likely need to be serviced fairly frequently to get rid of the combustion by-products (soot, whatever). Given the high cost of RV servicing, that didn't seem like a great solution.

We don't keep a lot of stuff on-board that needs refrigeration, mostly just some cold cuts, milk, etc. We don't cook anything, just make sandwiches or eat out. So we went old-school and just got a decent cooler (not a Yeti) and pick up a bag of ice every couple of days. While probably not a solution most RV-ers would like, it works for us.
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