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Old 07-09-2019, 11:43 PM   #1
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Norcold not cold....

I bought a 2002 minni winni and the fridge doesn't cool. The panel lights come on, I can select propane, AC, or auto. In propane it fires and heats for days but never actually cools down at all. The propane is burning just like it should but nothing happens. The AC seems to be trying to work also creating heat in the back, but nothing happens. I assume the coolant section is the issue. Can it be recharged, kind of like an air conditioner? I've never worked with propane cooling so its all a bit fuzzy for me Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:21 AM   #2
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If the refrigerator is operating the AC heater or the propane burner and the metal plate in the freezer is not getting below freezing cold then your refrigerator has one of two problems:
- sometime in the past the refrigerator was operated out of level long enough that something called sodium chromate came out of solution inside the tubing and clogged it preventing the solution from flowing around the loop
- somewhere in the rear tubing a leak developed and the solution escaped in particular the ammonia and hydrogen gas parts of it. There is usually a tell tale sign where there is discoloration around where it leaked if this happened.

Bottom line both of these are not repairable and you'll have to either replace the entire unit or as an alternative it's possible to only replace the cooling unit portion. I've done neither so I'll let someone else add to the thread with information about the cooling unit replacement options.

You can search IRV2.com and get multiple posts about replacing cooling units. There's also some youtube videos out there.

Good luck.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:17 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I have done a bit more research and now understand how heat cools. I think you're probably right. I plugged in the RV yesterday and ran the AC electric for the fridge. It stayed very hot to the touch in the heater section for 12 hours but the fins in the fridge didn't even feel chilled to the touch. It sure sounds like a cooling unit replacement is needed. Thanks for the research info. I'll look into that.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:28 PM   #4
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Norcold Not cold at all

I recently went through hours of troubleshooting and found the cooling unit failed. Like the previous poster noted, I left it connected to shore power and it wasn't level enough and the cooling unit failed.


The cost and effort of the replacement parts aren't worth the effort. I just ordered an entire unit from PPL RV Parts in Houston. They were the least expensive by far.


I was told the rule of thumb is that if it five years old and the cooling unit fails - replace the whole unit.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:30 PM   #5
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Went through this issues, 2 months after the Norcold was out of warranty. Only three choices then a new cooling unit, a rebuilt cooling unit or an Amish cooling unit. I elected to get a new cooling unit, a RV tech and I installed in and back up and running in 4 hours.

Now there is also the option to get a 120v or 12v compressor unit to replace the original propane/electric cooling unit. I would need to do a little more research, but personally would opt for the 12v compressor now as we don't do that much boondocking. (thinking that 12v would be a little more efficient than my inverter converting my 12v to 120v)
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:31 PM   #6
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Journey39n and others. I may be wrong but I believe converting 120 VAC to 12 VDC is more efficient than the other way around. So running a 120 VAC refrigerator without being on shore power, like driving, parking at Walmart and boondocking etc. you would be taxing your batteries heavily, while stopped, and using the generator (120 VAC) to charge the batteries through the converter/charger and then again through an inverter to make 120 VAC to run the refrigerator when the generator is not running. Not really a good idea. You would need a large battery bank, probably a second alternator and solar or be heavily dependent upon shore power and running the generator a lot.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:18 PM   #7
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If you have a 12VDC compressor refrigerator (I do) all you need are good batteries and good charging, solar helps. There is no 120volt conversion needed to run the 12VDC fridge. Lots of models out there from small to large, several good companies making them. They have been used in marine solutions for a long time.


Yes, residential means compressor but at 120VAC not 12VDC and vice versa for the marine style. There are also 12VDC compressor fridge units being made extremely efficient for solar living - not particularly RV units but residential 12VDC compressor refrigerators which are heavily insulated and usually dual compressor, one for freezer and one for cooler section.


The larger 12VDC units are even available in attractive designs just like 120VAC residential.


Given the choice I would also go 12VDC since that would be more efficient that "making" 120VAC happen for residential. There are trade-offs. Residential will use more current when on inverter power for certain but not that much relatively speaking since they have a longer OFF cycle. They also will handle heat transfer better since they have a larger compressor. The 12VDC units like Norcold DE0061 have a low amp rate but high duty cycle around 70% and most are made to operate that way.



That comparison can be changed when looking at some of the new "solar living" units which are far more efficient.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:05 PM   #8
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Those older Norcold units had a tendency to catch fire due to leakage of the ammonia and hydrogen. If you see any yellow stuff at the back of the refrigerator DO NOT attempt to run it at all. It is usually around that burner assembly if I recall correctly.

Run the serial number through Norcold's site and see if it is under recall. There was a recall to add a rudimentary safety feature to shut them off if they got too hot.

www.arprv.com is a company that built a third-party safety system for those.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:08 PM   #9
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I'm comparing prices on new verses the Amish units. I live in Alaska so shipping is very problematic either way. I just got a shipping quote and its going to cost me $930 to get an Amish unit and get it shipped up here. The base price is $665. The Winnebago Dealer wanted $1,400 just for the cooling unit. I can easily install it as I'm pretty handy. I'm not interested in the Home Depot/inverter idea as we dry camp most of the time. I still need to price out new units. Our selection is pretty limited and ordering a new one will still cost me $400-500 in shipping alone. If the Fridge is $1200 plus shipping, an Amish unit looks better. We can ship control cards/circuit boards without an issue, but the hazmat/boating it up is a mess. You don't know how many times we run into "we don't ship to Alaska, we only ship to the United States."
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Old 07-18-2019, 02:25 AM   #10
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1st bit of clarification, if you go from a 12v battery system to a 12v device, it is much more efficient than using an inverter to produce 120v and run a 120v device. And if you are using an inverter to produce 120v from 12v, while you are driving, the alternator will be charging the batteries (in most RVs), so no problem running a refrigerator while driving.

JC Refrigeration produces an exact replacement for the Norcold cooling unit, an Amish unit, and a compressor unit. I thought they produced a 12v model of the compressor unit, but only see a 120v unit on their website now. It says only a 1 amp draw, a 600w inverter can power is fine.

So if you want to keep the same Norcold box, and not mess with the installation headaches of something different, you would just replace the cooling unit. If boondocking isn't too big of a deal for you, I would consider the compressor style cooling unit.

As it is, they have several flavors of the same cooling units, a good 3 year warranty, certainly worth a try to check on the web, and give them a call.
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Old 07-18-2019, 03:37 PM   #11
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This guy has been very helpful with the problems that I had.https://thenorcoldguy.com/login.php?...hp%3Faction%3D
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:06 PM   #12
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Absorption fridges need care.

These are not your home fridge. Their failure can be catastrophic, causing fire. Level is a huge deal. Anyone who has one should educate themselves about them. This site has A LOT of educational videos and articles. Good luck.

https://www.arprv.com/
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Old 08-03-2019, 12:12 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Journey39n View Post
1st bit of clarification, if you go from a 12v battery system to a 12v device, it is much more efficient than using an inverter to produce 120v and run a 120v device. And if you are using an inverter to produce 120v from 12v, while you are driving, the alternator will be charging the batteries (in most RVs), so no problem running a refrigerator while driving.

JC Refrigeration produces an exact replacement for the Norcold cooling unit, an Amish unit, and a compressor unit. I thought they produced a 12v model of the compressor unit, but only see a 120v unit on their website now. It says only a 1 amp draw, a 600w inverter can power is fine.

So if you want to keep the same Norcold box, and not mess with the installation headaches of something different, you would just replace the cooling unit. If boondocking isn't too big of a deal for you, I would consider the compressor style cooling unit.

As it is, they have several flavors of the same cooling units, a good 3 year warranty, certainly worth a try to check on the web, and give them a call.

I agree loosing the inverter makes it more efficient most of the time. Inverters have internal loss so that is waste you can't get back. I don't know the efficiency of motors running on 12v verses 120v. But either way, it is still a lot of draw. An inverter outputting 1 amp at 120v has an input of 10 amps at 12v, even discounting any loss. You will drain a 100 amp hour battery in 10 hours of use at best, probably closer to 7-8 hours with not new batteries and inverter loss. If you have a heater fan to run, lights, chargers, etc, dry camping turns into a generator running affair. I love the idea, but its not dry camping friendly. Propane is the only way to carry enough energy with you. The saving grace is the fridge doesn't run continuously. If you leave it closed, I wonder how many minutes in an hour it runs to keep temp. That I don't know.
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:34 AM   #14
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But then, are we getting too quick to decide to change it out?
Not saying that is correct or not but I would want to do a bit of easy checking before going to that much trouble. How about looking at how the controls work as an easy way to do part of the decision?
Has the thermocouple been thought about as a potential? I find it is pretty hard to judge the heat and cool thing by feel but testing the thermocouple is pretty easy on some frigs as it is just clipped onto the cooling fins. Sticking it in a glass of ice water and testing is a pretty easy thing to do---lots easier than changing frigs!
Just a suggestion of easy things to possibly avoid the hard things.
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Old 08-03-2019, 11:48 AM   #15
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But then, are we getting too quick to decide to change it out?
Not saying that is correct or not but I would want to do a bit of easy checking before going to that much trouble. How about looking at how the controls work as an easy way to do part of the decision?
Has the thermocouple been thought about as a potential? I find it is pretty hard to judge the heat and cool thing by feel but testing the thermocouple is pretty easy on some frigs as it is just clipped onto the cooling fins. Sticking it in a glass of ice water and testing is a pretty easy thing to do---lots easier than changing frigs!
Just a suggestion of easy things to possibly avoid the hard things.

That would sure be nice. I didn't check that but it was heating the cooling unit. I could put it on AC or Propane and it would heat for hours without any cooling in the fridge. If you have heating, the rest of the system really doesn't have any impact on the cooling operation. The thermocouple only tells it when to stop heating. I'm pretty confident its the cooling unit. I don't know its history as I purchased it broken so I don't know how long its been like that. I can't see any leaking ammonia but it could have been like that for years. But that brings up a good point, even if I change out the cooling unit, I might find other parts need to be changed also.
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Old 08-04-2019, 01:32 PM   #16
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Some 7 years ago, I learned from a rv tech, and others on blogs like this, that if you put heat to the cooling unit, it will cool, if the cooling unit is working. Thermostats and other electronics only regulate how often the heat is applied.

Their diagnostic tool of choice was a jumper cord from the 120v outlet directly to the electric leads on the heater. They disconnected the 12v power to the Norcold, pulled the two 120v leads from the control panel board, hooked them to the jumper cord and waited. If, after applying power to the 120v heaters, and no cooling occurred, you had a failed cooling unit.

In my case it was a very frustrating 'floating' clog as they called it. 1 test out of 10, I would get cooling, but the other 9, no cooling at all. After a month of putting off the inevitable, I replaced the cooling unit with a new one. It has worked great every since.

But if I would have had an option of putting in a compressor unit, I would have, as we just don't boondock that much. It just depends upon the type of camping you do.
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Old 08-04-2019, 07:29 PM   #17
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The 120 VAC compressor units draw about an amp, but startup current is in the neighborhood of 5 amps, which your inverter will need to cope with. JC Refrigeration was not explicit on how long the startup current needs to be supported.

I have a 12 VDC compressor type Norcold conversion unit from JC Refrigeration. The first one had issues with performance, ran 80% of the time with the freezer running in the 20's after several weeks. Its replacement chilled well in the initial test at their site, but on the road the freezer is not much colder than the refrigerator (upper 20's) and runs about 50% of the time after the initial cooldown. I have a run-time timer on the unit. They sell a lot of different types of refrigeration conversion units with a lot of happy customers. Not sure why I'm having these problems. We are heading back to Shipshewana, IN as soon as we are through touring MI and WI.

My refrigeration will be running mostly on the 400 watts of solar panel through 300 ah of Lithium battery and using 65-70 ah per day. Batteries will also charge from the alternator, generator/power converter and shore power/converter.

I personally would not run an all electric refrigerator without solar and a substantial battery bank, preferably lithium, as they charge 5-6 times faster than lead-acid, don't suffer from partial charges, and have 50% more useable capacity.
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