Jump to content
TBUTLER

Replacing A Norcold Refrigerator

Recommended Posts

Last fall when we parked our motor home next to our new mobile home at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas, we had several repair items on our list. The top of the list was to replace the old Norcold 1200. Since there have been so many recalls we decided to convert to a household refrigerator.

We had a history of working with Iron Horse RV in San Antonio and so we called them to ask if they had any experience doing such a conversion. As luck would have it, Daryl, owner of Iron Horse RV answered the phone. We had a short conversation in which I learned that yes they have done conversions. In fact, Daryl said he had converted his own motor home to a household model. I asked a few questions and said good bye. As soon as I hung up, questions came to mind so I called back. I got into an extended conversation with the service manager. I learned the model of refrigerator they used and then looked it up on the internet. Lowe's had it on sale so I made some measurements and then called Iron Horse RV again to see if they were agreeable with me purchasing the refrigerator while it was on sale. They agreed so I ordered a Whirlpool Model ED2GVEXVD from Lowe's.

So now I'm out on a real long limb. I've ordered and paid for a refrigerator and the crew that will do the work hasn't even looked at our motor home. Will it fit? Will I have to return it to Lowe's and take a hit on the re-stocking fee? Will I have to abandon this quest and settle for another Norcold?

On Sunday we left south Texas and spent the night behind the Iron Horse RV lot. When we started the motor home on Sunday the engine batteries were dead so the first job Monday morning was to replace those batteries. Once that was done we pulled onto the lot and were parked under the canopy at the first service bay. Tony came out and sized up the job. A few minutes later the doors were off the refrigerator, service lines for electric, gas and water were disconnected. Two other techs were summoned and the old refrigerator was handed out the driver's side window. Minutes later the new refrigerator was ready to be passed back through the window. By mid-morning the new refrigerator was parked in the middle of the living room and the driver's side window was back in place.

The rest of the day was devoted to modifying the cabinet. The new refrigerator matched the width of the old Norcold almost exactly and the depth would leave it sticking out from the cabinet a little further than the old refrigerator. The cabinet would be cleared of all obstructions so the new refrigerator could sit as close to the rear wall as possible. The new refrigerator was about 3 inches taller than the old refrigerator. Since the old refrigerator was against the ceiling the bottom of the cabinet had to be lowered. Tony disassembled the floor of the cabinet and relocated wires, pipes and other items to accommodate all these changes.

Tuesday the modifications continued. Measurements showed that getting the fridge through the hallway to the cabinet was going to be really close. To get it to the cabinet we would have to take the trim off the front of the cabinet. With that done the new fridge slipped right into the cabinet. Tony had Wednesday morning off so it was afternoon before the job was finished. He modified the trim piece to fit the new dimensions of the cabinet. The finished work looks like it was an original piece of the motor home. We were loading the new refrigerator from our ice chests shortly after.

By my estimation, the new refrigerator draws about 1 amp when the compressor is running, slightly more when the ice maker cycles. I don't have a fix on the electric use during the defrost cycle but the new refrigerator works well running on the inverter while we travel. I'll continue to update this topic as we learn more about how this is working for us as we travel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Tom,

Well done, congrats. There was no need to worry. Many RVers are doing what you did. They are choosing the same (Whirlpool/Maytag)refrigerator you did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also have just replaced my old Dometic side by side with a home style refrigerator. The cost to replace my old Dometic with a new one would have been around $3200. I found a regular frig at Lowes for around $500 that would fit my size configuration but it sticks out about 2” more. While the new frig is not a side by side as the old one was, it does hold about 10 cf as oppose to a new side by side Dometic that holds only about 8 cf. It also does not need a catch on the door to keep it shut when traveling because it has a magnetic door seal that seems to be keeping it close so far.

After I installed the new frig, I was left with an 8” opening in which I built a slide out pantry. Now the wife is a happy camper plus the bonus of a savings of over $2700 allows me to spend more for gas and on food to put in my much larger frig. Now I am a happy camper too.

On a side note I did notice when I removed the old frig there was a dark area on the side panel that was located near the burner tube of the old frig. Now I don’t have to worry about a frig recall or having a fire, as seems to be happening more often than it should be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the photos with my article above is this photo.gallery_0_225_1711.jpg

As you can see, the heat from the gas flue was damaging the surrounding materials. We felt real lucky that it didn't go further.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you plan to dry camp with the RR, you probably will need extra batteries. If you will run it on batteries, either dry camping or going down the road, you at least need to be sure that your inverter is a pure sine inverter. Modified SW inverters have been known to fry delicate electronics. We upgraded to a Magnum 2800 Pure Sine inverter and 6 AGM batteries when we put in our RR.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Did you have to add batteries? Or change or add another inverter? If not what make and model of inverter do you have?

Several years ago our original inverter quit working so we replaced the old one, a Xantrax 2500, with a new Xantrax RS3000. This is a sine wave inverter with enough capacity for the refrigerator. There was an inverter circuit already in the refrigerator cabinet so we didn't have to do any rewiring. We have not added any batteries, we have the standard 4x6V battery set-up. We do not ordinarily dry camp for extended periods. When we attend rallies we get electric hook-up if it is available. If we are dry camping we'll run the generator at least twice a day, first thing in the morning for coffee and microwave and in the evening for lights, TV, etc. That charges the batteries and so far that has been sufficient. When traveling we are finding that the batteries last longer, in better condition than when we had the old Norcold 1200. When the compressor on the refrigerator kicks in the amp readout on the Aladdin System goes up one amp. The refrigerator has an automatic defrost (worth the price of the refrigerator right there) and I haven't been able to get a handle on the electric usage for that yet. It is hard to tell when it is defrosting! Anyway when we travel if we are boondocking, we'll use the same morning evening charging with the generator to take care of our batteries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Boating with fridge is all about batteries. RVs are set up so the fridge does not rely on the batteries. It operates only on AC power or Propane, so leaves the House batteries for all the other stuff. So when you replace a Norcold or a Dometic AC/propane with a Whirlpool AC only fridge, you are using AC when plugged in, and DC, converted to AC through your inverter, when away from AC power. Your batteries are sized for the loads of the coach, without the fridge. When you add the fridge, you need to increase the battery capacity to allow for the additional loads. the domestic fridge loads will be more than the tag on the fridge indicate, because you will also be inverting power to AC to power the fridge, with the associated losses in conversion. Allow at least another 20%, plus the static load of running the inverter. (my Xantrex MS2000 on my boat uses 11 amps with no load, so add that to the load added by the fridge in your calculations). I would add at least another pair of golf cart 6v batteries to power the fridge when you are on the road, or boondocking. No need to add batteries if you never leave an AC plugin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have been without power since 8 pm last night, due to "Lee". It is now almost 10 am. The prognosis from the park rangers is "we don't know when power will be back on!" I am not technically "dry camping" because we have water and sewer, however! I'm glad that I added the extra battery capacity when we put in the RR! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GMaterne,

You posted "I found a regular frig at Lowes for around $500 that would fit my size configuration but it sticks out about 2” more. While the new frig is not a side by side as the old one was, it does hold about 10 cf as oppose to a new side by side Dometic that holds only about 8 cf."

Can you tell us the manufacturer name and model of the refer you put into your coach? I like the pantry idea with the leftover width, but did the height of the new refer mandate any vertical cabinet modifications like Tom's installation did?

Thanks

Chuck

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tom,

We've been looking at the RR alternative for some time. Your new install looks really nice. We would have to get a smaller RR since I cannot increase the height of the existing slot for the Norcold 1200 four door model (too much hydronic stuff below it). Can you give is a ballpark idea of the Iron Horse RV time and materials costs? Also, now that they have done one or more RR modifications, due they appear to want to do more?

In addition, I was planning on leaving the lower and upper vents in place. They both are in good shape, and the lower vent is painted to match the coach. Also I thought the lower vent would assist the RR fan to pull in cool air to blow over the coils and condenser of the RR. What were your thoughts on that issue?

Also, as you know, the cooling coils under the RR need to be cleaned periodically. In a house it is fairly easy to roll the RR out from the wall, take off the cover (which should be left on during operation) and vacuum the cooling coils. Have you given any consideration for that maintenance item since your new coach RR is off the floor?

Thanks,

Chuck

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chuck,

When I called and talked to the owner, Daryl, at Iron Horse he quoted me a labor cost of two days labor, $1200, for the removal of the old Norcold and installation of the new refrigerator. In subsequent discussions he agreed we could purchase the refrigerator at Lowe's and have it shipped to them. That way we would get the refrigerator at cost instead of paying a fee to them for ordering, paying for and storing it until installed. I caught a sale at Lowe's (there is a Lowe's within a block of Iron Horse) and got the refrigerator for $999 with tax, $1061. When we finished, they honored the quoted labor price. I'm sure they would be willing to do another, it won't hurt to ask. All the people that worked on the motor home were quite experienced at doing this conversion. Our tech Tony would call on his radio when it was time to move a refrigerator and four guys would show up! There wasn't much discussion about what to do, it was like a regular drill for them.

I left both the upper and lower vents in place. I figure the next owner of this coach may want to go back to a Norcold some day and if so, the vents are all there. I did seal both the upper and lower vents. With the Norcold, the refrigerator sealed the cabinet and cold/hot air and bugs could only get into the space for the cooling coils. With the new refrigerator, there is no seal so leaving the vents open means you will be admitting cold/hot air to the interior of your motor home, not to mention the bugs. I suppose you could construct a seal but the back of this Whirlpool refrigerator is closed with a cardboard cover. The coils are on the right side and the compressor is on the left. There is a fan on the right side that draws air from the motor home, over the coils and then the compressor, before expelling it back into the motor home. With this set-up I didn't see any advantage to admitting cool air if the weather was cool. I had the tech take some excess insulation (fiberglass) from the Norcold installation and put it in the upper vent. Then he sealed it by covering it with a piece of paneling. I sealed the lower panel by installing rigid Styrofoam insulation over the air passages and taping them down with duct tape. That gives me a tight seal so no air or bugs can get into the motor home.

Cleaning the coils under the motor home is going to be a challenge. I'll tackle that when we return to Texas in about a month. I looked at the coils last week and they are already in need of cleaning. My plan of attack is to remove the front grate and have Louise hold the hose of my shop vac in front of the refrigerator (maybe taping a plastic trash bag in place to restrict the flow of air to the shop vac) while I blow out the dust and dirt with compressed air from the rear side. I'll either remove the cardboard to do that or cut out a horizontal slot 2" x 12" to allow me to get the compressed air directed over all the area of the coils. When finished I'll replace the cut out with tape or screws to close off the back side of the refrigerator as the manufacturer designed. You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Boating with fridge is all about batteries. ... I would add at least another pair of golf cart 6v batteries to power the fridge when you are on the road, or boondocking. No need to add batteries if you never leave an AC plugin.

I had read that most people do add two more batteries when converting to a residential refrigerator but adding the two batteries was going to be a complication so decided to go it with the standard set-up of four batteries and see how it worked that way. I had a plan to move the engine starting batteries to the engine compartment and the put the additional two 6V batteries where the starting batteries had been. It was going to require quite a bit of creative welding, wiring, etc. So I thought why not try it to see how it works with four batteries.

We haven't been unhooked that long, two nights at Wal-Mart and five days on the road, San Antonio to Denver to St. Louis. After the overnights, the batteries are in better shape than when we had the Norcold and the refrigerator is the only thing we changed. I just checked the label inside this refrigerator and it indicates full load 7.2 amps. I would assume full load implies compressor, ice maker and defrost all running at the same time. As indicated, earlier, I only see an increase of 1 amp when the compressor kicks in. Both the other applications involve electric heaters. This is an energy star appliance, the defrost cycle is not on a timer but is based on need which I would guess is how often and how long the freezer door is open.

The statistics on the Norcold indicate a 5 amp fuse for the AC as well as a 5 amp fuse for the DC. It seems to me we are doing better with the domestic refrigerator than the RV refrigerator. I'll be keeping an eye on the battery situation, especially now with cooler weather and using the furnace at night. If it turns out we need to add more batteries, I'll post here to give my experience with that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am wondering about all the heat that the res. refer creates and sends it into the coach. Doesn't it make it hot in the coach?

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Tom for all the great information. We're anxious to hear about the current draw issue in cooler weather. Also, please let us know how the first coil cleaning job goes. Thanks.

Ron,

Our bus conversion friends tell us the warm air from the RR in their coaches make a nice addition in the winter. In warm weather it does add to the heat load of the air conditioners, but most of them have three AC's so the effect of the additional heat is not noticed. For us, the additional and frequent warm air coming into our coach in warm weather would be a problem. If we go with a RR installation I will have to engineer another path for the coil heated air exhaust.

Chuck

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am wondering about all the heat that the res. refer creates and sends it into the coach. Doesn't it make it hot in the coach?

Ron

When you think about it, most of the heat that gets into the refrigerator comes from the motor home and the compressor and coils simply export that back out into the motor home. It is true that with the Norcold the heat was exhausted to the outdoors so we are bringing more heat back into the motor home than the Norcold did. I have thought of this but know of no good way to exhaust the heat outdoors without letting outdoor air, cold or hot, into the motor home on a continuous basis. We've been parked in 100 degree temperatures off and on all summer and the air conditioners are keeping up without a problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chuck,

Here is an update on cleaning the coils of the new refrigerator. I put this off until we were ready to leave this spring. I was anticipating using my air compressor to blow the dust off the coils and a shop vac to catch the resulting dust storm, much as a shop vac can be hooked up to a power saw to pick up the sawdust coming off the blade. Originally I planned to blow the dust from the outside access into the motor home. After cutting a 2" x 4" door in the cardboard back with an X-acto knife. it became apparent that I would not be able to get air to the entire coil area from that location. I had Louise hold the vacuum hose tool which fit over the door opening and used the pressure air gun from the inside. It cleaned the coils very effectively and the vacuum picked up most if not all the dust. When we were done, I pushed the door back, friction holds it shut and everything is working satisfactorily. So that is how I am cleaning under the refrigerator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tom,

I noticed in your pictures that it looks as if you went through the drivers side window?? Also on the Norcold 1200 icemaker when the ignition on the coach is on the ice maker will not operate. This is to keep water from going into the ice maker and sloshing out and making a block of ice worthy of a beer cooler. Do you have a problem with that on your residential box?

FYI, I just changed our ice maker because of several problems. What I have started doing is disconnecting the hot wire to the ice maker the day we will be returning home. This will allow the ice maker to clear the frozen ice but not fill with water. (I plan on installing a switch for this.)When we get close to home the wife dumps the ice in the toilet. A little scrubbing and a dry ice maker.

Herman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Herman,

Yes, the old Norcold went out the drivers side window, not much room to spare but it went through. The new refrigerator actually was lighter and slightly smaller in the widest dimension of the cross section so fit easier than the Norcold.

I make no special provisions for the icemaker. We use ice from happy hour until bedtime or something like that. This refrigerator makes enough ice overnight that I don't think it is making ice the next morning. If it is, we haven't noticed any problem with it. In fact I have more problems with the GE refrigerator we have at home icing up the ice hopper than we have had with our Whirlpool.

To answer a previous question about batteries. I am having no problems whatsoever with the batteries holding up. We still have the standard (for our rig) 4 x 6V battery set-up. We never shut the refrigerator off when traveling or overnight, when we're in the coach it's on 24/7. Everyone's situation will be different, some may need an additional pair of batteries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding batteries: The coach uses 12 volt DC. The four batteries produce 6 volts each, they are hooked in series so each pair of the four yields 12 volts. Why not replace all four with 12 volt batteries hooked in parallel? Wouldn't that produce more battery power?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Because its about the same size the output would be the simular. Two 6 volt batteries have about the same capacity as two 12 volt batteries. Its the area of the plates in the electrolyte that determine the capacity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Because its about the same size the output would be the simular. Two 6 volt batteries have about the same capacity as two 12 volt batteries. Its the area of the plates in the electrolyte that determine the capacity.

In a word NO. 4 220 amp hr 6 VDC batteries hooked in series and then each pair of series batteries in parallel gives 440 amp hrs @ 12 VDC.

Similar size foot print 12 VDC batteries would be very close to the same.

Generally, wet cell deep cycle 12 VDC batteries are more expensive than 6 VDC golf cart batteries.

If you are looking at high end batteries such as AGM's, the price difference is not large. The house bank in our coach is two 8D Lifeline AGM's which are 12 VDC batteries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had to revisit this posting to answer a question and thought I would update the information with my latest observations. Now, four years after the installation, we have the same refrigerator and it continues to perform flawlessly for us. We still have the standard 4x6V battery set-up that was installed in our coach. The last set was replaced in 2014 which was a little early but I wanted to replace them with AGM sealed batteries to protect our driveway and winter parking spot from the staining that lead acid batteries can produce. We had the driveway sealed and coated with an decorative epoxy design. I had wanted the AGM batteries before but never been able to get them on an immediate basis, always had to be shipped to where I was when the batteries failed. All that said, the AGM's are performing as well or better for us with the refrigerator.

Last winter we left the refrigerator on during the winter. Louise wanted the extra freezer space and it made a nice place to keep a quantity of beer cold as well. Being far south, we don't have freezing temperatures often and I keep the furnace set at 50 degrees to keep the humidity low in the interior of the coach. In a cool coach much of the time, the operating cost for the refrigerator would be low.

The refrigerator is low on my list of things that I worry about now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Tom. Your post was the main inspiration for us to move forward with our change over to a residential refrigerator (along with some of the new units being standard now). The industry seems to be going away from those absorption units.

We to are also running the four 6v batteries (wet for now, when they get tired I will look at our battery options) with the inverter that came with the coach. We enjoy having the ability to have frozen ice cream on board and plenty of room inside for storage. I also now plug the coach in at home and leave the refrigerator on during the camping season and keep items inside so it’s less to pack when we do head out.

Not that it matters much in a DP but the friends that helped carry the old unit out and place the new unit in our coach were commenting the other day about how much weight we removed from the unit when we pulled that Norcold out, we lightened up the coach by 125 lbs. I guess every bit helps.

I agree, the refrigerator is low on my worry list now also.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×