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Author Topic: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator  (Read 339 times)

Rayzen

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Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« on: September 20, 2017, 06:34:00 PM »
I just need a recommendation—but not an unbased opinion--about a problem that I’m experiencing.

A little background: We own an old 1986 RV that has a Dometic fridge in it. The fridge has always worked great, but a couple of weeks ago, it gave up the ghost and I started to smell ammonia, which, of course, means that the cooling unit leaks.
After researching it online, I realized that it’s not too difficult to replace the cooling unit, if I were to get one. So I pulled the fridge from the RV, removed the cooling unit, and am now thinking about whether or not to order a rebuilt one online.
New fridges are about $1,500, which is a big chunk of change, compared to the $450 that I would have to spend on a rebuilt cooling unit which comes with a two-year warranty.
I have been told by two RV supply stores that it’s not a good idea to spend money on an old fridge, because it will just become a money sinkhole, kinda like the proverbial idea of ‘putting new wine into old skins.’ However, bear in mind that both of these comments came from those who would love to sell me a $1,500 new fridge; not exactly unbiased sources of recommendations.

So my question: Based on your experience (not your opinion), should I go ahead and order the cooling unit, thereby saving myself about $1,000 or just bite a bullet and order a brand-new fridge? Are those dealers right in saying that it’s not a good policy to repair the old one? Obviously, old fridges can become begin to become troublesome, but I would like to know—once again, from experience, not opinion—whether or not putting a rebuilt cooling unit has worked for those who have tried it.

Thank you for your time in reading this rather lengthy post.

GeorgeandTheBear

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2017, 07:30:53 PM »
I know you didn't ask for opinions, but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway. I would go for the $450 repair simply because it's going in a 31 year old coach. If you sell/trade it one day, it's only going to matter whether the fridge works or not. That extra grand would be wasted IMO. That being said, I don't own an RV yet, just kicking tires right now. Take my opinion for what it's worth.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 07:39:00 PM »
The advantage to a new refer is it will be a lot more efficient than the old one repaired. Personally I would suggest replacing it with a residential unit if that is feasible for your situation.
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Larry N.

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 08:49:17 PM »
The advantage to a new refer is it will be a lot more efficient than the old one repaired. Personally I would suggest replacing it with a residential unit if that is feasible for your situation.

If you don't boondock too much (residential can't use LP) this might be a good idea, keeping in mind that you'd have to add some batteries and probably get a bigger inverter to run that residential unit  -- they're sure nice, though.
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8Muddypaws

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 11:43:50 PM »
Have you looked for an Amish cooling unit.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2017, 10:24:07 AM »
First, get a new cooling unit, not a "rebuilt".  The price difference isn't worth the risk of a further problem with the rebuild. Most models of cooling unit are still in production from aftermarket suppliers like rvcoolingunit warehouse. Get an entirely new cooling unit if you go that route.
http://rvcoolingunit.com/
http://atcoamerica.com/

Buying a whole new fridge depends primarily on the condition of the box itself. If the seals are good and no rust or damaged cabinet parts, there is no reason to replace it. It's just an insulated box with shelves. If the cabinet or shelves are broken, rusty, whatever, may as well replace the whole thing. The only other part of substance is the circuit board, and it either works or does not.
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NewmanRacing

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2017, 12:21:32 PM »
My 24 year old Dometic fridge developed an ammonia leak this summer. I experienced the same quandary.

I opted for a new Norcold NXA641unit because:
-I have my wheel house for mobile versatility, A fridge that only runs on AC does not fit in my plans
-It was a perfect fit for the space
-It was 3 way powered rather than the old 2 way, more options more better.
-I found it on Ebay for $1095 including shipping to my door (negotiated with best offer option)
-I felt the replacement cooling units are way overpriced
-I had a hard time with the idea of investing in parts and my time to still have 25 year old fridge technology
-I despise fixing things twice
-I know it added no real cash value to my rig, I bough peace of mind (I hope)
-It made my favorite girlfriend happy

Anyone want a free Dometic fridge? Needs a cooling unit, otherwise good shape  ;)
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 09:10:06 AM »
Quote
-I had a hard time with the idea of investing in parts and my time to still have 25 year old fridge technology

LOL! You bought another absorption fridge, and that technology is 100 years old. Even the electronics that control today's absorption fridges dates back to the 60's. About the only "new technology" you got was smaller chips on the circuit board.
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Mile High

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 01:45:16 PM »
I would assume you got electric start and auto change over - some of the older ones didn't have that.
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NewmanRacing

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2017, 08:59:42 AM »
LOL! You bought another absorption fridge, and that technology is 100 years old. Even the electronics that control today's absorption fridges dates back to the 60's. About the only "new technology" you got was smaller chips on the circuit board.

So there have been no improvements in the application of the absorption refrigerator technology over the last decades? I guess I was incorrect in assuming that this type of product has seen any engineering advances.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Need a Recommendation RE. an RV Refridgerator
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2017, 10:19:22 AM »
None at all in the technology of the absorption chiller.  The only tech advances have been in the control board and even that hasn't changed much on the past 20 years. It's rather simple device both mechanically and electronically, and the tech is mature and well known. The Norcold and Dometic brands are near identical as well.

Some people think the quality of recent units is actually poorer, i.e. the construction has been "cost-reduced" with thinner metal and/or the cooling units driven to their limits to make larger capacity fridges.

Atwood and one of the aftermarket suppliers have designed a cooling unit that uses helium instead of hydrogen as the booster in the coolant fluid. The idea is that there is less fire danger in the event of a coolant leak. The drawback is that helium is not quite as effective as hydrogen in the absorption cooling process. The theoretical safety advantage is undeniable, but the practical difference is probably small. RV fridge fires are extremely dangerous, but not all that common.

There are some things that could be done to enhance RV fridges, but neither Norcold nor Dometic has shown much inclination to do do. Probably because their customer, the RV manufacturers, are far more driven by costs than quality, and the potential improvements would all add cost. Both have refused to even consider incorporating the ARP technology for active cooling unit management, even though the net cost would be on the order of just a couple dollars if built in at the factory. And the ARP (an aftermarket fridge manager device) is itself old tech, borrowed from industrial boiler management. Other potential improvements include active air circulation inside and thicker wall insulation. Residential fridges are challenged to meet Energy Star goals and have spent mucho bucks to develop improved fridges, but the RV fridge makers just trudge along. Meanwhile, the vastly improved efficiency of residential units have made them excellent competitors to absorption fridges for many RVers.

https://www.arprv.com
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 10:41:23 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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