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RV Refrigerator Swap


After living for 9 years with a temperamental Norcold 1200LR refrigerator in our 2005 Carri-Lite XTRM5 5th wheel we finally decided to ditch it for a proper residential fridge.  The Norcold runs on propane or 110v AC so you can use it while not connected to shore power (110v AC).  But, we do not dry-camp ... we always stay in RV parks with 110v power.  The main problem was that the Norcold had great difficulty keeping the fresh food compartment at 40 degrees or below and never got the freezer below 5-10 degrees.  It was also relatively small compared to a residential fridge.  To help the Norcold stay cool I had added three extra 12v fans in the back and two battery powered fans inside to circulate the air.  They didn't help much. 

After reading about several other RV'ers doing the switch to a residential fridge we decided to do it also.  We bought a Samsung RF197 French door fridge with bottom freezer drawer.  Others had used this fridge so I knew it would fit the space.  While on the road the fridge can be kept running by using an inverter powered by the RV's 12v batteries.  I bought a 1000W pure sine wave Xantrex inverter, transfer switch, and remote on/off control. 

The following photos show the start to finish install. 

UPDATE:  April 2015 - replaced the 1000W Xantrex inverter that failed on our first outing with an NPower 1000W that worked flawlessly on our next trip, and finally replaced that with an NPower 2000W inverter keeping the 1000W NPower for backup.  Also ran the #0 supply wires directly through the wall to the batteries.  See photos at the end below. 


This is the Norcold fridge sitting on a platform
above two drawers.  I had to remove the doors
to get it out through the RV door. 

After removing the Norcold, fiberglass insulation
on left & right walls, and various shields
and baffles. The two extra muffin fans I added are visible. 

I left this vertical box structure to provide
a backstop for the new fridge. 

This is the upper vent.  There was a metal shield
covering the white upholstered ceiling area, as
a heat shield I suppose. 

There was also a wooden box structure in front
of the heat shield area.  I saw no purpose for it
so removed it. 

This is the left side showing the
reinforcing used to mount the
cabinets on that side. 

Here is some of the material removed thus far. 
The plywood had covered the vertical box. 

After removing the plywood shelf the Norcold sat
on I could see the drawer glides.

This is the removed plywood shelf that the
Norcold sat on. 

This is the space after removing
the drawer glides and bottom
cabinet stiles. 

This closeup shows the bottom floor,
which had been covered with carpet.  Two
of the extra fans I had added can be seen
mounted to the lower vent.  The propane
line and 110v outlet are also visible. 

The mid-section area of the cabinet. 

The upper area of the cabinet with upper cabinet
horizontal stile and top shelf removed.  

More of the removed debris.

Measurements indicated that the new fridge fit
would be tight so I removed the cabinet's top
stile and top shelf. 

The Samsung is deeper than the
Norcold so I inserted 3/4" plywood
extending out of the front about 3". 

The added 3/4" plywood floor. 

A view under the cabinet, which is in a slideout so
I had to continually check that I was not doing
anything that would interfere. 

Notching the 3/4" plywood to fit. 

Notching the other side. 

The first trial fit of the Samsung.  Had to
remove the doors to get it in the trailer.

The Samsung feet with levelers fit nicely on
the added 3/4" plywood extension. 

The top of the Samsung with hinges and
control panel removed. 

I reinstalled the insulation on the sides
and added R-13 fiberglass on the back.

Closeup of the insulation.

The original side insulation does not extend
to the floor.
 

I decided to secure the Samsung by using the
backets for its leveling feet.  The bolt holes were
close to the plywood edge, so I reinforced the corners
with angle-steel. 

This is the left corner showing the bolt hole in
the plywood lined up with a hole in the angle-steel.

Same thing on the right corner. 

I obtained metric bolts to replace the leveling feet
and secured the Samsung to the floor.

Left-side front secured to the bracket. 

I secured the back with a lag bolt through the
Samsung bottom plate into the 3/4" plywood. 

A second lag bolt on the right side. 

This is the first trial fit with the doors on. 

The Samsung's bottom trim now in place. 

The left front corner with plastic trim in place. 

I secured the top using plumber's strap from the
hinge bolts to the cabinet.  The hinges and
control panel fit exactly so I can now reattach
the cabinet upper horizontal stile and top shelf. 

Same plumber's strap on the right side. 

The Xantrex transfer switch and a master
power switch are mounted behind the fridge.
This Samsung does not have a full
power-off switch. 

I had to use an extra outlet box above the transfer
switch for wire connections.  The ice maker line
is not connected.  It would be too much trouble and
we are OK making ice in trays. 

I ran 25' of 14ga SWOOP rated wire through the
propane line grommet. 

The wire is zip tied through the slideout elbow. 

It's dressed alongside the current 110V lines. 

I used a plastic pipe elbow as a grommet near
the front of the slideout.  It will be sealed with silicone.

The line comes in just aft of the furnace. 

It is zip tied to the water line from the fresh water tank.

Then through the basement's forward wall into the
fresh water tank compartment. 

This was the tricky part ... getting from the fresh water
tank compartment into the front compartment. 

I got access between the two compartments by removing
the fresh water fill access door.

I drilled a hole through the sheet metal wall and used
a large lamp cord grommet from ACE hardware. 

The line comes out just above the converter, which
has to be moved up to make room for the Xantrex
inverter. 

I had to move the IOTA converter and 12V circuit breaker  up to make room for the Xantrex inverter and its 100A fuse block.

The inverter is mounted just above the Carlisle CAM unit for the electric over hydraulic brakes. 

The 115v line from the Samsung fridge plugs into a GFCI on the inverter.  The RJ-11 jack is for the inverter's remote control.

The inverter's remote control line came with a ferrite core on one end but I used that end at the control panel so had to add another on this end.  The 12V fuse block uses a 100A type ANR fuse.  The inverter, remote control panel, fuse & fuse block, and #0 black & red wires are from Amazon. 

I tapped into the trailer's 12V supply on the BAT side of the existing 12V circuit breaker, which did not have a high enough rating to carry the inverter also, hence the separate fuse block.

Here's a close-up of the inverter front panel with digital readout. 

This is the almost finished installation showing bungees for the doors and drawer.  The bottom stile requires some Honey Oak staining for completion.   I used a piece of the original carpet to cover the plywood extension and steel corners. 

The inverter remote control (On/Off) is between my See Level II digital tank readout and furnace thermostat.  The remote saves me from having to open/close the front compartment to start/stop the inverter. 

The final step, replacing the two muffin fans to help with cooling when it's very hot, like at the beach in July!  These are actually two new fans as one of  the old ones had died.  This time I mounted them on the frame instead of on the access panel itself, which was always a pain when removing the panel. 


Overall this refrigerator swap took much more time than I anticipated but it was mainly due to having to consider various alternatives and lots of detail work, not to mention over a week of down-time when I fell and tore my left shoulder rotator cuff. 

I'm very pleased with how it came out and can't wait to start using it. 

The old Norcold 1200R will go on Craig's List for a very attractive price.
 
Update April 2015

Advertised the Norcold on Craigslist and sold it within 2 days to a person with an off-grid cabin in Colorado. 

Replaced the Xantrex 1000W inverter that failed with an NPower 1000W that worked great but ultimately replaced that with a NPower 2000W keeping the 1000W unit for backup.  Also routed the #0 supply wires directly through the wall (very difficult, thick steel) to the batteries. 

The NPower 1000W had fit nicely into the same space that was occupied by the Xantrex SW1000 - but the NPower 2000w is much larger.  I had to move the Carlisle Hydrastar CAM unit for it to fit. 

The NPower 2000W inverter takes all the remaining space on the board.  It actually seems to be two 1000W units in the same case. 
     

The NPower 2000W inverter has two sets of inputs and both must be used.  I ran the main #0 supply lines to the closet set and #4 jumpers to the others.

I moved the Carlisle Hydrastar CAM unit that makes the electric-hydraulic disc brakes compatible with electric-only brake controllers.  The new 2015 F350 has an option for electric-hydraulic brakes but it would mean rewiring to remove the CAM, which I decided not to do.

I routed the #0 supply lines through two layers of wall, one thick steel the other a thin battery box backing. 

Drilling through the thick steel was difficult and reaming out to a planned 1" was impossible.  I had planned to use 3/4" PVC pipe for a grommet.  There is about 1" between the two layers.  I had to compromise and used a 2" piece of liquid tight plastic electrical conduit and fitting on the positive line, Just a fitting on the grounded negative side. 

This is a digital voltage readout I previously installed showing the trickle charge level of the converter to the batteries. 

I replaced the Xantrex remote control panel with the one that  came free with the NPower units.  I used an Xacto knife to remove a small rectangle of clear plastic over the green LED to make the LED more visible. 

This shows the NPower remote control mounted below the SeeLevel II tank monitor panel and the furnace thermostat. 

Final rewiring - I hope!  I changed out the #0-gauge wires for #2-gauge, which are much easier work with and bend when the door is closed. 

I added a fuse on the negative lead 1) to help keep the cables the same length and coil up together and 2) for a rare short condition that I can't recall at the moment.  Standard practice for mobile radio equipment. 

I upgraded the 100A fuse to 2-150A fuses, appropriate for the new 2000W inverter. 

Final wiring of the inverter showing #2 cables coming through the wall from behind the plywood. 

The unprotected terminals bother me a bit but I'm pretty much the only one who ever goes into this compartment ... hope I remember!