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Old 07-03-2014, 03:21 AM   #1
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Default New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

I may have to either replace my fridge with a new one or at least replace the cooling unit. It's the original in a 1997 Coach House. There's about $300 difference between the two prices.

Has someone else had to do this? Any opinions? They say it will cost about $800 for the cooling unit and a bit over $1,000 for a new fridge. Is that reasonable? It's a 3-way fridge I have now although I don't use the electric because it doesn't seem to cool very well.

Also, It's already pretty small, but I did see another post suggesting putting some additional insulation around a new fridge.

And one additional question. If I'm driving, can I turn the fridge to 12V and have it continue to cool by running off the house battery which is continually being charged by the van?
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Old 07-03-2014, 02:47 PM   #2
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

The design purpose of a 3-way refrigerator is to use 12V while driving, propane when parked and dry camping, and 120V when connected to electrical in a campground. The 12V option is usually the least reliable option for cooling but is sometimes necessary. For instance there are some tunnels, bridges and ferrys where you cannot use propane. It is strongly recommended you not use propane while filling up at a service station, and in general using propane while driving down the highway is your unsafest option. The other major problem with a 3-way refrigerator, especially older models that don't have automatic switch over, is that if you stop someplace and forget to switch over to propane, you can run your battery down very fast. The biggest quandary is a long ferry ride. In that instance your best bet is to turn off the refrigerator all together and discipline yourself to remember not to open the door.

You might find for the price difference a totally new unit might be the better option. There was a substantial improvement from the Dometic 3-way that I had in my 2005 RV compared to my current 2011 RV. The older one had the manual propane hold the button startup. The new one is automatic. The old one did not cool as well in my opinion. Even since 2011 B converters have now started including automatic switch over between the three ways of which I don't have. Also, in my experience when one thing fails there might usually be something else failing soon in an appliance.
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Old 07-03-2014, 06:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

I'd go with new for that price difference also. My similarly aged Dometic fridge has the controls just off the floor! I won't miss the day that I don't have to get down on my knees to adjust the fridge!
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Old 07-03-2014, 08:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

This your opportunity to convert to a 12V compressor fridge. These are becoming increasingly popular, and make good sense if you have the electric capacity to support it. They are roughly three times as efficient as a 3-way running in 12V mode; they cool more quickly and consistently; and they are much less fussy about being level. They are more expensive, though.
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Old 07-04-2014, 01:45 AM   #5
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

I left the fridge on all night on propane and it got down to 34 degrees. Not great, but ok. And Mark, I agree that standing on your head to see if the propane is lit is a nuisance. Since it's only getting down to 34, what's everyone's recommendation for replacing it? I'm going on a cross country trip in August and don't need a fridge breaking on me. I'm interested in learning more about the 12V compressor fridge. I have room for 2 house batteries. Would that do it? And what's the cost?
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Old 07-04-2014, 02:14 AM   #6
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

34 degrees is good. Refrigerators normally operate at around 38 degrees. Much colder than 34 and you could freeze food, which is not a good thing unless that is what you want to do.
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Old 07-04-2014, 03:01 AM   #7
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soohma
I left the fridge on all night on propane and it got down to 34 degrees. Not great, but ok. And Mark, I agree that standing on your head to see if the propane is lit is a nuisance. Since it's only getting down to 34, what's everyone's recommendation for replacing it? I'm going on a cross country trip in August and don't need a fridge breaking on me. I'm interested in learning more about the 12V compressor fridge. I have room for 2 house batteries. Would that do it? And what's the cost?
Take a look at Novakool:

http://www.novakool.com

Pick out the size that you need and then do a google search on that model number to find current prices. Two house batteries should be fine, assuming you drive around often enough to keep them charged.

We chose one for our new semi-custom Great West Legend.
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Old 07-04-2014, 11:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

If I were faced with the choice you are facing, I would probably go for a new 3-way fridge. I have discovered on a few occasions that I forgot to switch modes and the fridge warmed up quite a bit. Now I usually use propane when driving around because I'm afraid to forget to switch from 12v to propane when I stop for a while ... shopping, sightseeing, etc.

However, there is one thing that I'd miss: being able to operate the fridge on propane even if I don't have 12V (dead batteries). The newer 3-way fridges need 12v for their control circuits or they won't work at all. Mine is all manual.

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Old 07-04-2014, 11:55 PM   #9
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

I've come back to a chirping low battery sound many a time forgetting to switch over even after a short lunch in a restaurant. After a while you give up and leave it on propane. New 3-ways do the work for you but then draw amperage all the time now. I think that and ever larger capacity refrigerators in Bs might be spurring interest in the AC/DC compressor refrigerators. For one, they use less than 1/3 the DC power of a 3-way absorption refrigerator. Secondly, more people are interested in operating with two or more auxiliary batteries. When we bought our first B 9 years ago about the only two battery setups were done by do it yourselfers. To this day I don't think Pleasure-way Plateau offers that option.

Being level has never been critical for me. Level was to be comfortable sleeping and that always satisfied the absorption refrigerator. I've never tried to monitor or observe if severe Rocky Mountain driving affected the refrigerator. I am careful to look for the levelest spot in a parking lot while on the road and stopping some place.
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Old 07-05-2014, 04:19 AM   #10
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Default Re: New Fridge or New Cooling Unit?

Thank you all for your comments and help. I'll check out the link and see if that's an option for me. You guys are great!
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