View Full Version : Can I replace my RV refrigerator with a standard refrigerator???

09-06-2008, 03:59 AM
Hey. Our RV refrigerator is belly-up. From what we have been learning, we most likely have a leak. There is yellow powder. The boiler works, everything else is working normal except we have no cooling capacity. We are fulltime RVers and are considering replacing it with a Magic Chef 10 cubic foot refrigerator we saw today at Home Depot. It fits perfectly in the space where our Norcold 9182 currently is. The dimensions are only off by a fraction in all measurements.

We are considering this primarily due to the cost. $339.00 vs. $1500.00. We have heard that it is not worth getting a refurbished model unless it was refurbished under warranty.....otherwise it has a lot of age on it and the other components break down.....motherboards, control panels, boilers, etc.

The only problem is that we are hearing that standard refrigerators just won't make it. We have heard that the compressor gets damaged every time you plug and unplug from shore power. It has been explained that it is similar to unplugging while your a/c is on. Is this true? Does anyone out there currently use a standard refrigerator in their RV and travel successfully? Is there any way to safely turn off a standard refrigerator to prevent damage? We are currently on ICE and could use the helpful hand of our RV neighbors to make this decision asap.

09-06-2008, 06:48 AM
I know 2 people with household refridgerators and they have never had a problem. One travels often and runs his from his generator.

09-06-2008, 07:22 AM
yes you can replace the multi energy reefer with a house reefer. but you must get the right one for the install to be safe. it MUST!!! have the coils going up the BACK of the frige, not underneath! lowes sells one for about 300 bucks that is a 10 cubic foot model in white, black and stainless steele. you must seal the front of the frige against any outside air, just like the one you have now. we do not want any carbon monoxide getting inside from say a furnace or waterheater. remember, co will kill you silently!

09-06-2008, 10:47 AM
Norcold makes RV "AC-DC" combination refridgerators. You will notice as Steve mentioned above the cooling coils are up the back side and not the bottom.
You can check them out here http://www.norcold.com/HOME/PRODUCTS/NorcoldIncRefrigerators/tabid/195/Default.aspx

If you happen to have a Norcold fridge already, you can buy just the conversion kit and turn it into a "AC-DC" unit.

09-06-2008, 01:19 PM
The Magic Chef's compressor is located on the floor and in the back of the model - in the same area as our Norcold 9182's service compartment. The plug is right there too where our outlet is located for the Norcold. I cannot find any pricing on the units whodo suggested which run only on ac/dc but are for RV's. I also have never heard of a conversion kit. The magic chef's dimensions are exactly the same as our Norcold - off by maybe a fraction here or there. The depth is exactly the same. I would be interested if anyone know how to "seal" off the refrigerator. This is important for practical reasons besides carbon monoxide. We don't need bugs and cold drafts coming in.

09-06-2008, 05:30 PM
i have replaced 3 of em in the last 4 months all of them were from lowes with 10 cubic feet of space. i frame in at the bottem and top and seal it with caulk around all four edges. then if it has a furnace under it i do a carbon monoxide test after i'm done. hope this helps

09-06-2008, 11:05 PM
COOL! LITERALLY. LOL! Thanks for that info! Fortunately we do not have a furnace underneath our refrigerator...just a storage area. We do have an oven right beside the refrigerator separated by insulated wallboard - which in our opinion is a stupid design... but every dog has its fleas. Do you work on RVs? WOW - replacing three RV refrigerators with the 10 cu ft standards in the last 4 months! Did you put a fan in the back to pull out the heat?

What we have learned so far from searching on the web is that many are concerned about it getting adequate ventilation. We will have to pull out our Norcold to see what kind of clearances we are actually dealing with in the specialized frig cabinet. So far it looks like we have about 3" on the roof, plus the roof vent. About 3" from the backside coils - which will be the same for the Magic Chef. The side panels are the big question. According to the Norcold manual, the minimum clearance is 1/2" each side, so we know we at least have that much to work with....hopefully - you never know. We are planning to leave the side refrigerator vent area as is and not close it up.

Now that you have told us how to seal up the front face - we are much more excited that we can do this successfully. We just bought the Magic Chef tonight. We decided that we don't have much to lose by giving this a chance. ANYTHING YOU CAN SHARE ABOUT DOING THIS CONVERSION WOULD BE SO GRATEFULLY RECIEVED!!!!!

09-07-2008, 08:28 AM
on all of them but 1 i did not have to cut on the sides, just adjust the top a lil bit. if you look at the top,its just a 3/4 by 3/4 piece of wood that is stapled on, easily removed so you can trim the top...try not to cut at the bottom at all, as that takes the weight. now about the electric....that new frige prob uses 12 to 20 amps of power. you may have to move a wire or two in your circuit breaker box for everything to run at the same time. you don't want the frige on the same breaker as the a/c's....or the microwave for that matter, but you can work with that one.....also if you hve to you can run a seperate power cord to the frige directly to the park power post when you are there, but you may have to buy an inverter to run it while on the road. minimum2500 watts with 4000 watts surge. hope this helps!

09-07-2008, 04:45 PM
These are all great points but I need to add one more. If you ever plan on selling the coach it lowers the resale value of it. And if you trade it in the dealer will take money off your trade in price to put an RV one back in. So dont damage the trim. Also if you try to sell it a lot of people look really hard at everything else on the coach, like pick it apart. Because they feel that if you went the cheap route to replace the fridge then what other short cuts did you take. Just my two cents.

09-07-2008, 10:29 PM
Thanks for all the input! That seems like a lot of power draw. The info on the refrigerator states that it pulls 1.86 amps which is roughly 225 watts if I am doing the math right. There is a plug already in the service area for the Norcold's ac. The Norcold pulls 2.75 amps of electric. We ran it on electric all the time, so we do not think that the Magic Chef which is rated for less will cause a problem. We are running the Magic Chef right now on a shared circuit and are not having problems. I doubt the Norcold was wired on any circuits with the microwave or refrigerator.

Our main problem at this juncture is finding the right size cap for the gas line. It is not standard: 3/8", like everything else RV. We will have to go tomorrow to see if a hardware specialty store or gas company has one...there is one RV guy in town, maybe he has one.

I do want to ask one question of stevesandidge: I have learned there are two types of these units. Mine does not have coils in the back. It is enclosed except for an opening at the back bottom where the compressor is. The heat is being radiated from the sides, not the top or back. Some are saying on other forums that these cannot be used.....they insist that the coils must be in the back for it to work. Our model is frost free.

Now regardless of where the heat dissipates, we are leaving the current roof vent and service vents where they are. We still have to remove the Norcold before we will know our exact clearances. We can tell we have about 3" from the roof, and 3" from the side of the TT. Norcold says that there has to be a minimum of 1/2" each side to meet their installation requirements. So we know we have that much....we will have to wait until we pull it out to know for sure. My husband thinks that we will have more. Considering the fact that the RV refrigerator ventilation is made to get out all the heat from a gas burner or a 325 watt electrical element, plus the heat from the refrigerator, I do not understand how this would not be adequate for a refrigerator which is NOT going to put out that amount of heat! We will not be adding any insulation in the clearance areas, so that it can get air flow.

Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated.

09-08-2008, 06:12 PM
so in addition to having the compressor in the bottom, where are the coils? if they do not run up the back of the frige, then they must be underneath, towards the front behind the compressor. that means that it HAS to vent out the front, which you CANNOT do for safety reasons! that is why i recommend the ones lowes sells as they are very close to the size and meet the criteria required to be safe.

09-09-2008, 06:06 PM
These coils on this model run on the sides. I have completed the install. I will get back with the story and some pictures. It went very well and has good circulation.

09-09-2008, 07:12 PM
glad it worked out. ;)

09-09-2008, 09:47 PM
Thanks. Here is a link to some pictures of the installation:


09-10-2008, 06:14 AM
did you have to take the leveling feet off the bottom to get it to fit? also did you caulk around the front to keep out CO n critters? looks good!

09-10-2008, 09:55 AM

First I want to say "Good Job" and thanks for sharing your project with step by step photos. Very interesting, your project will no doubt help others.

I would like to know what is the make, model and year of your MH?

09-10-2008, 10:23 AM
Hi! Good Morning. Thanks for the nice comments. Actually we did not take the feet off of the refrigerator. There are wheels on the back of the refrigerator, so I think it would be harder to level it if you took out the feet, but a good block of wood instead actually might end up being better since it would help with sealing off the front face from air flow in the back.

We have a 98 Chateau 27 J with slide out standard profile ( Chateau made some high profile TTs in later year models.) Our Norcold was a 7.5 cu ft refrigerator.

From what we have learned there are two types of these refrigerators which are made by Haire but sold under different names like Magic Chef, etc. Ours has the side coils. There is some controversy about these models because the directions call for 5" clearance on each side. That is why we installed a fan. That little fan from Walmart is great. We can control the air flow, high, low, or off. Today it is rainy so we turned it off. Yesterday the refrigerator did not cycle much at all. We think controlling the air flow is great - when it it cold outside, we can turn it off and the refrigerator will be able to keep itself warmer. We ended up with a little over an inch of clearance in the bottom area, 1 3/4" clearance in the side areas which was most important on this model, and about 2 1/2" clearance in the top and back.

The other model we have heard about is the 10.5 cu ft. It will not fit in a space designed for the Norcold 7.5 cu ft. I don't know about the Dometic. It is deeper in the back because on that model, that is where the coils are located. It is about a 26 -27 ft depth discounting the doors. Many were upset we did not get this model on other forums, but what can I say - there weren't any in town and it would not fit. This model is preferred since the coils are in the back. If your cabinet is big enough for the 10.5 and you have time to order, go for it. It will call for at least and additional 2" clearance in the back against the wall and roof area....sides not a problem maybe 1/2".

09-10-2008, 05:50 PM
Hey just wanted you to know that I added a few extra pictures to the set which show an experiment we are trying out. We are using a black bungee to hold the doors closed during travel. We removed the s-hook from one end. The black square which held the s-hook wedged nicely between the doors without overstressing them. We then hooked the other end to our exhaust fan. The exhaust hood is very sturdy and could handle the extra bit of pressure.