RV appliances work fine for weekend camping and the occasional family vacation. As you start to use your RV more and more, living aboard for longer periods of time, their shortcomings become much more apparent.
We can give a free survey and consultation on the feasibility of installing a residential appliance, and provide a quotation for the installation.
Typical RV fridges run on 120 volts when you are connected to shore power, and propane when you are on the road or dry camping. They use a cooling principle called Ammonia Absorption. Although this dual-power capability is convenient, these units have the following drawbacks:
1. Cooling capacity is low, compared to a compressor-type refrigerator. If you load them with groceries, they can take hours before the temperature stabilizes. Even a case of warm cans of soda will upset the fridge for hours.
2. Freezer temperature is usually higher than that of a conventional unit. Ice cream is never truly hard.
3. Interior space and design are not as good as a typical conventional unit.
4. There is no air circulation inside the refrigerator, which can cause stale odours in the interior.
5. They are usually not frost-free or even self-defrosting.
6. Absorption refrigerators have been known to be a fire hazard when they malfunction, as evidenced by the series of recalls of Norcold units over the last few years.
7. Reliability can be problematical, especially with the newer, larger-capacity units.
8. The RV must be close to level when parked, or damage to the refrigerator can result.
With so many disadvantages, why not just rip out the RV refrigerator and install a residential unit? In most cases, this can be done, but there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind.
For years, most high-end diesel motorhomes have offered a residential refrigerator as standard, or as an option. Larger luxury fifthwheels are now available with this feature. It is feasible, in most cases, to install a residential fridge in place of your existing unit.
The concern with a compressor-type refrigerator, is the power consumption, as it always requires 120 volt power. This is not a consideration when you are set up in an RV park and plugged in to shore power, but it becomes a factor if you are dry-camped, or traveling on the road.
To power a residential fridge from 12 volts, an inverter is required. This converts the 12 volt RV power to 120 volts for the fridge. The type of inverter chosen is very important to the success of the installation. Along with the inverter, you need sufficient battery capacity to run the refrigerator for a reasonable time when you are parked with no outside power. When you are traveling, some power is replenished to the batteries from the engine alternator, both with a motorhome and with a trailer or fifthwheel.
Newer models of refrigerators are very power-efficient. The compressor and cooling systems are designed to minimize electricity consumption to extremely low levels. Certain models are very good in this regard. Our own Samsung refrigerator will run for at least 12 hours from two regular RV batteries. We do not do a lot of dry camping, so this is fine for us. If we needed more time without power, I would install additional battery capacity.
Our 18 cu.ft. Samsung refrigerator was installed in early 2013, and we have completed three cross-country return trips from Ontario to California. It has functioned perfectly, and we have never come close to running out of battery capacity. We use the in-truck inverter generator intermittently when dry-camped.