Refrigerator - Fiberglass RV

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Old 03-04-2006, 11:43 PM   #1
Rick and Shannen's Avatar
Trailer: 1986 23 ft Road Ranger
Posts: 74
Has anyone replaced their old 2 or 3 way fridge with a new compact electric fridge like you can get at Sears or Walmart?

Our existing 3 way fridge doesn't work that well and we don't have $600-$800 to shell out for a new fridge. We have found compact refrigerators at Sears and Walmart for about $125 to $150. We only camp at campgrounds with electrical and are wondering if it is possible to install one of these refrigerators and how we would go about doing it. We have also thought that we could install one of these as a temporary fix to our problem and possibly put in a 3 way fridge in a few years if we decide to take the trailer on a road trip.

What do you all think?


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Old 03-05-2006, 02:13 AM   #2
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I did it on my 16' Scamp. It was originally equipped with just an icebox, and when I did all of my mods, I installed a small "dorm" fridge in the bottom half of the closet by the door. It is white, about three feet tall, 2 to 4 cubic feet (I can't remember). It works wonderfully; two years in and never an issue. The vibration and jolts have had no effect on the mechanical systems of the fridge.

Its small compressor unit puts out very little heat. Even so, I installed a small vent between the closet wall and the under-sink area for circulation. I have twin deep-cycle gel cell batteries on the trailer tongue to power all of my systems, and it all works fine. I run a Tripp Lite 1000 watt RMS Powerverter. It keeps the batteries topped off when plugged in, auto switches to battery power when unplugged, and controls everything without me having to think about it.

The seven wire trailer plug has the twelve volt feed hooked up to keep the trailer batteries charged during travel. The feed from the truck is through a relay and is only on when the ignition is on, so the truck battery doesn't discharge when parked in transit. I camped without hookups once, and the batteries held their charge overnight just fine. I simply started my truck in the morning and allowed the truck's alternator to recharge the trailer batteries.

The refrigerator is bolted down tight, and has never shifted. I did have to fabricate a door latch that would not fail during bumpy travel! That was it. I would enthusiastically recommend this mod if you have a good battery and inverter, as well as a 12v feed from your tow vehicle to keep the trailer battery charged while in transit. BTW, the refrigerator gets ice cold. I have the temp dial set on a "medium" setting. The only thing that doesn't work great is the little freezer. It's one of those where the freezer section is simply a small metal divider with the coolant passages around it, not a totally different door. It does not keep items hard-frozen.

I completely prefer this setup to a standard RV 3-way fridge. It's nice not having to worry about pilot lights at filling stations! Plus, I know I can replace this unit any time if required for just over $100.00

Matthew Mast

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Old 03-05-2006, 06:06 AM   #3
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Trailer: 1980 Bigfoot 17 ft
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My Compact Jr. has a GE dorm frig that is 30" X 16". The set up is very simple because the trailer has no battery and is totally 120V AC. The frig works very well and we don't plan to ever change it. One up side of a compressor frig is that it doesn't need to be perfectly level to run. Our only challenge has been the inability to cool while towing on long trips. We solve that by packing all the cold stuff in a Coleman 12V thermoelectric cooler in the tow vehicle.

Tom Trostel
1980 Bigfoot 17' & 1973 Compact Jr
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Old 03-05-2006, 06:28 AM   #4
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Trailer: 1989 Casita Spirit Deluxe
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Matthew, that sounds like a great set up. I would assume that installing a solar power charge system would allow you to boondock. However, if you always have electricity and you can run it off 12V in transit, it seems that you have all you need.
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Old 03-05-2006, 07:45 AM   #5
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Trailer: Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel Custom Deluxe
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My Scamp 5th wheel came from the factory with the 110 volt only fridge. I have two deep cycle batteries, one is for the converter and the other is for the inverter. I run fridge on the inverter. I use a block of ice in the bottom of the fridge in a plastic container to aid in cooling. Fridge kicks on once or twice an hour for about 3-5 minutes each time. The fridge is a Sears unit and only draws 70-100 watts. Using the inverters formula for usage with the deep cycle battery, I should have about 480 minutes of battery power. Since the fridge only runs about 10 minutes per hour, I should expect 48 hours before the battery is low. So far it is working out it is working out for me. You can see the fridge in the lower left of the photo.....Mike
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Old 03-05-2006, 09:09 AM   #6
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Trailer: 1986 23 ft Road Ranger
Posts: 74
Thanks for the replies. This definitely sounds like a do-able project (of course, Rick will be the one doing it ). While we don't have an inverter or converter, we don't boondock or dry camp. I lllloooovvveee camping but I have to camp somewhere with electricity, bathrooms and showers.

If we are just going to run the fridge off the 120 power source at the campground, do we hard wire the fridge in or what? Also, how do you anchor it? I am not sure how to go about doing this.

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Old 03-05-2006, 03:50 PM   #7
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Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
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Two of my friends replaced 3-way RV refrigerators with small home AC-only units for the same reason of cost. Neither takes their RV to sites without AC power, and both only go to places within a 3-hour drive, so they don't worry about the lack of power during the drive.

Since the original "3-way" refrigerator must have been connected to AC power (if not, it would only work as a "2-way"...) there must be AC power available the mouting space. Mine is plugged in to a regular household outlet, which I assume is normal. I would just plug the new AC-only unit refrigerator into the same outlet, which is supplied from the AC distribution panel, which in turn is fed by the big shore power cable, which is appropriate for the campsite.

To power the AC-only unit from the battery or (better) tow vehicle while in transit, an inverter can be used (like Matthew). Switching between an inverter and shore power is an issue unless you use a nice unit like Matthew's or a separate changeover switch. For a simpler (i.e. cheaper) setup, if the original lower refrigerator vent door (the lower one on the outside) opens readily (recent ones usually do), then I would consider installing an inverter there, and just reaching in to move the refrigerator's plug from the inverter to the built-in outlet when I camp, and back when I hook up to tow. Of course, I would forget occasionally, which I would then regret when I next opened the refrigerator and didn't find it cold...
1979 Boler B1700RGH, pulled by 2004 Toyota Sienna LE 2WD
Information is good. Lack of information is not so good, but misinformation is much worse. Check facts, and apply common sense liberally.
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Old 03-05-2006, 06:45 PM   #8
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Trailer: 74 13 ft Boler and 79 17 ft Boler
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Tom, I`m assuming that you have a trailer battery that charges while you are driving and if so, why not run the fridge off an invertor/battery while driving or during restaurant stops, etc. ....I run my 2 way off a 400 watt , $50 unit, and flip a switch when I park at the campground and run off AC....been doing this for the last 3 years....Benny
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Old 03-06-2006, 08:52 AM   #9
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Trailer: Amerigo & Trailmanor (popupish)
Posts: 459
In our Esterel (non-glass) we have a 3-way that I've never run on anything except shore power. In the PlayPac, I installed a conventional dorm fridge and will be doing the same (eventually) in the mini-toybox.

With both the Esterel and PlayPac - we'd stock the fridge before hitting the road. BUT we'd also toss in a recycled 2-liter pop bottle filled with water and frozen solid, effectively turning the fridge into a literal icebox (without all the melt-water and drainage issues). Keeps things cold for HOURS. I usually leave it in while camped (why bother removing it?) which helps keep power use down.

Another advantage of the conventional fridges is that for a given external volume (hole to shove the fridge in) you get a lot more internal volume (place to stuff your food).

Course - beverages are always kept in a cooler so not a lot of fridge space is really needed.

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Old 08-18-2010, 10:54 PM   #10
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Trailer: Trillium
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Has anybody tried to put the so called bar fridge into a 75 Trillium. It would be tight & have thought or removing the stove as we don't use it.

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