Installing a 12v DC refrigerator in a Lil Snoozy - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-16-2014, 08:00 AM   #1
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Installing a 12v DC refrigerator in a Lil Snoozy

The 110V AC Magic Chef 3.6 cu. ft. refrigerator that came with the trailer has not worked out so well. We just replaced it with a 12V DC 4.2 cu. ft. Truckfridge model TF130. The two year old Magic Chef dorm fridge always worked fine on 120v shore power and initially worked fine running off the 600w inverter too but as time went on it got harder and harder to start with battery power through the inverter. By last month it wouldn't start at all. Even with electric hookups at all the places we camp this means the fridge doesn't work while driving. An all day drive is long enough to have the freezer defrost itself and melt water to run onto the floor.

The Magic Chef manual states specifically not to use it in an RV and my theory is that the trailer hitting bumps caused the motor - compressor unit to wear and gradually require more power to start. That would be no problem when plugged into the normal 1800w 15amp shore power circuit but became a big problem when limited to the 600w max inverter output. It's operating consumption is only 80w, the rule of thumb states starting load should be 5x or 400w but the 600w, 900w for two seconds, inverter can no longer start it.

The Truckfridge is a rebranded Indel B unit made mainly for marine use. It used a high quality Danfoss compressor. Subjectively it is much quieter than the Magic Chef and is much more efficient. It has 17% more capacity yet uses 40% less power. We should be able to manage 3-4 days of off-grid camping.

The new 12v fridge is wider but shorter than the old one so the cabinet frame needed to be cut back and the electrical panel moved an inch forward to accommodate the greater width. The new unit is 3" shorter so I had room to add a 2" high drawer under the counter, perfect for silverware and cooking utensils.
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Here's the fridge space with the Magic Chef removed. The face frame must be cut back flush with the 1/2 plywood cabinet side and the wiring bundle must be rearranged so as to lay as flat as possible against the plywood.
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I stripped the outer black insulation from the 30 amp shore power feed to the AC panel and relocated the neutral and ground bus bars against the outside wall so they are behind the new fridge rather than beside it, restricting width.

The lower wires are for the DPDT switch used to connect a pair of outlet boxes and the USB power strip to either inverter output or shore power output. I also added a SPST switch in the +12v line to the fridge so it can be turned off easily without using the thermostat inside the fridge. This wasn't strictly necessary but I wanted the extra convenience.
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The fridge needs a level platform to support the feet and needs to have at least an inch between the floor and the bottom of the fridge for air flow to cool the compressor. The supports need to be contoured on the bottom to fit the Snoozy's curved floor. I used 1 1/2 x 1 1/8 wood with an 1/8 deep x 1 wide groove to guide the feet as the fridge is slid into place.
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I added another layer of 3/4" oak to the cabinet side and replaced the 1/2" Snoozy panel frame with one 3/4" thick and made a 3/4 frame for the DC switches. This was necessary to move the backs of the circuit breakers, fuses and switch terminals forward to avoid interfering with the side of the fridge.
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Inside view of revised wiring.
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Fridge installed. Note the trim flange screwed to the cabinet face frame. The feet support the weight and the flange holds the fridge in place. There is also a positive lock on the the door so no more forgetting to latch the old door for travel.
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The new fridge left a 3 gap from its top the the underside of the countertop. That left room for a 2" high x 20 wide x 16" deep drawer. Self closing drawer slides (from Lowes) will keep it shut when traveling.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:05 AM   #2
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This is great! I was wondering how the Magic Chef would work out, and had considered having a 12v one installed at the factory, so you've made up my mind. I really like your use of space.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:26 AM   #3
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Installing a 12v DC refrigerator in a Lil Snoozy

I wish I had known about the differences between a quality 12v fridge and the mass market dorm fridges when I bought mine two years ago.

The Magic Chef works OK and the cost of the 12v unit, extra wiring and extra drawer would probably add $1000 to the Snoozy price so I understand why they do what they do.

On the other hand it's still cheaper than installing a propane fridge
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:51 AM   #4
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I was dead set on propane until I visited the factory. Richard has a supplier for a flat solar panel that won't mess up the lines of the trailer (that was a big deal for me). So with the generator and the solar, I will have a backup system. I will switch out the Magic Chef from the beginning, but I'm sure it won't look as good as your mod.
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Old 02-16-2014, 09:38 AM   #5
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The key will be to have Snoozy make the cabinet opening wide enough and to keep the wires out of the way.

Accomplishing that was 80% of this project.
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Old 02-16-2014, 10:55 AM   #6
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WHAT??
An RV builder actually installed an appliance that wasn't designed for RV use????

FOR SHAME......
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Old 02-16-2014, 06:38 PM   #7
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Put this in my future mod and wish-list book.

Nice job. Love the extra drawer.
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Old 02-16-2014, 07:35 PM   #8
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Yep, good choice. I had wondered if the Truckfridges had Danfoss compressors; they are a fair bit lower priced than the other brands I'm aware of.

What did you pay for shipping on that unit?

I have toyed with the idea all fall and winter. Just went out and measured, and it looks like it would fit in the cavity where my 3 cu ft Norcold sits, without enlarging the hole.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:18 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mike Magee View Post
Yep, good choice. I had wondered if the Truckfridges had Danfoss compressors; they are a fair bit lower priced than the other brands I'm aware of.

What did you pay for shipping on that unit?

I have toyed with the idea all fall and winter. Just went out and measured, and it looks like it would fit in the cavity where my 3 cu ft Norcold sits, without enlarging the hole.

The fridge was $599 plus $100 shipping. I didn't order the $50 extra flange kit but they shipped it anyway. Glad they did as it made it very easy to secure the refrigerator. (And a lot better than the three lag bolts through the sides of the Magic Chef).

I suspect all these small 12v units are made by the same company - Indel B in Italy. They certainly look similar. The Truckfridge product web site and literature say nothing about Indel B but the unit itself was labeled Indel B.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:20 PM   #10
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Installing a 12v DC refrigerator in a Lil Snoozy

Power consumption update: the fridge ran 24 hours, nothing inside, temp inside the trailer about 65 during the day and fiftyish through the night, no door opening, 23 ah consumed!

I expect when we are living in the trailer, heating at night and opening the door occasionally the power consumption will be more than 23 ah per day but still should be good for 4 days dry camping with our 220ah battery bank.
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Old 02-16-2014, 10:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCDenny View Post
The 110V AC Magic Chef 3.6 cu. ft. refrigerator that came with the trailer has not worked out so well.
......................snip..............................

The Magic Chef manual states specifically not to use it in an RV .


Sounds to me like Lil' Snoozy owes you a fridge, only this time one that IS designed for an RV.

That's what you paid for!
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Old 02-17-2014, 06:39 AM   #12
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In regard to the Magic Chef, the symptoms sound like a bad start capacitor. They are not expensive and often can be had for free from a discarded fridge of the same size. An Internet search should tell you what you need to know. Just a thought , Raz
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:06 AM   #13
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Nice Job .So the 12 volt fridge will work of batteries then the batteries could be charged while hooked up to shore power or solar power .what about a 12/110 fridge ? Are they much more expensive is there an advantage to going just with 12 volt ? I was going to do the 1000 watt marine inverter route($95) Do you think going with bigger inverter would work the dorm Fridge and for how long?
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:08 AM   #14
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what kind of solar power is Lil snoozy going with ? I would be interested
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