Tips for Buying a Used Gas Refrigerator - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-12-2012, 07:20 PM   #1
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Tips for Buying a Used Gas Refrigerator

I finally found a used refrigerator and I thought I'd pass along a few tips.

I was looking for a small refrigerator to fit where my ice box was in my UHaul. So my starting point was to measure the height, width and depth of the cabinet space to determine which models would fit there.
Refrigerator Conversion Chart

Next, I used Search Tempest to look within a reasonable driving distance as shipping is about $100 or more on a small refrigerator. Search Tempest will also find hits in eBay, which may be within driving distance. This search engine found some refrigerators on eBay that were in hidden categories I had not found by myself, so it is worth looking at their hits.

When you do the ST searches, set the search radius in miles, and the maximum price. I used $250, which kept me from getting hits on whole trailers. Search in "all for sale", as refrigerators end up in many categories. Use search terms like camper refrigerator, camper fridge, dometic, norcold, icebox, camper parts, gas fridge, gas refrigerator, lp refrigerator, etc. "Camper parts" is especially good.

The most likely source for a used refrigerator is a scrapped out popup camper. Once the canvas rots out, they are often scrapped for the usable parts, including the refrigerator. The people that scrap these campers tend to live on the fringes of the city on larger lots where they can have stuff like junk trailers.

Be forewarned that when gas refrigerators fail, it is usually catastrophic. There is a sealed unit on the back with ammonia in it that costs about $350 or more just for the cooling unit. Labor to install it is extra. So, if the refrigerator doesn't work, it is probably nearly worthless.

If the unit is not connected to gas, see if you can get the seller to demonstrate the refrigerator on 120 volts AC or 12 volts DC. As the refrigerators are silent, it is difficult to tell if it is working. One method I used was to use a non-contact thermometer that I bought at Harbor Freight on sale for $6.

Non-Contact Pocket Thermometer

The tubing above the heating unit should get up to over 200 degrees F. fairly quickly and the fins inside the refrigerator should show less than 32 degrees F. within 20 minutes or so.
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Old 02-12-2012, 09:47 PM   #2
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Us people out on the fringes are sometimes called hillbillys!! We have 3 campers, 3 tractors, 5 utility trailers, several lawnmowers, snowmobiles, and some old cars & trucks too, so we're really on the fringes. So Tom, now you have to tap into the gas line, and also make a vent somehow? Let me know if you need any fittings. Bob
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:46 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by mary and bob View Post
Us people out on the fringes are sometimes called hillbillys!! We have 3 campers, 3 tractors, 5 utility trailers, several lawnmowers, snowmobiles, and some old cars & trucks too, so we're really on the fringes. So Tom, now you have to tap into the gas line, and also make a vent somehow? Let me know if you need any fittings. Bob
Bob, I'm a hillbilly at heart, but have to keep a low profile here in the suburbs.

Yes, I need to tap into the vertical part of the gas line feeding the stove, so I need a 3/8" T fitting. I haven't priced one yet. And, I'll start looking for some vents. I like the look of the rounded plastic vents sold by Dometic and Norcold vs the metal angular ones. More eggy looking.
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Old 02-13-2012, 06:38 AM   #4
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I worked for a fuel oil & propane company many years ago doing service work. On gas lines we used flare fittings, single flare, not the double like auto brake lines, and a heavy flare nut called a "frost nut". On hot water heaters we also installed a "drip T" to catch any sediment in the lines. Be sure to check for leaks with soapy water, we used some commercial leak detector and a manometer. Bob
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Old 02-13-2012, 09:13 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mary and bob View Post
I worked for a fuel oil & propane company many years ago doing service work. On gas lines we used flare fittings, single flare, not the double like auto brake lines, and a heavy flare nut called a "frost nut". On hot water heaters we also installed a "drip T" to catch any sediment in the lines. Be sure to check for leaks with soapy water, we used some commercial leak detector and a manometer. Bob

Thanks, I've got the flaring tools and know the soapy water trick. My late father in law always used to use an open flame. No, he lived to a ripe old age, but I always wondered about the open flame technique.
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Old 02-15-2012, 06:47 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Thomas G. View Post
Bob, I'm a hillbilly at heart, but have to keep a low profile here in the suburbs.

Yes, I need to tap into the vertical part of the gas line feeding the stove, so I need a 3/8" T fitting. I haven't priced one yet. And, I'll start looking for some vents. I like the look of the rounded plastic vents sold by Dometic and Norcold vs the metal angular ones. More eggy looking.
I wanted to install rounded "eggy" vents too, but the manuf's wouldn't confirm the 'texture' of the plastic and whether it would take paint. Since I'd never seen them in person, I didn't want to chance it - and the auto paint store that mixed my paint wouldn't confirm how well it'd do without knowing either. Ended up with the square metal vents in the end... not eggy like I wanted ---- but hey, the paint matches nicely
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