Replacing a stand-up absorption fridge with a chest-type compression fridge - Fiberglass RV
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:29 PM   #1
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Name: Clay and Cait
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Florida
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Replacing a stand-up absorption fridge with a chest-type compression fridge

We full-time in an Escape 5.0 and we've had it with the unreliability of the 3-way Dometic fridge that we currently have. As full-timers, supplementing with a cooler/ice chest is not going to cut it - we are looking to drop some coin on a reliable fridge that will actually hold appropriate temperatures.

We've been doing a lot of research on replacement options and we have a few requirements down:
1) it must be a danfoss compression fridge
2) it has to be a fridge/freezer combo
3) we want to be able to set the fridge and freezer to an actual temperature - and the fridge has to be able to hold that temperature, not fluctuate
4) Energy efficiency is important as well, so dorm and household fridges are not options

We've owned an indel B chest-style fridge in the past and we LOVED it. We also like that the chest-style fridges are better at keeping cooler air in, as it doesn't dump out every time you open the door like a stand-up fridge does. However, we're having a hard time conceptualizing how to install a chest-type fridge where the stand-up currently is.

Has anyone done this sort of switch before and have any advice? We're open to company suggestions as well of those who could help us with the installation/reworking framework, etc. We're currently in South Dakota but can travel to just about anywhere in the northern west from here to California.

Thank you!
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:00 PM   #2
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Aren't most RV fridges up high? It seems like you would want to relocate your chest fridge to a lower cabinet and probably mount it on a slide to you can pull out to open and push back in the rest of the time. Awkward but doable
Curious to see the suggestions you get.
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Old 08-28-2017, 11:33 PM   #3
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You could visit this website for a store called Sure Marine
That will give you a good overview of many different makes of 12 volt chest style fridge/freezers. Sure Marine does not sell 3 way fridges but what they sell typically will be OK for an RV. Not only will you find portable types but you will also find build it in styles that drop into your cabinet. Some of them even have the ability to remote mount the compressor slightly away from the unit. That can be a big advantage if you don't have a lot of cabinet depth from the face frame to the wall. You also have the advantage of having your own cabinet face on the front and you can even add extra insulation around the sides and bottom for even lower power consumption. Some of the drop in units do have a small section that is at freezing temperature. They also have options where you can build your own box and then put in the cooling plate that has a freezer section such as this "ice box conversion kit".

The Engel units are also very good quality and have low electricity demands. They use a different compressor than Dan Foss but it is also an excellent one.

While it is unusual to see top opening fridge/freezers in RVs they are very common in Europe and Australia. They are also very common to find in boats where having the contents unable to spill out of an open door is a real advantage.

Another fridge style to take a look at on the Sure Marine website is the drawer styles of fridges. Rather than opening a door you pull out the drawer. But drawer styles typically do not have a lot of height to the drawer which limits the use tall liter size pop bottles and tall half gallon or gallon sized milk cartons. But that is easy enough to get around, don't buy tall pop and you can transfer your milk to a shorter container. They are more expensive than other choices.
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Old 08-29-2017, 06:43 AM   #4
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You also may want to visit the Escape Owners Forum Escape Trailer Owners Community
where the switch has been discussed as well as completed.
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Old 08-29-2017, 07:49 AM   #5
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Your choices of fridges may be substantially limited by the entry door width of your Escape. Other Escape owners wishing to change out their fridges have run into a limitation whereby the maximum width of fridge that can be installed is governed by the width of the existing entry door in the trailer. I suggest that you do some measuring before you get too far into shopping for or purchasing a replacement fridge.
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Old 08-29-2017, 09:40 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
You also may want to visit the Escape Owners Forum Escape Trailer Owners Community
where the switch has been discussed as well as completed.
Hi Jim, I searched over there extensively and I could not find where anyone replaced their current fridge with a chest-style compression fridge - I only found hotfishtaco's build thread with the Nova Kool, which was a stand-up. I figured I would post over here first vs. the escape forum to broaden options as much as I could. Could you give me more details on some threads you're thinking of over there? So sorry to ask, but man I've been searching up and down and can't find much!
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Old 08-29-2017, 09:41 AM   #7
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Your choices of fridges may be substantially limited by the entry door width of your Escape. Other Escape owners wishing to change out their fridges have run into a limitation whereby the maximum width of fridge that can be installed is governed by the width of the existing entry door in the trailer. I suggest that you do some measuring before you get too far into shopping for or purchasing a replacement fridge.
Thanks Dave, we did the measurements and know we have 22" of width to work with to get it through the door
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Old 08-29-2017, 11:17 AM   #8
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Compression -> Compressor

I think you mean a "COMPRESSOR" fridge. like most of us have in our homes.... unless you want one that will pack in more stuff?
They might be noisy.
Years ago, there was a fridge made by Servell that was silent. It was an absorption type.
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Old 08-29-2017, 11:51 AM   #9
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I have no experience with the chest type fridges but think they are a great idea. I replaced the nonfunctional absorption fridge in my Scamp with the largest Truckfridge. Yes, it barely fit through the door of the Scamp even after taking the door off the fridge. There is a big "cold dump" every time we open the door, which is admittedly too often. Also, the freezer section, while very cold, is just a bit too small. It is a shame to have a real "freezer" that can not be fully taken advantage of because of the small size. All that said, if I had to do it over again I would install a smaller Truckfridge in the Scamp and have an additional chest type fridge as well. That way we could avoid the cold dump just to get drinks, or turn the chest type down cold enough to have a larger freezer for long boondocks, or could "remote" the chest type and take it with us in the truck when away from camp. In fact, I like the idea so much I may buy a chest type anyway.
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Old 08-29-2017, 12:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Wayne Collins View Post
I think you mean a "COMPRESSOR" fridge. like most of us have in our homes.... unless you want one that will pack in more stuff?
They might be noisy.
Years ago, there was a fridge made by Servell that was silent. It was an absorption type.
Thanks Wayne for the correction. The portable chest-type compressor fridges we've used/had in the past make small amounts of white noise, but I definitely wouldn't call them noisy. Our Maxx fan is louder than a compressor fridge. Absorption types are close to silent, but the one we have right now is causing my food to go bad so I'll gladly trade a silent fridge for one that can hold its temperature.
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Old 08-29-2017, 12:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Timber Wolf View Post
I have no experience with the chest type fridges but think they are a great idea. I replaced the nonfunctional absorption fridge in my Scamp with the largest Truckfridge. Yes, it barely fit through the door of the Scamp even after taking the door off the fridge. There is a big "cold dump" every time we open the door, which is admittedly too often. Also, the freezer section, while very cold, is just a bit too small. It is a shame to have a real "freezer" that can not be fully taken advantage of because of the small size. All that said, if I had to do it over again I would install a smaller Truckfridge in the Scamp and have an additional chest type fridge as well. That way we could avoid the cold dump just to get drinks, or turn the chest type down cold enough to have a larger freezer for long boondocks, or could "remote" the chest type and take it with us in the truck when away from camp. In fact, I like the idea so much I may buy a chest type anyway.
Hey Tim, we are considering the stand-up TruckFridge as a replacement if we can't finagle a chest-type fridge installation - besides the cold dump and the freezer size issue, how is yours doing as far as maintaining temperature? We extensively boondock as well, has the energy consumption been handleable?

It would be amazing to have both an upright and a chest-type for the extra freezing space, but these are some $$ fridges so we're going to stick with buying one for now! We've thrown around the idea keeping our current Dometic 3-way as it is and having a chest-type as a secondary, but we're tight on space to begin with and I honestly have no idea where we could even put the chest-type in the camper. Plus, the absolute pleasure we would get out of ripping out the Dometic 3-way and making it go away forever would be priceless
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Old 08-29-2017, 01:41 PM   #12
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do you have a fan in your fridge? they make a world of difference.
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Old 08-29-2017, 01:58 PM   #13
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do you have a fan in your fridge? they make a world of difference.
We do. We've also tried every trick in the book offered on the Escape Forums, from putting water in the little cup behind the vent to standing on our heads doing tribal chants. Bottom line is that the specific fridge we have is rated to perform optimally at 80 degrees F or lower, so it's an uphill battle expecting anything better when it the temperatures exceed 80. We've hit the limit with this fridge, time for something better!
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:04 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Denece View Post
Aren't most RV fridges up high? It seems like you would want to relocate your chest fridge to a lower cabinet and probably mount it on a slide to you can pull out to open and push back in the rest of the time. Awkward but doable
Curious to see the suggestions you get.
This is what comes to my mind as well. If the chest type unit you choose can fit into the space vacated by your old fridge, it should be possible to install a plywood platform with drawer slides. They make slides that affix to the 'drawer' bottom as well as side slides; which type you'd use depends on how much space is available. Then attach the fridge to the platform (or drawer, if you put sides on it) and roll the assembly out into the aisle when needed. Of course, you'd also need to rig up something to hold it in place during travel... that's the easy part.

I built something similar last month for one of our kitchen cupboards, using baltic birch plywood, pocket screws, and a pair of 100 lb capacity slides from Woodcraft.

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Old 08-30-2017, 05:46 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by TwoplusLu View Post
besides the cold dump and the freezer size issue, how is yours doing as far as maintaining temperature? We extensively boondock as well, has the energy consumption been handleable?.........................the absolute pleasure we would get out of ripping out the Dometic 3-way and making it go away forever would be priceless
The Truckfridge does use more power than I like. But, I think a lot of that is our going in and out of it so much. I have never finished the rest of the equation (solar panels and charge controller) which should take care of the issue. On a 7 day boondock I run the Honda 2K a few hours twice. Say on days 3 and 5. A few hours on eco mode and my dual 6V batts are back up from the 50% I try and use as a minimum charge level.

Yes, getting rid of the nasty old fridge was nice. The Truckfridge is a joy to use. At home or in camp with shore power it is a non-issue, as it is going down the road feeding off the tow vehicle. Boondocking I put out the portable solar and if I need to run the genny a little every few days so be it. And yes, the Truckfridge holds temp. That alone is worth it. I am not going camping to be aggravated.
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