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Replaced an RV Fridge with a Residential Unit

Posted 02-03-2017 at 09:03 AM by CountryFit
Updated 01-01-2019 at 04:33 PM by CountryFit

most rvers are aware that the rv fridge (aka absorption fridge) is fundamentally different than the residential fridge. the rv fridge uses propane/electric heat elements to make the heat exchange via ammonia and hydrogen while residential fridge is using an electric compressor to circulate the media "freon" to achieve the same goal. the good thing about rv fridge is - with a tank of propane, you can stay in a remote area boondocking for months without losing the refrigeration. the bad part is mainly for three things:

(1) it requires rv be leveled at all times whenever you are using the fridge or it won't last long; about 7 years in our experience (two ndr1292's had been consumed in 14 years).

(2) the media ammonia and hydrogen in the system are prone to leak. if it ever happens, with active fire nearby, the hydrogen could be ignited, thus it posts a fire risk.

(3) an rv fridge costs way more than a residential unit in a comparable size. for the very reasons, some rvers have converted their rv fridge into a residential unit.

our rv fridge was made by dometic model no. ndr1292. it looked pretty good then. stainless steel with double doors:

no matter how it's looking good, once it quit working, it's a real pita - thawed frozen stuff, spoiled foods... had to be thrown away . it began in november last year (2016) that it refused to work - a puddle of yellowish residue (sodium-chromate) was seen in the burner area. i had a post here.

at the time, my dw and i felt we had enough with this thing, time for a home fridge. i checked the user forums and called around for a new residential fridge. the most popular unit for RV application was samsung rf18. the least cost to install it (labor) was quoted $1100 by a shop in eugene, oregon. they told me that, for our rv, they had to move the old one out and move the new one in through a window, because the rf18 was fatter than the front door width, and much wood work needs to be done, ie. removing the drawers under it and lowering the fridge flooring... i asked the question on this board here.

and, if i went there to get the job done, not only had i to wait until april we could go, but also at the time, no choice but to grab one at whatever the price a store was selling it for. i figured, i would probably end up with paying around $2500 or so in total.

i pondered, hmm... i had been doing almost all upgrades/mods around my rv myself. for a fridge, it's just a fridge, couldn't i do it? i decided to tackle it myself and set the criteria for what we need:

(1) stainless steel unit, the same material as the ndr1292 was using
(2) interior cubic size equal to or greater than ndr1292's
(3) bottom freezer
(4) fit in the space where the ndr1292 was sitting in. no major wood work to be involved
(5) able to move in through the front entrance

after much research, two units came on my radar - magic chef mcbm920s1 and ge gbe10esjsb. both fit in the space without problems, bottom freezer, and almost with the same size. the differences were -

(1) price disparity: magic chef was on clearance sale but ge was 3 x of that and needed a special order.
(2) user reviews on home depot website were mixed on magic chef (a few for noise level) while somewhat positive on ge.

at the end, i decided to take the chance for magic chef. if it fails someday, we'd just lose that small amount, not a big deal; and i'd gain experience for a better one down the road.

during the process, i spent more time to remove the old unit than install the new one. i posted one here.

after much back and forth, trials and errors, i got it done. the only time i needed helping hands was moving the old box out and moving the new one in through the front door, and onto a platform that i made so to move it around by myself. i had a friend come over...

now the fridge is running, the wife is happy so am i.

here is how it looks like today:

edit on 2/20/17:
(1) after about 3 weeks' use, we were very happy about it. it's much quieter than what was anticipated; quieter than the samsung double door unit we had in our home.

(2) there was a plastic drain plate with expansion tubing floating on the compressor. i made two brackets to fasten it and added a tube drain. all is good now.

(3) although its storage capacity is bigger than ndr1292's; the new fridge width is narrower by about 8.5 inches (much deeper though). surely we can use the extra space - a perfect place for our two folding chairs. when just dw and i, we use two soft cloth chairs for the dinning table. when friends come, we'd pull out those two folding chairs. i'll make a door for it in the same style as with other cabinets.

edit on 1/15/18:
this was done three months ago but i had not got a chance to update. for the side cabinet door, instead of making it wood, i actually made it stainless steel -

note the side door has a different direction of the grains than the fridge's, resulting in the color being a little off, but not really noticeable. for the cost of $100, we can live with it .

it's been more than one full year since i finished the install. it still works perfectly.

a side note - this unit requires a true sine wave inverter. i had had a magnum ms2812 already so that was not a problem.
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Total Comments 4


  1. Old Comment
    chitimacha's Avatar
    Did the old and new fit thru the door what was the brand of the new one you purcased
    Posted 01-31-2018 at 01:42 AM by chitimacha chitimacha is offline
  2. Old Comment
    CountryFit's Avatar
    yes, both went through the front door. for the old one, i removed the heating unit then moved the box out. for the new one, i removed the doors and moved in.
    Posted 03-01-2018 at 10:49 AM by CountryFit CountryFit is offline
    Updated 03-26-2018 at 11:05 AM by CountryFit
  3. Old Comment
    Jager's Avatar
    I'm looking to do this conversion also. I am looking for fridge units that will fit in the hole. Did you have any other LP appliances that you had to worry about or you left LP in your unit and just changed the fridge?
    Posted 05-20-2019 at 05:21 PM by Jager Jager is offline
  4. Old Comment
    CountryFit's Avatar
    At the space behind the fridge, I capped two pipes with brass caps - propane and water. Nothing to worry about.
    Posted 05-20-2019 at 08:25 PM by CountryFit CountryFit is offline
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