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Old 10-22-2021, 09:45 AM   #1
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Norcold 1210 Not Cooling - REPAIR

I’m posting this because it might help others to fix their RV refrigerators relatively easily and save a LOT OF MONEY. This happened in late 2021.

The 2017 Norcold Model 1210 in my Newmar coach recently stopped cooling in both the freezer and refrigerator. I have wireless temperature sensors in both compartments, so I noticed the increasing temperatures the day they began. Both the propane burner and the AC heating elements were functioning properly. I noticed that the collection tank in the cooling unit was getting warm to the touch but the cooling pipes remained cool.

Fortunately a fellow RVer was an amazing DIYer, and he had experienced the same problem about 3 years ago. He told me that since the heating elements were working properly AND the tank was getting warm, there was probably something plugging up the cooling unit, most likely ammonia crystals but possibly a piece of welding slag. He said the collection tank, the large vessel at the bottom of the cooling pipes, should NOT BE WARM. Since it was, that was a clear indication that hot fluid (ammonia/water mix) was flowing in a reverse direction.

Here was his suggestion, and it worked on his DOMETIC refrigerator three years earlier: remove the refrigerator and flip it upside down about FIVE times. As a side note, the repair facility that was going to install a new cooling unit to the tune of $1500-$2000 told me, “in the old days people used to flip their cooling units upside down.” I can assure you that flipping the entire refrigerator is a LOT EASIER than removing the cooling unit to flip it.

You need two people to do this job. And if you’ve never removed one before, it’s best to have an experienced “guide” to show you the way. Don’t try and remove a refrigerator by yourself. However, I was surprised at how easy it was to remove. We dropped it onto a pad on the floor to protect the flooring. Flipping it upside down was easy - WITH TWO PEOPLE. We could hear the fluid course through the system each time we rotated it, each time seeming to get ‘better’.

We reinstalled it and turned it on PROPANE because that heats the ammonia fluid quickest. We set it on the highest cooling setting - 9. Within four hours, the freezer was at 8 degrees Fahrenheit and the refrigerator was at 40 degrees and dropping. By the next morning, with food inside, the freezer was at 10 degrees and the refrigerator at 32!

It’s been a week now, and the refrigerator is working better than it ever has. We are aware that whatever plugged up the system may still be there. If it was ammonia crystals, we hope they broke up into small enough pieces so that they won’t replug the system. As I said earlier, our new friend’s fridge has been working for three years without issues after he did this same repair.

We not only saved $1500 to $2000 for a new cooling unit, but we also saved the trouble of having to take it to the repair facility. We are full timers, and that would have been a bite in the booty. The entire job took about four hours. I should add that we purchased this coach used in late 2020. The original owners bought it in December 2017. We have no idea if they ran the refrigerator out of level, which is apparently when the ammonia will crystallize.
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Old 10-22-2021, 11:38 AM   #2
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Yes, this is an old "trick" and will occasionally work, but will be temporary because the damage has been done and cannot be reversed. The cooling unit is failing. It's not ammonia crystals it's sodium chromate that's used as a corrosion inhibitor. When plated out due to overheating, not only can it plug the system, it can no longer do its job, and the inside of the tubing will corrode through resulting in a leak and complete failure. Note that will it doesn't always happen, the leak can cause a fire. It's best you immediately heed that warning your cooling unit has given you and get it replaced or look for a new refrigerator.
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Old 10-22-2021, 01:58 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by astrnmrtom View Post
Yes, this is an old "trick" and will occasionally work, but will be temporary because the damage has been done and cannot be reversed. The cooling unit is failing. It's not ammonia crystals it's sodium chromate that's used as a corrosion inhibitor. When plated out due to overheating, not only can it plug the system, it can no longer do its job, and the inside of the tubing will corrode through resulting in a leak and complete failure. Note that will it doesn't always happen, the leak can cause a fire. It's best you immediately heed that warning your cooling unit has given you and get it replaced or look for a new refrigerator.
Correct^^^^

Sodium Chromate crystalizes when overheated
Crystals are permanent...do not go back into solution
Jarring them loose just suspends them in the coolant solution and will plate out elsewhere

Kicking the can down the street.......

It's a gamble so hope your dice roll doesn't come up snake eyes.
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Old 10-22-2021, 04:58 PM   #4
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Hi ! Welcome to IRV2! We're sure glad you joined us!

Thanks for your report! Hopefully, this will help another RV'er having the same problem. I've heard of that being done, but don't remember reading about someone here doing it. Glad it worked out for you!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
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Old 10-22-2021, 05:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by hjabernathy View Post
We not only saved $1500 to $2000 for a new cooling unit, but we also saved the trouble of having to take it to the repair facility. We are full timers, and that would have been a bite in the booty. The entire job took about four hours. I should add that we purchased this coach used in late 2020. The original owners bought it in December 2017. We have no idea if they ran the refrigerator out of level, which is apparently when the ammonia will crystallize.
Good on you that you got it working again.

Now take around 150- 200 of those dollars you saved and buy a Fridge Defend. ( https://www.arprv.com/ ) It just might save you further problems down the road.
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Old 10-31-2021, 01:42 PM   #6
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Two “Weak” Update

I used the word “weak” in the title to indicate short-term. First, let me thank those that took the time to reply to my posting. I really appreciate the information. As a result of the first reply, I did some research into the issue of a non-cooling RV absorption refrigerator, or as some sarcastically say “No Cold” in direct reference to my brand of fridge.

Whereas the HVAC certified friend who helped me solve my no-cooling problem told me that it was ammonia crystals causing the problem, I now know that it was Sodium Chromate crystals. I found a web site that showed a cutaway of a cooling tube with crystallized sodium Chromate inside. So I now know what this looks like. Not good for sure.

It has been two weeks since we affected the repair. So far, the refrigerator has been working better than it ever did. It has been holding temps of 13-15 in the freezer and 32-40 in the refrigerator. The latter temps depend solely on where I place the sensor - in the bottom near the veggies or up high next to the fins. We have been running settings as low as 3 and as high as 7. The outside temperatures here in Tucson in late October have been in the high 80’s to low 90’s.

I am well aware that we are still sitting “at the crap table”, hoping that the dice don’t come up SNAKE EYES. In this regard as I said in my original post, my friend did this to his absorption refrigerator THREE YEARS AGO, and it has worked without a reoccurrence of the no-cooling problem since. So I’m not convinced that solving a non-cooling problem with this “trick” of flipping the fridge over five times at least is a recipe for disaster as some have inferred. Time will tell with ours.

As part of my research, I checked out replacing the absorption cooling unit with either a NORCOLD OEM or going with an Amish unit from JC Refrigeration. The cost of the Norcold unit is about $1280 plus tax from the “GREAT ZON” (Amazon). The cost of an Amish unit is $1,095 with $180-$250 shipping and no sales tax if you don’t live in Indiana. So they’re pretty close in cost. From what I’ve read over several years time, the Amish units are far superior to OEM cooling units. I don’t have the technical knowledge to support these opinions. I’ve decided I could do the replacement myself with a laborer helper, saving me several hundred dollars in labor costs.

I also investigated converting the cooling unit to a 12-volt Freon Compressor unit from JC Refrigeration. This unit costs $1,095, the same as a new absorption unit. It pulls 90 watts/7.5 amps. For my Norcold 1210 model refrigerator, the conversion is similar in complexity to installing a new absorption unit. We have a fine solar power system, 760 watts of panels and four 100 amp/hr lithium batteries, so we’re confident that we could power the 12-volt compressor without draining the batteries. We have a 5500 watt generator in the rare event that the batteries need charging. As a note, JC Refrigeration recommends a minimum of 600 watts of panels and 200 amp-hrs of lithium battery storage.

I am seriously drifting towards installing the Freon Compressor unit. For one thing, I wouldn’t need the suggested FRIDGE DEFEND since it defends against fires from the burner unit. And as a good friend jokingly said, “I’d get rid of the ‘ammonia bomb’.” The reviews on this unit are pretty darn good. Most people say they run on a setting of 2 and get freezer temps of 10 or lower. Mortons On The Move installed this unit several years ago and did a video in both the installation process and a six month update. They said they’ve seen power consumption of 400-800 watt/hrs on average and a maximum of about 1.5kw/hrs under hot weather conditions. We could handle this degree of power consumption with our solar power system.

For now, we are letting the “bet/repair” ride. We have a until April of 2022 before we begin our next long journey, a return to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland from Tucson.
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Old 10-31-2021, 02:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hjabernathy
I am seriously drifting towards installing the Freon Compressor unit. For one thing, I wouldn’t need the suggested FRIDGE DEFEND since it defends against fires from the burner unit. And as a good friend jokingly said, “I’d get rid of the ‘ammonia bomb’.” The reviews on this unit are pretty darn good. Most people say they run on a setting of 2 and get freezer temps of 10 or lower. Mortons On The Move installed this unit several years ago and did a video in both the installation process and a six month update. They said they’ve seen power consumption of 400-800 watt/hrs on average and a maximum of about 1.5kw/hrs under hot weather conditions. We could handle this degree of power consumption with our solar power system
As an aside, my 2020 Norcold 1210 properly installed in a slide (as validated by Norcold at the Georgetown factory) will put the freezer into the single digits and the fridge at 35 - 37 with a setting of 2 as well.

That's with an outside air temp in the 80's with direct afternoon sun on the slide containing the fridge.

1.5 hours since being turned on the freezer is below 32 degrees F.

6.5 hours since being turned on the fridge is at 37. These temps are with nothing in the freezer or fridge.

The electric heaters pull a maximum of 450 watts.

FWIW,

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Old 10-31-2021, 03:08 PM   #8
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Thanks for the data Ray. When we turned on our 1210 after the “repair”, it got down to 8 degrees in the freezer in 3 hours on a setting of 9 with nothing inside either the freezer or refrigerator compartments. That was at elevation in the SOCAL mountains with outside temperatures in the low 70’s. Our fridge is not in a slideout, but I don’t think that’s material to the discussion at hand.

I do wonder about the “certainty”, expressed by people posting herein, that all the Sodium Chromate crystallized. That is my take from reading the replies. I see no fault with reasoning that only a small number of crystals formed, and one of those buggers happened to plug the lines. In this case, it seems probable that most of the Sodium Chromate remains in solution, remaining active as a corrosion inhibitor. However, I’m also sure that some people don’t think it’s worth the risk to rely on a “repair” as we affected. The jury is still out, but “it” is moving towards a “best be safe than sorry” decision.
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Old 10-31-2021, 11:30 PM   #9
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Norcold 1210 Not Cooling - REPAIR

Quote:
Originally Posted by hjabernathy

I do wonder about the “certainty”, expressed by people posting herein, that all the Sodium Chromate crystallized. That is my take from reading the replies. I see no fault with reasoning that only a small number of crystals formed, and one of those buggers happened to plug the lines. In this case, it seems probable that most of the Sodium Chromate remains in solution, remaining active as a corrosion inhibitor.
Installs in a slide can be far more problematic performance-wise because the exhaust heat needs to make a 90 degree turn at the top to exhaust because there is no roof vent.

Unless your coolant tubes are a lot narrower than mine I'd think a huge chunk of crystals would be needed to even obstruct a tube by 50%.

And that chunk had to go somewhere. Maybe flipping it upside down broke one big chunk down into smaller ones but they could easily re-form and cause a blockage, resulting in a boiler overheat at any time.

So it's good you do not consider that a permanent fix. An over-temp had to occur for the crystals to form and I know the later models can be operated further off-level without damage than the old ones could.

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Old 11-01-2021, 11:25 AM   #10
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Just for clarification:
I nor others didn't state 'ALL of the Sodium Chromate' crystalized
Crystallization is a result of overheating of the coolant due to lack of flow which is caused by off-level operation of even 20 minutes.
It is accumulative over time...not one and done situation
Crystals are permanent once formed ---do not go back into solution but can be jarred loose....floating/moving along within the coolant flow until they reattach elsewhere. Simple physics

Cooling unit tubing.....dual tubing---tube inside a tube for coolant flow in one direction, water flow indifferent direction, hydrogen gas flow, strong or weak ammonia flows.

ARPrv Fridge Defender.....
Not a 'fire prevention' device
It is a Full Time Monitoring/Control Device that monitors/tracks coolant temp in real time, shuts down the DC/stops heat IF coolant temp STARTS to increase above Normal Operating Temps BEFORE coolant overheats therefore prevent Sodium Chromate crystal formation.
Then restarts the heating cycle automatically when coolant temp drops back into Normal Temp Range
Don't even know it is functioning unless you are off level for extended time

Fridge fires....
Yes that have occurred.
Hot ammonia and Hydrogen gas can/does ignite should a leak occur
Most fridge fires are result of RV MFG NOT properly installing the fridges
Electrical fires & exposed/uninsulated areas where flue gasses can cause charring/overheating of wood are more common then cooling leak causing a fire

Absorption refrigeration is an old/proving technology
Unfortunately...RV MFGs are cause of majority of cooling issues due to NOT following known installation requirements



Although your freezer temps are still too warm....should be 10*F or colder to be properly functioning
May your fridge continue to operate/cool for years to come should you keep it.
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Old 11-01-2021, 12:13 PM   #11
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Fridge fires....
Yes that have occurred.
Hot ammonia and Hydrogen gas can/does ignite should a leak occur
Most fridge fires are result of RV MFG NOT properly installing the fridges.
Electrical fires & exposed/uninsulated areas where flue gasses can cause charring/overheating of wood are more common then cooling leak causing a fire.

Absorption refrigeration is an old/proving technology,
unfortunately...RV MFGs are cause of majority of cooling issues due to NOT following known installation requirements.


May your fridge continue to operate/cool for years to come should you keep it.
This is what I have suspected for many years. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it a bad idea to have the fridge in a slide-out? Hot air rises, so venting through the roof should be the best way. Adding fans to help move the hot air out is a solution, but a poor one IMHO.
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Old 11-01-2021, 12:56 PM   #12
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This is what I have suspected for many years. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it a bad idea to have the fridge in a slide-out? Hot air rises, so venting through the roof should be the best way. Adding fans to help move the hot air out is a solution, but a poor one IMHO.
Dometic and Norcold provide Installation Instructions for all models ...cut out dimensions, clearances, ventilation along with the NEED for fans to provide required airflow/draft

Several models come with OEM Fans
RV MFGs that install fridges in slideouts should install fans as per the Installation Instructions

Absorption fridges CAN perform within design specs when installed in slideouts when 'draft' is properly achieved by the addition of fans AND Baffles to direct the airflow up and out top sidewall vent.

Clearances (0" - 1"), airflow/draft, Baffles and and absorption fridge can preform as well as a residential.
It is slower to recover lost cooling (window shopping) then a Compressor Unit but that is due to thermal dynamics of absorption cooling process.


Yes I am a 'fan' of absorption fridges. They work as designed and are COOL.......but then again I am an Old Boiler Operator that likes things that utilize fire to achieve other goals
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Old 11-01-2021, 08:22 PM   #13
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Let me say that this is one of the most informative and civil discussions that I have been involved in. I am no stranger to written conflict over an argumentative issue. Thank you to everyone involved. I am still on the steep part of the learning curve regarding absorption and Freon refrigeration. I’m enjoying the “climb”.
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Old 11-03-2021, 11:50 AM   #14
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In regards to the suggestion that the freezer temperature should be less than 10 degrees F, I don’t necessarily agree. The difficulty with maintaining such a low freezer temperature lies with the general design and function of an RV refrigerator. There is no way to separately control the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer compartments. After reading Old Biscuit’s comment about having freezer temperatures of “less than 10 degrees”, I increased the refrigerator setting from 3 to 7. On 3, the freezer was running 14 and the refrigerator about 35-39. Within 12 hours of increasing the setting to 7, the freezer was at 9 degrees and the refrigerator at 29 near the cooling fins. This refrigerator temperature is too low; milk is so cold it nearly ices over and vegetables freeze. This is unacceptable. I’m open to any suggestions to alleviate this conundrum.

I do not have a fin fan in the refrigerator compartment; it would probably drop the temperature in the lower part of the refrigerator where the veggies are located.

I will consider installing a Fridge Defend. Thanks for this tip.
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