Residential Refrigerator Upgrade

For those who are contemplating an upgrade to a residential style refrigerator I thought I’d share our experiences.  In April 2010 we upgraded our Norcold 1200 refrigerator to a residential unit.

The 1200 had a cooling unit failure – ammonia leak. It was not on the recall list and when contacted, Norcold was not willing to do anything other than selling us a replacement cooling unit.

What we decide to do instead was to upgrade to a residential unit – as large as we could go. We found a Samsung 21.5 cu ft. fridge that would fit the width, was only slightly deeper and for which we had space (with some cabinet changes) to fit the height.

The Samsung is model number RB217ABRS. It’s a bottom freezer with an ice-maker.

OMCC (Oregon Motor Coach Center) did all of the work for us – including an inverter upgrade (Xantrex 2000 MSW to a Magnum 2800 PSW), added 2 extra (and replaced the existing 2) 8D AGM batteries, re-wiring, etc. This brought us to 1,000 Amp Hours which is more than enough to get us by a full day without hook-ups or generator use.

One of the challenges was the latch to keep the doors closed while in motion. We initially started with some adhesive based fridge child locks. We didn’t want to modify the fridge so that the warranty would not be voided. These worked for about 1,000 miles of travel…at which point the door opened while underway.

What happened was two-fold – first, the adhesive gave way which was probably due to a combination of the heating coils in the doors/cabinets (auto-defrost) and vibration. Second was that the plastic catch on the latch was wearing down due to vibrations.

Rather than replacing regularly and waiting for the next failure, I fabricated my own latches. These were made from 1/8” steel, some ¾” #1/4×20 hex nuts, steel pins and 3M 5952 adhesive tape.

The latches are held onto the door & fridge side with the 3M tape on a 3” long piece of ¾” wide 1/8” steel. We selected the tape as it will tolerate the temperature fluctuations from the heating coils and has a shear strength of approximately 90 lb./cu in. Theoretically, this means that it would take 202.5 lb. of force to cause the tape to fail.

Welded to the vertical is a horizontal strip. On the door side it is 1” long and on the cabinet side it is approximately 2 ½” long. The cabinet side has 2 of the hex nuts welded to it.  One for storage of the pin when not latched and the other for the latch. On the door side is a single hex nut. The important thing is that the pin on the door and cabinet are aligned when this is installed. The pin is just a steel retaining pin.

Finally, I sprayed the latches (except where the adhesive tape would go) with a couple of coats of Plastic-Coat.

While the latches are not pretty, they look fine from normal viewing (in-use) distances and certainly someone who is a better welder could do a much better job. More importantly, they have been working fine.

OMCC also extended the pedestal so that we retained the drawers below the fridge. In addition they sealed the exterior side wall vent so that dust wouldn’t be drawn in. The roof vent was retained and there is still clearance around the sides and top for air flow to meet the fridge’s requirements.


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