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Author Topic: Fridge - propane or electric?  (Read 2887 times)
Geodesiq
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« on: August 23, 2009, 04:19:44 PM »

One conversion I'm looking at needs a new fridge. Propane fridges are pretty expensive. Any reason I couldn't use a standard domestic electric unit? Eventually I want to put PV panels on the roof and go all electric.
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2009, 04:28:22 PM »

Depends on how you plan to use your bus.  We have a house type refrigerator in our coach. It runs off our inverter when traveling down the road or dry camping. When dry camping, we have to run our generator a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the evening to keep the batteries up.  If plugged in via "shore cord", no problem.  Jack
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2009, 04:36:04 PM »

I have the electric. It has been in service about 5 years and works OK. The down side is it starts and stops all the damn time and that takes alot of electricity. I have a fair size battery bank, so I get by and it does what it is supposed to do. If I had propane though I could save alot of electricity for other things and could boondock longer without running the generator. It would be nice to have a little different timer set up on the electric so it would stay running for a while and maybe stay off for a little longer.
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2009, 04:56:29 PM »

Hello:    We have the 6 cu ft norcold propane electric  works well for us. Just spent 9 weeks on the road 5700 miles 16 states and never had a problem with how it worked and we do eat in most of the time.  1.5 cu ft freezer works well for our needs.WE can boondock for one week and water is the critical path.  100 gals lasts about a week with GI showers .  The washer shortens the time.  We can run the genny every other day unless the wife uses the toaster oven more than usual.
  FWIW
   Regards and happy bussin
    Mike
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2009, 05:15:13 PM »

Our Courier 96 came with an electric only fridge. It works well. However when boondocking, it uses a lot of battery reserve. We have 4, 6 volt golf cart batteries for the house with 2, 50 watt solar panels on the roof, which is not enough unless we sit in full sun in June/July. So we run the generator a couple of hours every day. If and when the fridge dies, I would replace it with a 3 way one: 12 V, 120V, propane.

JC
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2009, 06:49:38 PM »

We have a Kitchen Aid 18.8CF 120V refer.  It runs off an inverter when dry camping, and of course when plugged in it's on the shore power.

Going down the road it's running on the inverter and the generator on the engine charges the batteries faster than the refer uses them.

My wife love the space, in both the freezer and "cooler" areas.  LOTS more room than a typical propane RV refer.

I have the ice maker and auto defrost disconnected.

An the price was about 1/2 of what an RV propane refer was.

Would do it the same again.

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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2009, 06:55:00 PM »

Eventually I want to put PV panels on the roof and go all electric.

If your eventual goal is to go all electric, then it doesn't seem like investing in propane appliances now makes sense.  Beyond the cost of the appliance itself, you'd have the propane tank, and the piping, only to rip it out at some point later?

Personally, I like having propane as an alternative fuel source. I have this hang up on redundant systems. My fridge runs off of 110VAC or propane. My water heater uses propane or 110VAC.  I have a propane stove and oven, but also have an AC microwave and several other electric cooking appliances.  My furnace is propane, but I also have the bus engine heat and electric space heaters.  

Like anything else in busdom, it is your project and you should feel free to do it however you wish.
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2009, 07:34:14 PM »

FWIW when I built our bus the biggest mistake I made and there were also a few small one was going total electric.
We use our rig maybe 12 to 20,000 miles a year and slowly I am changing over to other sources of power a 240v cooktop sucks in a bus you plug in or run the generator for her to cook a 900amp battery bank is gone if the hot water heater kicks or you use the mircrowave while she is cooking.
Check Dynamx they have nice stuff a little pricey but nice
http://www.warehouseappliance.com


good luck
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2009, 08:25:37 PM »

Our bus had the 12V/120V Norcold (should be called nevercold) when we purchased it. I replaced it a few months ago with a Whirlpool 10 CU FT unit from Lowes; $349 plus tax. I installed the same fridge last year in our boat and both units have been excellent.

The insulation seems to be quite good and they will hold cold temps for a long time when shut off. They have a relatively low amperage draw both at start up and when running so they don't tax the battery bank too badly. They are frost free which is nice.

Just something to think about.

Paul
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2009, 08:35:16 PM »

I have the 6.3cu/ft Norcold ac/dc compressor type that has been in the bus for 14 years with no problems-course it is also a R12 freon refer.  The only complaint I have is the size and that in humid weather sometimes have to defrost it once or twice a week.
In my truck, I'm leaning towards a Summit 12.6cu/ft 120vac frostfree.  A new Norcold ac/dc 6.3 is around $1,400.00.  The new 12.6 Summit is around $680.00. I'm waiting for an email answer from Nick about the reliability of the Summit refrigerators since they are American made.  This refer is 70" tall x 26 x 26 and about 110lbs.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2009, 08:35:52 PM »

I messed with a propane fridge for three years and hated it. 
Finally bought a Summit super efficient 120 volt fridge, bought a cheezy Chinese $230 1000 watt/2000 surge pure sine inverter from ebay, rewired it's on off switch and the fridges' thermostat together so the thermostat in the fridge now controls it, bolted it to the back of the fridge- it's dedicated to the fridge only- and with the wiring changes it stays off until the fridge wants it- and it's wonderful!!!  Financially, the $680 Summit and the $230 inverter functionally equals a DC Norcold for A LOT less money and if the compressor ever goes it will be a LOT less to replace.  It's really cool, pun intended!!!!

Then I stuck 480 watts worth of solar panels up on the roof hooked to my house bank with an MPPT solar charge controller and hooked the inverter up...

WONDERFUL

No more leveling the bus
No more remembering to light the fridge or turn it off
No more food killed when the desert is just too hot for that stupid ammonia cycle fridge to get cold enough
Bigger fridge
No outside electricity or generator needed although when it's overcast for more than a few days and I'm on shore power my converter takes total care of it anyway
it's perfect!


That said, I still have propane for the stove, heating, water heater, and to run my gene.  I'd never change that.
But the fridge on solar? Yes, purrrrrr-fect!!!!!
Boogie
« Last Edit: August 23, 2009, 08:37:48 PM by boogiethecat » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2009, 08:41:32 PM »

We have a electric fridge. We love it. That said, we also have a large battery bank, so that helps a lot.

Otherwise we have the standard stuff that runs off of the battery bank. The only difference is, anything heat related, is off of our diesel fired instant hot water system. We don't have any propane, which also is nice. In VA beach, and the bridge tunnels, we don't have to stop. Smooth sailing.

FWIW.

God bless,

John
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2009, 11:16:44 PM »

Another option that's makes sense to me is to use a small chest freezer, either with an external home-brewing type thermostat or with its own thermostat modified, to function as a super-efficient fridge.   Plenty of other folk have tried it with good results:  http://www.mtbest.net/chest_fridge.html   For $300 or less one can get a freezer that will run for only 90 seconds to 2 minutes per hour when operating as a fridge, and you don't lose all the cold air every time you open the door.   The downside is that accessibility of contents is worse than an upright fridge, but for those energy savings I can live with that.   It will have a slightly larger footprint on the floor, but one can mount cabinets above it, so overall it may not affect usable kitchen space.

I plan on eventually having as many PV panels as I can afford, probably two completely separate sets of two or more 130W panels and charge controllers, each set feeding four golfcart batteries.   This way if one controller goes bad, or I need to work on one set of panels or batteries, I will still have 50% of my system working.   Even one set of panels/controller/batteries should easily handle the power demand of a freezer-fridge, even in winter.

Just (well-chilled) food for thought.   Has anyone one here tried this approach?
John
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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2009, 05:56:59 AM »

I have an electric fridge and like boogie have 480 watts of solar with blue sky controller. Even going down the road I let the solar panels do the charging on the house batteries unless it night time then I kick in the bus charging. Jerry
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« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2009, 06:12:38 AM »

Our bus had the 12V/120V Norcold (should be called nevercold) when we purchased it. I replaced it a few months ago with a Whirlpool 10 CU FT unit from Lowes; $349 plus tax. I installed the same fridge last year in our boat and both units have been excellent.

The insulation seems to be quite good and they will hold cold temps for a long time when shut off. They have a relatively low amperage draw both at start up and when running so they don't tax the battery bank too badly. They are frost free which is nice.

Just something to think about.

Paul


Geo,

I have the same fridge and it works great.  Not one single problem using it in a mobile vehicle.

I had a propane/12V/120 in my Class "C" and I hated it.  Never gets cold enough.

But we are weekenders and a few weeks here and there. We generally don't boondock for any long periods(over a week).  I power it on a small inverter when not running the generator or on shore power.


Paul,

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« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2009, 06:15:29 AM »

I have the three way fridge, I believe it is a Nor Cold. I love it it just takes care of it self. I valve on the propane and turn it on auto and it works great. I have never had a problem with it.

I could see the advantage of a full size fridge, ours gets stuffed with two boys on board but I would not trade the brain of this fridge for it.
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« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2009, 06:59:44 AM »

Other than the drivetrain and braking systems, I have no more used and depended upon part of our bus on trips than our Dometic propane/electric fridge. It is so nice to turn that on propane for a long drive and only run the generator if we absolutely have to. It uses almost no propane and really cools well.
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« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2009, 08:01:07 AM »

I chose a household fridge over an absorption fridge because I was never happy with the performance of the one in my travel trailer.  I also wanted more space.  I have 6 AGM batteries and can run the fridge by itself for about two days.  In real life with everything else using power I might get a day before I have to charge the batteries.

I use hook latches on the sides of the doors to keep my fridge doors closed.  I bought two nice stainless steel latches from McMaster-Carr.  They have bases with screw holes.  I used short screws to screw them to the fridge body and the edge of the door.  Some of the screws had to be secured with JB Weld as the metal is so thin.
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« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2009, 08:16:18 AM »

Guys, if you have the cash buy a Sun Frost 12/24 it will out preform any household fridge on the market for amps and run time runs off the battery bank no need for a inverter.  
And the Miller propane fridge is good preforming unit also and I have a Norcold 100# freezer 12v in the bay of my bus and it will run for week on a single 12 volt battery

good luck
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« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2009, 09:01:01 AM »

Our fridge is a 16 cu ft model that my daughter found on the side of the road with a works/free sign on it, it was out at the end of a driveway by the road lol, she backed up to it and loaded it into the back of her subaru wagon and brought it to me. I figured, ya sure, lol but plugged it in anyway and it ran perfectly so I figured it would work temporarily and wrassled it into the bus, it's been in there 6 years now and still works perfectly.
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« Reply #20 on: August 24, 2009, 09:14:06 AM »

I've never understood the aversion to propane that some people seem to have.  We have a Dometic 3-way fridge that has had all of the typical Dometic control board problems.  Last winter I installed a Dinosaur board and haven't had any problems since - yet.  Even with the Dometic problems I wouldn't want to be without propane.  It lets us run for extended periods on batteries.  We also have a propane cooktop and I would like to have some way to use propane for hot water but that is still a someday project.  More options is better as far as I am concerned.  If you are going to go electric only then look for the most efficient unit you can find.  Our Dometic would be somewhere on the other end of the efficiency spectrum which helps explain why I am so happy that we have the propane option.

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« Reply #21 on: August 24, 2009, 09:24:56 AM »

We have no aversion to propane, our revcon has a 12 cubic ft 3-way fridge and our bus has propane for the stove, but I did like the price on the fridge, free is always good lol.
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« Reply #22 on: August 24, 2009, 10:05:16 AM »

I would think that a well insulated  fridge would keep cool for quite a while.
I have a 2 way (110V - LP) in my camper that works well. I haven't had any problems with it so far. We use it differently than our home unit. We pre-cool everything before we put it in for the trip.

If I have to replace it, I'll put the same back because I don't want the weight of the batteries that would be required in a camper trailer.

In our first camper, we put in a 3 way(12V 110V LP) & won't bother with that 12V option ever again because the 12V amp draw was enough to quickly drain the batteries if you ran out of LP. When that happened, we had no lights & couldn't even cook the meat before it spoiled (primitive park with no outside fires- we didn't take a grill because we had the LP stove & didn't have room).  Sad 



For my bus, I'll probably use a 110v fridge that is the 'old style' that isn't frost free & doesn't use a fan. (The defroster eats a lot of electricity.)
I'll minimize its electricity needs by :
- disabling the heat strips around the door. (they are there to minimize condensation collecting there.)
- getting one that had the condenser coils on the back - they can be spaced further away from the box & more insulation can be installed to keep that heat away from the fridge.
- adding more insulation to the sides & door so it keeps cool longer.
- ducting an efficient as possible draft behind the fridge around the condenser coils to increase the efficiency of the fridge.
- modifying the setpoints on the thermostat so the compressor runs longer & starts less frequently.
- following Gary's lead with the dedicated inverter.

All these modifications will be something I can do that will give me the performance of a super high efficiency unit for less $$$. Since I'm building the bus interior, this will be included in the plan.
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« Reply #23 on: August 24, 2009, 03:36:28 PM »

First liar doesn't stand a chance. Wink Cheesy  I have an ancient 74 Winnebago.  I replaced the fridge last year, not because it didn't cool, but because I messed up the door in the thing.  Stupid mistake on my part.  Getting cold was never the problem.  The problem was that it froze everything in the bottom, lettuce, milk. whatever.  They make a little fan that runs off of a single d cell that lasts months and that kept the inside even cold and the thermostat always did work.  Never a single problem except that I replaced the door gasket.  Ran on almost no propane at all after the new gasket.  I have heard many bad reports about Norcold thru the years.

A friend bought a RV in process that was powered by a Old's Toranado that was turned around and mounted in the rear as a pusher.  The guy that had started the project, RV from scratch, frame up had died years ago.  The current owner was 80, had been able to do little with it but had kept it in a barn.  My friend gave up too and parted it out.  I got a brand new Dometic gas two way and a roof air new in the original box.  Dometic refer had never had gas or ac run to it and all the packing cardboard was still inside.  I paid $100 each forthe refer and AC unit and $25 for the HW heater....all labeled "1974", new and unused. 

Beat that, Cowboy!

John
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« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2009, 03:17:17 PM »

Some info at:  http://www.busconversions.com/bbs/index.php?topic=8110.msg80274;topicseen#msg80274
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« Reply #25 on: August 26, 2009, 05:47:37 PM »

Quote
I've never understood the aversion to propane that some people seem to have.

introduce a heavier than air highly inflammable gas to a vehicle which runs on nice safe diesel. not me.
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