Replacing the Propane Refrigerator with an Electric Compressor One

Propane refrigerators are a pain. They don’t work very well at their best. They are smaller on the inside than compressor fridges that fit in the same space, due to a lot of space being taken up by the propane apparatus. They require that the RV be carefully leveled when stationary, or they can be damaged! Defective ones have often caused RV fires and there are recall notices on several models. They use lots of propane.

My 400+ Watts of solar panels could support a compressor fridge at less than 25% of the rated wattage (panels in real-life situations and without sun-tracking can be expected to produce 25% of rated power), and I wasn’t satisfied with the operation or the internal size of my propane ‘fridge, I replaced it with a Dometic CR-1110. This fits in the same space, with some slight enlargement of the cabinet opening. The CR-1110 is deeper than the propane ‘fridge but there’s room for it in the cabinet.

The CR-1110 comes with a nice metal bezel that won’t work with the Trailmanor cabinet. It’s easy to remove.

I wanted to deal with some other problems with the cabinet while I replaced the refrigerator. The vent panels were an entry point for rodents and mud daubers. Some of plastic around the openings of the vent panels had been gnawed away and the fiberglass insulation on top of the propane ‘fridge had mouse damage. The refrigerator cabinet coupled outside air to the inside of the trailer and leaked inside heat to the outdoors, as there was a big open air space under the refrigerator and the sides of the cabinet were made of thin masonite.

My new installation would seal the cabinet from the inside of the trailer, insulate part of the cabinet with foam sheets. The installation was both to keep the cabinet from leaking heat and to reduce the number of spaces that rodents could inhabit. The back of the refrigerator, where the motor and condenser are, are still in open air.

Foam sheets were cut to fit on the side and bottom of the refrigerator, to fill up all of the empty space around the ‘fridge and to keep air, warmth, and uninvited guests from passing through there. IMG_20160303_121248I glued the sheets to the sides of the cabinet with silicone, and cut a sheet so that the refrigerator feet would pass through it but it would seal air flow under the refrigerator. IMG_20160303_121450 (1)I just placed the refrigerator on top of that bottom sheet and slid the combination into the cabinet.

The refrigerator cabinet top, with the new insulation showing.
The refrigerator cabinet top, with the new insulation showing.
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The refrigerator, before molding was installed.

 

The cabinet opening around the refrigerator was sealed with silicone caulk, and then wooden molding was placed around the refrigerator opening to cover up the gaps around the ‘fridge.

The cabinet fan provides airflow when the refrigerator is used with the Trailmanor folded up, which obstructs the vent panels. There are two screened openings on the bottom of the cabinet, with a fan in one. The old fan was replaced with a 120mm computer fan, which pushes sufficient air and can’t be heard in the trailer. The duct on the fan was removed, I’m not sure it’s necessary and there isn’t room for the round duct any longer. A rectangular duct would work.

The CR-1110 works on both AC and 12-24VDC. We pulled the trailer to Santa Barbara for a week, and used the trailer with a hookup. It worked excellently. I’ve not finished the solar system yet, but will get to try it out boondocking when I do.