Most RVs come with a refrigerator already locked and loaded into the vehicle itself. It is usually small, and not particularly high-powered. They lack the same cooling precision you would enjoy from a standard fridge, and are limited on space. While they’ll get the job done, many RV owners come to the conclusion of swapping them out for a standard model.
Replacing the fridge in your RV with a standard one can seem daunting. Thankfully, the steps required are a bit easier than they may appear from the outside. Before the installation, you’ll want to make a careful plan; it’s best to know exactly what you’re going to do prior to doing it.
To replace an RV refrigerator with a standard refrigerator, first, measure the space where your fridge will fit. Then, remove the old unit and install the new one after disconnecting the propane line. Power it on, and it’s ready to go.
How To Replace An RV Refrigerator With A Standard Refrigerator
Step One: Measure The Space
Before you start your swap, you’ll need to see how much space you have to work with. Using a tape measure, determine the depth, height, and length of the space you’ll be installing your fridge. Make sure to annotate these measurements for future reference. RV fridges tend to be smaller than standard ones, so you’ll need to find a new refrigerator that will work in the space.
Step Two: Transporting The New Units
That’s not the only thing you should measure, though. You’ll want to think about how the old fridge will leave the RV, and how the new one will come in. Measure the width of your fridge, and match that with the width of your door.
Keep in mind, you can turn the new fridge to get it in, so you might want to consider carrying it on its side (so that the fridge door is facing the door jamb of your RV). Measure the depth of the unit you’d like to use by running your tape measure across the top.
If you select a unit you can’t even get through the door of your RV, you’ll be left with a bigger problem than what you started with. Be mindful of your limited space and resources.
Older compression refrigerators need to be kept upright so that the intricate fluid dynamics can stay in place. Tilting a fridge on its side can disorient the fluid systems and cause problems, both short and long-term.
These older models also need to be kept on a completely level floor, which isn’t always possible due to the construction of many RVs.
If you buy a used standard fridge for your RV, find out when it was made. If it was made before 2005, keep these factors in mind as you transport the refrigerator into your home.
Step Three: Remove The Old Unit
Before removing the old unit, you’ll want to disconnect the 12V – 110V propane line and the ice maker line, if you have one. Handle the propane line carefully. Do not remove the cooling unit in the back, as this could cause caustic ammonia gas to escape.
While you’re disconnecting the old fridge, release the 12-Volt electrical wires and cap them with wire nuts.
If you’re not confident doing this, you can reach out to RV repair or installation specialists to do it for you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially in dealing with power lines and the like.
Look around for any other anchors or screws that are holding the fridge in place. You’ll want to keep these in mind, as they’ll be important in getting your new fridge settled.
Once it is completely disconnected, you should be able to walk the RV fridge out of the vehicle. It’s advised to have someone help out with this process.
Step Four: Install The New Fridge
Once the old unit is disconnected, hook the new fridge up, connecting it in the same places. Note that during this process, you’ll need a 120V AC 15amp breaker plus line from near the rear section of where the new fridge is being installed. You’ll find it in a panel on the back.
Connect the refrigerator to the ice maker line (if applicable) and power cord. If it feels loose, use fasteners to hold it in place.
Your fridge shouldn’t be flush against the wall. It is crucial that there’s enough airflow over the condenser tubes. This will keep your fridge running at top performance.
Step Five: Secure The New Refrigerator In Your RV
If the fridge feels loose, you might need to keep it in place with fasteners. Additionally, 2-3 self-tapping sheet metal screws should do well to keep it in one spot when you’re hitting the road.
If you need to keep the doors closed when you’re out on the road, using a child safety lock will do the trick. If you’re in a bind, try a strip of good old duct tape to hold it all together. For the most part, modern home refrigerators will have strong enough holding power to maintain their position through tight turns.
Step Six: Power Up The Refrigerator
Once everything is connected, you’re all done replacing your RV refrigerator with a standard refrigerator. It will run on your generator or the shore line when you’re hooked up to a campsite. If you’re dry camping, you can use the inverter, which draws power from your house bank batteries.
Most standard units do require a pure sine wave inverter; check your manual to see if you’ll need one as well.
What Are The Benefits Of Switching To A Standard Refrigerator
There’s nothing wrong with using the fridge that came standard in your RV. They’re built for the area, usually, and will last for quite a while. They’re usually made from more durable materials that can put up to the shaking and rattling of a trip in the RV.
There are some benefits, however, to replacing an RV refrigerator with a standard one.
- Affordability: RV fridges, because of the way they work, tend to run on the higher end than residential refrigerators. Having them serviced by an RV technician will also be pricier.
- Size: Home units are much larger than RV refrigerators. This is because the ones commonly used in RVs use an absorption system to cool food. The mechanics for that system take up a lot of space. RV fridges also require you to leave more space between food items to maximize the potential for cold. That means you can fit much less in.
- Enhanced temperature precision: Standard refrigerators are better at putting the air inside at just the right degree. Not only that, but they actually cool better than the absorption-cooling models in RVs
- More Features: Modern standard fridges can come decked out with any number of bells and whistles. Some have water dispensers, self-defrost, timers, and even smart features. There are models with Alexa or Google Home capabilities, screens that show what’s inside or what the weather is, and more. This is a place where RV fridges fall short.
There is one disadvantage though: standard home fridges aren’t meant to be off-the-grid. This means they won’t last while dry camping or otherwise disconnected from a power source. They can run off of an inverter or a generator, but this will be a greater drain on your overall power.
What Is The Difference Between An RV Fridge and a Standard Fridge?
The biggest difference between an RV fridge and a standard fridge is in how they keep food cold. It all comes down to their inner mechanisms. In short, RV fridges use a system that is similar to evaporative cooling, while standard fridges cool using compressed freon.
RV refrigerators are also known as absorption fridges. They don’t use compressed freon as home fridges do, and actually don’t have any moving parts at all.
They are, essentially, evaporative coolers. They use heat in concert with ammonia and hydrogen gas, which replicates a cooling evaporation effect. Water passes through the internal tubes, transferring heat energy. Because of the law of thermodynamics, this cools the interior of the fridge.
Thanks to this complicated process, you can run your RV fridge even when there isn’t an immediate source of electrical power. Instead of power, you can use propane to power the fridge; It doesn’t take much of your propane to stay cooling. In fact, some newer RV fridges will automatically detect when the power supply is low and jump to propane instead.
In contrast, standard fridges utilize the compression of freon to draw heat energy out of the area inside of the fridge and freezer. This is achieved by way of the 110 Volt AC current that home electrical systems use.
A lot of fridges also include a fan or blower system to circulate the cold air, and the freezer can vent cold air through to share with the fridge as well.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An RV Fridge?
This depends on a number of factors. Where you’re located, if you hire a specialist, and if you’re replacing with a standard fridge or another RV fridge. Most repair services are going to cost several hundred dollars, even gracing close to $1,000 for parts and labor. Plus, you’re going to have to supply the fridge yourself.
If you’re doing a DIY job, the cost to replace your RV fridge is the only expense you have to worry about. Unless, of course, you’re tossing your friend a few dollars to help you replace it, but that’s up to you.
The average cost of an RV fridge usually starts at around $1,100 dollars. That price tag will only climb as things get more luxurious, scraping the $3,000 or more mark.
The cost of a standard residential fridge starts as low as $300 for smaller, freezerless models. Ones that do have a freezer will have a different price tag depending on if that freezer is at the top or bottom, if it has a french door, is a side-by-side, or is a smart fridge. The highest-end fridges will fetch over $12,000. The mean average cost of a standard fridge is $1,500.
Of course, both have their own highs or lows on the price spectrum; shopping around, waiting for sales, and using coupons could help with the price.
As well, buying used can help you save a pretty penny for either type. If you’re very daring, you might even be able to find one for free by the side of the road, or on websites like Craigslist, eBay, or the Facebook Marketplace.
There are a lot of advantages to replacing an rv refrigerato with a standard refrigerator. You will enjoy more space, better features, and improved cooling capacity and accuracy. If you’ve got a bit of technical know-how, you can easily swap in one for the other.
You’ll want to measure your space, make sure you’re getting a fridge that can fit through your RV door, and nestle into the spot it will go in. Next, disconnect the old fridge and hook up the new one. Once you’ve powered up, you’re ready to go.
Standard fridges aren’t meant to be off-the-grid, since they only rely on electricity. Aside from that, though, when they are connected to power they will work perfectly in the place of an RV fridge in your vehicle.