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Even if your existing fridge is running okay

Have you noticed the refrigerator in your RV isn’t cooling the way you’d like it to? Have you noticed the temperature in the refrigerator rises dramatically when the door is opened and takes too long to cool off again, sometimes leaving your food too warm to be safe? Do you find it irritating that your RV has to be level for your refrigerator to run? This can be a problem, especially when boondocking out in the wilderness where level ground is rare. In the heat of the summer, does your RV refrigerator struggle to stay cold enough and the freezer section doesn’t keep food frozen? These are all problems RVer’s have had to contend with for decades, since RV’s first moved away from ice chests to gas absorption refrigerators.

Recently, a customer contacted us to upgrade the solar and batteries in his small, but beautiful Airstream camp trailer.

He wondered if the new solar/batteries would make his original Dometic 3-way refrigerator run better. We explained that gas absorption fridges, which is what most RVs have, don’t work well on electricity or solar, but the new 12V high efficiency compressor fridges do, with the added bonus that they have 30-40% more interior space in the same foot print as the old gas fridge. Leisure Solar is a dealer for Indel B coolers and refrigerators. It seemed that the Indel B Cruise 130 refrigerator (also sold as Truck Fridge TF-130 ) would be the best replacement for the old Dometic gas absorption refrigerator.

There are many reasons you would want to upgrade from a gas absorption 2 way or 3 way fridge to an Indel B refrigerator. Here are the most important negatives of this type of refrigerator and why our customer wasn’t happy with it.

  • Gas absorption refrigerators use boiling ammonia to cool the unit. It uses propane, 120V electricity, or sometimes 12V batteries to boil the ammonia. I bet many of you didn’t realize that. Propane works the best.

  • Manufacturers recommend that propane be turned off when the RV is moving. How do you keep it cold when traveling?

  • These refrigerators are energy hogs so they are usually only run on 12V battery power for short periods of time. They are advertised as being solar ready but solar cannot keep up with the power needs of this fridge.

  • Running on electricity it uses 2000 to 3000 watts per day. (To illustrate how much power this is, your 18 cu ft home energy star refrigerator uses 1000 watts per day.)

  • These refrigerators require outside air circulating to keep from overheating. The fan blades in the back of the unit take away from the interior space that could be used for food. The interior space of the original Airstream Dometic fridge was 3.5 cu ft.

  • It does not have good control of the cooler and freezer temps, especially in hot weather.

  • There can be safety issues with the gas absorption refrigerators. Not only can food go bad, under certain circumstances, but there is always a chance that the ammonia gas will leak into the cabin of the RV, or overheat and catch fire. Don’t believe us? Check the internet for ammonia fridge fires.

  • The interior temp of the fridge can increas up to 8 deg when the door is opened. Once the fridge has become too warm, it can take hours to get back to the proper temperature.

Some of the reasons we recommended the owner of the Airstream trailer upgrade to an Indel B CR 130 refrigerator:

  • The Indel B refrigerator uses a Danfoss (Secop) high efficiency 12V compressor to cool the fridge. The daily energy usage is only 300-500 watts. No LP gas needed!

  • The refrigerator does not require outside cooling, increasing the interior size by 30%, which bumped the food storage size for the Airstream from 3.5 cu ft to 4.5 cu ft in the same space as before!

  • The Indel B runs off of electricity only, no propane. Because of it’s high efficiency, it can be run on battery power and is truly solar ready.

  • This refrigerator runs fine on as much as a 20% tilt, unlike the gas absorption fridge, which has to be perfectly level to run. Great for those boondocking trips. And very safe!

  • The Indel B can run on 12 V while the RV is going down the road. It can legally keep your food cold or frozen while traveling through tunnels or on ferry boats.

Although the Indel B CR 130 refrigerator is 12 V and solar ready, to be completely efficient for long periods of time, it needs an appropriate battery bank or the RV has to be hooked up to the running vehicle using a 7 way plug. A single 100AH Lithium battery will run this fridge for 3-4 days, with no sun at all! A single 100W solar panel will produce enough power in one day to run this fridge for 24 hours.

Needless to say, our customer loved this upgrade. As a bonus, the Indel B CR130 was less expensive than a new replacement Dometic 3.5 cu ft refrigerator would have been. He couldn’t go wrong and neither can you.

The installation took approximately 5 hrs to remove the old Dometic, and retrofit the new indel B into the same space. This situation was a little unique so it took a little longer than usual. In a different camper, it could take as little as 2 hours to install. It is not a difficult install for the DIYer. If you would like to have us publish our install notes, leave us a comment or call or email us.

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