RV FRIDGE SWAP – Norcold 2118 to Samsung RF18 – Absorption To Residential

Looking to swap out your RV fridge for a residential one? Let’s talk about that…

Our Experience

For the past 4 years my wife and I have been living full time, on the road, in our 2020 Grand Design 397TH.

Our rig came stock with a Norcold 2118 Polarmax, which is an awesome 18 cubic foot RV fridge. It’s also a gas absorption fridge which means it has the ability to run on either electric or propane and switch between the two automatically, which is really useful for conserving power while dry camping out in the middle of nowhere and for keeping things cold during a power outage.

After about 3 years, we noticed our milk was starting to spoil sooner than the expiration date and so I began monitoring the temperatures and noticed they were a getting a bit too high during the hottest hours of the day. So I started with the standard troubleshooting steps…

Finding The Problem

✓ I checked the seals around the door to make sure there were no air leaks, and all was good there.

✓ I also checked the interior fan and it was blowing as it should.­­­

✓ The exterior fans also seemed to also be working as they should, but just in case they were running slower than they used to, I tried boosting the airflow with a powerful desk fan, but that made no difference either.

✓ It’d also been a while since I’d defrosted the freezer, so I tried that, but still no improvement.

✓ I tried running on electric only. I tried running on propane only. No difference.

Day by day, the temps were slowly creeping higher and higher…

As I investigated deeper, I discovered this yellowish green substance inside the burn tube. Turns out our cooling unit had sprung an ammonia leak, so I shut it off immediately. This also meant it was completely toast and unable to be repaired.

Fixing The Problem

We only had a few options.

A new absorption fridge was over $5000 so that was a no go.

We could swap out the cooling unit for a new one from JC Refrigeration for around $1900 shipped, plus my labor to install it. Then we’d have exactly what we had before, but just a bit more robust.

We could also convert the system to only run off of 12V DC battery power, which is much more energy efficient, for around $1700 shipped, or we could convert it to only run off of 120V AC power, like a standard residential fridge, for around $1600 shipped.

Or finally, I could buy an entire brand-new Samsung residential fridge for around $1500 shipped, which is what Grand Design is putting in all of their new RVs these days anyway.

So we decided to upgrade to a brand-new Samsung counter-depth smart fridge with French doors and no exterior handles. It comes in 3 finishes and we chose stainless steel.

The Swap

Swapping our RV fridge for a residential one wasn’t as hard as I imagined it’d be. Taking a few extra steps to prepare made all the difference. If you’d like to see the full swap in detail, watch the accompanying YouTube video here.

You’ll see little tips and tricks on how we easily lifted and moved the fridges around, sealed up the outside vents, closed off the propane line, made the not-so-perfect install look professional and managed to make some of our money back in the end.

Bonus Tip

I also wanted to mention a very important bonus tip that applies to this specific Samsung RF18 model.

In my research I learned there’s a common issue with these smart fridges where the computer sometimes glitches and causes the unit to stop cooling intermittently. Simply unplugging the fridge for 30 seconds resets the computer and instantly solves the problem. So nothing is actually broken, but if you don’t know this, the issue can quickly become a huge pain.

To get around this annoying problem, I simply plugged our fridge into a $5 smart outlet and programmed it to cut off at 7:00am and cut back on at 7:01am every other day so the computer is constantly reset. It’s been running like this for over a year now and we haven’t had a single cooling problem.

I hope you guys found this video helpful!

Let me know in the comments below: Are you considering a fridge swap? If so, why? Are you having problems with your RV fridge or do you simply miss the performance and efficiency of a residential one? And would you go with the Samsung RF18 model or choose something different?

Have questions? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get back with you as soon as I can.

Wanna see more? Consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss any future blogs/videos.

My name is Dow. This is Around The Sun We Go. And remember: Make Every Trip Count.

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *