So, you want to install a Residential Refrigerator in your RV? Now what?

If you’re reading this your either interested in replacing your RV refrigerator because it has quit working, thinking about the project OR you want more space than your old refrigerator. Either way, this is the blog post for you.

We had discussed a few years ago if our current RV refrigerator quit working, we would replace it with a residential one. However, we did like the option of using the propane to cool our refrigerator when not hooked to shore power. So, when our refrigerator ‘bit the dust’ just before leaving our summer job, we began looking at refrigerators that would work for us without spending over $2,000. Thankfully a friend of ours had recently completed a van conversion and had used a residential refrigerator so had knowledge about them. As I began throwing the food away that had spoiled, our friend began searching online for a refrigerator that would work within our budget. Amazingly she found one that she thought would fit in our space left by our RV refrigerator. We loaded up the truck and headed to Lowe’s a home improvement store. When we found the refrigerator that we had saw on the internet we quickly found that it was too small. Smaller than what we had before. So, feeling a bit defeated we began searching in the store. Then….. Ed found a much larger one, measured the overall size and wha-la that was IT!

We’ve listed a few steps below that may help you in your process. Please remember we are NOT professionals just people sharing our experience.

  1. Measure and Choose the new unit. This step basically comes down to measuring the space we have available and choosing a residential refrigerator that fits it. Measure height, width and depth. And do this a couple times so when you get home with the new unit it fits right in,
  2. Removing the old unit. First, we have to disconnect the existing refrigerator from all the propane and/or electric lines. Make sure to properly cap any propane line and/or electrical service that will not be needed to run your new refrigerator. If you’re not familiar with the process, seek a professional.
  3. Clean and preparing the space. Since we have access now, it’s a good idea to vacuum and wipe the space dedicated to the residential refrigerator. We also installed insulation board on the back wall to help keep our new refrigerator cool. Also, the vent cover on the side of the RV used for ventilation of the RV refrigerator, with the new refrigerator it was not needed so we blocked part of the holes with the silver duct tape. But, please learn from our mistake. Don’t forget to find the drain hole and place a hose on it so we can drain outside the RV. We forgot to do this step and found water on our floor inside the RV after our first travel day. Thankfully it was an easy clean up and no damage was done.
  4. Placing and securing the new unit. If all our measurements are correct, we should have no trouble fitting the residential refrigerator into the old one’s place. After our refrigerator was in the space, Ed began to secure it by accessing it through the ventilation panel on the side of the RV. We were very lucky that all Ed had to do was screw it down at the rear of the unit to the floor so it doesn’t move while we are traveling down the road.
  5. Finishing touches. The final phase of installation is your chance to get creative. Are you using trim to give the new install a finished look or what are your plans? We purchased a small amount of trim to match our cupboards and painted them. Now it looks like it was always there. But better.
  6. How are you going to power the new unit? Since we no longer had a propane refrigerator, we had to think about how we are going to cool it when not on shore power. Now we were not able to cool it traveling down the road by using the propane side or when boondocking. At the time we left our summer job, we assumed that it would hold temperature as long as we did not open the door until we could power the unit. Well, that’s true it did hold the temperature but we knew we would have to power it at some point. It wasn’t going to hold the temperature throughout our travel days. It really isn’t a big deal as long as we ran the generator for a length of time to cool things off again. But we didn’t want to run the generator hours on end. I’ll be honest with you. Ed and I only have basic knowledge about electric so we needed to once again research our options. We found that purchasing an inverter with more batteries was our best option. Now when we are on shore power, hooked to our running truck or our generator these options would charge our batteries. Wha-la our refrigerator would receive be powered at all times. Now if you want to go one more step, you can purchase solar. This may be an option for us in the future but right now we are super happy with our set up. Would you add solar?
  7. What was our total estimated cost? The refrigerator $400, 2 batteries at $100 each, inverter $200, hose $free, batteries cables to run the batteries in parallel and hook to inverter $30. So, we came up with $730 in total costs. Not bad considering an RV refrigerator can cost minimum of $2000 just for the unit itself.

We hope you find this helpful if you are thinking about exchanging your RV refrigerator for a residential refrigerator. Let us know what your plans are and please share your knowledge with us.