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Time to Replace Norcold 1200?


cbr046

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Let me start out by saying RESIDENTIAL REPLACEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION!
Making a long story long anyway, our Norcold 1200 has a hard time keeping 45F on an 80F+ day.  While traveling the inside temp goes to 55F-60F, depending whether it's night or day.  The cooling fins sit at 22F while camped, 37F while traveling.  The freezer back wall goes from -18 to +15 (sitting vs traveling).  At night the fridge will dip down into the high 30F's.  The collection tank (near the burner tube) will range from 100F to 148F (traveling vs sitting).  Performance is similar whether propane or AC.  The tank, fins and freezer temps were taken with a cheap IR gun that has proven to be inaccurate so consider those measurements"in the ballpark". 

The foil backed insulation had broken away on the boiling tube in two places.  I replaced that with galvanized ducting, 4" at bottom, 3" at top packed with rock wool. 

image.thumb.png.2e203d6aea5eadab624e5933de803b4e.png

These changes made virtually no difference so I added secondary material to the door seals (EPDM window sealing from Home Depot).  oo  Still no change. 

The graph below is from a Govee H5074 and (I believe) accurate.  You can see when I open the door for loading (Wed, Thu), traveling on Friday until 6pm and Sun 3pm -midnight Mon am.  Sat eve the flat line appears the unit was satisfied with the temp setting (not sure what happened there). 

1365195192_Norcold00Performance.thumb.png.dc3948872181abf5eecdb5461c6a37e0.png

Yes, it's 18 years old and old enough to vote.  I'd like it to be old enough to drink adult beverages. 

Maybe I should have packed the rock wool more loosely?

The symptoms suggest there's outside air getting inside the box.  When I had the unit out I sealed with alum HVAC tape anywhere around the box I thought air could go that shouldn't.  Is there any sort of check valve in the fridge compartment condensate drain?

There *IS* a small yellowish spot 1/2 size of a small woman's pinky fingernail on one of the tubes (boiling, AC or flue I don't remember).  If boiling tube it could point to a classic ammonia leak.  No odd smells anywhere.  And the unit works . . . . mostly. 

One friend suggested 12V might be getting interrupted while traveling.  Without a long pair of wires from control board to dash I don't have a way to check this going down the road.  I believe this possibility is pretty remote. 

I'm trying to rule out all possibilities before ordering a JC Refrigeration (Amish) cooling unit . . . . or from someone else (there's a company in AR?).  $1500 is a LOT of money! 

Am I missing anything?  Thoughts? 

And again, with all the traveling + boondocking and not wanting to run the generator continuously, or invest in high dollar solar + batteries, residential fridge is not an option.

Best,

- bob

 

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Did you take the cooling completely off or just add tape.

My 1200 never did a good job.  I added a fan at the bottom, didn't help.  I resorted to putting remote temp monitors in both fridge and freezer and we'd keep cold blocks in the freezer we could move the fridge when temps went to ~50F.  It finally gave up the ghost, ammonia leak. 

But to get it out of the RV I removed the whole cooling unit.  I was surprised at how poorly they mated it to absorption plate.  There was a large gap, the adhesive they used was probably +3/8" thick with air gap.  I suspect that's why the unit never did cool well. 

Went with the Samsung RF18, I was impressed with how it kept everything cool in +100F weather with direct sun hitting that side of the coach. 

 

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The yellow spot is your culprit.   That's where the cooling system is leaking.   I've been fortunate, my 20 yr old Norcold is still kicking, 30° in the fridge and 4° in the freezer, on #7 setting.   I realize I'm on borrowed time,  but I understand your anxiety...however, everyone on this site has encouraged us to replace our NeverCold with a standard refrigerator. 

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I ordered a cooling unit from the company in AR about 3 weeks ago. Their name is RVcool and the owners name is Wick. Apparently they bought out Atco and the website still says Atco but if you call the number on the website you get RVcool. Wick told me it would take about a week to ship and they would charge my card at that time. On August 7th I got an email receipt showing they had charged my card $530 and I assumed my cooling unit had shipped. I called yesterday and was told it would ship today. I have looked at some of the reviews and complaints online for RVcool and I am understandable nervous at this point.

I hope this helps if you decide to order a new cooling unit.

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You are living on borrowed time.  What will you do if it catches fire in the middle of the night While you are sleeping?  Push the DW out of the bedroom window allowing her to fall on her head?  You probably will not make it to the front door while waking up and trying to determine what is happening.  If it catches fire, $1500.00 is a drop in the bucket to get back to normal.  By the time a fire department gets to your coach, it will be totaled.  Chuck B 2004 Windsor

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Unless you change the cooling system the risk if fire is always present. No matter what you do the cost is what you called expensive.  JC refrigeration  could replace the cooling system with a 12 volt unit. Or you could install the Amish cooling unit. It still runs on propane. If you install anything that uses propane a fire extinguishing system should be installed.  More expense. 

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Bob,

If you haven’t done so already, you should check the seal between the cooling unit and the ref case. You should peel back the duct/foul tape and look for gaps and water stains, especially along the bottom. This would indicate moisture is condensing between the cooling unit and the ref case. If this is happening you could be experiencing cyclic freezing of the moisture which would cause cooling performance to fluctuate. If you doubt the seal integrity you can shoot some spray foam into the gap and then seal up with foil tape. 
Roy

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Why not a residential? Cheaper than a $1500 Amish conversion.

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6 minutes ago, Gary M said:

Why not a residential? Cheaper than a $1500 Amish conversion.

Gary,

A lot of people think they have to run the generator all the time or spend big money installing solar but I haven't done either plus I can and have boondocked with the best out there.

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One thing I found out about our Norcold is that it is the only place on earth that defies the laws of physics!

Like everyone else, I could not keep it cold enough even on setting #9. It was not safe to keep ground beef in the freezer for any length of time. 

I had some extra 120mm computer fans lying around and put one blowing across the inside fins at the back of the fridge compartment. Next thing you know, all the pop and milk froze solid. 

I then bought one of those $25 wireless thermometer dealies that measures the temp in the fridge and the freezer in real-time and displays it on the wall. What I found was that the top of the fridge was well below freezing and the bottom was not. So, in a Norcold, hot air DOES NOT RISE. Thus the laws of physics cease to exist inside it. 

Because I had the temperature monitoring dealy I could determine exactly what worked and what did not. So this is what I found. Ideally, you want one 120mm fan blowing across the aluminum fins in the back. Then you want another 120mm fan on the bottom left of the fridge blowing straight across to the bottom right. On the bottom right you want one more 120mm blowing straight up to the fan blowing across the fins. In this way, you create a circular air movement inside the fridge. The hot air gets blown up to the fan that blow it across the fins. I only have two right now, one blowing across the fins and one on the bottom right blowing up to the one that blows across the fins.

Anyway, in my case, this reduced my fridge and freezer temps from setting #9 (max) to setting #2 (one up from the bottom). We had 38c weather here (100.4f) and I had to turn it up ONE setting to #3 and even that was risky because it will freeze the contents of the fridge. 

I don't know whether my 1200LRIM is special or anything. All I know is that is ALL that was required to make it freeze everything. My issue today is dancing around freezing the contents of the fridge!

I am certain that if I installed one more fan on the bottom left, blowing across the bottom to the fan that blows up to the one blowing across the fins, I would be able to run it on #1 (!!!!!!)

Here is a pic, in Celsius, of the 1200 LRIM on a typical 22c day (72f) with the freezer at -15 and the fridge at ~1c

BTW, This is running on AC. Also, BTW, all the other reasons to replace it are valid, such as doors etc. But in my case, it's really cold. And the answer, for me, was to get the air inside the fridge to circulate in a continuous circle which is very easy and cheap. Also, my fridge is 22 years old. I don't know if that is all that's wrong with yours, but in my case, my problem is the fridge is too cold and, as a result, runs much less. Go figure.

20210824_113857.jpg

Edited by Bob Jones
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3 hours ago, cbr046 said:

And again, with all the traveling + boondocking and not wanting to run the generator continuously, or invest in high dollar solar + batteries, residential fridge is not an option.

Best,

- bob

 

I'll probably get shot for this (I fear it as I'm 'new' to the site) but I was recently looking at the  Frigidaire # FFHT1425VV as someone else here used it. By the looks of it, it's plug n' play even though I have a furnace under my fridge (so did he). Up here, in Canada, that fridge is $850 in stainless and less in white. That's about $670 USD but it's likely to be cheaper in the US due to competition. Cheaper yet if you don't go for the stainless.

That fridge costs $40 to run per YEAR based on .12c per KWH. What that means is that it costs less to run that fridge for one year then it does for my Norcold for one month......

In my case, that fridge will pay for itself very quickly. But here's the thing, I know from experience that my 4 Trojan batteries will power the Norcold for about 10 hours, roughly. How long would those batteries power a fridge that uses a fraction of the power of the Norcold? Probably days. To me, that would be a massive benefit to anyone boondocking. 

Then you get the benefit of not having to deal with door seals, the complexity of it, the chance of a leak, and...most importantly, the fact that they are known to burn a unit to the ground very, very quickly. One guy on this site went through that and he won't set foot in a unit with a Norcold because it freaked him out that badly. Apparently these things burn very very fast. Scary fast from the sounds of it. 

If my Norcold was not performing so well, I would be down at the store right now buying a Frigidaire # FFHT1425VV as fast as I could. The power saving alone makes it pay for itself in about 1.5 years. The reduction in fire risk? Probably priceless. The reduction in load on the inverter? Massive benefit. Just my 0.02c worth. But it seems to me, that for boondocking, you want something that uses little power. Bear in mind, I refuse to run mine on propane because of the open flame in proximity to the flammable gases in the back of the fridge.....

Edited by Bob Jones
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I can only report what worked for me. I went with the JC Refrigeration 12v unit (compressor). Setting 2 is where I keep it - in Florida with 95-100 degree Temps outside. 0 to -3 freezer and 33 -34 in fridge. Did it last year and am not at all sorry. Drove to Indiana to have him install. On all the time, does not run the batteries down (4-6 volt) and now completely safe for those worried about fire. Didn't want the hassle of taking windows out and redoing all the surround - if it would even fit so I just ignore those people that say the ONLY way to go is residential. I have no inverter and didn't want all the cost involved to install. 12v works great.

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50 minutes ago, Dr4Film said:

Gary,

A lot of people think they have to run the generator all the time or spend big money installing solar but I haven't done either plus I can and have boondocked with the best out there.

I agree there. Haven’t added any extras either.

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5 hours ago, cbr046 said:

Let me start out by saying RESIDENTIAL REPLACEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION!
Making a long story long anyway, our Norcold 1200 has a hard time keeping 45F on an 80F+ day.  While traveling the inside temp goes to 55F-60F, depending whether it's night or day.  The cooling fins sit at 22F while camped, 37F while traveling.  The freezer back wall goes from -18 to +15 (sitting vs traveling).  At night the fridge will dip down into the high 30F's.  The collection tank (near the burner tube) will range from 100F to 148F (traveling vs sitting).  Performance is similar whether propane or AC.  The tank, fins and freezer temps were taken with a cheap IR gun that has proven to be inaccurate so consider those measurements"in the ballpark". 

The foil backed insulation had broken away on the boiling tube in two places.  I replaced that with galvanized ducting, 4" at bottom, 3" at top packed with rock wool. 

image.thumb.png.2e203d6aea5eadab624e5933de803b4e.png

These changes made virtually no difference so I added secondary material to the door seals (EPDM window sealing from Home Depot).  oo  Still no change. 

The graph below is from a Govee H5074 and (I believe) accurate.  You can see when I open the door for loading (Wed, Thu), traveling on Friday until 6pm and Sun 3pm -midnight Mon am.  Sat eve the flat line appears the unit was satisfied with the temp setting (not sure what happened there). 

1365195192_Norcold00Performance.thumb.png.dc3948872181abf5eecdb5461c6a37e0.png

Yes, it's 18 years old and old enough to vote.  I'd like it to be old enough to drink adult beverages. 

Maybe I should have packed the rock wool more loosely?

The symptoms suggest there's outside air getting inside the box.  When I had the unit out I sealed with alum HVAC tape anywhere around the box I thought air could go that shouldn't.  Is there any sort of check valve in the fridge compartment condensate drain?

There *IS* a small yellowish spot 1/2 size of a small woman's pinky fingernail on one of the tubes (boiling, AC or flue I don't remember).  If boiling tube it could point to a classic ammonia leak.  No odd smells anywhere.  And the unit works . . . . mostly. 

One friend suggested 12V might be getting interrupted while traveling.  Without a long pair of wires from control board to dash I don't have a way to check this going down the road.  I believe this possibility is pretty remote. 

I'm trying to rule out all possibilities before ordering a JC Refrigeration (Amish) cooling unit . . . . or from someone else (there's a company in AR?).  $1500 is a LOT of money! 

Am I missing anything?  Thoughts? 

And again, with all the traveling + boondocking and not wanting to run the generator continuously, or invest in high dollar solar + batteries, residential fridge is not an option.

Best,

- bob

 

Could that be the periodic defrost in the door divider going off?

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1 hour ago, Bob Jones said:

I'll probably get shot for this (I fear it as I'm 'new' to the site) but I was recently looking at the  Frigidaire # FFHT1425VV as someone else here used it. By the looks of it, it's plug n' play even though I have a furnace under my fridge (so did he). Up here, in Canada, that fridge is $850 in stainless and less in white. That's about $670 USD but it's likely to be cheaper in the US due to competition. Cheaper yet if you don't go for the stainless.

And I'll be doing the shootin'!  I said no residential and now you've got me looking into it.  The Frigidaire is 13.9 cu ft, the Norcold 1210 is 12 cu ft.  More space for less energy.  The Fridgidaire website says 15A but I'm sure that's not right.  $668 USD at AJ Madison (picked at random). 

Our Interstate batteries were dry when we bought it in Feb so I question their integrity (Trojans are the GREATEST BTW).  No telling what the real capacity is on those or how many recharges are left.  Solar is only 70W (not enough for much of anything). 

So you "Res" guys run off the inverter until the batteries give out then crank the generator?  Sometimes I have folks camping right outside the gen exhaust, not to mention the interior noise, so as a general rule I avoid the on-board generator.  I use a Predator 3500 (23A max) but if run to capacity I have to refill it more often than I like.  In the winter I like electric heat (quiet) and that's 13A right there. 

I still like absorption refrigeration . . . but now I'm being tempted. 

- bob

 

 

15 minutes ago, ko7pjim said:

Could that be the periodic defrost in the door divider going off?

Only during travel?

- bob

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Hi Bob!

Don't get me wrong, I love my Norcold. But...it's a power PIG and when the weatherstripping on the doors goes you have to buy new doors ~$1,000 When the hinges go, you have to buy new doors. 

There ARE issues with it, none of which I'm faced with right now and mine is ice cold. I tossed around the idea of a Samsung install. A lot of work that I prefer not to do. Hard to get in the door. High cost. High weight. Big hassle (although, that is relative to what you get). I am one person so the Norcold is usually big enough. But every month I look at the power bill and realize I'm wasting power. It's usually around $100. If I put in the Frigidaire I am sure it would be ~$50. That's a 50% reduction. I've got a kill-a-watt on the Norcold right now so I will see, exactly, what it costs me to run that thing per month but I know it sucks almost 500 watts. That's HUGE in a motorhome. My modern TV's take 20-40 depending on screen size. Of all the things in my motorhome, there are two pigs, other than the AC, and that's the dehumidifier, 500 watts, and the Norcold, 500 watts. Everything else is very power efficient. 

Since yours appears to have an odd sealing issue...and you have it out, by the looks of it....and now you know about future expenses and the fire issue...and you know about how thrifty the Frigidaire is....All I can say is that, from the other guy's install, he had to do nothing but put a little bit of wood trim around it because it was a tiny bit smaller. To me, that's plug 'n play. For that matter, a guy could put trim on later. 

But at 130 pounds? With the doors on it? To me, that 'little' Frigidaire could be installed very easily through the front door. If a person takes the doors off it first it would weigh much less. To me, those are the real issues with a residential fridge. If people can get the Samsung through the door, and they have, how much easier would it be with that little fridge? And it's still bigger than the Norcold. And it uses WAY less power.....you could say...it's food for thought 🙂 Unspoiled food that you don't have to throw out or get botulism from!

I am probably the only person in the world with an ice cold Norcold running in it's more/less original trim. So I am unbiased, and, if anything, favor the Norcold because I made it do what, seemingly, no-one could. But the facts can't be denied. It's problematic and it's costly. The people slamming it are doing it for good reason and...at the end of the day, unless you replace that cooling unit, it's a serious fire hazard. And then there is the time you have to spend on the Norcold (still) and you may or may not even know what the scoop is. 

If you research that specific fridge you will find the Energy Guide sticker that says it uses $40 per year in electricity at .12 per KWH. That is $3.33 per month. No matter how you slice it, electricity is a recurring cost. Whether it's genset run time, battery time or whatever. The less used, the better. It takes a LOT of solar ($$$) to power a Norcold on AC. 

You can see the post from the guy that used that fridge (Kevin R) over here => When I saw that post I started researching that fridge based on it being PNP...

 

Edited by Bob Jones
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6 hours ago, cbr046 said:

Let me start out by saying RESIDENTIAL REPLACEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION!
Making a long story long anyway, our Norcold 1200 has a hard time keeping 45F on an 80F+ day.  While traveling the inside temp goes to 55F-60F, depending whether it's night or day.  The cooling fins sit at 22F while camped, 37F while traveling.  The freezer back wall goes from -18 to +15 (sitting vs traveling).  At night the fridge will dip down into the high 30F's.  The collection tank (near the burner tube) will range from 100F to 148F (traveling vs sitting).  Performance is similar whether propane or AC.  The tank, fins and freezer temps were taken with a cheap IR gun that has proven to be inaccurate so consider those measurements"in the ballpark". 

The foil backed insulation had broken away on the boiling tube in two places.  I replaced that with galvanized ducting, 4" at bottom, 3" at top packed with rock wool. 

image.thumb.png.2e203d6aea5eadab624e5933de803b4e.png

These changes made virtually no difference so I added secondary material to the door seals (EPDM window sealing from Home Depot).  oo  Still no change. 

The graph below is from a Govee H5074 and (I believe) accurate.  You can see when I open the door for loading (Wed, Thu), traveling on Friday until 6pm and Sun 3pm -midnight Mon am.  Sat eve the flat line appears the unit was satisfied with the temp setting (not sure what happened there). 

1365195192_Norcold00Performance.thumb.png.dc3948872181abf5eecdb5461c6a37e0.png

Yes, it's 18 years old and old enough to vote.  I'd like it to be old enough to drink adult beverages. 

Maybe I should have packed the rock wool more loosely?

The symptoms suggest there's outside air getting inside the box.  When I had the unit out I sealed with alum HVAC tape anywhere around the box I thought air could go that shouldn't.  Is there any sort of check valve in the fridge compartment condensate drain?

There *IS* a small yellowish spot 1/2 size of a small woman's pinky fingernail on one of the tubes (boiling, AC or flue I don't remember).  If boiling tube it could point to a classic ammonia leak.  No odd smells anywhere.  And the unit works . . . . mostly. 

One friend suggested 12V might be getting interrupted while traveling.  Without a long pair of wires from control board to dash I don't have a way to check this going down the road.  I believe this possibility is pretty remote. 

I'm trying to rule out all possibilities before ordering a JC Refrigeration (Amish) cooling unit . . . . or from someone else (there's a company in AR?).  $1500 is a LOT of money! 

Am I missing anything?  Thoughts? 

And again, with all the traveling + boondocking and not wanting to run the generator continuously, or invest in high dollar solar + batteries, residential fridge is not an option.

Best,

- bob

 

Could the temperature excursion be tracking with outdoor temperature?

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28 minutes ago, ko7pjim said:

Could the temperature excursion be tracking with outdoor temperature?

If you look at the temp curve in the OP you'll see it rising daily after daybreak, but the big upswings are during travel (Fri & Sun).  The sharp peaks with quick recovery are door openings.

Bob Jones I did "reseal" the doors with EPDM weatherstripping tape from Home Depot.  The hinges appear to be riding low, like there was a bushing in the lower hinge that is now missing. 

The unit is back in place.  Those pic was from a few weeks ago. 

- bob

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Interesting. I am on Vancouver Island and this means the ambient temperature, at times, swings 10 degrees, or more, through the day. It's normal for the ambient temp to go from 15c (59) to 25c (77) at certain periods of the year. Or from nearly 0c to 15c during the day. Recently we hit a high of 38c (100) ambient for about a week. I monitor the temps of the fridge through my LCD panel many times a day because it's so easy. So, annually, my fridge works from 19.4f through to 100f ambient temperatures. 

Point being though is this. I run it on #2 for probably 98% of the year and only on #3 during the hottest part of August. So ambient temperatures or airflow should not make differences like you are seeing. That's assuming it's on AC though, like mine. I have no idea what it would do on propane. 

I bet the hardest part of installing that Frigidaire would be making the dolly for it to sit on to maneuver it into place 🙂 That, and physically removing the Norcold from the motorhome. But if a guy is just scrapping the Norcold, many people have taken a Sawzall to it and cut it into little pieces that easily fit through the door. Just sayin' 🙂 Not trying to tell you what to do!

When I take mine out I will have to be very careful. I've been told I can easily get $500 for it because it works so well. So in my case, the Frigidaire will go in real easy but the Norcold coming out might be very tough without damaging it. 

Edited by Bob Jones
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2 hours ago, Bob Jones said:

When I take mine out I will have to be very careful. I've been told I can easily get $500 for it because it works so well. So in my case, the Frigidaire will go in real easy but the Norcold coming out might be very tough without damaging it. 

My NotSoCold went out through the passenger side salon window and the Samsung came in through the same window. Easy Peasy!

IMG_0727.JPG

IMG_0743.JPG

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Bob, my educated guess is your drain hose doesn’t have a plug in its end… hot air goes up it when traveling.


I resisted going residential because of boondocking and spent way to much money and time on keeping my 1200 going.. even a Amish cooling unit didn’t help all that much. Going residential was the BEST MOD of the many I have done. By adding 2 more batteries and a 100A charger, my generator time REDUCED from 2 hours to slightly more than 1 hour/day.
 

The 15 amps has to be when the ice maker is harvesting the ice…the heater is on as 1 amp is all the compressor draws when running 40% of the time. I’ve done several KW checks and they are in the 1.1-1.3 KW/day range on a 21 cuft Whirlpool and a 20 Jenn Aire… 16 cents/day.

Like the pictures above my 21 Whirlpool came in the driver’s side window off my forklift. It was almost a perfect fit in the 1209 hole… ended up 1/2” to tall so I still had to lower the floor 3/4”, saving the large drawer underneath.

Counter depth units will fit through the door but it’s a tight fit requiring several strong people to get it in. Some remove the passenger seat although we didn’t putting a Samsung in a 2002 Signature.

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3 hours ago, Ivylog said:

Bob, my educated guess is your drain hose doesn’t have a plug in its end… hot air goes up it when traveling.

I was thinking of installing a p-trap in the drain hose . . . . or a ping pong ball in the condensate drain (probably too big and drain hole isn't round)

 

12 hours ago, Dr4Film said:

A lot of people think they have to run the generator all the time or spend big money installing solar but I haven't done either plus I can and have boondocked with the best out there.

Details Man, details!  This last trip was 12 hrs driving then 100% boondock, then 21 hrs home.  Not even cell service, AT&T or Verizon!  Yes, I could have run the generator on the road . . . . at $1.50 / hr (it's more the principal than the cost). 

A major issue would be removing the old 1200 out of the coach.  Physical muscle is hard to come by, I don't have access to a fork lift and no idea how to remove a window (which is probably the easiest part), but replacing the cooling unit inside the coach is within my grasp. 

- bob

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In the past we would normally have to run our generator some anyway, and if it was hot out the generator would be running all the time even when driving to keep the dogs cool.    This was with the Norcold, which operated poorly, no telling how much food we wasted over the years, more then enough to offset more generator time with the Samsung installed. 

I was expecting to have to run the generator more with the Samsung installed.  But this last trip traveling solo I could get by with running the generator a minimal amount.  A couple days my 325 watt of solar could actually keep up.  As long as my batteries were at ~90% when I went to bed the lasted all night and were +75% in the AM.  If it was sunny the batteries would start recovering pretty quickly and maintain until night.  If cloudy I'd have to run the generator ~1-2 hours.  Really didn't see a big difference in the amount of generator time. 

This fall/winter I'll hopefully be taking a longer trip.   With reduced sun light generator time may be higher. 

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