Sunday, February 01, 2015

Uh-Oh. The Refrigerator is Not Cold.


Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 75, low 60)

When we got our motorhome 3 1/2  years ago, Lazy Days was nice enough to install  a brand new 4 door Norcold 1210 refrigerator into our new to us motor home.  I wish we had installed a residential refrigerator, but at that time we weren't really aware of all the refrigerator fires caused by the RV refrigerators.  All the recalls that are done on these refrigerators are really only putting a Band-Aid on the problem and not addressing the real issues.

In the past few years, as I had started to learn more about Rv refrigerators, I started thinking about a residential refrigerator.  Although we never had any problems with our refrigerator, the fire thing was always in the back of my mind.  Unfortunately, installing a residential refrigerator is not as simple as going down to Sears and having it delivered.

Our Norcold is mounted over a furnace compartment and fits right up next to the ceiling.  We were hoping we could lower the platform a few inches to give us enough height for one of the 21 cf refrigerators we had been admiring.  Tim, our local Mobile Rv tech looked at the space we have and he said we couldn’t do any height modifications due to the furnace and wiring below the Norcold.  We would need a refrigerator no taller than 64 inches. That severely limited our choices.   

We shopped at the stores and online and the only refrigerators that would fit were cheap, low end garage or apartment style refrigerators. I sure wished we could have gotten the beautiful stainless steel Samsung like Judy got.   I got discouraged and quit looking, until I happened to meet a lady here in the campground that had recently installed a residential refrigerator in the same size space.  She was nice enough to let us see how it looked installed, and after seeing it, we decided we could live with the only refrigerator that would fit. We really had no other choice and after all, the Norcold is really a cheap looking refrigerator with wire shelves and no freezer light.  The only difference is the $4000 price tag of the Norcold, verses a $450 price tag for the one we got!   We will gain 2.6 cubic feet of space.

The Norcold was running fine, so I listed it on Craig's List, instead of trashing what I thought was a perfectly good refrigerator..

Tim, our Rv guy had put us on the list for service and was going to work us in between more urgent problems.

Things changed on Thursday, when Al  noticed the old Norcold wasn’t cooling.  Uh oh.  We didn’t notice any of the tell tale ammonia smell, which is common when Rv refrigerators fail, but upon checking the outside compartment, we noticed some yellow/green powdery substance.  This is a bad thing, so we immediately unplugged it.  I don’t know if it is repairable, but we are taking no chances with a possible fire. 

Unfortunately the new refrigerator didn’t arrive until Friday, so we had to do the cooler thing for  a day. We have a shed here, so when the delivery people came, it was put into the shed.   It’s plugged in and cold, waiting for Tim install it.  Now I just had to make Tim aware we were one of the urgent calls, and we needed him asap.

I felt a sense of relief when the Norcold quit.  It would have been nice if it would have lasted until  the new one was in the shed and running, but at least we won’t feel bad about trashing a perfectly good refrigerator, and we didn’t sell it to someone else.  The Norcold worked well for us and it failed on our time frame (almost) and not at the most inconvenient time, like if we had been in the Keys.  We feel lucky it  worked out the way we did, even though we did lose some frozen foods.  Good riddance Norcold!

We will no longer have an RV refrigerator that can be run on propane for boondocking, or while driving down the road.  We never boondock, or ran it on propane while driving anyway. We either turned it off for the few hours we drove, or had the generator on.

We’re looking forward to having the new refrigerator installed.

We’re trying to wrap everything up here Tampa.  Our plans (in jello) are to leave for the Keys on the 17th.  I had an unexpected dental visit  last week when I suddenly developed a tooth ache.  I ended up with a crown and luckily, I found a new dentist who understands I don’t like pain, and she took good care of me. 




  1. Knock on wood ... our Norcold has always worked well. We don't boondock, but we want the flexibility of being able to if we want. Fires? Yes, they happen, but so do many other bad things. We had a fire extinguisher unit installed, and don't let it worry us. We cook with gas, the pilot light on the oven is on, and we use the propane furnace at night. you are probably safer, but odds are nothing will happen to us either.

  2. Lots of folks really like their residential fridges. Norcold has had more than enough problems you would think they would do something about it. We have a Dometic.

  3. Our Norcold is mounted over a furnace compartment...

    Isn't that just the stupidest RV design ever? I've seen this several times and just can't figure what the designers were thinking. Heat rises right?...right into the fridge compartment.

  4. Our Norcold refrigerator is the original one that came with the RV and is now almost 20 years old and other than Kevin cleaning out the flue on regular basis (which should be regular maintenance on a fridge, we have had no problem with it up until this year when we were in Mazatlan but he was able to do the temporary repair on it and that temporary repair is still working great. We do have the proper new parts that are needed for it but he won't replace them until his repair starts to act up. Our fridge runs on propane most of the time as we are rarely plugged into electricity and we never worry about fires as Merikay said many bad things can happen not just fridge fires and if you think of how many motorhomes are out there in the world and the number that have a fire are very, very small so the odds are against it.

    Glad that the fridge gave out on you just as you were getting your new one delivered so that you were only really inconvenienced for that one day with the cooler. Hope the replacement of the new refrigerator goes well and that you will be up and running quickly.

  5. Thanks for the info, now i know what to look out for!

  6. Good timing for you guys. Our Norcold lasted 14 years, Quit New years Day as we were heading to Destin Florida to visit friends. The Camping World there was open and we pulled in, emptied our fridge and freezer took the contents to our friends rental house and saved all of it.
    The following day a new Dometic fridge was installed slightly bigger only $1,300. plus installation. So we got lucky there.

  7. That seems like a really short life for a refrigerator, 3.5 years. Ours is 10 years old and still going. You got a great deal if you only paid $450 for something as big as the $4000 refrig. Well done.

  8. Ugh! Glad you got it all worked out. Norcold should be called Notcold. Knock wood, ours is still going strong at 8 years. If it fails someday, I don't have enough room for a residential unit due to an electrical panel under the fridge that can't be cut down, so I'd have to get the current one rebuilt.

    I've already researched it and have bookmarked a business that makes cooling units by Amish craftsmen, they use a much heavier gauge tubing and better welds.

    It would be about a grand to have one installed if (when) needed, but has a great warranty and wouldn't require any major work to get it to fit.

    Don't you have an inverter on your MH? With the inverter on you could leave the fridge run while driving and the engine would keep the batteries charged.

  9. Glad you found something that will work for you, especially now that you have an urgent need to replace your Norcold. Your new refrigerator will probably weigh less than the Norcold, which will be a plus, and more interior refrigerator space is always nice.

  10. Glad it all worked out. We have had four RV fridges over the years and never a problem so far, but we are always aware of the fire issue. For our current (small MH) I doubt a residential fridge is really an option.

  11. The RV Storage Fire that took out our Jayco last year was started by a Norcold, much like the one you just lost. Thank goodness yours did not catch fire. Good choice moving over to a residential unit, that's for sure. --Dave (

  12. Karen, I'm thinking strongly about replacing our Norcold 1210 with a residential fridge. What brand and model are you installing?


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