When Lee and I started full-timing we envisioned lots of time off grid and we built our RV with that in mind. Although we upgraded to the largest propane refrigerator we could get, we were both dismayed by how little space (compared to our residential fridge) we would have. Still we thought we would adjust, and in many respects we did. We bought smaller quantities, and really honed in on the things that mattered to us.
Largely I thought the tradeoffs were worth the flexibility, but Lee got disenchanted pretty early on. He wanted to swap it out for a residential style fridge several years ago but I got stubborn (shocking) and didn’t want to mess. I did agree though when the fridge died we could replace it with a residential model. So we waited for the fridge to die, and waited, and waited and finally when we cancelled our cruise due to COVID concerns I broke down and said sure. Lee was smart; he got Bill and Greg to gang up on me about how our solar system was perfectly adequate to keep a fridge going plus honestly at this point I don’t know why I was stubborn about it.
Turns out we rarely are off grid and the day to day tradeoffs for the occasional use really aren’t worth it. For example I haven’t been able to keep ice cream in my freezer for 7 years. It just wont stay cold enough. I can have freeze pops but they take several days to freeze and don’t get me started on the lack of freezer space in general. We have to carry a small icemaker because there is no room for ice cube trays and over the years we have spent hundreds replacing those because they just don’t last. Really the list of day to day improvements in lifestyle is huge.
Just deciding to replace the fridge was just the first step as Lee had to do quite a bit of research to determine what we could get. Our refrigerator is in a slide and the spot was shallower than many residential models so we could only buy something 30″ deep and 32″ wide. Plus we have a very small door in our RV and unless we wanted to remove the large kitchen window (that was on the table for awhile) we could only buy something that would fit through the door. Lee, knowing his audience, took me to Home Depot where the refrigerators were all lined up like soldiers and pulled forward all of the refrigerators that would fit, which allowed me to ignore the ones I couldn’t have. That left us with around 9 choices and I happily compared them. Ultimately it was a battle of the freezer as I chose the largest freezer I could find in that size range.
All in we paid $2500 which included a replacement plan, delivery, and an upgrade to the black stainless. Lots of people don’t bother with the replacement plan, but they really have gotten generous, and we’ve benefitted from them several times. It was super easy and painless and I highly recommend Home Depot. We waited a few days and then a great team came out and delivered it. They were pleased they didn’t have to set it up so we put it in Greg’s barn until the weekend.
For those who just care about the install, thank you for being patient. We are finally here. These steps took place over several days and thankfully we had a spare refrigerator in the garage/barn we could put our stuff in. The RV was a bit of a mess during the process though and if you wanted to you could probably do it all in one day.
Step One: Determine how to get fridge in and out:
This is not as simple as it seems especially in our RV. Although going in through the window was a choice there were some risks with that (ie: breaking the window) and it would have been much harder to maneuver. Instead Lee started working around the door including taking the door off and removing all the trim. This gave us a 28″ slot which was just doable if we took the doors off both fridges.
Step Two: Remove the old fridge
Depending on whether or not you are planning on trying to sell your old fridge, this may take some time. In our case the old fridge is 8 years old and even though it is still in working order I didn’t feel right about trying to sell it. The worst part about getting the fridge out was Lee had to rip out the trim from the slide and even with Bill’s help the old fridge was HEAVY. They also initially forgot to take off the doors so had to stop and do that step (should have done it first in retrospect) and thankfully Greg had a furniture style dolly we could use which made it less dangerous. Kelly and I were both holding our breath when they were coming down the stairs.
Once the fridge was removed we had a big hole. Lee had to clean the area, build a platform for the bottom, and replace the cover plate. Then he had to foam seal the back up.
Once the hole was ready Lee had to remove more trim to fit the new refrigerator. We knew this was a tight fit and even though it was lighter than the propane fridge we were lucky enough to have 4 guys to move it. I even got to help at one point because it got “stuck” in the door and since I was inside taking pictures I jumped down and slid it in. The difference in weight is amazing, although this is probably offset by the additional weight of the food we can fit in it.
Its not shown here but they also had to manage the cord, so Lee was running back and forth to the outside and getting it plugged in. Then the doors had to be put on and handles attached. Finally it was in! Lastly Lee and I removed all of the thin plastic covering inside and out and we had a refrigerator. We let it cool down overnight before moving our food back in. I used some freeze pops as a test and they were rock hard the next morning!!
The next morning we brought all of our food over and the great fridge negotiations of 2022 started. Instead of arranging and rearranging the fridge and just annoying each other I asked if we could agree in advance where things would go. Lee and I are eating very different things now so it makes sense to separate them in the fridge. I am really glad we had the conversation because I can easily find my stuff in the fridge and there was much less long term annoyance.
The last thing Lee had to do was hook up water. Because the propane fridge didn’t have a water line he had to figure out where to run it. Ultimately he decided to run it parallel to other lines underneath and although we have had some freeze ups because it’s been SO cold down here, it’s great having filtered water and ice right from the door.
As with many of these changes I am super happy and frankly wondering why I waited so long. Yes it was around $3K all in, but much less than our planned vacation, so a bit of a wash. I have included the costs in our monthly budget as it was an RV specific expense, but even after only a couple of weeks totally worth it.
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