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Post Info TOPIC: Residential Refrigerator Vs 2 Way RV Fridge


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Residential Refrigerator Vs 2 Way RV Fridge


I currently have a Norcold 4 door fridge in my RV.  Its the original Fridge from 2002.  It takes forever to get cold and I have cleaned it and maintained it to make sure the Propane lights and the electric works for the fridge.  

I want to be able to start the fridge the day before and have the Fridge cold but it does not seem to really perform well enough for that to happen even when I have it connected in my driveway. The Propane part of the fridge is not very good and it takes twice as long than the electric to get cold.  So I think it may be time after this season to say goodbye.   I may have it serviced to see if they can improve it but I am not hopeful. 

I have read a lot about people going with Residential refrigerators instead of the 2 way RV versions because of cost.  But there are a few questions:

  • What if you are off Grid? - Are batteries able to really do the job to keep the fridge performing?  I am planning on having about 400 amps of solar and plenty of battery capacity
  • Is there are specific fridge that people go to that consumes less power (battery) 
  • If you plan on doing some off grid is it best just to have a 2 way refrigerator?  We only plan about 25% of our time boon-docking or having limited hookups. 

Or---should I just bite the bullet and fork out big $$ for a two way RV refrigerator? 



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Others have actual experience with this, but MO is that an RV fridge (two way) is probably best. A Residential fridge will require an adequate Inverter, substantial battery bank and likely a solar system with appropriate controllers to augment the generator in maintaining that big battery bank. I have heard it said that "it costs a lot of money to be able to camp for free". 😜

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I've never had a problem with an RV fridge after I bought a battery operated fan for the fresh food area...1979.

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When working properly, your fridge's propane burner produces more BTUs of cooling than electricity does. The first thing I would do is have the fridge serviced. Then if the cooling power is still inadequate there are several things you can do to improve its efficiency. I have a supplemental cooling fan, to stir the air inside, wired to the same circuit as the fridge fans located behind the fridge. You may or may not have thermostatically controlled rear fridge fans. If not, I recommend adding them as they improve the fridge's cooling efficiency. In some fridges, a baffle kit is also recommended for the same purpose - to ensure good airflow over the cooling coils.

Don't confuse this rear evaporator coil baffle with a fridge burner baffle kit that helps prevent the flame from blowing out in high winds or when traveling down the road with the fridge on propane. I added one of these on my fridge after noticing my flame blowing out occasionally when being passed by big trucks going in the opposite direction and in windy mountain passes. I have a Dometic fridge. I don't know if they make them for other brands. I always use a remote thermometer ( I bought it at Walmart) so I can monitor the fridge temp while traveling (as my fridge is in a trailer, not a MH.)

Chip



-- Edited by Sushidog on Monday 26th of June 2017 02:35:43 PM

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Ok, I'll flip the coin. Ron is probably right that camping for free costs lots of money LOL. But we love our residential refer, in fact we love having a all electric coach period. No more dealing with propane wether it be simply getting it or worrying about it.
That said we do have 1120 watts of solar on the roof and 6 lifeline 6CT house batteries and if need be a 10,000 watt gen under the hood but really very seldom use it. The key for us is we don't live off the grid, we probably boondock 8 or 9 weeks a year so we gear up for what we do most and that's not dry camp even though we do a fare share I guess.

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If your current refrigerator cannot be fixed, you may want to compare the cost of a residential refrigerator (including any incremental costs associated with adding additional batteries, solar, generator) to the cost of a new RV refrigerator.

Since we boondock with a residential refrigerator (e.g., 14-days stays on BLM and other public lands that offer exquisite surroundings and views), knowing our set-up and consumption may assist you with your cost comparison.

With our 1,200 Amh of AGM batteries, 800 watts of solar (non-tilting) and a residential refrigerator (with the inverter always turned on)– we can go 5-days in the winter without running the generator (i.e., the batteries are above 50% depletion) and more than twice that length of time when daylight hours are longer (e.g., summer). Periodically using our generator to help charge the batteries, we can easily boondock for 14-days or longer during the winter months. If we wanted to further reduce the need to run the generator during the winter months, we could add more solar.

In other words, with the residential refrigerator and whole-house inverter, some computer and TV usage, we deplete our batteries about 100-120Amh per day, during the winter months and less than half that during the summer months, with our 800 watts of solar. The majority of our Amh usage is the residential refrigerator and inverter. Your usage will likely vary, but the above is pretty consistent for us – we do not boondock if air conditioning would be desirable or a heater would regularly be needed.

For us, the residential refrigerator was the correct choice. However our decision criteria were different—the primary reason we choose the residential refrigerator was the additional refrigerator and freezer capacity (compared to a RV refrigerator).

Lynn



-- Edited by Lynn and Ed on Tuesday 27th of June 2017 11:11:16 AM

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Do "mainstream" RV's ever use marine refrigerators? I'm thinking of a separate class of refrigerator/freezers that work only off of DC power.

There is a "niche" vehicle (earthroamer.com; converted trucks with military tires that look like they could do rock crawling) that say they use a DC 6cf refrigerator and 2 cf freezer. These trucks do not have propane; just huge amounts of battery and solar power. They claim that the interiors are built to marine standards.

They aren't really meant for extended living; the company calls them expedition vehicles. The discussion about residential vs RV refrigerators just got me curious.

Dave


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I will "lightly" make a few comments on this Ford / Chevy discussion.  We have an RV Fridge on purpose.  It's just easier for boondocking.  Ed and Lynn's comments are spot on and IF we had 1,200 AH of batteries (or 900) we might have a residential - but - big BUT - while we are in the rig 6 months or more a year we are not there 365.  If we were there 365 Linda says (only opinion on this issue that matters) we would have a residential unit - And a bigger trailer probably with an HDT, twice the batteries, more solar, etc. and a separate car, etc.  It does depend. Our rig was built specifically for lots of travel and some other criteria.  If we were 365 it would be different.  But we could live 365 with RV fridge just fine, but she would make the other choice.

We (Linda) is extremely happy with the capacity and "coldnest" of our Dometic unit.  Naturally we took it directly when new to "Leon" in Shipshewana and he did the proper baffling and fan modifications and it worked just fine, held 34 degrees in Phoenix in July with 115 degrees of sun right on the vents all day.  No exaggeration.  Fact.

But to the point, to be as flexible as an RV fridge one needs more batteries and lots of solar, and a generator, as Ed and Lynn commented.  IF you are good with the weight of the batteries in the rig and have room on the rig for lots of solar and care to boondock then residential is fine.  All three of those "ands" are important.  If one is going to be "plugged in" all the time (the 50 amp princess thing - which is fine) then probably the residential is not only less expensive but also requires less trouble. But RV fridges offer some flexibility including when power is marginal in places.  I often put the fridge on LP when we are marginal on power and need it for other things that can't run on LP.  I have a choice. (One can do that with a residential as well with enough batteries if the rig is wired for it.) Either is fine depending on you style of travel and lifestyle and either can work equally well IF you have the proper equipment and know how to manage the power use properly.  A choice.

Bill



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Bill and Linda wrote:
...

IF you are good with the weight of the batteries in the rig and have room on the rig for lots of solar and care to boondock then residential is fine.  All three of those "ands" are important.  ....

Bill


Bill makes a very good point. You would have to have the capacity to handle the additional weight of the batteries and have relevant space for the batteries, solar, etc. For example our batteries, including the special compartment that houses them, weigh about 1,000 lbs. So the decision between the RV refrigerator versus residential refrigerator includes at least four variables: preference, available space, weight and cost.

Lynn



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If you've already got the big inverter, battery bank, and generator/solar to keep the batteries charged then a residential fridge is usually cheaper and has more space. We've got 2000W inverter, 800AH of batteries, a Honda 2K generator and 800W of solar…and we can boondock just fine as long as we don't need any A/C…and we don't plan any boondocking stops when it's hot so that's not a real problem.

If you don't already have that stuff…going to residential can be a bit expensive.

When boondocking…I typically run the Honda 2 or 3 hours in the AM to get the bulk charging done and let the solar finish…we're normally back up to 100% by mid afternoon. Our residential fridge uses about 120 AH per 24 hour period by itself. My guess is that 400W of solar and 600AH of battery would be enough…but you do need the larger inverter which doesn't come standard on many RVs.

I'm not an RV fridge expert…but frequently it's the cooling coil that is bad/plugged…this can be replaced for less than the cost of a new fridge…I believe that some on the forum have gotten the replacement cooling units made by the Amish up in the Elkhart IN area…supposedly they're 'better' than the replacement ones from Dometic or Norcold.

 



-- Edited by Neil and Connie on Tuesday 27th of June 2017 11:55:06 AM

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Bill and Linda wrote:

.....We (Linda) is extremely happy with the capacity and "coldnest" of our Dometic unit.  Naturally we took it directly when new to "Leon" in Shipshewana and he did the proper baffling and fan modifications and it worked just fine, held 34 degrees in Phoenix in July with 115 degrees of sun right on the vents all day.  No exaggeration.  Fact.   ......

 


 Bill, please elaborate a bit more as to what "Leon" did for you.   We along with many others have tried various internet fixes for our RV refrigerators with various degrees of success.   I believe many RV refrig installations are not properly baffled right from the start by manufacturers.  Ours for instance, has too much room behind the refrig in the slide, completely ignoring Norcold installation specs.    John



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heyjohnm wrote:
Bill and Linda wrote:

.....We (Linda) is extremely happy with the capacity and "coldnest" of our Dometic unit.  Naturally we took it directly when new to "Leon" in Shipshewana and he did the proper baffling and fan modifications and it worked just fine, held 34 degrees in Phoenix in July with 115 degrees of sun right on the vents all day.  No exaggeration.  Fact.   ......

 


 Bill, please elaborate a bit more as to what "Leon" did for you.   We along with many others have tried various internet fixes for our RV refrigerators with various degrees of success.   I believe many RV refrig installations are not properly baffled right from the start by manufacturers.  Ours for instance, has too much room behind the refrig in the slide, completely ignoring Norcold installation specs.    John


John:  Understand and really very simple. Ignoring installation instruction is a bad thing.  Welcome to the club of poor installations.

The way the RV fridge works is to extract the heat from inside to outside via a heat exchanger.  This is done via a row of "fins" you will see a the top of the unit accessed by the top most removable vent. There needs to be air moving ONLY through those fins and not anyplace else to escape through the upper vent.  This is the chimney effect as hot air rises.  Many (most?) RV manufactures don't take the time to install proper baffling such that all the rising air must go through those fins.  This is the first fix and very important fix.

The second is to install thermostatically controlled fans to create a suction at the bottom vent and force air up and through those fins at the top.  Many units have these as part of the RV fridge but not necessarily installed in the best place possible and / or, in our case, were very noisy.  So we had them replaced with equal volume fans but much quieter.  I can't hear them inside any longer.  But the overall key is baffling and forced airflow through those fins.   Do this correctly and the fridge, unless the cooling unit is defective, will work.

Most all RV newer refrigerators have plenty of reserve cooling capability.  They really do.  But they must get that heat "exchanged" to the outside world and many (most?) OEM's just don't take the time to do a proper installation. 

Anyone can do this but "Leon" is well known to really know RV units in particular and can repair or replace the entire cooling system on most any unit - MUCH less expensive then a new fridge and it will be better than new, IMO, with his cooling unit - or he can rebuilt yours but that will take more time naturally.  He has "dozens" of cooling units around and makes them in his shop as well as lots of hard to find parts.  He just knows his stuff so we went there to make sure it was done right. The only problem is just getting him on the phone to make an appointment.  Highly recommended.  But be patient especially during "travel season."

fixyourfridge.com/

Hope this helps.

Bill

 

 

 



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Big Mike wrote:

 

Or---should I just bite the bullet and fork out big $$ for a two way RV refrigerator? 


Mike, to your original question, go here as noted above and check this out.  A replacement cooling system, which will be better then new, will cost, in the long run when you include inverters, batteries, etc. less or no more than a residential unit.  But, IMO, don't purchase a new RV fridge unless to upgrade in size.  You most likely don't need the "box," you need a new cooling unit.

fixyourfridge.com/

Bill

 

 



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I didn't notice it mentioned anywhere, but with converting to a residential refrigerator, one might have to modify their refrigerator space to accommodate a larger fridge.  We converted and had to modify the space in our RV, thus, we lost the use of one drawer under the fridge compartment and a small compartment above the fridge.  However, since we are on FHU all the time, having the residential has been a blessing.  Our original RV fridge gave out in two years, and we couldn't see replacing with another and then having to do something again in another 2 years.

Terry



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Terry and Jo wrote:

I didn't notice it mentioned anywhere, but with converting to a residential refrigerator, one might have to modify their refrigerator space to accommodate a larger fridge.  We converted and had to modify the space in our RV, thus, we lost the use of one drawer under the fridge compartment and a small compartment above the fridge.  However, since we are on FHU all the time, having the residential has been a blessing.  


 Terry makes a good point - there are trade offs either way.  If considering going from an "RV" to a residential unit do keep in mind that not all RV's are electrically equipped, assuming one travels, to supply mobile power to the residential unit for extended periods of time - if at all.  An appropriate size and quality inverter (turns 12 volts into 120) must be installed.  Inexpensive inverters are not appropriate - they need to be full sine wave types.  Also, adequate additional battery capacity, depending on the time anticipated to be away from shore power, maybe required - and space available for those batteries.  (BTW, most fridges, if not opened, can go for about 8 hours without getting too warm.  YMMV naturally.)

All of this extra equipment naturally "depends" on your travel, if any, and time away from a shore power situation.  Changing to a residential unit is not a good or bad idea either way in itself.  From some it is a great idea, IMO.  But we've had 10 years with out any RV fridge issues that would dictate replacement with a residential.  But if one decides to make that change do so with the understanding it might not just be the fridge that must be changed.



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We "upgraded" to a residential fridge when we bought our new rig. While it does seem to keep the beer a bit colder, and has a bit more capacity- we wish we would have stayed with the RV fridge option in the new rig. Even with the extra batteries for the inverter, the most time we have been able to be unplugged from the truck or shore power is 8 hrs. So it looks like if we want to be off the grid for a day or so, we need to fork out $$ for generator, or pay to stay.

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Referencing Bill's last post, what he referred to as a full sine wave inverter is also called a pure sine wave inverter.  Those are far superior to a modified sine wave inverter, especially for anything that has computerized circuits, which includes many appliances and RV refrigerators as well as computer equipment.  We had no issues with converting to a residential because when we ordered our Mobile Suites, we ordered it with a 3000 watt Xantrex pure sine wave inverter and two extra batteries.  All we had to do was have the AC circuit for the fridge switched over onto the inverter.

Terry



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Happy Camper2016 wrote:

We "upgraded" to a residential fridge when we bought our new rig. While it does seem to keep the beer a bit colder, and has a bit more capacity- we wish we would have stayed with the RV fridge option in the new rig. Even with the extra batteries for the inverter, the most time we have been able to be unplugged from the truck or shore power is 8 hrs. So it looks like if we want to be off the grid for a day or so, we need to fork out $$ for generator, or pay to stay.


 Kevin: Yea, understand.  Some numbers for reference FWIW.

In general a residential unit will require ~150AH (amp hours) worth of battery power just for the fridge in a 24 hour period.  Because batteries shouldn't be discharged lower then 50% of their rated capacity that means one needs 300AH worth of batteries just for the residential fridge.  Additional battery capacity is then required beyond that 300AH for the other 12 volt needs and for any power from the inverter supplying 120 volts to other items like a TV, etc.  So, IMO the minimum batteries one might require is 600AH with a residential unit and that's marginal, IMO and based on experience.

Additionally a generator alone is usually not suitable to completely charge deep cycle batteries to a full 100% charge. It simply takes too long.  So one needs solar - enough solar - to finish charging the batteries even if one uses a generator for the initial, bulk charging.

If one has enough battery capacity, along with solar and perhaps a generator like Lynn & Ed, Neil & Connie, among others do, then a residential unit and boondocking play very nice together.  But N&C have 900AH and L&E have alike 1,200AH - and lots of solar plus generators.

I just mention all this say a couple more batteries are usually not going to be enough to boondock "comfortably" with a residential unit - at least IMO.

For reference: With an RV fridge we have 600AH battery capacity, 720watts for solar and a 5,500watt generator.  With a residential unit what we have would be, for us, inadequate.

Bill



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Bill and Linda wrote:
 

For reference: With an RV fridge we have 600AH battery capacity, 720watts for solar and a 5,500watt generator.  With a residential unit what we have would be, for us, inadequate.

Bill


Actually I think you could handle a residential fridge with your electrical just fine assuming you already have the big inverter which I can't remember. Even with TV, lights, and computer usage we rarely use more than 220 or 240 AH per day total and our Honda 2K and 800 solar get us to full charge just fine. We even boondocked in cloudy weather for 3 days so solar was minimal…we ended up running the generator a couple extra hours in the early evening and kept up fine.

You would be getting down close to the 50% discharged number with your 600AH…but unless you did that for weeks to months at a stretch I don't think it would over stress the batteries.

And as you know already but others might not…with the big inverter the 2K is actually plenty of generator for the bulk charging as it maxes out the charging circuitry in the inverter. You need more generator if you want to run A/C…but we don't do that when boondocking.

 



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Neil and Connie wrote:
Bill and Linda wrote:
 

For reference: With an RV fridge we have 600AH battery capacity, 720watts for solar and a 5,500watt generator.  With a residential unit what we have would be, for us, inadequate.

Bill


Actually I think you could handle a residential fridge with your electrical just fine assuming you already have the big inverter which I can't remember. Even with TV, lights, and computer usage we rarely use more than 220 or 240 AH per day total and our Honda 2K and 800 solar get us to full charge just fine. We even boondocked in cloudy weather for 3 days so solar was minimal…we ended up running the generator a couple extra hours in the early evening and kept up fine.

You would be getting down close to the 50% discharged number with your 600AH…but unless you did that for weeks to months at a stretch I don't think it would over stress the batteries.

And as you know already but others might not…with the big inverter the 2K is actually plenty of generator for the bulk charging as it maxes out the charging circuitry in the inverter. You need more generator if you want to run A/C…but we don't do that when boondocking.

 


Well, yea and no.  I'm sure we could make it work with 600AH and a residential fridge, but in another life with only 300AH and an RV fridge it was very marginal.  I.e. I had to be really careful and manage power usage with only 150AH usable and you know I had the metering to know just how much we used and were using.  But that's us.

I'm kind of suggesting that for us I don't want to have to watch the AH meter that close.  For example, our trailer (yours as well I'll bet) uses 1.5 amps per hour just to "sit there."  Meaning nothing turned on except the "keep alive" sneak power.  Like the electronics for the lights and the LP gas detectors as two examples.  Even the inverter in just standby pulls a couple of amps.  So in 24 hours we use up 36AH just sitting there.

The big generator, as you know with us, is not to charge the batteries, its for Air Conditioning if required as you noted.  Completely agree with your comments. But hey, booddocking is fun as long as your comfortable.  Sorta kidding.  But we've needed it to cool the rig down from the afternoon sun even with moderate outside temps.  Even running two of the 12 volt exhaust fans for 8 hours will cost 50AH worth of batteries.  But indeed, yes, the 2,000 watt Honda will charge the batteries nicely at the full charge rate of the 3,000 watt inverter and at far less cost then a big generator.  But the portable has some drawbacks as does the big genny.  Everything's a trade off.

I kinda knew you would comment and agree that I could make it work and we did on only 300AH - 150AH useable.  But I had to be careful and watch what we used.  Didn't find that enjoyable and neither did Linda.  But that's us.

Still, just giving our numbers so people have a reference point from our experience.  I know others use a lot more power then us and some less.  The amount of solar one has is a big factor.   We've gone a week "boondocking" and for us the 600AH with an RV fridge was just about correct, had some nice reserve, didn't over discharge the batteries to 50% everyday and I didn't have to limit much of our normal style of living.  Works for us.



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Bill-

Thanks for the info! Deb and I will need to rethink the plan. Plus I will need to look at capacities on the 2 batteries we have-not sure what size they are. the big worry for us is stopping for the night and the fridge running our batteries down to the point we can't run the slides back in the AM when we pack up to leave for the next spot. I was hoping the genny would give us the power to run in the slides.



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Happy Camper2016 wrote:

... Even with the extra batteries for the inverter, the most time we have been able to be unplugged from the truck or shore power is 8 hrs. So it looks like if we want to be off the grid for a day or so, we need to fork out $$ for generator, or pay to stay.


Happy Camper and anyone else reading along, understanding your Amh usage (contrasted to your battery's available Amhs and your means of charging them: solar, generator, shore power, etc.) is not only important for boondocking, a long travel day but also for unplanned power outages. We experienced an 8-hour power outage just the other day at our current RV park (which effected multiple towns)--that outage could have easily been longer, so having a plan which could include hooking-up and moving on (although that can get complicated during high-season) or ideally having the needed capability (e.g., battery Amhs, solar, generator) to live without shore power for a couple days can come in handy.



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Happy Camper2016 wrote:

Bill-

Thanks for the info! Deb and I will need to rethink the plan. Plus I will need to look at capacities on the 2 batteries we have-not sure what size they are. the big worry for us is stopping for the night and the fridge running our batteries down to the point we can't run the slides back in the AM when we pack up to leave for the next spot. I was hoping the genny would give us the power to run in the slides.


 Kevin, no question the generator will help.  But if the batteries are run down too much, then in the morning when you fire up the generator - depending - you may have to give it a bit of time to get some charge back in the batteries UNLESS the battery charger, i.e. converter, is capable of supplying enough amps to run the slide motor(s) alone.  Some are, some are not.  Have no way of knowing.

I would doubt - but have no way of knowing - assuming the two batteries came with the trailer from the factory - they are as a pair much over 200AH - if that.

Please note - one can not just add another battery.  If a battery is 6 months old, or more, adding a new battery to a battery bank will actually diminish the life of the new battery.  Hate so say it but batteries should be replaced or added to as a complete new set whatever the number of batteries or capacities.  They all need to match in age, capacity and voltage.

One thing that can help is a proper battery monitor - actually kind of like a gas gauge showing AH's used and as a percentage the amount of power (AH's) left in the batteries.  (Don't go below 50% for good battery life.)  These are not particularly expensive but must be installed and properly calibrated by someone who really knows what they are doing. Calibration is very important. The Bogart TM-2030 RV is the one I recommend and have used for a long time.  Simple but very accurate properly installed.

http://www.bogartengineering.com/products/trimetrics/

The link will tell you a bit about them.  This isn't all that complicated once you know a bit more.

Ed and Lynn's comments are important as well.  The one thing many trailer manufactures neglect, IMO, is adequate battery capacity, especially with residential refrigerators. Most, not all, of these OEM battery systems really are not capable for boondocking or any type of extended power outages as Ed & Lynn commented.  



__________________

Bill & Linda
2014 New Horizons Majestic F37RLTSS 96

2016 RAM 5500HD \ 4-Wheel Drive \ Link Air Ride
Classy Chassis RV Hauler Bed Conversion \ Aux Fuel Tank 



RV-Dreams Family Member

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Date:

I will start by saying I didn't read in detail any but the original post, so this may be a repeat for of something that's already been said.

Bill and I have a residential refrigerator and we are so happy with it!

Instead of having an expensive, heavy generator, we decided instead to get a full solar system installed (6 6volt (660amp hours at 12 volts) AGM batteries, 7 160 watt panels, a Magnum pure sine invertor, and a Morningstar charge controller.

As backup for the solar, we have 2 Honda 2000 generators that can be run in parallel, which can run if needed.

I love the convenience of having such a large refrigerator and freezer, complete with ice maker and water dispenser in the door. Having the solar makes it easy, even when boondocking for weeks at a time.

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Bill & Kelly - with Callie along the ride.  Raskal & Cocoa now watching from above

2011 Ford F350 Diesel Dually 4x4 

2014 Heartland Landmark, Grand Canyon 

"All those who wander are not lost" Tolkien

 BLOG:  http://bkamericanodyssey.com/



RV-Dreams Family Member

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Date:

Kelly,

Did you guys start out with six batteries and solar or did you add it after you were on the road for some time and added up your typical electrical usage?

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Mark from Missouri

 www.ourfutureinanrv.wordpress.com

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