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Old 08-06-2012, 01:24 PM   #1
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Replacing Norcold fridge - size warning!

Just thought I'd share knowledge I gained quite painfully, in case anyone in the future does the same fridge replacement I did.

I have a 1994 EB, it had the 4CF Norcold DE-540 two way fridge (12v/120v) in it and, while it lasted 18 years, it finally died this year.

After some research, looking at the specs in detail, and talking to Sportsmobile I decided to order the newer version of that same fridge, the Norcold DE-0041. There are some cool new fridge ideas out there but I didn't want to have to make something fit in our tight cabinetry, so just went with the supposedly identically sized fridge... all specs are basically identical w/in about 1/4".

WELL... turns out it matters *where* the depths are greatest too... didn't see that coming. The DE-0041's greatest depth is near the top of the fridge, whereas the greatest depth on the DE-540 was near the bottom of the fridge. The new fridge was too deep at the top where the van walls were starting to curve in on the cabinetry space, leaving the fridge sticking out about 2".

Couldn't think of a ready solution so just framed the fridge in with it sticking out a little bit, honestly doesn't look too horrible but just wanted to share the warning:

EVEN THOUGH THE SPECS READ ALMOST THE SAME, the DE-0041 may not fit where a DE-540 did, especially if it's mounted higher up where the van sheet metal is curving inward.

If anyone's contemplating this switch or has questions they can contact me at:
b a s s @ c r o y s t . n e t

-- Bass
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:11 PM   #2
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Re: Replacing Norcold fridge - size warning!

I did the same replacement in my 1992 Ford EB in August for the same reasons. I encountered the same fit problems. I had checked with Norcold and found that the required opening for the DE-0041 was the same as the original fridge (I have the original fridge installation manual).

I encountered exactly the same problem that Bass did. New fridge largest at the top while old fridge was largest at the bottom. This combined with the fact that the sides of the van curve inward as they rise meant that the new fridge would not fit all the way into the opening. It protruded about two inches into the aisle.

In my van's configuration there is cabinetry across the aisle form the fridge. So if I allowed it to protrude from the original face of the cabinet then the fridge door could not be fully opened.

After much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth here is the solution that I found which allowed a flush-to-the-cabinet installation.

At first I thought that I would be OK if I removed the shelf below the fridge and mounted the new fridge essentially on the floor of the van. Dropping the fridge that far would have utilized the curvature of the van side to give me just enough additional depth for the mounting to be flush. Not an ideal solution to have the fridge that low but my goal was to have a flush installation.
That would have worked but I didn't bank on the wheel well. After I removed the shelf below the fridge I realized that the wheel well would only allow me to drop the fridge about 2 inches and not all the way to the floor.

So I still needed to find more space. I found it by a combination of dropping the fridge as far as the wheel well permitted and then removing a portion of the wooden paneling at the rear of the cabinetry holding the fridge.

With the old fridge removed I first drilled a small hole through the paneling at the rear of the cabinet opening behind the fridge. The height at which I drilled the hole above the new, lower location of the supporting shelf was determined by the point where the curvature of the van body would prevent the new fridge from being mounted flush to the face of the cabinet. Then I inserted a slightly smaller drill bit into the hole by hand until it touched the inner wall of the van side bode. This told me that, at least at that spot, I had an additional two inches of space for the fridge if removed the paneling and the fiberglass insulation behind it.
At this time I didn't know if the inside of the van body was flat sheet metal behind the fridge location or if there might be structural supports welded on that would mean the extra two inches was not usable.

So I removed the paneling starting about 18 inches or so above the new support shelf location. I removed it the full width of the cabinet opening and as high as needed so that the top of the new fridge could clear the opening. My luck held. Once I had the paneling and the insulation out I found that the inside van wall was flat. Now I had enough room (barely) for a flush mount.

After that the rest of the job was all cabinet work. I reused the old support shelf for the fridge. I removed it and reinstalled it as low as the wheel well permitted. I wound up taking a couple of inches off of the cabinet doors that were mounted below the fridge and then remounting them. So I've still got doors for that space.

There is now a full width and depth shelf above the new fridge that's about six inches high. This shelf was originally mounted just above the old fridge. However the opening was covered by the vent grill for the fridge's air circulation. The old grill was a separate piece from the old fridge.
The new fridge has a grill that's all one piece with the face of the fridge. So I remounted the shelf above the new fridge's grille. It's between the top of the fridge's ventilation grille and the underside of the cabinetry top that supports the upper bunk cushions. Since I had no doors for that space I installed a piece of "J-channel" left over from my recent vinyl siding work on our house across the opening. So now there's a bout a one inch high lip to prevent things from just sliding or rolling off of the shelf. This meant that I wound up with a slight net increase in storage space even though I lost some space below the fridge.

I also installed a 1/2 inch thick piece of styrofoam sheet against the inside of the van side wall behind the new fridge. I wanted to have at least some insulation between the fridge and the sheet metal.

If you have to do a replacement of one these old fridges just be sure to leave sufficient room for air flow behind the it. That's critical.

I shudder to think what this would have cost if I had to pay someone to figure this out and then do the work.

I hope that this helps anyone else who has the same replacement challenge.

CB
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