Thursday, September 28, 2023


My RV’s absorption fridge quit. Can I replace cooling unit with 12-volt model?

Dear Dave,
I am the original owner of a Jayco Eagle 308RLS travel trailer. The Norcold fridge (N611RT) has finally given up. The freezer still freezes well, but the refrigerator portion does not cool at all. I have been thinking about a replacement cooling unit, especially one that is just 12 volts. I have 900 watts of solar on the roof and 400 amp hours of lithium batteries. Your thoughts on doing this myself? I am fairly mechanically inclined, and I have several buddies that I camp with that are very mechanically inclined. —Seann, 2009 Jayco Eagle 308RLS

Dear Seann,
I have heard of this being done but have not actually attempted it myself, so I did some research. JC Refrigeration sells a 12-volt compressor replacement that you can swap out the old LP/120-volt cooling unit, which they call a Dutch Aire model. The model NOR 6 HVAC 12V is designed for Norcold 610 and 611 units like yours and sell for $785. You can find them here.

Norcold 610/611 HVAC 12V DC replacement unit

The Norcold 12-vold replacement unit comes with a Universal HVAC Controller that replaces the front eyebrow board/controls, interior light, and rear control board. It is mounted inside the refrigerator directly on the back fins and has an on/off switch, temperature sensor, temperature display panel, and two fans that blow air at the fins to provide better air flow and keep the fins from developing frost. A motion sensor turns the light on when the door is open, and the unit is preset for 34 degrees F for the refrigerator.

They do have a very thorough installation manual but no videos that I could find from JC Refrigeration. You will need to close the gas tank or cylinder and unhook the gas line at the refrigerator and cap it, then take the old refrigerator out of the cavity. You will need 7¾” space between the back of the refrigerator and the outside wall of the vent hole.

Installation manual

According to the installation manual, you need to remove the entire outer cooling unit of the old absorption system but still use the evaporator and condenser fins from the inside. It doesn’t look too complicated other than needing to take the refrigerator out of the cavity and have the space to lay it down and remove the cooling unit. Here is the pdf of the installation.

I did several searches on forums and found all positive reviews from owners that had someone do the install and some that did a DIY. According to the JC website, it runs 70% more efficient than a 120-volt unit going through an inverter. We do have data backing that up. A residential refrigerator running at 70-degree ambient temperature using 120-volt power through an inverter and a 100 AH lithium battery will run approximately 13 hours without anything else drawing power. A 12-volt compressor refrigerator connected directly to the 12-volt source and not the inverter will run for almost 40 hours! So, if you have 400-amp-hour batteries and 900 watts of power, I would believe you have found your solution.

Maybe a new refrigerator

There are several 12-volt compressor refrigerators that have entered the market such as Norcold and Lippert. Everchill has had great reviews and are now owned by Lippert, so you might look at such replacing the refrigerator since some of the 8 CF models are $1400 and much less work to install. One thing to consider is, will your old refrigerator fit through the entrance door as well as the new one coming in. I’ve been involved in nightmare replacements of removing slider windows and even windshields to replace a refrigerator!

Hopefully, we can get some feedback from readers that have done this. Let us know what you decide and how it works. Good luck!

 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

RV’s absorption refrigerator is not cooling. How about a residential fridge?

Dear Dave, 
My freezer freezes pretty well all year long. However, my absorption refrigerator has trouble staying below 38 degrees in the hot summer in Arizona. I have installed a computer fan in the outside access, forcing the air upward. Also, I raised the vent cover about 3/4 inch to allow the air to escape better. I have started to investigate putting in an additional domestic refrigerator but have been told that it will not operate very well running through the inverter system in an RV. Dave, any help or advice that you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you. —Gary, 1998 Fleetwood American Dream

Read Dave’s answer.

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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


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Al H.
25 days ago

I thought I read somewhere that Norcold went out of business. Is this not true?

Tommy Molnar
27 days ago

I watched a vidoe of a couple who did the swap-out from the RV fridge to the JC conversion themselves. Man oh man, it’s more work than I want to do! When ours died we went to a Haier 120v ac fridge from Lowe’s for $450. We have a TT and both fridges fit through our door. I WILL admit we had a mobile RV tech guy do it. Best move we ever did. Granted, this setup may not be as efficient as a 12v DC unit but we could not find any of those – and we needed a fridge NOW. It was a simple plug in instead of having to run a 12v wire (or wires) from our batteries to the fridge location. So far, our 700 watts of solar and two 100ah lithium batteries are handling this just fine. I especially like how we can let the fridge run as we go down the road.

27 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

We had JC Refrigeration install our double compressor 12v replacement in our 2118 Norcold. It is much more efficient and extremely quiet, even when compared with any other options.

We opted to have them do it because we weren’t sure of some of the optional equipment or parts that would be needed. It only took 1.5 hours and it is amazingly cold and stable – with the test being parked in our driveway in Texas during the heat wave. Even without the RV a/c running (it was a sauna inside the RV) the fridge kept up temperature for both freezer (-3) and refrigerator (34).
Much better than cutting out cabinets and retrofitting a different refrigerator into the space.

26 days ago
Reply to  Jules

I am pretty handy but,,,,,,,,I had JC convert my “NoCold, Norcold” unit to their 12 V system, and it is just brilliant!

Walt G.
27 days ago

I would replace the unit with a new 12 volt compressor fridge , especially for the added interior space and with all that solar and lithium available.
I replaced my 3 way with a Everchill 12 volt as it was the only one that would fit thru the door of my class c.
I was initially thrilled with it but !!! It has a dark side that the poorly done instructions and lack of operation manual don’t address. I hope they have improved the operation instructions as to turning off the fridge and what to do when the unit goes into stupid mode !
Stupid mode is when the fridge is happily at 37* and you put in 10 small bottles of water to cool and then lights start blinking in the fridge after a short period of time. At that point the fridge temp goes up to 48* and seems to be not running. After research on YouTube you find out that if the fridge can’t get to the original set point in a certain time period it goes into stupid mode . Why ? Let it run until it gets to set point…. Dah ! I can’t trust this Neverchill. I would not recommend this unit to anyone.

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