April, 2016 – When I discovered I needed a new cooling unit (the main, most expensive part) in my 2012 Winnebago motorhome, I started investigating and found out much more than I bargained for. See my page Norcold RV Refrigerators for more info, along with details about the numerous and ineffective Norcold Recalls and the related Class Action Lawsuit.
Here’s more technical information on the better built Amish Made Cooling Unit and why I decided to go with it instead of another Norcold made one. Brief recap: Apparently the steel tubing used in the Norcold cooling units is not adequate to endure the stresses during normal operation. Cracks happen causing flammable ammonia and hydrogen gas under high pressure to leak, resulting in fires. The consensus is that the Amish made units use stronger material that withstands these pressures better.
The refrigerator was completely pulled out, then laid on its front so back is exposed. There was just enough room on the floor of my motorhome for this.
The Norcold cooling unit removed. After cutting off the foam wrapping, he shows me the Thermal Switch Kit that Norcold came up with as the latest recall retrofit. What it does is shut the unit down if too high temperature is detected. In that case, your cooling unit is toast and either it or the entire refrigerator needs to be replaced. (See short video below for more info.)
The first thing he remarked on was how the Amish unit was better packed so fins can’t bend or twist. Sometimes Norcold ones come in bent. The coils are larger in diameter and thicker than Norcold and there are more of them and looped more times. He said this basically increases the heat transfer which increases the cooling efficiency of the fridge.
Getting it in the door, I was surprised that it was much larger than I thought it would be.
From what I’d read about other installers and their advice, Dan agreed it was most important that the unit be seated and sealed correctly or it would suck in air and not cool properly.
Making sure all the little wires are reconnected properly. I told them it was like a puzzle and I was glad I didn’t have to figure it out! 🙂
He also said he adjusted the upper air flow baffle as the Amish fins are not as wide as the Norcold and forcing the air flow over the condenser is very important.
Note for units installed in slide-outs: A few days later, I found out from the manufacturer that they recommend a third fan be installed in the upper vent when refrigerators are installed in slide-outs. This is because they don’t vent directly to the roof and since the air has to make a turn to get out, this additional fan helps with the critical issue of ventilation. I’m getting another fan installed soon and will report on that then.
After everything is hooked up, final check for propane leaks.
Short YouTube video showing the Norcold recall retrofit Thermal Switch, and where the tubes would rupture and leak, causing fires.
Dan confirmed that newer cooling units like mine are no different from ones recalled by Norcold in 2010. They are built the same and even with the newest recall kits, there are still fires. He mentioned they’ve seen a few fires from these refrigerators and since they’re in a very small town, he knows there’s probably much more nationwide.
Out of every 10 cooling units their shop replaces, the vast majority (8-9) are from the larger four door 1200 series. There are less problems with smaller units and usually with those, the price to replace just the cooling unit is comparable to replacing the entire refrigerator, which is certainly not true of these larger ones.
He said he sees many more requests to switch to residential units because people get tired of dealing with the same issues time after time. I’m much more confident in this Amish made cooling unit, and my extended warranty company will foot the bill for this expensive fix, but not for replacing it with residential. Plus I understand that in order to be able to boondock, you need bigger, stronger battery power, inverter and solar power to make it all work and I’m not willing to lay out the money for that at this point. And I still assert that this supposedly top of the line refrigerator in such an expensive motorhome should be expected to work longer than 4 years!
He did notice that I have a different, newer Norcold control board. The old ones used cheap electronic components and improvements in that has been made anyway.
And I am compelled to say yet again: the failure of my 2012 cooling unit is the exact same deal as the ones in the latest Norcold recall started in 2010. Yet my serial number is not included in the recall range.
And don’t be fooled – there are still fires occurring with the latest recall fixes, whether they are retrofit or now built into newer units. For me, I’m glad my extended warranty covered the Amish unit, but many other owners feel like replacing with another Norcold unit is their only choice. This is such a ridiculous situation, and I hope more people will complain to the NHTSA about this. See my page NHTSA and Norcold Recalls for how easy it is to do that.
Dan did say he was hesitant to go with Amish made at first because the one he had installed years ago had problems and he had heard from other RV repair companies that they wouldn’t recommend them either. Although the manufacturer did confirm there had been early problems, they had been addressed and improvements made. And my more recent research showed far better satisfaction and safety from the Amish Cooling Units and thankfully, they checked that out and agreed to order from them. But if they hadn’t, I found other nearby services that swore by the Amish built ones and I would have gone there instead of accepting another Norcold cooling unit when the vast majority of evidence showed how defective they are.
4/15/16: The first couple of days after the install, it struggled getting to the correct operating temperatures even on the lowest setting, but outside temps were in the high 80s. But then after a couple of days, it froze everything inside the fridge, and it turned out to be the thermistor again. I’m grateful to the manufacturer, JC Refrigeration, for ordering this for me and arranging to have it and the third fan installed. I’m still confident this option is much better than the Norcold one and will update this page once everything is finalized.
Mohave RV Repair did the install of my unit. While I ended up not being able to recommend their service overall, as far as I can tell, the install went well with no problems. However, I came across some inconsistencies and misconceptions about what is the best practices for the install, so I’m working with the manufacturer in this regard and will be posting another page on that soon.
Freezing the Fire – My friend, Tab, was so concerned about the possibility of fire and all he stood to lose, he replaced his Norcold cooling unit with an Amish built one before he had any problems with it. He shows pictures and details of how easy it was to replace the 600 series Norcold model with the Amish built one.
All Malia’s Miles Norcold pages: