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PostPosted: May 14th, 2017, 10:15 pm 
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Yes, for sure the MDF puffs up and disintegrates. Pretty much every piece at floor level in the back of the unit has some evidence of damage. Not sure what they thought the carpet plus MDF would look like after 16 years of use in even a moderately wet environment. The rest of your post does address most of my concerns.

I like the idea of having a wider hallway to the rear door plus some extra open space in the cabin. That's our main reason for looking into fridge alternatives. I think we will go with something both shorter and less deep if I can find a good balance. I'm also seriously considering swapping the fridge and stove to end up with a higher counter but more open kitchen space. Not sure if anyone went through with that, maybe you can all guide me away from that option if there we serious issues.

I was wondering if you upgraded your 12V system to handle the new DC compressor load. I have a 50W solar panel and 225Ah of lead acid batteries (~1.4kWh usable capacity) in the unit now. I'm a concerned that even your smaller 45W compressor on the Vitrifrigo 130 will only really give me about a day and a half off shore power with no other drains.


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PostPosted: May 15th, 2017, 8:07 am 
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Posts: 217
Location: Indiana
Welcome, THrunner!
Like Blue-Go, I'm in the middle of a galley remodel. We wanted more room for the rear walk-thru area and additional meal-prep counter top space. Removed the ol'Dometic and went with the AC/DC Vitrifrigo. The smaller refer works for our travel style. It's similar to the size found in PleasureWays or Roadtreks. A new SMEV 2 burner cooktop w/lid replaces the original. Attached is a simple diagram of the layout (not CAD) to get the idea. Taking Blue-Go's advice, retaining the "bulkhead" wall is needed. I have also added a new sidewall (behind the dinette seat) to tie in the now "cut-away" bulkhead into the existing closet wall for additional support for the microwave. Construction is 2x2 "framing" with 1/2" ply. Retaining the original refer outside access door and roof top vents, a new "air shaft" will allow for the range hood fan to be ducted to the "outside" as well as aiding in the ventilation of the refers remote cooling unit. And... no more "limbo-dance" when standing over the stove :D . Relocating the overhead cabinet outlet to the new side wall and adding an under cabinet 12v puck light was also done. I will be retaining the OEM style of cabinets/doors and Corian countertop. As Blue mentioned, the wheel well and gen-set enclosures presented the biggest obstacles when trying to figure a new layout.


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PostPosted: May 15th, 2017, 8:53 am 
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Joined: July 31st, 2014, 1:01 am
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Location: 1999 Concourse
Sounds like your reasons are similar to mine. That narrow hallway had to go! I also had enough power (more on that below), so no need to have the disadvantages of an absorption refrigerator (since I didn't need the plusses).

Member "HoosierB" here is swapping the refrigerator and the stove [Edit: I see he posted while I was typing - great, now you get to see his excellent drawings and plans]. A couple things I can think of that you have to be aware of are these:

1) "Platform" under the current refrigerator (generator box) is around 13" high. Platform under current stove (wheelwell) is around 6" high. Presuming you want to keep the current stove area as a kitchen work surface, then you're limited in the refrigerator size by height. Yes, the current (Concourse) 31-1/2" counter heights can stand to be raised, but still. For example, my new 4.7 cu. foot (original was around 6.5 cu. ft IIRC for comparison) refrigerator is 31" tall. If I were to put it in the stove place, I'd have 6" for wheelwell, say 1" for insulation, 3/4" for "floor," 31" for fridge, 2" for insulation, 3/4" for countertop. So that's around 42" for the countertop. That's a bit high for me, and also crowds the upper cabinets a bit, but it might work for you (or you can find many smaller refrigerators).

2) Another thing to consider is, presuming you have a refrigerator with a built in compressor, you need space for the cooling air to flow. My refrigerator has a remote compressor, so I can put it somewhere else (within reason) but still need to supply cooling air (well, actually heat removal air).

I kind of wanted to keep the current refrigerator area as "not kitchen" above the waist. Not that I would mind it as kitchen, but I wanted an auxiliary bathroom stuff area, plus a "table by the door" area where I can gather stuff as I'm getting ready to go somewhere (away from the Chinook). So the new countertop above my fridge is slated to be that area (it'll be around 46" high, but that's still fine as a set down area). With the DP130 I was able to hold the face such that the hallway is wider. It only juts around 2" past the face of the closet and is about even with the stove counter. Much relief! Plus having the "set down counter" visually widens it. I made a U-shaped cut out in the bulkhead between the fridge/stove (above the countertop) so that helps as well.

Another note is that (Warning: project creep!) Chinook, as is typical for RV makers, first carpeted the entire thing, then put in the furniture (in case you wondered why there was carpet beneath the shower stall and in the "tire locker"…). If you are doing any remodeling with cabinetry out, it's an opportunity to laying new flooring without having to cut around a bunch of detailed cabinetry. Depending on the flooring, you may be able to put the new cabinetry on top of it.

******

Okay, on to power. I did pretty much re-do my whole power distribution system. This wasn't just because of the fridge though. Rather it's because of my use-case scenario, my background, and my particular bent. I boondock pretty much all of the time and essentially live on DC power (I don't tend to use AC things on a daily basis). My background is in boating, where the ABYC has established a good set of standards for electrical work, and I wanted my Chinook to basically follow that mindset, and my bent is that I don't like to worry about things I didn't originally do and can't see.

So, I re-did the main power distribution system. This was so that I could have shorter wire runs, larger cable, and the ability to fuse all the runs. I'd probably be getting off track if I got into detail here, but the upshot is that I now have 200 watts of solar (ground panels) and 375 amp hours of battery bank (too much battery for that amount of solar but I'm planning to add 200 more watts on the roof). It sounds like a lot, and it's not like it's two hours' work, but it wasn't that bad (I kind of like working on wiring - no dust, no smell, you don't need a big shop, and it comes out so satisfyingly tidy-like).

If you are living on DC power, I'd say 200 watts (and at least 200 amp hours of battery bank) is a good minimum for running a compressor refrigerator. That's basically what I've been using (haven't had my battery bank below 70%, and that only rarely and because I don't have roof panels, so it could easily be a smaller bank), and I've been fine. However I don't tend to hang out in cloudy/rainy places for long. I do get short winter days, just like anyone in the US, but they tend to be sunny at least. I'm able to go all year without plugging in, and without straining my battery bank. The refrigerator is my main draw (I budgeted 48 amp hours per day, although it generally uses less), and then to that I add computer/phone/AA batteries/LED lights. So my draws above and beyond the refrigerator are not that much (maybe another 10 amp hours per day max). Some people would say "that's too much like camping," but I've lived this way on boats for years and it's normal and pleasant to me. There's nothing wrong with trying to duplicate a house in the suburbs, but that's just not me. (It is kind of what the Chinook was aimed for though - duplicating a Class A for older people "moving down" so they wouldn't feel they were missing anything.)

If you have a different use-case scenario: Say you spend weekends out then go home and plug in, then you might be able to do a different setup. On the other hand, these days 200 watts of solar does not cost an arm and a leg, and the smallest MPPT chargers (usually 15 amp) can handle 200 watts so you could make a case that there's not that much savings only going with 100 watts. (There are also other solutions, such as suitcase panels with built in chargers, but I always was the type to buy stereo components vs. the all-in-one, so that's my bias.)

Maybe you could elaborate on your desired use-case scenario(s) a bit more?

BG

PS: Meant to mention that I settled on 34" counter height above the bare floor (original is closer to 31" in the Concourse; 36" is standard home kitchen). I'll have a linoleum type floor, so that will be pretty close to the final height. Reason I chose that vs. the typical 36" is that it was a balance between not having the ridiculously low stock counters, but then also not crowding the upper cabinets, or the kitchen side window. Luckily I'm not a 6-footer.

PPS: Hoosier mentions this in the way of using an even smaller refrigerator for the way he travels, and I touched on it above in the way that Chinook aimed this rig at people downsizing from Class A's who didn't want to give up anything. But to elaborate a little: There's nothing wrong with the stock Chinook configuration if that's what a person likes. They really did a very good job of putting all of the Class A amenities in a smaller, nimbler package. On the other hand, for someone like me, it felt a bit like ten pounds of flour in a five pound sack. Hoosier mentions camper vans. They rock, but the factory ones can be a little bit cramped (again they are fitting a lot of stuff in a small package). So with the Chinook there is an opportunity to have a really roomy, spacious "camper van," if that's what one wants. By "giving up" a few of the Class A amenities, you can go back to only five pounds of flour, in which case the Chinook "sack" is really quite roomy. Again though, it all depends on what one wants. For me, I didn't want a "Class A sized" refrigerator that I then had to squeeze past every time I went in and out. So I went with a slightly smaller one and now I have a place to gather my stuff (hat, keys, water, sunglasses, etc.) before I head out for a hike, and I don't have to turn sideways to get out with a backpack on. Likewise the microwave (that I never used) is gone and I no longer have to limbo to cook on the stove top. That's what I like. Not that everyone has the same goals, but just mentioning it as food for thought.

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Last edited by Blue~Go on May 15th, 2017, 10:22 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: May 15th, 2017, 9:03 am 
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Joined: October 31st, 2014, 10:25 pm
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THrunner wrote:
Just catching up on this thread. These are some great ideas. I am looking to remodel the rear of my 2001 Concourse because the old panels have quite a bit of water damage from the fridge vent.

Does anyone have the CAD or measurements they could post from any of your remodels? I was hoping to drop in a slightly bigger fridge and I'd like to play around in the model.


I recently replaced most of the bottom 6 inches or so of the MDF panel around the bathroom door, sink area and rear wall that was water damaged. Nothing matches the MDF oak pattern better than real oak! Since I was only replacing the lowest few inches, there was not a lot of surface area, and I used solid oak I recycled from some old drawer fronts I had in the shop. You can buy hobby pieces of oak at the hardware or lumber store or you can find some old oak furniture (end tables or drawer cabinets, etc.) at the thrift store for prices less than the value of the wood itself. I covered the seam with some molding, similar to the trim around the corners and seams in the Chinook already.

Here is a picture showing just the bathroom door threshold:
Attachment:
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Clay

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PostPosted: May 15th, 2017, 10:00 am 
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Joined: May 21st, 2015, 7:00 pm
Posts: 217
Location: Indiana
In keeping with the original decor, I located some discontinued "Country Oak" MDF and trim moulding made by Dakota. Perfectly matches the original oak-look trim/walls. Installing the new wall panels 1/4" off the floor (using plastic spacers) should eliminate water wicking due to any future leaks. Also created two drain pans... one under the refer base and one for the remote cooling unit which will sit on the top panel of the gen-set enclosure at the base of the air ventilation shaft. Both tee into the original refer drain out the floor bottom. Better safe than sorry. Rigid, foil-faced foam insulation will be used on the new air ventillation shaft walls. Pink insulation will stuff the refer enclosure.

BTW: We use the microwave. I wanted to have the remodeled top cabinet/shelf extend outward no further than the passenger side overhead cabinets. This meant the new microwave could be no more than 13-14" deep. In addition, the original refer roof vent contour protrudes into the microwave cabinet ceiling area which effects the finished height for the cabinet. The minimal wattage we wanted was 900 watts. The smallest 900 watt microwaves I found were Haier and Frigidaire. Both had depths less than 13 1/2". Relocating the dedicated 20 amp recept to the "bulkhead" wall allowed for easier installation and more room for the new microwave.

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