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Old 10-10-2003
skibum13 skibum13 is offline
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Recharging a Norcorld Refrigeration Unit

You would think Norcold would make it easy to recharge one of their refigeration units with R-134a, but why give us customers the option of spending $10 on a bottle of R-134a at our local auto parts store when they can make us pay $600 or more for a whole new unit.

I have the ice box conversion unit SCQT4407. According to Norcold, it is a "closed system" and you cannot recharge the system if the refrigerant is low. Supposedly some service centers will recharge them, but the one guy I finally found that said he knew how said he doesn''t recommend it because even though they can get the right amount of R-134a into the unit at the shop, some of the refrigerant is lost during installation. The problem is at the "refrigerant quick connect couplings." If they aren''t connected, then refrigerant slowly escapes and eventually all the refrigerant will be lost (which was the case with mine).

So, I am left with the always enjoyable option of spending $600 on a new system or try to figure out how to recharge my old system myself. Since according to Norcold, my old system is just a bulky paperweight at this point, I might as well try to figure out if it''s possible to recharge it.

I''ve talked with automotive and appliance repairmen and here''s is my yet untest plan:

I can install a copper tee (available at Home Depot) into one of the copper lines and then attach an R-134a low-side connector (available at auto parts stores) to that tee. I will then have a standard low-side automotive connector installed which can be used to vacuum out any moisture or air that has gotten into the lines and then used to recharge the system with a bottle of R-134a (found at auto parts stores).

The only unknown at this point is how much refrigerant to add, which is fine because I can install the system into the boat, then keep adding a little bit of refrigerant until the cooling plate in the ice box keeps the ice box cold.

The major advantage of this learning experience (assuming that it will work as planned) is that I can service the system out at sea. Well that and not having to spend $600 on another refrigeration unit!

If anybody has had any similar experience, I would appreciate any advice or suggestions you might have.
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