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Old 02-11-2007, 05:11 PM   #1
andrew240z
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Default Refrigerators in the cold

I have a full size refrigerator in my garage which is unheated most of the time. I went out there today and noticed some of the food in the freezer was soft. The food was thawing out but the ice in the freezer was not thawing?? the fridge is on and working. Would these cold temperatures have something to do with this(its been 25 or under for the last 2-3 weeks in nj)? Any thoughts?
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Old 02-11-2007, 05:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew240z
I have a full size refrigerator in my garage which is unheated most of the time. I went out there today and noticed some of the food in the freezer was soft. The food was thawing out but the ice in the freezer was not thawing?? the fridge is on and working. Would these cold temperatures have something to do with this(its been 25 or under for the last 2-3 weeks in nj)? Any thoughts?
I noticed this same problem at my parents house. I think it may be too cold for the refrigerator to work properly. This may not apply but ice in a small lunch sized cooler will melt in the cooler even if the cooler is in sub freezing temps.
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Old 02-11-2007, 06:22 PM   #3
toxicz28
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

I mentioned this months ago when someone posted up about a fridge in an unheated garage. People cried BS.
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Old 02-11-2007, 06:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

I'm certainly no expert, but I think it has to do with the temperature differential the system is designed for, and the ambient temps it is expected to encounter.

For example, let's say an indoor refrigerator is designed to work in an ambient temp of 60F-80F, and provide a temperature differential of 40 degrees F between the outside of the box and the inside. We would expect it to be able to provide an inside temperature between 20F and 40F depending on the temperature outside the box.

Now, if you put that unit in a 20F environment and expect it to maintain a 40F temp, it would have to be working as a heater, which it is not designed to do.

I think it would need a different condenser design and possibly a different refrigerant to allow operation in the lower temperature ranges. I have heard that heat-pump type heaters don't work when the temperature gets below a certain point (my frigid office last month would be an example), and I suspect this would be a similar issue, only in reverse.

Of course, there is no doubt I don't know what I am talking about, and await the real answer from someone knowledegable in this area.

Last edited by wilbilt; 02-11-2007 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 02-11-2007, 06:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Like a/c, frig basic operation boils off the heat a leaves you with cold, if its colder temp outside it is unable to do so and provide a temp drop. (like most heat pumps have to have a back up heat source to work below certain temps). Also a frig will run its heater to defrost the coils for an hour once every 8 hrs or something like that, this also makes for softer ice cream...H for an hour
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Old 02-11-2007, 09:03 PM   #6
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

The easy thing to do with hot stuff going into an outside temp fridge is to let it cool down before you put it in the box.
Set it on the door step untill morning.
They just do not work well when the temp outside them is lower than the temp they are set at.
It has been in the single digits for over a week by me. Yet my beer and soda pop that has been in there for 2 weeks isn't frozen when I take it out of the fridge located in the unheated garage.
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Old 02-12-2007, 08:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

The refrigeration process would still work even if the garage temp were below freezing. The problem with the garage fridge is much simpler than that.

The thermostat for a refrigerator/freezer is in the refrigerator part. Normally the refrigerator is kept at around 40 degrees. The compressor turns on as required to maintain this tempearture. The evaporator coils are concentrated in the freezer side, so that the freezer stays at around 0 degrees while the fridge side is held at 40.

If the ambient temp is around 25 degrees, the refrigerator compartment will get below the setpoint of 40 degrees, and gradually continue down towards 25 degrees. The compressor will not have to run at all to maintain this. In fact, the compressor is designed not to run, once the refrigerator compartment gets below the setpoint, for fear of freezing the contents of the fridge.

The lack of circulating refrigerant due to the non-running compressor means that the freezer compartment will gradually warm up to 25 degrees.

If the unit were just a freezer, it would work fine in the unheated garage. If it were just a refrigerator, it would not run in these conditions, and the contents would eventually freeze, but it is otherwise OK.

The problem for andrew240z is that he has a combination refrigerator/freezer, and the freezer part will not stay cold enough if the ambient temp drops below 40 degrees.
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Old 02-12-2007, 08:28 AM   #8
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Now that makes perfect sense.
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Old 02-12-2007, 08:34 AM   #9
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

I talked to an appliance repair guy I know about this very fact. A refrigerator keeps the heat out, not the cold in. When it's colder out than the thermostat is set at the frig doesn't come on. In soft drink machines you see at gas stations etc there are actually heaters which keep the machine at a certain temp. So, the appliance repair guy's best advise is to leave the freezer outside but keep the frig in. As to the defrost cycle, yes, the freezer will defrost at a certain time by a timer in the unit. If it defrosts and the water runs down the small tube into the evaporation tray which is in the bottom of the frig the water likely will freeze if the garage is too cold. Then you get a back up of ice just like a roof ice jam on your house.

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Old 02-12-2007, 08:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Makes sense to me too. I guess I should just not keep food in the freezer during the winter. Oh well, I did not lose much. Thanks for the replies!
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Old 02-12-2007, 11:41 AM   #11
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Leave the door open. Then you have a whole box freezer.
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Old 02-12-2007, 11:57 AM   #12
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

This is only true with Newer Fridge/Freezer Units.

My parents have an extra fridge in the garage, same thing happened to them. It didn't happen previously, because they had a super old fridge in there. That fridge had two seperate stats one for the fridge and one for the freezer.

The new fridges just have it in the fridge area from my understanding... and thats why the freezer stops working.
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:11 AM   #13
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

read about the gladitor garage works freezorator (ya my spelling sucks) they heat in the cold to keep your stuff from freezing.

http://www.gladiatorgw.com/list.asp?catID=5
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:50 AM   #14
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Insulation doesn't differentiate between hot and cold. Insulation has
an R value which is a measure of Thermal Resistance irrespective of hot
or cold.

I have the Whirlpool Gladiator Freezer / Fridge. It has a heater to
keep from freezing.

http://www.gladiatorgw.com/detail.as...lID=GARF19XXPK

A Traditional Combination of Refrigerator & Freezer Space
The Chillerator® Garage Refrigerator provides a traditional combination of food storage for your needs with the large 14 cu. ft. refrigerator and convenient 5 cu. ft. freezer.

Stays Chilled Inside, When it is Freezing Outside
Built-In heater keeps refrigerated items chilled, not frozen, even in very cold environments.

Stays Cold Inside, When it is Hot Outside
Powerful cooling system operates in high heat environments.

Stays Dry, When it is Humid Outside
Unlike typical refrigerators designed for inside the home, the Chillerator® Garage Refrigerator has a double pass heat loop that helps keep the outside of the refrigerator from sweating in high humidity environments.
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Old 02-15-2007, 01:36 PM   #15
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

in my garage, i've got a wine fridge and a regular fridge for beer. the one for wine heats as well as cools. the one for beer is just really really cold right now.
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Old 02-15-2007, 01:51 PM   #16
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by froggert
in my garage, i've got a wine fridge and a regular fridge for beer. the one for wine heats as well as cools. the one for beer is just really really cold right now.
I've got an old gas powered servel in my barn. Darn thing is 60 years old and works like new. Of course, since it has no moving parts, other than the door hinges, that's not completly a surprise.

On these new fangled fridges you guys have with compressors, I was wondering if it is tough on the compressor to be in the cold. I know when we had trouble at work with the computer room needing a/c year round, the concern was we couldn't put the compressor outside, as they are not designed to run below a certain temperature. We ended up installing a split unit with the compressor in the warehouse, which is normally heated to 50 degrees or so.

Is that an issue?

Phil
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Old 02-18-2007, 07:26 AM   #17
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

I had the same problem with my garage fridge. I just moved it to the basement. Very cool (pun intended) having the floorspace back. Now the powerwasher and snowblower have a home.

Matt
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Old 01-12-2012, 12:45 PM   #18
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

I am bringing back a SUPER old thread for some advice. I have an old whirlpool sidebyside fridge in the garage that is doing exactly this. It only has issues in the winter when the temps are below 40 for extended periods of time. Has anyone rigged up a heater for the coils underneath or anything like that?
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Old 01-12-2012, 01:58 PM   #19
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

It's not an issue with the coils. Re-read posts 7 and 13 above.
A regular refrigerator has a thermostat in the fridge section, that keeps the stuff in the fridge from freezing. If it's below 40F, the compressor just won't turn on, and your freezer will start to melt.

You can set your thermostat in the fridge lower (and stuff in there will freeze), or you can get rid of it entirely, and just have a freezer in your unheated garage.
Or, you can get a refrigerator (like a Subzero), that has a separate compressor for the fridge and freezer section.
Still, that will not prevent the contents of your fridge from freezing when it gets below 25F or so.
The Gladiator fridge with a built-in heater sounds like the best option, BUT you cannot retrofit a regular fridge with a heater for this purpose.
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Old 01-12-2012, 02:12 PM   #20
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Default Re: Refrigerators in the cold

If you drink enough of the cold beer in the frig, and replace it with warm beer, it will force the frig to work! Win-Win

It may sound and seem a bit counter-intuitive, but if you rigged a small light (ex: trouble light or similar) inside the frig that was on a timer for maybe 2 x 1 hr periods a day, it would make enough heat to have the frig cycle at least a couple times/day. Which would keep the freezer compartment cold. Yes the frig is using electricity to cool down the heat made by the electricity from the light, but it would force the frig to cycle in the very cold winter temps, which is what you need to happen. The heat form the light forces the frig to work.
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