If you believe that you can purchase a regular fridge or freezer (or fridge/freezer combo unit) designed for home use and place it in an unheated garage, outbuilding or garden shed, you might want to rethink that!
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Environmental Requirements for Regular Fridge/Freezers
Regular household fridge and freezer models are designed to operate at reasonable ambient room temperature. This means the room they’re situated will need to be above 50-degrees (Fahrenheit) throughout the year, including the winter months.
Failure to maintain the warmth of at least 50-degrees (subject to individual model specifications) will lead a household fridge/freezer to malfunction in various ways.
It will tend to thaw out food that is in the freezer compartment. Also, the refrigeration section may start erratically freezing food! Essentially, the household appliance goes a bit haywire in a cold or unheated environment.
Does This Affect When First Installing a Fridge/Freezer Too?
Yes, afraid so.
For instance, if a boxed fridge/freezer was previously stored in a cold warehouse – this is fine when it’s not powered up – but it will need time to warm up before power it up. Taking a fridge/freezer combo directly from cold warehouse storage to your home, plugging it in, and expecting it to work is a no-no.
The good news is that if the fridge/freezer was either stored on its side, transported, or carried into your home on its side, the refrigerant will need time to settle anyway. However, the warming up process will probably require additional time compared to the refrigerant (see manufacturer’s installation guide for the model).
Does This Have a Special Bearing on UK Appliance Owners?
We feel that it does.
Due to the regularly cold temperatures, cold snaps that come on suddenly, and sustained winter period in most of the UK which get down to freezing and below at times, it’s tough on these appliances.
The weather certainly isn’t mild enough all year round like in some other parts of the world where they don’t have to worry about unheated temperatures. Sadly, though, UK people must. There’s simply too much temperature variance in a given one-year period to use an indoor model in an unheated or outdoor environment.
Why Do Regular Fridge/Freezers Fail to Perform at Lower Temperatures?
To explain this, we feel an example is in order.
For many household fridge/freezer models, they respond to the current ambient temperature level. With this facility, as the temperature in the room gets a few degrees hotter (perhaps from the sun streaming in on a hot day), the fridge will amp up the refrigeration level to work harder to keep the food and drinks cool.
The cooling technology works great but not with falling temperatures. Should the room temperature fall below 38 degrees, most household fridge/freezes will halt their freezing and/or cooling functions.
What happens is that the compressor, which is the clever mechanical bit that keeps the freezer cold enough, fails to continue working and so no heat is being removed from the freezer to the outside. And the chilled air from the freezer that’s usually pumped into the fridge compartment keeping it cold stops operating after the compressor dies.
Pretty soon, the milk is going to go off, chilled meat won’t be safely edible, and that frozen Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is looking decidedly liquid-like.
Is a Dual Thermometer Household Fridge/Freezer a Better Option?
A fridge/freezer with two thermometers is better able to keep track of the temperature levels. While this is helpful to reduce instances of thawing food or cooling-off poultry, it doesn’t solve the problem entirely.
Eventually, as the room temperature in a garage, shed, or other unheated environment gets colder, fridges with no freezer compartment will stop working. If it gets cold enough, the inside of the fridge might freeze up too. Effectively, the internal temperature of the fridge pretty soon closely matches the ambient temperature of the unheated space given sufficient time.
Also, household fridge/freezers with water plumbing placed into a cold enough space will seize up, the water lines will become frozen, and the filter may burst or freeze over too.
What About Outdoor Fridge/Freezer Options?
There are specially made outdoor fridge/freezers or freezer chests designed for the outdoors. And with “outdoors”, the manufacturers mostly mean in an unheated place such as a garage, shed, or another cold environment like an outbuilding. These are the ones to use instead of moving your household fridge or fridge/freezer into the garage.
For instance, models from Beko are often marked at “Frost Free” and can handle an ambient room temperature as low as 23-degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees below freezing) and 109-degrees Fahrenheit on scorching hot days. Some of the most advanced Beko fridge/freezer models include their NeoFrost technology with a digital readout on the exterior door to control two thermostat settings.
There are also smaller undercounter freezers which are suitable for use in outbuildings too.
We’d advise not to even consider moving an old fridge/freezer (or an appliance that provides either function singularly) in an unheated environment like your garage. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, it will likely fail as soon as the temperatures begin to decline substantially. At which point, it could end up breaking the appliance.
It’s far better to purchase a specially designed fridge/freezer that is made for outdoor environments and can handle lower ambient temperatures.
Founder of homeappliancegeek.com, avid cook, and lover of Asian food.
Signature dishes include Thai Red Curry, Chicken Saag, Bibimbap and Sushi.
Massive clean freak; a habit baked-in after spending 9 years in the catering industry.
The one appliance he couldn’t live without? Easily the dishwasher (total relationship saver!).