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Refrigerator outside-will temperature extremes damage it?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I got a free fullsize fridge from my in-laws because they got a new one. I want to put it in my attached garage because it's right off the kitchen so using it to store extra food (and beer :)) would be very convenient. The garage is unconditioned though, so the fridge will see single digits in winter and 90+ in the summer. Will this cause any problem or will it simply run more in the summer and less in the winter?

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  2. FanMan

    FanMan Feeling the Heat

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    Most refrigerators are not designed to run in cold conditions. It messes with the temperature balance and the compressor oil may thicken up to the point it can't get started.. Some, not all, freezers are designed for cold conditions.
    jeff_t likes this.
  3. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    I used to keep one in the garage. And yes, it worked ok in the summer, good in spring and fall, and really iffy in the winter. Did not like cold at all. Once outside temps got around 30 or so, it didn't run. The beer stayed comfortably cold, but the frozen stuff would thaw.

    I moved it to the basement.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Why would the refrigerator start up with temps below 40F if the internal thermostat is not calling for cooling? We have never had an issue with our garage refer in over 20 years. Though we never used the small freezer in it. We have a freezer outside for that. So far it has handled being out in the garage ok, but we've only had it out there for a couple years.
  5. Panhandler

    Panhandler Minister of Fire

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    Speaking of the frozen stuff thawing, I just heard a story from a guy at work with a fridge in his garage. It seems he kept his frozen bait (shad) in the freezer of fridge. Family went away for a few days. Guess what thawed out when they were gone?
  6. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Could easily cause problems in cold weather. The refrigeration circuit depends on pressure differences to force refrigerant through the expansion device. In cold ambients the condenser pressure will be low, which means the compressor will need to draw a deeper vacuum in order to move the refrigerant. To solve this problem supermarket freezers with roof-top condensers will have refrigerant pumps to move the refrigerant in cold weather.

    Without benefit of a refrigerant pump you could be looking at what is called a high pressure ratio which is hell on compressors because there can be a situation where there is not enough mass flow to carry away the waste heat of the compressor motor and the compressor itself. Many refrigerators have low suction cut-out to protect the compressor, but then the freezer don't work.

    Though it sounds ridiculous you might need to build a box around the unit for winter with an incandescent light bulb on a line voltage thermostat to keep the ambient temperature of the refrigerator high enough.
  7. Lighting Up

    Lighting Up Feeling the Heat

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    It's the auto defrost that makes the freezer unuseable in the winter...old refrigerators didn't have that so they worked fine when it was cold. New ones with Auto defrost will cause your food to go bad in the freeze...the frig will be fine as long as the temp are cold and you watch the temps inside...just depends what you put in it. It will shorten the life of the frig for sure.
    md
  8. xman23

    xman23 Minister of Fire

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    My cold weather issue was with the cabin at 45 when we weren't there. The freezer would thaw out and refreeze. It took a few winters but I figured it out. The units only thermostat is in the refrigerator side. The freezer has most of the cooling and a fan to move the air. The thermostat is normally set very close to 45 degrees. So when the ambient temp is close to 45 it never cycles on. The refrig is fine but the freezer thaws because it doesn't run enough. Now during the winter I set the stat all the to max cold and the freezer air to max. It works fine except food in the fridge is frozen.
    Next time I will look at the double unit models.
  9. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    This happened to me with a pretty modern upright freezer. What happens is the freezer defrosts the internal coils (the normally cold ones that cool) every so often and the melted frost runs out the bottom of the freezer through a hole and drops into a pan for evaporation. Well, when the outside of the freezer is really cold, the outlet hole gets plugged with ice as the melted frost tries to escape. Pretty soon the melted frost accumulates and freezes over the coils to the point that the coils are plugged and can no longer remove heat from the freezer.

    So your freezer can freeze to the point that it gets warm. First thing you notice is softer ice cream. It happens over a couple of weeks.
    firebroad likes this.
  10. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I knew there would be someone with refrigeration expertise on here somewhere :) I probably won't really use the freezer for anything except maybe extra ice storage. We have a chest freezer that resides in the basement so no issues there.
  11. blujacket

    blujacket Minister of Fire

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    Frigidaire has a garage kit for top mount ref. produced since 2001. I sell a lot of them, and bought a Frigidaire for that reason. Has worked fine in my garage for 7 years now.
  12. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

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    So if you don't need the freezer, why not just switch the fridge off in winter? It'll still buffer the temp swings. Beer is still cold, compressor is happy & costs you nothing
  13. firebroad

    firebroad Minister of Fire

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    Highbeam is right; If I do not adjust my freezers to a warmer setting in the winter, they will clog up with ice during the defrost cycle. This has happened twice in the kitchen, twice in the big upright in the cellar. Always happens in the the coldest days of winter. Pain to thaw it out.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Thanks, that's good info. Our old refrig was definitely not self-defrosting. It was an early 80's Kenmore and worked great, year after year. I'll have to check the freezer to see if it's self defrosting or not. It's much newer. If it is, I'll move it into the shop in winter.
  15. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    +1


    Matt
  16. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    my fridge manual and chest freezer specifically say its not approved for use in an unconditioned space and should not be used below 50F. right wrong or whatever, thats what the manual reads.
  17. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Beer will freeze in single digits. Remember- it only cools, it won't warm contents if outside temps are too low.
  18. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I wouldn't be surprised if mine said the same. It was free, so no big loss if something happens. The only other place it could conceivably go is in the basement, but space is at a premium down there so I really don't want to put it there. I'm going to turn the freezer side up as high as it will go in the hopes that the compressor won't be too badly stressed and just enjoy the extra fridge space.
  19. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Leave it there and just unplug it below 40F. Not like stuff will get warm.
  20. jdp1152

    jdp1152 Minister of Fire

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    We always had a fridge in our garage growing up. Texas for 9 years NJ for 9 years. Used to hide my beer in there since my folks only used it occasionally. Thing was incredibly old, but never had an issue. Then again, seems like things are made with failure in mind these days rather than longevity.
  21. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Not sure about everywhere in the country but for us, temperatures generally rise during the day and fall at night. It only takes one night of cold to form the ice plug that prevents the defrost drainage from leaving and then you're done.
  22. MarylandGuy

    MarylandGuy Member

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    I guess I have been lucky. I have a frig as well as a chest freezer in the garage and have never experienced any issues in the 12 years they have been there.

    We typically get a week of single digits here, with a few weeks of teens at night. I suspect the garage is probably 8 to 10 degrees warmer than the outdoor temp.

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