Can you put a fridge freezer in a garage?

Keep-frozen If your fridge freezer has developed a fault where the fridge is running OK but the freezer has defrosted or is not getting cold enough and it’s in a garage, and the temperature is very cold, it could just be that it isn’t suitable for putting in a garage. A surprising number of fridge-freezers in the UK end up in a garage or in an outbuilding. However, did you know that many are not capable of running properly if the temperature surrounding the appliance drops too low?

When winter comes, many people find that their freezer starts to defrost. However, it’s also possible for unrelated faults to cause the freezer part of a fridge freezer to defrost or not get cold enough, so don’t automatically assume the cause is as described in this article. All refrigeration has what’s called a climate class rating, which states the minimum and maximum temperature the appliance is designed to work within. I believe the overwhelming majority of consumers have never heard of climate class so surely its the responsibility of retailers to advise customers about it when selling refrigeration?

Which fridge freezers can defrost in a garage?

Garage It’s combined fridge-freezers. If a combined fridge freezer has only one thermostat (or sensor), which is sited inside the fridge section, it is likely to be affected by this problem. If the ambient temperature of the room its placed in gets to around freezing, then the fridge thermostat is likely to shut off. When this happens on appliances with only one thermostat the freezer also shuts off. If the temperature remains cold for several hours then the fridge thermostat will not come back on.

It doesn’t need to because inside the fridge compartment will be plenty cold enough. In really cold weather it is possible for the fridge thermostat to stay off for a long time. Whilst ever the thermostat for the fridge remains off the compressor will stop running and the freezer will eventually start to warm up, at least to roughly the ambient temperature of the garage, which although cold, is not cold enough for frozen food.

As a rule of thumb I would say that if you can set separate temperatures for your fridge and the freezer section I would assume there are separate thermostats controlling the freezer and therefore this issue shouldn’t affect your appliance.

What about chest freezers?

Chest freezers should not suffer from this specific issue because they have their own thermostatic control and do not try to control the temperature of two separate compartments. However, if the temperature in the garage significantly exceeds that of its climate control it can’t be guaranteed to work without any issues. Also, if there is little ventilation and or condensation it can cause premature rust and even damage to components inside. I have seen many chest freezers in garages over the years that seem to fair reasonably ok although modern ones may not be so well built.

Is this a bad design? – Problems below 10 degrees?

Thermometer Manufacturers would say they design them to be installed in a kitchen. However, to me it does seem less than ideal to rely on only one sensor or stat to control two different parts of the appliance (just to save money). Many fridge freezers do have separate stats. As saving money is the only possible advantage I can think of it’s therefore presumably more likely to affect the cheaper range of fridge freezers.

Also, there are reports that many refrigeration appliances are not guaranteed to work properly if temperatures drop below 10 degrees centigrade. I would imagine many people have appliances in parts of their homes and even in some kitchens where the temperature can drop below 10 degrees during the night or – what about when on holiday in the winter when the heating may be left off or on low enough only to prevent freezing? If an appliance is installed in a kitchen and temperature drops during the night or holiday periods cause it problems I would say that’s a design issue. You cannot be expected to keep the heating on 24/7 to keep an appliance running. However, if installed in an out building or garage I would think you have much less of a claim other than why weren’t you asked at the point of sale where you would be installing the appliance?

What can be done about it?

A fridge freezer with only one thermostat operating inside the fridge compartment is not suitable to run in a particularly cold environments. If affected you need to either exchange it for a fridge freezer with two thermostats controlling the fridge and freezer independently, or swap it for a separate fridge and freezer, or you need to somehow stop the environment from getting below 4°C (which is likely to be impractical).

Do I have any comeback if my fridge freezer doesn’t work in my garage?

Consumer rights The short answer is probably not, at least not with the manufacturer, you have placed it in an environment it is not designed for. If it was me I might be annoyed though that the person I bought it from did not enquire as to whether I intended to place it in a garage or not. I would argue this problem is in no way common public knowledge, but most retailers are well aware of it because they get called out to them all the time.

All manufacturers and aftersales engineers also know about this issue because they too get called out lots of times under guarantee and have to tell the customer there’s no “fault” on the appliance and it’s not covered under guarantee. Some might say it’s the responsibility of the shop you bought it from to advise at the point of sale that it is not suitable for fitting in a garage or other outbuilding because the companies (not necessarily individual sales staff) know that so many people place them there. I don’t know whether trading standards would agree or not.

At one time, one of the largest UK retailers of such appliances carried out a survey where they found that around 15% of call outs to fridge freezers were caused by them being placed incorrectly in a garage or another building subject to very cold temperatures. This being the case, I would have thought it common sense for all their sales staff to be instructed to ask any customer buying such a fridge freezer where they intended to site it. This is not only in the customer’s interest but in the interest of the retailer as any customer affected by this problem is likely to be pretty upset about it.

At the end of the day it’s unlikely that any retailer is legally obliged to check on these matters but personally I believe they should because it’s very common for people to site fridge freezers in their garage and they should know that.

If affected, is my appliance damaged, or will it recover if moved to somewhere warmer?

If the freezer is defrosting due to the room being so cold it switches off the thermostat inside the fridge – and the fridge freezer is only controlled with one thermostat in the fridge (no stat or sensor in the freezer) then no damage should be inflicted. The freezer has only stopped working because the fridge stat has stopped working. Once temperatures increase it should work normally again. However, make sure you don’t wrongly assume this is the cause of a defrosting freezer as of course faults can occur causing freezers to stop working too.

UPDATE:

Could a fridge-freezer start to defrost in a kitchen during winter months if the heating isn’t on?

Winter This question has been asked a few times and I am presuming yes, there could be a problem if you have a fridge-freezer with only one thermostat controlling both the fridge and freezer and you go away on holiday when its cold. I’m not sure how most people do it, but normally when we go away we leave the heating off but we’ve never gone away in winter. If you went away and didn’t leave the heating on low (say around 14 – 15 degrees) then potentially during prolonged cold periods if the ambient temperature in the kitchen drops low enough (around 0 – 4 degrees C or colder) the fridge thermostat or sensor is likely to shut off as the temperature in the fridge becomes cool enough.

This won’t be an issue for the contents of the fridge because of course it’s reached the correct temperature. But if the freezer compartment is also controlled by the stat inside the fridge then this will stop the freezer coming on too. Therefore if the temperature remained cold enough to not require further cooling inside the fridge compartment then freezer compartment will not get any further cooling and after sufficient time has passed will start to thaw out.

The chances are if this did occur then unless you have an appliance with a warning light or sound to indicate the temperature of the freezer has warmed up enough to adversely affect the quality of the frozen food you might not realise the food has partially defrosted compromising its quality. My advice would be that if you think you could be affected then if any food inside the freezers seems a little off when you thaw it out to use then throw it away. If you do have a fridge freezer that sounds or displays a warning if the temperature has been compromised you should assume the food has been partially defrosted even if it is rock solid when you come back.

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Comments

  1. The fridge I purchased from Comet stops working in my drafty kitchen in winter when the ambient temperature falls below 14 Deg C. Trading Standards told me fridges in the UK are expected to work down to 16 Deg C ambient but not necessarily below that. So I’m expected to use an additional heater to keep my kitchen warmer than 16 Deg C, 24 hours a day, every day from October to March, just so the fridge stays WARM enough to keep working!? Does anyone know of a manufacturer making fridges / fridge-freezers for Climate Class where minimum temerature is lower than SN, 10 Deg C-32 Deg C???

  2. Nutella: SN class should work down to 10 degrees. What class is yours?

    It’s only class N, ST & T that only work down to 16 or 18 degrees.
    Climate Classes for fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers

  3. Very informative website! Thank you for your quick response! Problems with the fridge I bought from Comet have lead me to research the subject. The concern is that my drafty kitchen gets very cold – only 2 Deg C in January this year, brrr! So whether the current fridge is class SN or N won’t matter because neither can cope with such low temperatures. I’m looking for a fridge that can cope most of the time, say down to 6 Deg C but I haven’t been able to find any capable of operating at less than 10 Deg C. Any suggestions?
    From your other articles it seems that a larder fridge would be more likely to keep working in low ambient temperatures, rather than one with a 4* ice box / freezer compartment?

  4. Hello Nutella. The issue raised in this article relates to fridge freezers with only one thermostat in the fridge, where if the fridge compartment turns off because the ambient temperature of the room is cold the side effect is that the freezer compartment also stops working and can partially defrost. This is because such an appliance only has one compressor pumping the coolant around and it stops running when the fridge thermostat shuts off.

    If you are talking of a fridge unit only, what problems are you experiencing? If it’s class SN it should operate OK down to 10 degrees Centigrade. However, I have to confess I’m unsure why a fridge, who’s sole purpose is to reduce the temperature inside to between 0 and 5 degrees centigrade should stop working if the temperature of the room is between 5 and 10 degrees C.

    I can understand the issues at the top end of the temperature range. I can understand it struggling to work in a very hot environment, but I would have thought maintaining an internal temperature of 0 – 5 degrees would be assisted by the outside temperature being say 8 degrees, not hindered.

    On the other hand, when the temperature in your kitchen is only 2 degrees then presumably your fridge doesn’t even need to be on. Have you used a fridge thermometer to observe the temperature inside when it is cold in the kitchen?

    My article How are fridges and freezers affected by the room temperature? points out that a fridge would normally only stop running if the temperature drops to around only a few degrees. In this situation though I would have thought it wouldn’t be a problem unless it was a fridge freezer with only one thermostat in the fridge because the freezer would then stop working.

    Anyone wanting to run a fridge freezer in a garage should ensure it has separate thermostats for the fridge and freezer, or buy separate fridge and freezers to reduce this problem.

  5. Hello Washerhelp, My fridge is Climate Class N but that wasn’t included in the product info in the store, and when complaining to their Store Manager, he confessed he wasn’t aware of it!
    As you quite rightly pointed out, the freezer compartment of my fridge defrosts when the fridge cuts out because they share a common thermostat and compressor, although like you, I would have thought that cooler ambient temperatures (but not below 5 Deg C) would help a fridge dissipate heat energy?!
    I agree that when the temperature in the kitchen is 5 Deg C or less, I don’t need a fridge BUT I need to keep my food below 5 Deg C when the ambient temperature is higher. According to MET Office data, the AVERAGE temperature for South East England during 2008 was 11 Deg C. Do you know of a Climate Class which goes down to 6 Deg C, or which manufacturers provide fridges that can operate down to 6 Deg C?

  6. Thanks for clarification Nutella: In comment #4 you kept referring to “fridge” so I became confused about which appliance you had problems with.

    As far as I’m concerned the idea of having a fridge=freezer controlled only by one thermostat seems bizarre. I’m assuming it’s only on cheaper fridge freezers as it’s only advantage I can imagine is saving money on a second thermostat or sensors for the freezer section.

    Your particular issue hinges on whether it’s reasonable to expect that a fridge freezer installed in a kitchen should work properly even if the heating isn’t on. What if you go away on holiday for a fortnight in winter and the heating is (quite reasonably) turned off? This would mean potentially all your food in the freezer could defrost.

    I would think it’s possible this isn’t reasonable, or that a fridge freezer so designed is possibly not fit for its purpose – particularly a class N. Is it reasonable for a manufacturer of fridge freezers to expect your kitchen to never drop below 16 degrees? (in the case of a class N appliance).

    You would need to seek the advice of the consumer people Consumer Advice Guide to get an opinion. Please keep us informed.

  7. Hi Washerhelp, You’ve hit the nail on the head here – it is totally unreasonable for an appliance designed for use in the UK and on sale here, to be incapable of operating at temperatures below 16 Deg C when the average temperature for the region is only 11 Deg C. It is definitely NOT fit for purpose in the UK! I’ve e-mailed Consumer Direct with all the details and I’m waiting to hear back from them. This issue has made me so angry its been really good to receive your feedback, help and advice, to give my arguement better structure. Thank you so much!

  8. Thanks Nutella. Please keep us informed of developments.

  9. Thanks for the feedback Nutella: Consumer Direct are there to advise us. I’m not sure they take up many specific cases unless they are test cases or big ones. They wouldn’t have advised you to write to head office if they didn’t think you had a case.

    I understand your thoughts about taking on a large retailer without more direct help. That’s probably how most people feel and is why most people give up. BBC Watchdog may help though they are likely to be interested only if it makes good TV, is a safety issue or affects a lot of people.

  10. Hello Washerhelp, Consumer Direct have advised me to put my complaint to Comet Head Office in writing but don’t seem overly concerned about this issue, and certainly didn’t offer to take it up with the Retailer on my behalf. Rather than continuing to bang my head against the brick wall that is Comet Customer Service, I’ve decided to put this down to life’s interesting learning curve and just take the Climate Class N fridge to the recycling centre.

    Climate Class SN is for ambient temperatures down to 10 Deg C but, back to my initial question, who makes a larder fridge appropriately rated for my cold kitchen, down to 6 Deg C? I haven’t been able to find any larder fridges rated for use below 10 Deg C!?

  11. Similar problem, fortunately I have two fridges, one in kitchen, one in a utility room.The utility room temperature in winter can drop to below 10c at times and the freezer section starts to defrost. Cure?-
    I have taken two strips of loft insulation ( the covered kind, not the messy type) and cut it to size, and stuck it to both side walls of the fridge (n.b. obviously. don’t cover the back) This helps to keep the outer walls of the fridge just warm enough so the thermostat keeps working correctly and freezer stays at the right temperature. Try and situate the fridge in the least coldest part too, not next to an outer wall. If the floor is concrete or tiled, try placing the fridge on a piece of thick contiboard or plywood, cut to size. Although it has worked for me, I stress that my utility room rarely drops much below 10c in winter. Whether this remedy will work at a much lower temperature than 10c I do not know, but it’s worth giving it a try.

  12. avatar Mr & Mrs Blakey says:

    We purchased a fridge freezer in June of this year – today we have had an engineer out because the frozen food had defrosted. He explained this was because it was located in a garage. When I pointed out that our previous one had worked perfectly in the garage for over 20 years the engineer explained today’s fridge freezers are more sophisticated and as a result cannot operate as well as the older models did in a garage – THAT IS THE POINT WHICH NEEDS STRESSING TO CUSTOMERS. Our son and daughter-in-law are delighted to be given a 6 months old fridge/freezer for their kitchen!!!!

  13. More sophisticated – so they aren’t as good? Doesn’t make much sense does it? Further sophistication should result in working better not worse.

    The real reason is the manufacturer has designed the fridge-freezer with only one thermostat to control the fridge as well as the freezer section in order to save money. This system just about works as long as the ambient temperature in the room isn’t cold enough to turn off the only thermostat located in the fridge.

    In my opinion, anyone selling a fridge freezer that can be affected by cold temperatures should have a care of duty to enquire where the appliance will be sited, and to warn it is only suitable for a kitchen. So many people have extra refrigeration appliances in garages that there’s no excuse for not realising many customers will site them in a garage.

    I feel there’s a fair chance you could argue you have been miss-sold if you buy an appliance and it doesn’t work properly in the garage if the seller never mentioned this limitation. However, that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know if it’s ever been tested in the small claims court.

  14. avatar Terry Loughlin says:

    I have just read all your very interesting comments on fridge/freezers
    I also have the same problem in my garage, can you recommend a make which will work in extra cold conditions. regards T. Loughlin

  15. Thanks Terry. As far as I’m aware the problem only affects combined fridge-freezers where the freezer and fridge share a single compressor, which is turned on and off by only one thermostat sited inside the fridge compartment.

    Therefore if you get a separate fridge and freezer the problem shouldn’t be too relevant, or if you buy a combined fridge-freezer with separate thermostats controlling the fridge and the freezer. Then if the temperature drops low enough to switch off the thermostat in the fridge section and stays that low then the freezer section can still function independently using its own thermostat.

    Other than that, all fridges and freezers have a specific climate class rating which states the highest and lowest temperature the appliance is designed to run within.

    As the lowest temperature a fridge or freezer is guaranteed to work properly in is only 10 degrees Centigrade (if it has climate class SN) you can imagine that most garages will drop quite a bit below that in winter. Some climate classes say only 16 degrees. Clearly they are designed to be used inside a kitchen.

    With a fridge, when the temperature drops below freezing it should stop working – but we want that don’t we? If the temperature inside becomes lower than what the thermostat is set to then the fridge clearly doesn’t need to be running.

    The downside here is that it’s possible for the fridge to get much colder than intended inside as we only want a fridge to keep things cold. If the temperature inside dropped below freezing then things could get much colder. Whether this is a problem or not I don’t really know but imagine it’s not a major problem. However, as fridges have insulation inside walls the temperature inside the fridge should always be a bit warmer than in the garage itself when the ambient temperature is very cold.

    Conversely though, in summer, if the garage gets very hot because it’s not being used and there are no windows open and maybe a window magnifies the sun’s rays then the fridge is likely to work extra hard putting strain on it and using more energy.

  16. I think you will find that Beko make a Fridge Freezer that’s suitable for garages and out buildings, I hope so as I have just bought one.

  17. avatar Dave Hutton says:

    Although my Proline Chest Freezer has worked perfectly well in my garage for the last year or two, it has now started to defrost in the cold weather this year. If I bring it back into the house, warm it up and swicth it back on, will it re-freeze or is it permanently damaged? Thankyou.

  18. Dave: This issue affects the fridge thermostats in fridge-freezers, which if also controlling the freezer section can shut off the appliance if the temperature gets around freezing or a little above because the thermostat inside a fridge is only set to about 1 – 5 degrees.

    The chances are a stand alone freezer will have it’s thermostat set to -18 degrees. It’s pretty unlikely your garage would get colder than that. It could just coincidentally have gone faulty.

  19. avatar Mrs Bishop says:

    We only bought our whirpool fridge/freezer 3 months ago, but it appears not to like the cold weather. Our older fridge/freezers have worked perfectly well situated in our lean to (even in really cold weather) but this one does not. Would it help if I lagged the bottle at the back? There is no space indoors for it, and as a family of 6 we do need to be able to use this second freezer, especially at this time of year.

  20. Mrs Bishop, the problem isn’t anything to do with parts on the appliance getting too cold. It’s the air temperature of the room it is placed in getting too cold and causing the air temperature inside the fridge to drop low enough to turn the thermostat off – which in turn stops the freezer compartment getting colder (if the fridge freezer is operated with only one thermostat inside the fridge compartment).

    Nothing can be done other than to move it to a warmer place or make the room warmer. It’s a design issue. You can’t claim it’s a design fault easily though because the appliance is designed to be used in a kitchen inside a house and states in the instruction book or on the back of the appliance the climate class

    The only thing you can attempt to claim is that the company that sold it to you should have asked where you were going to site the appliance and advised you either not to do it or to buy a different model that wouldn’t be so affected because they should realise that it’s pretty common for people to place refrigeration appliances in garages. How successful that would be is unknown as it’s a grey area and only really based on common sense – not consumer law.

  21. avatar Dave Hutton says:

    Thank you for your reply. However, it didn’t address the issue that if I bring the freezer back into the warm, will it then work again or is it permanently damaged? I’ve had to buy another one now to save our Christmas fayre, but it I’d like to know anyway before it take it to the tip.

  22. It did Dave, but a little indirectly. I was trying to say I think the problem you are having may not be related to this issue because it just affects some fridge-freezers. The issue of being in a cold place is that if the air temperature of the room drops below the temperature that the thermostat inside the fridge compartment is set to, which is typically between 0 and 5 degrees C then the thermostat will cut power to the compressor and stop getting cold. This isn’t a problem for the fridge compartment because it’s cold (unless the temperature was to drop well below freezing in which case the food and milk could freeze).

    It is a problem for a fridge-freezer though if it’s one that doesn’t have a separate thermostat or sensor inside the freezer compartment because when the fridge thermostat stays off for several hours because it’s cold enough to not need further cooling inside the fridge – the freezer section can start to warm up.

    If the temperature of a garage went to say -5 degrees for a couple of days and nights the fridge compartment would be cold enough to not require the compressor to run but the freezer compartment is typically set to minus 18 degrees so it might need further cooling but it can’t because the only thermostat is in the fridge and it’s not being triggered to run the compressor. Therefore the freezer compartment might start to get warmer and be raised up to a similar temperature to the ambient room temperature – which although -5 degrees isn’t cold enough to preserve food needing to be at -18.

    The point I’m trying to make is that a stand alone freezer will have it’s own thermostat which is set at around -18 degrees so its thermostat should only be affected by the ambient temperature of the room it’s in if it dropped below -18 and even if it did it wouldn’t be a problem because that’s cold enough to maintain the right temperature for the food inside.

    As the freezer has worked ok for the last 2 years I’m speculating if it’s now defrosting it shouldn’t be due to the cold temperature of the room – at least not because of the issue described in this article.

    If by any chance it was I would expect an affected appliance to work fine if moved to a warmer place as no damage would be done.

  23. avatar Russ_G_UK says:

    Hi,

    Just to add to this – we have just bought a Beko CDA660FS which is designed to work in ambient temperatures down to -15 Deg C but this wasn’t the reason we bought it as it was to go into the kitchen. Our old fridge freezer has been moved from the kitchen to the garage as additional freezer space (and my beer fridge :-) ) and we are now experiencing the same problems as everybody else with the freezer stuff defrosting. Unfortunately the Beko is too tall and too new to be moved into the garage :-(. Luckily we still have a small chest freezer in the garage for now but I’m working on some way of insulating the fridge freezer to keep it’s temp up so it will operate.

  24. ahhhh help if i move my two fridge freezers into my slightly warmer kitchen will they start working again ? or are they completely broken now ?

  25. i have two up right fridge freezers both in utility room at moment (which is so cold the toilet cistern has frozen water in it so can’t flush) I know that i have same problem as everyone else on this page just need to know if i move the fridge freezers into my slightly warmer kitchen whether it will make them work again or whether they are broken beyond repair ?

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