Refrigeration appliances can be adversely affected by the environment they are placed in. If the temperature in a room surrounding the appliance is hotter or colder than the climate class rating specified by the manufacturer, then they can stop working (Climate Classes for fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers).
A typical UK climate class specifies that temperatures should be no colder than 10 degrees, and no hotter than 32 degrees centigrade. In most situations, that’s easy to achieve.
What if the room is too hot?
If placed in an environment where the room temperature gets up to around 30 degrees or more, most refrigeration appliances sold in the UK may struggle to work. They may not be able to give off the heat from the condenser (normally at the back of the unit, which gets hot).
The ambient air temperature around the condenser needs to be 10 degrees lower than the condenser so that the energy can be given off as radiant heat.
So if the heat from the condenser can’t radiate away into cooler air, then the heat won’t be taken out of the food, and it won’t get cold.
If the maximum temperature is exceeded, the appliance will struggle to keep the temperature inside down, and could be running constantly, or at least for much longer periods than necessary. This could cause overheating, breakdowns, and higher energy bills.
What if the room is too cold?
If the temperature drops below the minimum stated on the climate rating, the freezer section on a fridge-freezer may switch off and defrost. Typically, in the UK, they are only designed to work as low as 10 degrees C.
What happens if you put a fridge or freezer in a garage, shed or cellar?
Many thousands of people have a refrigeration appliance installed in a garage, and most don’t have any issues that they are aware of, particularly with separate fridges and freezers. It’s fridge-freezers that are more susceptible to issues.
A fridge-freezer is a compromise appliance, in a similar way to how a washer-dryer is too. Essentially, they are one appliance that has to carry out 2 separate, and different jobs.
They really need a compressor and thermostat for the freezer, and a compressor and thermostat for the fridge. Ideally, they should be an autonomous fridge on top, with an autonomous freezer on the bottom.
But to drastically reduce costs, most of them have just one compressor, and one thermostat. They then just try to get them to roughly work as one unit. Remember that a fridge needs to be cooled down to about 0 to 5 °C – but a freezer needs cooling down to minus 18 °C.
So when a fridge freezer is in a very cold environment, the fridge compartment may become naturally between 0 and 5 °C and so the thermostat will shut off.
It may stay shut off for long time, whilst ever the temperature is cold enough. But this means that the compressor stops running, and the freezer compartment is no longer constantly cooling down when the fridge keeps turning on and off.
This can mean that the freezer compartment, and its contents, can start to defrost.
If the environment is very cold, and stays that way for a long time, then you may notice that food in the freezer is starting to defrost and thaw out.
Alternatively, food can partially thaw, but then freeze again if the compressor kicks back in before it has completely de-frosted. This can result in foods not lasting as long as expected, but you may be unaware that it has been regularly partially defrosting.
As it happens I have a freezer, and a second fridge in my garage, and it gets pretty cold in there in winter.
Neither my freezer or fridge suffer from the problems associated with a combined fridge-freezer fitted with one thermostat in the fridge as described here (not all fridge freezers have only one thermostat, by the way) Freezer defrosted: Can you put a fridge freezer in a garage?
Another issue with refrigeration in a cold room such as a garage or cellar is condensation and black mould. The cool damp air is attracted to the warm parts of the fridge’s outside wall, where condensation can form.
You may get mould growing on the rubber door seal, and it can cause a deterioration of the cabinet due to rust.
If the condensation on the door or sides is constantly there, or is present in small patches all the time, even when it isn’t cold, then this could indicate a breakdown in the insulation and is a greater concern.
If the insulation has gone in a certain part of the fridge or freezer cabinet, you will be constantly losing cold air from inside the appliance, and it will run for longer and use more energy. A breakdown in insulation is usually terminal.
New Fridges & Freezers designed for cold rooms
Since writing this article, some manufacturers have started to make various fridges or freezers that are designed to work in low temperatures – as low as 15 °C. So if you need to place one in a garage or outbuilding in the UK, try searching for one. I’m not sure if there are any combined fridge-freezers that are designed for colder temperatures. Unless they have separate compressors, they will still not work properly unless they have designed a way around this issue.
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