Low winter temperatures shouldn't be a problem for your refrigerator, right? As strange as it may sound, the space you keep it in can be too cold. If you have a refrigerator in an unheated or uninsulated space like a garage or basement, a common problem during the winter is that the freezer compartment doesn’t get cold enough. But why does this happen and what can you do to prevent it?
Refrigerators are designed to work best in spaces between 50ºF and 100ºF, effectively keeping the fridge compartment between 34ºF & 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. But when the temperatures start to drop below 40ºF outside, you might run into problems. This is especially true if you have a freezer on top model.
In many models, the Thermostat for the entire unit is located in the refrigerator or fresh food compartment. To keep it at the right temperature, the compressor runs to chill the air in the freezer. Once chilled, that same air is then used to chill the fridge.
But, when the temperature outside is the same as the temperature the fridge should be, the compressor doesn’t think it needs to run as often. The longer it doesn't run, the warmer the freezer gets leading to thawed food and spoilage.
How You Can Prevent This:
An easy solution is to install a Garage Refrigerator Heater Kit, like this one:
Part 5303918301 - Garage Refrigerator Heater Kit
Before you install the kit, you might want to consider clearing out any food that may still be lingering in your fridge from the summer months and giving the whole fridge a good cleaning.
Once installed, the coils of the heater warm the air around the thermostat. This tricks the refrigerator into thinking that it’s warmer than it is, helping the compressor to run more consistently. You’ll want to monitor the actual temperature inside both compartments at first and make any adjustments if necessary.
This particular kit is compatible with many Electrolux, Frigidaire, and Kenmore freezer on top models manufactured after 2001 and can potentially be altered by a professional to work with other brands.
If you have a side by side model or a unit with electronic controls, this fix unfortunately won’t work and your best bet may be to simply defrost and empty the freezer compartment during the winter months.