How To Survive “Garage Fridge Season”

by Renae DuHaime

Radical Repair by Renae DuHaime

As an appliance repair tech, I refer to the beginning of winter as “garage fridge season.”  If you live in an area where temperatures don’t regularly drop below freezing, or if you don’t have a garage, garage fridge season probably doesn’t affect you. (Read on anyway, for some cool cocktail party fodder!) For the rest of us, however, this is the time of year when the freezing temperatures outside make the temperature inside our garage fridge anything but. 

A lot of people keep a refrigerator in their garage for secondary storage. But most of them aren’t designed to withstand super-low temps—they’re inside appliances, made for a temperature-controlled environment. That’s because most refrigerators sold today are self-defrosting. They utilize temperature sensors to determine when to stop cooling and turn on the defrost heater to start melting away some of the built-up frost. This is what prevents the inside of the refrigerator from resembling a winter wonderland. Cooling resumes when the frost is gone and the sensors detect that the temperature is rising. When the temperature of the room where the fridge is installed dips below freezing, however, this can cause those temperature sensors to think the refrigerator needs defrosting, even if it doesn’t. Being in a defrost cycle for too long prevents the fridge from cooling properly.

To avoid becoming a victim of “garage fridge season,” you’ll first want to read your refrigerator’s manual. It will list the temperature range that allows the fridge to properly function. If the winter temps in your garage fall outside that range, you’ll probably experience inconsistent cooling performance (which means warm beer and melty ice cream). Keeping a thermometer in your garage is one way to gauge whether your garage fridge will be cooling properly. And if you can’t control the temperature in your garage, relocate the fridge somewhere you can regulate it. If that’s not an option, just be sure to move any perishables to an inside fridge. At least until the weather warms up. 

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