Why my garage refrigerator is not working

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A couple of years ago for Christmas we bought a new refrigerator. We decided to put the old fridge to good use and moved it in our garage to have more cold drinks and ice. 

Just a couple of weeks after, the garage freezer stopped working but the refrigerator section was working fine. It didn’t make any sense, it was working fine in the kitchen!

I spend a good week figuring out the problem doing some research online. Turned out that I wasn’t the only one facing this problem. Here is what I found…

There are a few conditions that will affect the performance of a garage refrigerator freezer. It mostly has to do with your garage temperature.

In a cold environment (40°F – 4°C), the thermostat on your refrigerator is on the right temperature, so it will not ask the freezer to work. Since the freezer is not working and has no cold air, it will keep getting warmer. The refrigerator will be fine though! Remember that it’s already cold in your garage. 

In hot weather (100°F – 35°C), your fridge will have to work harder to keep everything cold. The compressor will be working longer and the fan will be always running. This translates into a shorter fridge lifespan and higher electricity bill. 

Is it OK to put a refrigerator in the garage?

Yes, it is absolutely OK to keep a refrigerator in the garage. However, you need to be careful with ambient temperature changes. Especially with the change of seasons. 

You will face problems however, if your garage is uninsulated and you have extremely hot (100°F – 35°C) or cold weather (40°F – 4°C).

Keep in mind that most refrigerators are made to work inside a home. Where temperature is stable, that is between 60°F – 15°C and 85°F – 29°C. Anything beyond that is likely to give you problems. 

You have to be extremely careful since a malfunction due to high or low ambient temperature can void your refrigerator warranty.

Refrigerator void warranty details
Reasons why your fridge warranty might be voided.

10 tips to run a refrigerator from a hot garage

There are a few things you can do to make your fridge life easier in your hot garage:
    1. Try to keep it full. A well stocked fridge has an advantage versus and empty one. There is less room for warm air plus the items inside are already cold. Just don’t stock the fridge at once. Don’t overstock your fridge either.
    2. If you do store perishable foods, put them in the storage bins if available. Avoid places with more air fluctuation such as the fridge door.
    3. You might want to consider turning your fridge off If you don’t plan to have anything in your garage fridge for weeks. You will save on your next electricity bill and your fridge will thank you. When you want to turn it on again, place cold things inside (such as ice) to help the cooling system getting back to your desired temperature.
    4. Minimize the time with the door open. It’s simple, the shorter the time your fridge has its door opened, the less cold air will escape. This helps to maintain its temperature. 
    5. Make sure you have the right amount of electrical power. A refrigerator should be equipped minimum with a 115 volt, 60 Hz, AC-only electrical outlet. As any other appliance, if it doesn’t have enough power it won’t work or will have a harder time doing so in the summer. Always check your appliance manual to know the required electrical power.
    6. Try to keep your temperature down in your garage in hot days. Find a way to keep the temperature down. If you do really need a refrigerator in your garage and it’s hot, consider insulating an area, add air conditioning or avoid heat from the sun covering your windows and any spaces in your door where hot air might come in. Anything to maintain your garage colder will help. 
    7. Keep non-perishable foods in your garage fridge. It’s always a good idea to have your garage refrigerator taking care of goods than won’t spoil easily. Worst-case scenario, if your refrigerator has a hard time working in your hot garage you will have to deal with hot beers (keeping some in your kitchen fridge is always a good backup plan…). 
    8. Maintain your fridge in good shape by checking its gaskets. They need to fit tightly all around the doors. Otherwise, cold air might be escaping. Use a coil brush to maintain the dirt and dust away from the coils behind the refrigerator. My garage tends to get dirtier than my home and coils do attract dust and lint. Try to do clean-up at least once a month. 
    9. Don’t push your refrigerator against the wall. Try to keep at least 4 inch (10 cm) gap between the wall and your appliance. Allow air to circulate freely behind it. Check the fridge manual to know its installation requirements
    10. If your fridge have them available, don’t use power freeze or power cool functions. It won’t make a difference. You will only induce more humidity and reduce your fridge-freezer’s efficiency.
Man very hot furnace
I hope your garage doesn't get that hot

Why my garage freezer doesn’t work in the winter?

In cold temperatures, the freezer may not work at all. Which can lead to your freezer section thawing out. 

Most refrigerators have the cooling system in the freezer with an internal fan blowing cold air into the refrigerator section when needed. 

The refrigerator was designed to have the right balance between the freezing air in the freezer and the cold air in the refrigerator. If your refrigerator is in a cold garage it won’t work properly.

When the refrigerator section hits the set temperature (about 35°F – 1°C) it quits cooling. If your refrigerator section is already below the set temperature, the cooling system won’t be working. So your freezer will start thawing out.

It can get even worse in freezing cold temperatures. When it’s that cold the refrigerator section will be frozen too and most fresh food will be ruined.

If you do want a refrigerator in your cold garage, my suggestion is to go for a model that has a separate thermostat in the freezer and refrigerator sections. It doesn’t matter how cold the fridge section is, the cooling system will work anyway.

Winter time in my city
Winter time in my city

Rather than buying a new fridge, a cheaper option is to install a garage refrigerator kit. It has a heater pad that gets power from your fridge thermostat voltage. This kit tricks the thermostat to think that it’s warmer than it really is in the refrigerator, so it keeps working. 

The heater pad is placed around the thermostat, making the compressor to work for a longer time to cool the refrigerator. This makes the freezer to be cooler too despite the cold room temperature. 

However, keep in mind that the garage refrigerator kit will cost you more in the long run. It makes your fridge to work harder for a longer period of time which translates into a higher than usual electric bill.

What is the right room temperature for a fridge?

Perhaps the sales man at the appliance section told you that your new fridge is garage ready. 

I suggest you to check the owner’s manual to know the right ambient temperature for your fridge. A malfunction due to high ambient temperature will void your warranty and trust me, the friendly sales man won’t pay for it! 

Most fridges are made to be inside an insulated home. So if you place your fridge in a standard room temperature (between 60°F – 15°C and 85°F – 29°C) it should work fine. 

Warranty temperature limits
Refrigerator ambient temperature range

Normally this warning is located in the installation section or warning about the operating temperature range. 

In summary

Consider the temperature conditions of your garage and plan accordingly.

If you live in a moderate climate area, you can do like I did, and put your old refrigerator in your garage without having to worry about it. 

However, if your garage does get really hot or cold (below 40°F – 4°C and above 85°F – 29°C) you might face problems. 

Are you wondering what happened with my old fridge in the garage? After that Christmas break I decided to give it away and I bought a new one instead (garage ready).


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