Why does food freeze in a refrigerator?

harriethomeownerDecember 26, 2008

Our approximately month-old refrigerator seems to have fluctuating temperatures in both freezer and refrigerator section. The freezer has never really been cold enough, but the refrigerator has been freezing things, especially when they are in the back.

The manufacturer is replacing the unit because a repair person came out and said the compressor was failing. But is that what causes this, or is it a design flaw? Or to put it another way, why is the freezer not cold enough and the refrigerator too cold (at times)?

We have the temperature setting in the refrigerator about in the middle, and in the freezer in the upper half or highest setting.

This is a small (15.8 cf) top-freezer Summit.

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Many fridges freeze things (a little bit) on their back wall. You may never notice it because the temperature rises later. This is often considered normal when it is not significant enough to hurt fresh produce.

In a fridge the back wall is where the cold coils are, behind the plastic. Some temperature variation is normal and the fact that it went too far in its cooling cycle is the answer to your question, about the fridge. The compressor was working, but the system overcooled your stuff. --"fail" is the word they will bring out to mean it's not working right, in some way. Instead of tweaking things on site, he can bring it back in, which avoids them having to revisit all the time. Besides, the chances are high that you did all the right things yourself before he arrived on the scene.

The freezer being set "in the highest setting" == ?? I might think this means the freezer was set at its coldest setting but I might be wrong. Many freezers can bring temperatures down far below freezing. So, I'm beginning to wonder whether you may have another problem.

Was this a one-compressor fridge? How the manufacturer arranged the cooling system to use one compressor for two different systems is their problem. I saw a FF1625 fridge on their site. It is frost-free. This means to cool things it sends air through the fridge area and through the freezer area too. Another thing to consider and to deal with if you are an engineer designing systems and choosing the right size components to keep it small and low enough cost.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 8:13PM
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By "highest setting" I meant coldest.

And yes, it's a one-compressor, frost-free fridge (the FF1625).

It has been freezing things that are in all parts of the interior, but then at other times it has seemed too warm inside. And the freezer has never been below about 10 degrees F (per the little thermometer I stuck in there -- may not be that accurate).

I'm just wondering if this is a bad design or just a problem with this unit. The repair guy said he hadn't seen too many problems with these, but I don't know if he meant this model or with the brand.

I would expect a brand-new unit to work more consistently, but these days, who knows?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 9:27PM
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If the freezer goes below 10F, what do you mean by "The freezer has never really been cold enough..."

If you want a two compressor fridge, ask Summit for the CP-171 as a replacement. It's tall and narrow.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 7:51PM
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I thought freezers were supposed to be at zero F or colder. This one has never been at zero, even on the coldest setting.

The CP171 is too tall for our space, and it's also only 12 cf.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 8:58PM
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How full is the fridge? Are there enough air channels being left so the cold air can circulate correctly?

After repairing my own refrigerator recently I gave myself a tutorial in how it actually cools. The freezer seems to be what takes priority. That's where the coils and fan are. If the fridge is cool enough, a mechanism closes the air passageways so the fan can't push air into the fridge while it's trying to cool the freezer. On the other hand, if the fridge is warm and the freezer is at or below the temperature you want it at, the air passageway to the fridge opens and the fan starts pushing air over the coils. The fridge will be receiving cooler air, but so is the freezer.

All this simply makes me wonder if you've tried making adjustments to your controls? If your fridge is designed like mine, it could be something with the system trying to get the freezer cooler, but the freezer air is able to escape into the fridge.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 1:35AM
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We've tried adjusting various ways. Neither compartment is completely full, and nothing is blocking the vents in the freezer.

Really, all I know is that we had a repair person out; he didn't do anything more than look at the inside of the freezer (didn't open the back up to look at the coils or anything like that), noted that the ice looked like it had frozen and thawed and that the ice cream wasn't frozen solid. He also said it sounded strange. Based on those observations, and I assume his experience, he said there was a problem and that they should replace the unit.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 10:43AM
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