refrigerator not cooling

lizbeth-gardenerJuly 22, 2014

I think my refrigerator is trying to die. Just noticed the temperature yesterday and checked the thermometer-inside was 46degrees and freezer was 12. Talked to manufacturer and realized I hadn't been cleaning coils, so did that with understanding if that was problem it could take 24 hours to get back to temp. Am not sure if that is the problem yet, but am not willing to put any money in repairs as we will remodel kitchen soon and refrigerator is not worth saving. My question: Is all of the food unfit to eat or is there anything salvageable at the above temps? I do have a freezer and several high quality Coleman coolers.

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dcarch7

Unless the refrigerator is properly defrosted, it will not be able to cool efficiently.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 4:30PM
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grainlady_ks

The danger zone for food is between 40-degrees F and 140-degrees F, which is where bacteria multiply rapidly. Food stored in the danger zone for 2-hours or more should be considered unsafe. You can find USDA Food Safety information at the link below.

-Grainlady

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Refrigeration Food Safety

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 5:02PM
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foodonastump

Depends. Fruit, veggies, most condiments, eggs (maybe), butter, cheese, stuff like that I'd save, esp if you suspect it wasn't for a long time. Meat I'd definitely toss. Milk and cream I'd smell.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 5:27PM
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annie1992

I agree with FOAS. Most produce, cheese, condiments, they'll be fine. Milk is either sour or not, that's easy enough to tell, as is butter. I don't refrigerate eggs at all, and you can test their freshness by floating them in water. If they sink, you're good. If they float one end up, use them right away. Bobbing about on the top is when I decide they are old.

You can defrost and clean the coils, etc., and hopefully it'll be better, but if I were you I'd get ready to buy a different one, I'm not optimistic given your description.

Annie

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:22PM
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chas045

No reason to panic yet. It might be wise to get a couple blocks of dry ice and set up those coolers, but if your Freezer has lots of room, then if necessary, you could just transfer the freezer stuff from the refer if you really need to defrost as dcarch mentioned. If your freezer is Frost Free, then it was probably already defrosted.

You might also just have a stuck fan that blows over some of those dirty coils that you are cleaning. The food in the freezer should all be fine. I just had my own problems with a freezer door being left ajar and I just read that most partially defrosted food can often be refrozen and of course you aren't even close to that problem.

If your milk is obviously bad, that may suggest that the box has been above 40 degrees for a long period. In that case even I would probably throw meats away but I have never paid precise attention to some of these rules. I have a cast iron stomach. My reasoning is that there is a huge difference between 45 degrees and 85 degrees on a picnic. The two hour rule is a convenient over simplification. First, as anyone could realize, many food activities last far longer than two hours and we are all still alive here to discuss it anyway. The general biochemical estimate is biological growth rate doubles for every 10 degree centigrade (17 degree F). The safe storage lengths mentioned in the feds list is just two or three days for some meats and I imagine that most of you don't throw your meats away after 2.5 days of quality storage. Again, I think there is a good deal of leeway in those recommendations. On the other hand, your refer could have been mostly at 50 degrees for several days, and garbage can here we come.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 8:31PM
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dcarch7

"---If your freezer is Frost Free, then it was probably already defrosted.---"

That can be the problem.

Frost Free works with an electric heater and a timer. Typically every 5 to 6 hours, compressor is shut down and the heater goes on to defrost, but if the heater is broken or the timer is not working, then the defrost cycle never happens. When the expansion coil of the freezer is blocked by ice, you will get very little cooling.

dcarch

This post was edited by dcarch on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 22:09

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:19PM
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lizbeth-gardener

I do have a frost free, but don't have much in the freezer compartment but GKid's popsicles, burritos, nuts, frozen veggies and ice, which never thawed. I keep most meat in my stand-alone freezers.

The items in my refrigerator was what I was mainly wondering about. Not much meat there either, but will pitch what is. I do have a lot of cheeses:cheese sticks, hard cheese:pecorino romano, parmesan, emmentaler and cheddar. Several pkgs. of shredded mozzarella, mexican cheese and cheddar. Also several pounds of butter, sour cream, cream cheese and lots of condiments. Lots of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit,tortillas, eggs, liquid egg whites, milk, tomato juice and chicken broth.
I realize as I type this that it really could have been much worse if it were meat I was talking about, but it's just a headache to deal with.
I did vacuum the coils immediately after talking to manufacturer-can't believe I slipped up on that one! I believe it's more than that, hopefully will know soon.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:14PM
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sleevendog

I tend to have a slight anxiety about such a thing having suffered so many power outages over the years...
I do fill any empty freezer space with water bottles, big and small, to make sure i have some solid ice when drama strikes...and can be transferred to the fridge to save valuable tenders that need the cold or set into a cooler. The contents are often much more valuable than the actual appliance. (we just visited a local farm and have venison, whole pheasants, bacon, steaks, etc).
Save what feels safe...cooler or ice in the fridge. You seem to have a waiting game for a new kitchen renovation? Our back-up is a small apartment size fridge that we put in the barn on the farm property. Works great, though small. Might be a good choice for now if yours is dead. You could use it in the garage during the reno and use it for overflow later.
We just un-plug ours when not needed.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:43PM
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foodonastump

The items in my refrigerator was what I was mainly wondering about. Not much meat there either, but will pitch what is. I do have a lot of cheeses:cheese sticks, hard cheese:pecorino romano, parmesan, emmentaler and cheddar. Several pkgs. of shredded mozzarella, mexican cheese and cheddar. Also several pounds of butter, sour cream, cream cheese and lots of condiments. Lots of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit,tortillas, eggs, liquid egg whites, milk, tomato juice and chicken broth.

Produce I'd look at and feel to judge. Eggs/egg products are cheap and not worth losing sleep over.

Google cheese storage and read the first dozen sites and I think you'll be comfortable saving the harder cheeses. Soft cheeses I'd toss, sour cream too if only because it's cheap and not worth worrying about.

Condiments, I'd toss the mayo and tartar sauce and stuff like that, but most other common ones I'd trust.

Don't know about tomato juice. I'd probably look at the sodium content and feel good about throwing it out.

Chicken stock, please throw out.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 11:05PM
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lizbeth-gardener

Ok. Think we are back to normal. After refrigerator shopping, decided to repair current one (temperature control unit was wonky) and use later as second fridge for surplus/summer/outages, etc. I wasn't liking the pressure of choosing when I'm not sure what remodel will dictate as far as size.

Now my question, as i prepare to restock fridge and get rid of the few things that are questionable, is about condiments. Have gotten rid of a lot already, but wasn't sure about these: Sweet & dill pickles, mustards, horseradish, capers, tabasco sauce, Real Lemon (the liquid in a bottle), soy sauce, worcestershire, catsup, Italian dressing, Smuckers Simply Fruit jams. I don't know enough about how sugar & vinegar affect the safety of some of these items. The refrigerator was probably at 45 degress for 3-4 days. If it would be smarter to just trash it all, no problem. I just have a hard time being wasteful, if it isn't necessary.

This post was edited by lizbeth-gardener on Fri, Jul 25, 14 at 15:02

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

We recently lost cooling in our Garage secondary freezer, but the actual fridge was fine. I tossed a lot of expensive meat. Dude came out and fixed it. Said it wasn't the compressor. It was some relay thingy. So, I stocked it again, and then it happened again. Same dude came out and said it's a different relay. Sigh. He didn't charge labor, but what a pain! We lost our homemade 4th of July ice cream, and that stuff isn't cheap, plus more meat!

I never keep condiments in my fridge, but I do keep pickles and olives and capers once they are open. It usually says "refrigerate after opening," and I look hard for that phrase.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:07PM
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dcarch7

"---- and that stuff isn't cheap, plus more meat!---"

Buy a freezer alarm.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:25PM
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annie1992

Lizbeth, I'd feel confident about most of those things. Horseradish is packed with vinegar, so it should be fine. The pickles and capers also. Lots of people don't even refrigerate catsup, although I do because I've had catsup ferment, so it will go bad eventually if left out. Mustard is fine, and I never used to even refrigerate soy sauce until I read the label! I don't know about the tabasco or the worchestershire, they are something I use little of and I do keep them refrigerated, the same with the Italian Dressing. Jam is usually fine, but it's preserved with copious amounts of sugar. The all fruit stuff will spoil faster and I think the quality of that is probably going to suffer so although it may be safe, it probably just won't be very good.

Annie

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:36PM
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lizbeth-gardener

Thanks, Annie! I looked at the Tabasco, Worcestershire and Italian dressing. The first ingredient in all three is vinegar-does that mean anything?

Liz

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 4:21PM
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annie1992

Well, if the first ingredient is vinegar, that's good, but the real key is the ratio of vinegar to all other ingredients. So, if you knew vinegar was half and everything else was the other half, you'd be good, but I know they only list ingredients by item, whatever is the most, that gets listed first. But that could be any ratio, it's not all that helpful.

I'm betting all those items would be fine, since your refrigerator was functioning, kind of, they weren't all left at 80F or something for hours. I just don't really know.

Annie

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 5:36PM
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lizbeth-gardener

That makes sense. I'm just going to trash and move on. Thanks for your time.

Liz

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Well, unhappily for us, the second relay has failed. Luckily I had nothing but one TV dinner in that garage fridge....

And an alarm might be ok, but who hears the thing when it's out in the garage in East Egypt?

I think it's time for a new garage fridge in our case. Going next week to look at Ding discounts. We don't care if the thing has a major ding in the door. It's in the GARAGE!

I hope you get your issues resolved Liz!

Suzi

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 8:11PM
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dcarch7

Many wireless remote thermometers you can get. Most of them have alarm function.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:15PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

ya got me! dcarch, link please to a good one! Please know the garage is about 300 feet from the nearest receptor.

I'll get it after I get the new dinged fridge/freezer.

Suzi

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:20PM
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dcarch7

300 feet will be a problem. They do make units supposedly can transmit 300', but that is under ideal conditions. Wireless thermometer operates on limited power and frequency bandwidth.

You will need a different solution. Possibly a regular freezer alarm and a wireless intercom to relate the alarm sound. A wireless intercom can have a range over a 1000 feet. It typically uses the household electric wire to carry the transmission (subcarrier multiplexing), and not radio waves.

dcarch

This post was edited by dcarch on Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 2:08

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 2:06AM
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