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During the summer months, the fridge in my not insulated garage works fine, and has for some time. During the cold winter months (below freezing) the KitchenAid KSRS25Q (old) side by side fridge won't cycle the compressor, unless I position space heaters around it (energy inefficient). Even then, on the coldest days (Indiana can get cold), the freezer internal temperature will still go higher than 10F/-10C.

Looking for solutions, I hear of something called a 'garage kit'. Seems straightforward. You add a heater inside so that the compressor continues to work even when the ambient temperature is lower than the fridge interior. Problem is, I have only found garage kits for top freezer models. It seems that, somehow, there is a difference between those and side by side models, and the 'garage kits' kits wouldn't work in my side by side model.

Is the problem just that I can't find the answer, that no such answer exists, or that the answer is so simple that no kit is really necessary?

In other words, what can I do for a 'garage kit' for a side by side refrigerator?

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  • When you say "it doesn't perform well", what specifically are you referring to? How is it that the freezer performance makes you nervous? If you are expecting a refrigerator to function as a heater, it won't. Dec 13, 2019 at 19:04
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    The cheapest and most energy efficient solution is to simply power the fridge off and leave the door open when the temperature is cold enough. Of course, then you have to remember to turn it back on when it gets warmer.
    – Nate S.
    Dec 13, 2019 at 19:04
  • @JimmyFix-it Thank you. I can edit if that will help. What I mean is that, in below freezing weather, the freezer internal temperature goes up to 20-25F. That isn't great for the food.
    – CWilson
    Dec 13, 2019 at 19:06
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    Good grief. A heater to facilitate cooling, the byproduct of which is heat. Might be time to examine your carbon footprint.
    – isherwood
    Dec 13, 2019 at 20:31
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    @isherwood Heaters. Plural. Yes. The biggest problem with the solution I have used in the past is energy usage, and all of its associated concerns. That is why I am looking for alternatives. One is to not use the fridge at all. Problem is, there is a medical need for the fridge, which I won't be able to and shouldn't explain here. Another is to throw away the fridge and purchase a new one, which is a different kind of problem. Perhaps my problem has no good solutions. But yes, it is a concern.
    – CWilson
    Dec 14, 2019 at 2:23

4 Answers 4

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There are refrigerators & freezers designed for outdoor use. One semi-random example: enter image description here

The basic problem is that ordinary residential refrigerators & freezers are designed for indoor temperatures. From a GE side-by-side installation manual:

REFRIGERATOR LOCATION * Do not install the refrigerator where the temperature will go below 60 F (16 C) because it will not run often enough to maintain proper temperatures. * Do not install the refrigerator where the temperature will go above 100 F (37 C) because it will not perform properly.

For better or worse, I believe some of this goes hand-in-hand with energy efficiency. EPA EnergyStar and similar regulations (and common sense "save energy" mentality) have resulted in refrigerators/freezers that are "just right". They have a lot of insulation to keep the cold in and relatively low-power compressors, based on the assumption that they will not have to cool "too much" and that keeping the cool is good enough a lot of the time. So they aren't powerful enough to get things cold if it is 100 F. And the flip side is that, especially with side-by-side, a certain amount of run-time is needed to keep optimal freezer & refrigerator temperatures as they are dependent on each other - they are one unit, not two. So if the temperature is cold enough that the refrigerator doesn't need to run, the freezer doesn't run either - and gets too warm. Alternatively, if it gets so cold that the freezer doesn't need to run, the refrigerator will be cold but won't get internal air circulation and parts will get too cold.

Best answer I know of is: Put the spare refrigerator or freezer in your basement (if you have one) or in an area (e.g., mudroom or similar) between the garage and the house so that it gets at least some climate control.

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  • To be clear, is your answer that no solution exists for a side by side refrigerator in an un-insulated garage - that the solution for top freezer units (for example) is not possible for application to side by side units? Or are you saying that it is better to not have my problem in the first place? I read this as a suggestion to insulate my garage or to buy a different fridge, and perhaps these are the best suggestions that exist.
    – CWilson
    Dec 14, 2019 at 2:47
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    @CWilson I postulate that no current model designed-for-indoor-use-only refrigerators are suitable for use in an un-insulated wide-temperature range area and that of the types available, side-by-side are likely to be least compatible with such usage. My suggestions are to move the refrigerator to an at-least-partially temperature-controlled part of the house or to get something (but which unfortunately costs a lot more, largely due to fewer units produced) designed for outdoor usage. Dec 14, 2019 at 23:07
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It's sort of like making a heat pump work when it's too cold.

You need to make an enclosure of some kind for the bulk of the machine, that is highly insulated. Then, heat the space.

The nice thing is, by and large, you get the heat back. Once the refrigerator is operating, the waste heat of the refrigerator will help heat the space, and make the space heater need infrequent.

Since it sounds like you have supervisory thermal data anyway, have that also warn you when the enclosed refrigerator space exceeds about 80 F. It's time to remove the covers and for it to cool normally.

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I have a Kenmore side by side circa 1997 or so in my garage. I put it in the garage when I got a new one for the house. I then found out it didn't work properly because it's not designed to work below an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F. Sheesh! My garage is insulated and in the winter maintains a temp of around 50 degrees. I live in the mountains in a cold climate. I have found somewhat of a solution: I crack open the refrigerator door about 1/4 inch. The refer side heats up a bit and kicks the compressor on and the freezer drops and holds at about 20 degrees and the refer side holds at about 38 degrees. I am not sure how much electricity I am using but it doesn't run that much. In the Spring when its 60 in the garage I'll close the door and adjust the thermostat accordingly. I would be interested in feedback from somebody that knows about refers.

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  • That works for the refrigerator, but 20 is not very cold for a freezer - OK for ice, ice cream not so much. Jan 11, 2020 at 23:46
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I know this is old, but the solution will depend on how your fridge works. My freezer top fridge works like you're saying. The thermostat is in the fridge and if the fridge gets below its desired temperature of 38, there's no need for it to run and the freezer also won't run. This is obviously bad. Some Side by sides work this same way and those "heaters" you see for sale for top freezer units will solve your problem by heating the fridge thermostat area when needed and telling the system to turn on. Some side by sides though have modern circuit boards and controls for each unit (but likely only one compressor still). I haven't yet come up with a solution to trick that system into turning on when my garage gets too cold. Temporarily I've got a regular thermostat wired to a 25w light bulb that turns on when my garage drops below 38 degrees. The lightbulb warms up the fridge and tells the system to stay running. Should that bulb be in the freezer or fridge though? I haven't figured that part out yet as I think there is a temp sensor / thermostat in each. Going with the freezer area for now, hopefully will figure it out before any food spoils.

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