The Refrigerator Saga

RefrigeratorLike many of you, we’ve got multiple refrigerators in our house.  We’ve got a main fridge in the kitchen and a tiny “dorm room” in there as well for additional soft drinks and fruit for the boys.  In the basement I’ve got another dorm fridge dedicated to hops and barley.  Up until a couple of weeks ago we also had a full size freezer in the basement as well as a partially working refrigerator in the garage.  And that’s when the fun began.

We decided that in an effort to be more “green” we’d consolidate and get rid of the freezer in the basement and buy a new refrigerator for the garage.  The wife and I had a “date night” that included a kid-free dinner and an exciting trip to Home Depot and Lowe’s to look for potential replacements (hell yeah… how’s THAT for a Saturday night!)  Home Depot had some good units so it was off to Lowe’s for a price comparison.  For those that are wondering, Lowe’s was on average about $50 cheaper on comparable units.  We were about ready to leave when we took one final spin through the “scratch and dent” area just to see what was available… JACKPOT!

Sitting there was a brand new stainless steel beauty marked down from an original tag of $800 to $375.  We were obviously leery but when we asked what was wrong we were told that there was nothing wrong with the unit – it was a special order item that was returned when the owner saw that it didn’t have an ice cube maker.  This was perfect for us in that we didn’t WANT an ice cube maker.  In record time, we’d made a decision and had even scheduled delivery for the next day (Sunday).  HUGE props to Lowe’s for their delivery policy.  Not only do they offer free delivery 7 days a week but they’ll also take away your old unit for no charge.  Additionally, the removed units don’t go into a landfill, but are recycled or rebuilt.  Well done Lowe’s!

Sunday rolled around and delivery went very smoothly.  Not only did we get rid of the non-working fridge but the delivery guys also hauled away the “tired” freezer in the basement.  They set up the fridge with the “normal” settings and told us to leave it alone for 24 hours.  It was SUPER cold outside (like 17 degrees) but they said that we could get the freezer down to temp quicker if we put our frozen stuff back in there.  Awesome.  So the next day rolls around and I go to check on the freezer… Houston.  We have a problem.  All the stuff in the freezer was thawed.  FML.

We called Lowe’s, bitched up a storm about losing our frozen stuff and got them to agree to give us $100 to cover the stuff as well as a discount off another unit.  (To be fair, A did the calling and complaining – don’t mess with her on the phone.  She’ll eat you up).  So it was back to Lowe’s, this time with the boys in tow to pick out a new fridge.  Of course, we couldn’t find anything nearly as cheap OR as big than our original stainless steel beauty.  We settled on a new unit which was delivered the next day.  Again the settings were set and the unit was left alone.  And again, the damn freezer didn’t work.  ARGH.  The fridge was doing fine, but the freezer wouldn’t get below 20 degrees.  At this point I’m thinking the odds of the same thing happening twice are pretty outrageous, but you never know.  After the same scenario played out a THIRD time we knew something was up.  Lowe’s at this point knew us by name and had a tech come out to look at the unit.

As soon as I explained to him what was going on he knew exactly what it was.  Without going into all of the technical mumbo jumbo, if you garage is too cold, the freezer won’t work properly.  The temp in the freezer is based off the temp in the fridge.  The temp in the fridge is based off the air outside of the fridge.  So… if the air outside the fridge is less than 38 degrees (the normal temperature of a refrigerator) then the unit will say “Oh… it’s cold enough.  I don’t need to cool.”  That’s fine for the refrigerator, but the freezer will stay at a balmy 20 degrees rather than the needed 0 or -2 degrees necessary to keep stuff frozen.

So where does this leave us.  We’ve got options.

  1. Heat the garage.
  2. Wait until the Spring when the garage isn’t so damn cold and things will work fine.  Unfortunately, when it gets cold again, the same thing will happen so we’ve essentially got a working freezer half the year.
  3. Try again with a unit that has separate controls for the freezer and fridge.  Same problem may still occur.
  4. Move the current unit to the basement.

We went with option 3.  A got back on the horn and had another unit delivered with two zone controls.  We thought we were in the clear as after about an hour or so the freezer was down to -5 degrees… WOO HOO!!!  Unfortunately our celebration was short lived as within 5 hours it was back up to 18.  So after all of this, we had Lowe’s come BACK out to the house and haul the fridge into the basement where it FINALLY is working properly.

Lessons Learned

  1. Lowe’s has outstanding customer service.  They really did go the extra mile to keep us happy.
  2. Lowe’s SHOULD have outstanding customer service as this shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.  We told them from the first day that the fridge was going to be in the garage.  The tech that I had out to the house said that anyone who’s been in the fridge business for more then one season would know this would have been an issue.
  3. We’ve got one less total unit in our house and I’ve got more space in my garage.
  4. It’s absolutely crazy that there are no fridges available that are made to go in a garage… are we REALLY the only people who want to do this?
  5. If at first you don’t succeed… keep trying.
Bookmark the permalink.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. Pingback: UNC Green Building: Morrison Dorm | myefficientplanet.com

  3. We just experienced the same thing with Lowes refrigerator but….we bought it in July while it worked fine until now in January I find blood all over the freezer from the pheasants thawing out (in South Dakota)!!!!!!!!! Repair guy comes out and says the whole based on the outside temp thing – grrrrr. I called and the manager said they deal with it all the time and they have a frig call the “Gladiator” that is made just for the garage so can handle cold and heat!!!!! For me the problem was $1200 when we paid $300 for original frig as who sees it in the garage!!!!!!! Salesman’s first question was “is it a Frigidaire?” with a resounding YES from me. I told them I specifically said it was for the garage – yes with -35 to -85 wind chills – and sold it to us no problem. But the ‘next day delivery’ was THREE WEEKS out so we had had drinks all over the place. Long story short – the guys said their Whirlpool’s will do very well in the cold here and haven’t had one returned. They are going to pick up old (new) one and deliver Whirlpool but we will have to pay the difference!!!!! Not a lot just so we get an ‘outside freezer’!!
    Just a heads up to ‘garage refrigerator’ people who are my entire neighborhood where we live – WHIRLPOOL ONLY!!!!!!!

  4. Curious – what brand(s) did you have – don’t want to get this Whirlpool and go through this AGAIN!!!! Thanks!

  5. Berik – sorry to hear that you’re dealing with the same issue. The fridge that we ended up with is a Frigidaire. I’m sorry to say though that one of the fridges along the way that DIDN’T work in the garage was in fact a Whirlpool.

  6. Also… we did hear about the Gladiator as well. What I’ve been told is that even though it’s promoted as being a refrigerator for the garage, it’s STILL not going to work in all environments. We ended up just putting the fridge in the basement so it’s not an issue so I didn’t do any additional digging.

Leave a Reply