/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

Putting your freezer in a garage? Use a degree of caution

Red garage door

The garage might seem like the ideal out-of-the-way place to park a bulky and unsightly ‘big white box’ appliance. But keeping your freezer in a garage – or an unheated room – could actually cause it to break down.

Why? In a nutshell, freezers work by transferring heat inside the compartment outside. In cold room temperatures, this heat-transfer process can cause condensation on the outside of the freezer. If these water droplets find their way into the freezers’ innards it can damage the insulation, which can cause the appliance to pack up.

Fridge and freezer climate classes

Most of the freezers you can buy simply aren’t designed to work in rooms that get colder than 10°C. All refrigeration appliances have a climate class which tells you the range of room temperatures it’s designed to work in, and 10°C is the absolute lowest on the room-temperature scale (covered by the class ‘SN’).

When you consider that the average UK minimum temperature in February is barely more than 1°C, picturing a chilly garage being less than 10°C is absolutely no stretch for the imagination. Clearly then, this rules out garages and outbuildings as suitable homes for your freezer, and even calls unheated utility rooms into question.

There are exceptions to this rule: Beko says its freezers will work in colder temperatures, and claims that some can withstand room temperatures of down to -15°C.

Keeping your freezer in a garage

However, the obvious question is why do most manufacturers make appliances that aren’t geared up to work in the way people want to use them?

Of course, lots of people have kept freezers in garages for years without any problems. So perhaps the climate class system’s 10°C errs on the safe side, meaning that it might not be much use in the real world. This may or may not be true (and is something we’re looking into), but it’s important to point out that going against the climate class advice and keeping a freezer in an unheated room could invalidate its warranty.

To help us get an idea of whether the 10°C rule has much bearing on real-life experience, I’d really like to hear from anyone who keeps their freezer in a garage. Did you know that doing this might just shorten its shelf-life? Has your freezer ever broken down, or has it been running fine for years?

Do you keep your freezer in your garage?

Yes (84%, 2,180 Votes)

No (16%, 425 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,605

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Comments
Guest
Graham says:
24 March 2014

Purchased a chest freezer from Bejams many moons ago, and have kept it in the shed for nearly 20 years, with no problems.

Guest
Roy Harrop says:
12 June 2014

We had kept a 1980-vintage Philips (Whirlpool or whatever it was called) upright fridge/freezer in our attached garage since 1985 without any problems. It was a twin-compressor model (i.e. separate compressors for fridge and freezer. I use past tense because John Lewis collected it the other day. It was to be replaced by a Beko, which they subsequently failed to deliver. (Big Story; don’t go there!)
My (unscientific) research tells me that the reason (most) manufacturers now tell you not to put their appliances in unheated outbuildings is because a machine with a single compressor, and its thermostat is in the fridge, when the ambient temperature falls to 4 degrees, the fridge is quite happy that its internal temperature is right, so it switches off. But so too does the freezer – and it’s supposed to be at -18.
Apparently Beko have a way of running the compressor when the ambient temperature falls, and this keeps the freezer frozen.
Nothing to do with the refrigerant – they all seem to use the same stuff and have done for many years.

Guest

Roy, from an earlier post:
Fridge in garage – Fridge normally operates to 5C. If the ambient temperature drops to 0C or lower food may freeze and spoil.
Fridge/Freezer – these, as has been pointed out, often only have a fridge thermostat (5C) and if the ambient falls below this the fridge no longer needs more cooling, so the compressor does not operate. The freezer is then not cooled and will rise above its normal -18C temperature – food may thaw and spoil. BEKO offer a Freezer Guard to many of its models; this is additional circuitry that in low ambient switches the compressor on for between 5-20mins every 2.5 hours to maintain the correct freezer temperature. The downside is that the fridge may then drop below 0C and freeze food that could spoil; they recommend using the top shelves for such food. They give -15C as the minimum ambient. Prices do not seem excessive with this feature.
Freezers – these will not suffer these problems as they work at -18C. Zanussi “recommend our chest freezers which have a minimum ambient temp of 0 and will be OK in temp of around -18 degrees”. They go on to say that “Freezers and refrigerators in a cold garage can have the lubrication oil in the compressor get so stiff that the compressor won’t start and will trip out the auto reset breaker. In an extreme case the compressor motor can burn out because it doesn’t turn. In either case the freezer temp goes to ambient.”
AMDEA (The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances) publish “Guidance on the use of refrigerators, freezers and combined fridge-freezers in a garage or shed” on their website (amdea.org.uk). On freezers they imply they are OK in low ambient because UK temperatures do not normally drop below -18C. They suggest however that electronic circuits may not be able to operate at very low temperatures (?) and, separately, “And the other thing to consider in a garage/shed is moisture – not just in terms of water + electricity, but also potential corrosion of components over time.”

Guest

Thanks for the information re Beko freezers, Malcolm. I expect that the purpose of running the compressor periodically is to maintain fluidity of the lubricant in the refrigerant. It does not matter if the freezer temperature falls below -18C as a result.

You are right to question the point about electronic circuits possibly not working at low temperatures. New Scientist has a page that often includes this sort of unexpected observation.

AMDEA also reckon we should consider replacing appliances with modern ones that are more efficient on environmental grounds. Only if you ignore manufacture, product life and disposal.

Sorry for clicking the wrong ‘thumb’ but I will come back later and make amends.

Guest
Kevin99 says:
29 November 2014

We have kept the same AEG upright freezer in the back of an attached garage underneath a bedroom for the last 20 years without any serious problem (the only item that failed very recently – in last couple of years) was the power-on light and that’s never concerned us since the visible thermometer always confirms it is working at the correct temperature. It does seem that given 84% to date say that they do keep their freezer in their garage or shed that manufacturers are being a) conservative and b) unhelpful to many consumers.

Guest

There are, as there always are when this topic comes up, large numbers of people with freezers in their garages having no problems.

However, most of those freezers are older ones (I have one myself in the garage, and it’s 25+ years old) and it’s completely irrelevant that they work fine.

The problem is entirely with more recent models – after the change in refrigerants took place. Posts about old models are pretty pointless – there never was a problem with those.

I’d be very interested to hear about freezers under, say, 3 years old, though. I’ve just put a new one in the garage and it’s very much fingers crossed for when the temperature dips below 10 degrees. If necessary I’ll have to bring it inside or heat the garage for a while!

Guest

David, when I looked at this erlier in the conversation “The refrigerant used (for about 20 years now) is isobutane (R600a) and I am told this is not an issue in low ambients.” The reason manufacturers don’t list low temperature operation seems partly because the standard testing regime does not encompass it.

Guest

It would be good if Which? could give us some authoritative advice about so that we can make an informed decision about whether or not keeping currently produced freezers in unheated garages is likely to result in premature failure. Obviously using a freezer below the minimum permissible temperature could void the warranty but that might be a risk worth taking.