Why Does Food Freeze in a Refrigerator?

Written by g.d. palmer
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Why Does Food Freeze in a Refrigerator?
Side-by-side refrigerators may freeze food due to poor design or a stuck diffuser. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Most refrigerators maintain food at around 4.44 degrees Celsius -- cold enough to keep food fresh, but not so cold it freezes. However, if your refrigerator malfunctions, it may cause some food to freeze. This process may not harm some food, but could seriously affect the texture and edibility of vegetables, eggs and fruit. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to fix some causes of frozen food.

Improperly Set Thermostat

Modern refrigerators include an internal thermostat, which is set using a small wheel located near the top shelf of the refrigerator. This wheel is easy to bump with tall objects, such as milk and juice cartons, and may end up set too cold. If your refrigerator is freezing food, check the thermostat and make sure it's set correctly before assuming the problem is a defective part.

Poor Air Circulation

Refrigerators require proper air circulation to work correctly, and overfilling your fridge can keep it from working properly. When your refrigerator has a significant variance in temperature from the top shelf to the bottom, try keeping it less full, and storing sensitive foods like produce in warmer parts of the refrigerator.

Defective Thermostat

If your thermostat is set as usual, but food is still freezing in parts of the refrigerator, the thermostat itself may be defective. Call a professional refrigerator technician to replace the thermostat.

Cold Air Migration

Side-by-side refrigerators can suffer from cold air migration between the freezer compartment and the fresh food compartment. This problem is often due to a design problem and can be tricky to fix. Store sensitive foods away from the cold parts of the refrigerator, but don't increase the freezer temperature to compensate, as this increase could result in melted frozen food.

Inefficient Compressor

Inefficient refrigeration systems can cause the refrigerator to run too long, producing frozen spots. This problem could also result from an ineffective evaporator fan motor. Have a professional test and replace these components if necessary.

Air Diffuser Problems

The air diffuser, which moves air back and forth inside the refrigerator, can break and cause one side to receive more cold air than it should. When this part becomes stuck open, food inside the refrigerator compartment freezes. Stuck air diffusers are common in side-by-side refrigerators, but may be a problem in more conventional refrigerator types, as well.

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