The rubber seal around the edge of a refrigerator or freezer is there to help seal the door. Mainly, it works to keep the cooled air inside the appliance without letting in any of the warm air outside. This helps to cut down on cooling costs, as the mechanism only has to work to keep cold air cool, rather than continuously cooling air. However, depending on the design and age of the model, sometimes the freezer can work so well that the door becomes very tightly sealed to the point where it will not open.
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Why Vacuums Occur on Freezers
What causes this? It's caused by thermodynamics — the scientific laws that control the way gases behave. When warm air is cooled, it compresses_,_ meaning it tries to take up less space. As explained by New Scientist, if warm air gets into the freezer and then cools, it will try to compress on itself.
However, since the space inside the freezer is a set size, what happens instead is that the pressure inside the freezer decreases until there is a small but significant vacuum inside the freezer space. This is what pulls on the door, trying to keep it closed, which is what makes it difficult to open in the first place.
How to Remove Vacuum Seal
If your refrigerator or freezer door is hard to open due to a vacuum, there are a couple of ways to get the freezer to open itself. The easiest way is to turn the temperature up inside the freezer by a couple of degrees. This additional heat will expand the air inside somewhat, which should increase the pressure to the point where the door can be opened. If the temperature control is inside the freezer, the unit can be unplugged for a short period of time until the temperature rises enough that the door can be opened.
As an alternative, if the rubber gasket or physical seal can be seen, the owner can pry at the seal, trying to initiate a gap. This gap allows warmer air to flow into the freezer unit, which will raise the temperature inside. This higher temperature increases the pressure and should allow the door to be opened.
In this case, be sure not to damage the rubber gasket; any tears or holes can cause a permanent air leak, which will ruin the freezer's seal. This decreases the operational efficiency of the freezer, meaning it will need more electricity to run, and will eventually make the unit nonfunctional.
Preventing a Freezer Vacuum Seal
There are ways to prevent your GE bottom freezer from being hard to open. The first way to do so is to keep a higher volume of material in the freezer. With more material in the freezer, there will be less space for warm air to displace, which can prevent the vacuum issue from occurring.
The second way to keep your Siemens fridge door from being hard to open is to consider running it at a slightly higher temperature, which will also help prevent the vacuum situation from occurring. Remove and Replace also explains the importance of being sure your gasket is intact and not ripped or pulled away from the freezer; gaps can cause ice crystals to form and freeze the door shut. Finally, it's worth exploring a more modern freezer model; newer models can compensate for warmer air inside the unit by managing the compressor unit so that it does not overreact and cause a vacuum situation.
When this kind of thing happens, it can cause a panic. Fortunately, it's easily preventable afterward, so pay attention to your freezer's energy usage and any additional drag on the door to keep your model working as well as possible.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity.