Can You Use an Upright Freezer as a Refrigerator?

When it comes to energy conservation with one of the largest appliances in a home, the most efficient refrigeration solution may be an unconventional one. An upright freezer looks like a refrigerator and it takes just a few steps to turn it into one. Rescue an unused upright freezer from ending up in a landfill by converting it into a refrigerator.

Refrigerator with open door
credit: Jupiterimages/ Images
Convert a freezer into a refrigerator.

The Difference

Refrigerators and freezers operate on different thermostats, both with adjustable temperature settings. Freezers keep foods in a frozen state, while refrigerators keep the foods chilled. Neither thermostat functions like the other, so standard adjustments prevent a refrigerator from turning to a freezer setting and a freezer from turning to a refrigerator setting.

Energy Efficiency

The thick walls of the freezer exceed the thickness of refrigerator walls. The insulation maintains and contains the freezing temperature inside without wasting energy from cold air that might escape through thinner insulated walls. According to the California Energy Commission, refrigeration alone accounts for 17 percent -- or about one-sixth -- of the energy expenditure in a typical home. When converting a freezer into a refrigerator, you use the thicker insulation of a freezer to contain the cool refrigerated environment, and this yields a more energy-efficient refrigerator that uses less electricity to maintain its cool temperature setting.

Installing the Refrigerator Thermostat

Swap the freezer thermostat for a refrigerator thermostat or digital temperature controller. Remove the freezer thermostat and sensor from the unplugged unit. Connect the refrigerator thermostat to the compressor wire and follow the rest of the installation instructions for the specific thermostat model you're installing.

Dealing with Condensation

Condensation readily forms inside a converted upright freezer since its coils form the food shelves, and the temperature remains well above freezing. Contain the condensed moisture by lining the floor of the converted freezer with a custom-fitted collection pan or by removing the drain plug in the floor and allowing the condensed water to flow in a tray beneath the converted freezer.

Eliminate the condensation problem by working with an upright freezer whose coils run through the walls of the unit instead of forming the shelves, much like the freezer compartment in refrigerators.

A Purchase Alternative

When manufacturers become hip to new trends in energy conservation, they set out to develop clever, environmentally friendly products. One such product gives refrigerators a whole new dimension, combining the refrigerator and freezer functions into one. For example, the Frigidaire Convertible Upright Freezer to All Refrigerator makes a smart extra food storage unit. When the need for extra refrigeration arises, set it to its refrigerator setting, and for extra freezer space on demand, turn it to its freezer setting.

Naima Manal

Naima Manal's articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on various websites. Manal received her Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.