If you're wondering whether you can use a freezer as a fridge, the answer is yes. If you're wondering why you'd want to do that, the answer is that it saves energy. The conversion isn't difficult to make and requires simply replacing the freezer thermostat with one for a refrigerator. You can simply pull out the old thermostat from your freezer and replace it or you can purchase a thermostat that plugs into the refrigerator's power outlet.
How Does It Save Energy?
The most important difference between a freezer and refrigerator compartment, besides their relative sizes, is the amount of insulation they have. Because the temperature in a freezer has to be much lower than that in a refrigerator, the freezer typically has more insulation — up to twice as much. As any homeowner who lives in a cold climate knows, more insulation means more energy savings.
Because a freezer compartment is better insulated, the refrigeration system doesn't have to run as often to maintain a low temperature, and every extra moment that the compressor stays off is one that saves you money. You also save money because the evaporative coils are located directly behind the freezer compartment, so no circulation fan is required to maintain the temperature as it is for a typical refrigerator.
What Do you Need to Make the Conversion?
The main problem to overcome is how to prevent the food in the refrigerator conversion from freezing, and the solution is to program the compressor to cycle on less frequently. To this end, you can purchase a freezer to fridge conversion kit, such as the one illustrated on Negergy. It consists of a refrigerator thermostat, a temperature probe, a mounting bracket and spare connectors.
Another option is to purchase a plug-in thermostat which, like the thermostat kit, comes with a metal capillary tube that acts as a temperature probe. This type of external thermostat isn't very expensive, costing less than $60 from online retailers such as The Chi Company, which sells supplies for beer, wine and soda storage.
You might not even need to add anything to your freezer to turn it into a functioning refrigerator if you have the right model. For example, the Frigidaire convertible upright freezer has a double-mode thermostat that allows you to choose whether to use it as a fridge or freezer. At $1,500, however, it's a bit of a pricier option than retrofitting your existing non-convertible freezer.
How to Convert a Freezer to a Refrigerator
If you purchase an external thermostat, you simply plug it into the freezer outlet and plug the freezer into it. Insert the temperature probe into the slot occupied by the existing one, which you can leave in place. Set the freezer thermostat to maximum cold, and then you can control the temperature by adjusting the external thermostat.
Installation of a thermostat kit requires a bit more effort because you have to dismount the old thermostat and remove the sensor and replace them with the analogous parts from the kit. This may involve replacing one or more wire connectors or doing some manual splicing, all of which should be done with the refrigerator unplugged. If you aren't handy with electrical wiring, you may want to hire an appliance technician to make the retrofit.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.