Will the Refrigerator Still Work If I Turn Off the Freezer?

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You can't turn off the freezer and expect the fridge to work.
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You might be experiencing issues with your freezer or perhaps you just don't use it. Maybe you're planning on turning off the freezer so you can defrost it. Whatever the case, you want to keep the fridge running, so the question you've got is, can you turn the freezer off for an extended period while the refrigerator keeps running?

Tip

Since freezer and refrigerator use the same cooling system, neither will work independently.

The Short Answer

No, you can't turn the freezer off and expect your fridge to keep running. In fact, the coldness in the fridge comes from the freezer. They share the condenser and cooling technology, so the freezer must remain on.

How to Defrost Upright Freezers

So, if your freezer needs defrosting and your fridge is full, here are some tips to get it done quickly so you don't spoil any food. Defrosting can take several hours to do thoroughly in extreme scenarios, so you may need a portable cooler to store some food.

  • Turn off or unplug the unit. The freezer switch may just control the temperature, and you may have to unplug it to kill the power.
  • When defrosting, keep the freezer door closed so fridge food doesn't perish.
  • Be careful — using a metal utensil to chip ice could result in cracking or damaging the freezer itself. Using a hairdryer or other electrical gadget to melt the ice can result in puddles that could electrocute you if you're not cautious.
  • Put towels in the bottom of the fridge and under the appliance to catch defrosting puddles.
  • Put a pot of boiling water inside the freezer to help with the defrosting, and replace it every 15 to 20 minutes to get the process moving more quickly. (If doing this, the fridge will lose heat more rapidly too.)
  • As the ice melts, clean it up with rags.
  • Ensure the freezer's surfaces are 100% dried off before you turn the power back on.

Tips for Preventing Frost

Frost is one of the top reasons people want to turn off their freezers, so if you've got it defrosted and you want it to stay that way, here are the need-to-know tips:

  • Underusing your freezer is a problem — they're designed to be used at about 70 to 85% capacity for optimal operation. Understocking it will cause frost. Having too much in it will inhibit airflow, but an empty freezer means all the cold air spills out every time you open the door (affecting the fridge, as well), and this means the condenser needs to work hard to refill it with cold air.
  • Don't block any air vents as these are critical for keeping both the fridge and freezer happy.
  • Stock your foods and containers in an orderly fashion because gaps and holes lead to frost. Stackable containers and proper freezer bags are the ideal storage options.
  • Organize your freezer so things are easier to find. The longer the door is open, the more frost will form as the warm air in your living space hits the frozen surfaces and condenses, which freezes when the door shuts. Don't just label the tops of containers but label the sides too so you can see what things are without having to move everything every time you're on the hunt.

Finally, if you're wanting to power down the whole fridge/freezer unit after defrosting it, always make sure you either leave the fridge door open when off or use something to prevent the door's gasket from sealing in case an animal or child should get trapped inside.

references

Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.

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