Winterizing Your Refrigerator

Homeowners often ask us if they should winterize their outdoor refrigerator. The answer is YES, absolutely. Failure to winterize will not necessarily cause immediate failure, but can shorten the life expectancy of the compressor leading to a premature failure of the unit.

Refrigerators are not cooled by a compressor alone. The sealed refrigerant system is made up of a number of parts: compressor, refrigerant, condenser and evaporator coils. During the cooling cycle, the compressor constricts the lubricated refrigerant (compression) and forces it through the condenser coils on the outside of the refrigerator and then in to the evaporator coils on the inside of the refrigerator. During this cycle, the lubricated refrigerant begins as gas, becomes liquid and then returns again to gas. The cooling occurs during the high pressure liquid state of the refrigerant as it flows through the interior evaporator coils removing heat from inside the refrigerator. As the refrigerant exits the interior of the refrigerator, it expands and returns to its gas state. When the outside temperature drops to near freezing or below, the refrigerant may separate from the lubricant and lose the ability to go from a gas to a liquid, thereby losing the ability to cool the interior of the refrigerator. Furthermore, the separation of the refrigerant from the lubricant may permanently damage the compressor.

How do you winterize your outdoor refrigerator? Depending on ease of access, winterization can be accomplished in place or by bringing the unit inside the home. If winterizing in place, empty the contents of the refrigerator and unplug the unit. If the refrigerator has glass shelves, remove them and store inside. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the refrigerator to help reduce moisture and mold. Leave the door closed. Once a month open the refrigerator to allow air exchange and relieve the door seal/gasket.