The first thing that you have to realise before deciding to buy a new refrigerator, freezer or fridge freezer is that they are not all equal, there are different rated appliances for different climates. Your first thought on being told this is perhaps that there are different ratings for say, the tropics, than there is for Northern Europe and, you'd be correct but there's a lot more to it than just that.
So the first thing to check for after you decide which appliance you need is what we refer to as the "Climate Class Rating" which determines in what ambient temperature range (the surrounding air or room temperature) that you can safely run the machine in.
These are extremely important if you are not keeping the machine is a normal room in your home with a normal 18-22°C room temperature, deviating from that can cause serious problems.
To be as basic as possible a refrigerator is designed to do three things:
Now, there are two basic enemies that will stop a fridge from working correctly. The system that cools the air fails in some way or there is some sort of problem that prevents it from keeping things cool due to its environment allowing the hot air in or cold air out. System failure is a whole subject to itself and not within the scope of this article, we're looking at the other reasons for it not working.
One of the factors that will determine how hot or cold an ambient temperature that any unit can be placed in is the quality and thickness of the insulation used to isolate the cool inside area from the warmer outside air. In short, the better the insulation the more expensive the appliance as a general rule and, ultimately, this will have a direct correlation in my experience as to how long the unit will likely last, especially in inhospitable environments.
These are the European climate classes for domestic refrigeration units:
N (Normal) Class = +16°C to +32°C ambient room temperature
SN (Sub Normal) Class = +10°C to +32°C ambient room temperature
ST (Sub Tropical) Class = +18°C to +38°C ambient room temperature
T (Tropical) Class = +18°C to +43°C ambient room temperature
This leads us to the problem and the reason for writing this article in the first place. Putting a modern fridge or fridge freezer in a garage or outhouse/outbuilding that is unheated is pretty much a non-starter and you are asking for trouble by doing so. Likewise if, like some people I have come across, you keep your home, kitchen or utility area where the machine is, below 16°C then you may well also have problems.
With fridge freezers where there is only a single compressor (easy to spot as there's only one black "bottle" at the back and/or generally only one control for fridge and freezer) this means that all too often the ambient can be lower than the cut in point for the fridge. Since the fridge thermostat controls the on/off for the freezer as well it means that, for long periods during the colder winter months, the freezer won't cut in and the food will defrost.
The problem for the service engineer of course is that there is no fault with the appliance, it simply has not been installed in the correct environment.
Conversely, in an environment that is too warm, such as a conservatory during the warm summer months, the compressor can be working overtime trying to keep the insides cold enough. This is because the insulation isn't designed to cope with the extremely high temperature and the unit cannot repel enough heat ingress or Keep the cold air in well enough, this can and does lead to many an early failure.
In the end most refrigeration products you can buy easily are not designed for these environments and, if you place them under such conditions you should not be surprised when they do not perform correctly.
Chest freezers in cold environments tend to form condensation on the outer skin due to the temperature differential and the insulation not being designed to cope with it. This forms droplets that run to the base where it drips off and pools or is soaked up by the insulation itself as the base of these machines are most often pretty open. Once water ingresses into the insulation the machine is effectively written off as repairs to insulation are, at best, difficult and cannot be guaranteed to work with 100% certainty.
Should you have a leaking freezer in a cold room, or indeed one that is too warm, then this is almost certainly the cause and again, there is no cure for the problem other than to move the machine to a heated room, or heat the room accordingly.
On most refrigeration there is a "hot-pipe" that runs around the door aperture of the machine, this applies to most refrigerators, fridge freezers and freezers, that is designed to heat any excess condensation helping it to evaporate away. To see condensation around the door, or to feel heat there, is not unusual and is part of the normal operation of the unit.