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  Refrigeration In Warm Environments

Almost as bad a low temperature environments, high temperatures can wreck your appliance

A number of years ago we published an article that explained in some detail why that most refrigeration products that will affect the following will not work in low temperature environments. This information applies to all of the following:

  • Fridges
  • Freezers
  • Chest freezers
  • Fridge freezers
  • American fridge freezers
  • Wine coolers

We explained how it was that these machines would get huffy and may well not work where a lot of people expected them to, namely garages, conservatories and other outbuildings in colder weather.

In there we also touched on why they will also not work when you have high ambient or room temperatures as opposed to the opposite, when the temperature is too low. Here we explain more why that in hot weather that refrigeration in warm environments is often a disaster.

The issues outlined here you can see in warm weather obviously as the title suggests but also where the appliance is exposed to direct sunlight or the airflow to it is restricted, either will have the same effects.

The fundamental reason for almost every issue here will be that the machines were never designed to operate in the ambient temperatures of the location that they are installed to and there will be nothing anyone can do to solve it other than to move the unit to a more suitable location

  Beer Fridge

One of the popular reasons both this and low temperature locations come up a is that people will but an old fridge or fridge freezer out into the garage to act as a beer fridge or additional fridge space.

Then, when it stops working in the summer wonder why.

Or, it starts leaking water in the summer. Or, just cuts out as the compressor overheats since it's working way too hard and chucks it.

If this is down to the environment that the machine is installed in, there's nothing anyone can do to help. Other than perhaps move it back to a more suitable location if it's not wrecked by that point.

  Fridge & Freezer Climate Classes

These are the European climate classes for domestic refrigeration units and virtually all sold in the UK will be either N or SN:

  • 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

As you can see most UK refrigeration cannot be in an environment that is above 32˚C

We would argue however, just based on what we see in the field, that anything above about 30˚C is getting on for dangerous if not good and especially so for extended periods of time. Normally when asked we tel people to try to ensure that the room never gets above 30˚C however there are times that there’s nothing people can do about it due to high temperature in summer months. The good thing about the UK is, that seldom lasts very long.

ST and T cabinets you tend to see in southern Europe, Italy, Spain etc where the lower ambient temperature allowed is higher than you get here in the UK but this allows a higher top end as well. For the UK this 18˚C minimum ambient is not really practical.

This applies to a freezer as much as it does to a fridge as on a practical level the compressor will end up running for extended periods for either a fridge or a freezer, makes no odds really. Same with fridge freezers, wine coolers and so forth as basically they were never designed to operate in such temperatures. That’s it. There’s no way round this.


The first thing to think on is that if the ambient temperature is really high, say over about 30˚C then the compressor on the machine is going to be running at full pelt a lot of the time the temperature is that high. if the airflow around it isn’t all the great it will be even worse.

This is not good for a number of reasons.

Firstly the compressor is not designed to run for such extended periods so, it gets too hot. When it finally overheats it will pack it in due to a thermal overload cutout, which is a safety device that cannot be by-passed. With very good reason, it stops the fridge or freezer from going up in flames so, you kinda don't want to mess with that.

Eventually, after an extended period of this the compressor will fail. Nothing surer. The only thing that is in doubt is how long that will take.

Now you know that it’s not hard to work out that, if the machine is running way beyond it’s normal cycle times it will be struggling to maintain the correct temperature. If you got to that before here, well done, you were correct.

You will often see reports of the machine not cooling correctly, an iceball in the rear wall, random defrosting and the likes as the cycles are all to pot and throws up some weird and wonderful issues at times.

As we said, it’s not good.

  Electricity Use

Logically then you now have a machine, running full pelt most of the time with little respite, what do you think happens to the electricity use?

Yes, it will increase massively.

For a normal non frost free machine that runs roughly 50-60% of the time it’s plugged in, it’s suddenly running 80-100% of the time it’s switched on. In most cases your electricity cost will double, that apart from the fact that you are slowly (or sometimes quickly) destroying your appliance.

For frost free, they run about 70-80% of the time they’re switched on so, they’re going to run as close to 100% of the time as makes no odds.

Regardless of what bit of refrigeration you have in a warm environment that’s too hot, your electricity costs will ramp up, a lot.

  Flip To Cold

Most often when you find a machine that’s installed somewhere that it gets too warm that only is really a problem during summer months in the UK. Of course that ignoring that if the machine has airflow restricted the season won’t matter, any of the issues highlighted can would happen just the same in summer or winter.

All to often though an unsuitable location in the summer will lead to the issues highlighted in our article on low temperature environments because it’s in a location that will normally be unheated, the usual suspects in the UK being a garage, outbuilding or conservatory for the most part but we see them in lean-tos and such as well, all the same thing really. Due to that people get this mad swing from not cooling in the winter to mot cooling in the summer, over freezing, defrosting at random and a host of other issues just because of where the machine is, nothing more.

We point this out so that people are made aware that it is far from uncommon to see problems almost all year round other than the times when the conditions just happen to be okay.

  Airflow & Integrated Appliances

Now you are aware that most refrigeration products that you can buy in the UK can’t handle ambient temperatures greater than 32˚C or 30˚C by our reckoning it can explain some other things as well where the machine has a restricted airflow supply.

Whilst this can happen on freestanding units (ones that are not built in or integrated) it is not terribly common as most people have a bit of room around the unit and it’s never an issue.

Where it does become a big issue on freestanding units is where people shove them into enclosed spaces with little or no airflow to the unit, the cupboard under the stairs etc or building a freestanding unit into a kitchen cupboard and (DO’H!) not allowing for any air to get into the unit.

Doing This will kill your machine!

What happens is just the same thing, the compressor runs hot, run way too long and eventually will burn out. That might happen in a few months or it may take a few years, it is completely dependent on the conditions.

The place where we see this happening the most is on integrated refrigeration and, it’s very common especially so on undercounter integrated fridges and freezers.

If you ask the fridge guys most will tell you something along the lines of, “Idiot installers that don’t bother to read and follow the instructions” is the problem here. To be fair, they’re not far off right almost all the time.

All integrated refrigeration has a venting or airflow requirement detailed in the installation instructions and it is astounding how many times we see these to be seemingly ignored. Whether this is down to laziness, ineptitude or whatever else doesn’t really matter, fact is that it happens a lot.

After a few hours of operation the machine will start to run for extended periods, longer than it should, putting strain on the compressor and whacking up your electricity bill. Ultimately just as in every other scenario here, the machine will die.

  Repair & Claims

Of course now that you know all this you won’t make these mistakes will you? Or, you know what’s going to happen, you will kill your machine if any of this applies.

Working in service it is not uncommon to hear of warranty claims rejected due to improper or unsuitable installation as, all that happens is that the details are all sent back to the brand owner and they will often kick the claim out and to a degree you have to accept that most of the time. After all, why should the manufacturer or brand owner have to pay for a problem caused by someone not installing the product correctly or in a suitable location?

Again, not uncommon that you may well get the first repair done in warranty, like a new compressor on it but if it goes again after a short time then it will be looked at and questions will be asked as to why this is.

We have even seen claims being made under the old six year rule and, we’ve never seen one succeed. All the brand owner will do is assess the situation and work out, very quickly, that the location or conditions are the root cause, not a problem with the machine and kick the claim out.

The point being that, if you install to a location that isn’t suitable or you don’t install the machine correctly and any of the above apples to the failure you have, chances are you won’t have a leg to stand on and it’s all on you. The company that sold or made the machine will have nothing to do with it and will not pay for any repairs or a replacement machine, you’ve got no chance in these circumstances, even within manufacturer warranty.

  Don’t Do It

We hope that this has been informative and enlightening but we also hope that people get the point from this article and the sister article on low ambient that you cannot just put a refrigeration appliance anywhere you see fit and just expect it to work without question.

That is not the reality.

You should give great consideration and take great care where and how you install refrigeration products or, you will kill them and if you do, it’s on you.

jan smith
Hi, I have found your article very interesting and had already realised this overheating outside the fridge was the problem causing my fridge freezer to pack up. I have nowhere else to keep the fr/fr as I have a very small house, if I bought another one with the ST mark and applied insulation to the outside casing would this help, I'm not too fussed that it will look daft, just want it to last a bit longer that the 2y 9m the current one has lasted. I had made sure there was ample air flow all around the machine when it was installed, but gave little thought to the heat of the summer. any thoughts please. Unless you fancy a free week in france insulating the room the fridge is in???... regards jan smith

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