Fridge Freezer Airflow
People often think that American fridge freezers or American style fridge freezers which are more common in Europe than true American fridge freezers are complex pieces of machinery when in fact, they're often not and many simple problems can be solved by simply taking a little care.
The reason that American styled fridge freezers are more commonplace in Europe is that true American fridge freezers are usually larger and do not conform to standard European kitchen sizes. For example, there are practically no actual what we would class as true American fridge freezers that will not protrude by 10cm or so from a standard depth (600mm) European kitchen worktop.
So, what we largely see are LG, Samsung, Daewoo and Whirlpool units along with a smattering of Chinese produced units from the likes of Midea in Europe. Mainly because these units are designed more to fit with European kitchens but also hugely because of price. As usual, manufacturers race to the bottom of the market as people want or expect low prices but, as a result, you end up with poorer quality fridge freezers.
Due to that, we also get a few issues and, as there is less space in the more European units, they can be harder to work on.
This article is a rough guide to the general symptoms and common problems we see on American fridge freezers sold in the UK and much of Europe caused by airflow issues.
Fridge Freezer Airflow Is Everything
In an American fridge freezer, as with most frost free fridge freezers, it's all about airflow.
A normal fridge, freezer and fridge freezer relies on cold air falling directly from a cooling element for want of a better explanation, the cold air falls to the bottom of the inside of the unit and slowly the whole internal refrigeration cabinet temperature drops.
When you have a large space, as you do in an American fridge freezer, or you need the frost free element this is not possible and the air has to be "driven" by a fan mounted on a motor to push the cold air about the unit.
This offers several advantages not least of which is that the temperature in the unit is far more uniform throughout the space being cooled and more stable.
The downside of course is that you have the noise of the fan motor blowing air into the unit and you introduce several more points of failure.
It also means that, in order to work efficiently, you have to have space for the air to flow around the food in the fridge and freezer areas. Block the airflow and the fridge or freezer will not operate correctly. It's common sense really.
Simply ensuring that your fridge or freezer isn't crammed to the gunnels and air can easily flow around the unit will help it run more efficiently. Of course, manufacturers do their level best to try to put measures in place to stop people blocking air vents and so on but, as is the way of things, you can't design out user's ability to get around any measures.
However, it's a balance as you also need to have things in the freezer especially to reduce run times.
But if the airflow isn't right, you will have issues with uneven cooling and even either the fridge or freezer section not cooling at all.
Apart from which, if any of the airflow in this article is not right then your fridge freezer is quite probably running much longer than it has to which is costing you money in electricity use, asides from the obvious environmental downsides.
American Fridge Freezer Airflow Part Two: It's Still Everything
Most American and American style fridge freezers only have one cooling circuit, it's incredibly unusual to have separate cooling circuits for the fridge and freezer, one notable exception to this is the like of the Liebherr units that are actually separates that are joined together.
Again, this reduces the cost but it also mens that there's only one cooling circuit to fail and, if it breaks, you lose the whole unit and not just the fridge or freezer on its own.
How this works is that you have the evaporator in the freezer, this is the "cooling element" part of the heat exchange and cold air from the freezer is drawn into the fridge via a fan motor and a system of ducting and/or, a motorised flap valve.
True American fridge freezers can use either system.
The majority of the units we see in the UK and Europe tend to draw air from the freezer compartment using a fan motor, usually mounted in the fridge compartment. The notable exception being Whirlpool, which uses a ludicrously expensive flap valve and a fan motor.
If the fridge fan motor goes faulty or, the motorised flap fails then you will get the symptoms of not cooling in the fridge while the freezer operates as normal. Same result if the ducts get blocked for whatever reason, they shouldn't do but it isn't unheard of that they will get moisture in them and freeze up, blocking the airflow.
Condensation occurs when you put hot stuff in a cold environment. It's a psychical fact and there's no getting around the physics of it.
So, when we see articles online about being able to put hot meals, soups and other things straight into the fridge or freezer we shudder. Hot stuff, very cold environment leads to water vapour (steam) that can be carried into ducts, onto fan motors which can equate to a broken fridge.
Therefore whilst there's perhaps no reason you can't put piping hot food into the fridge or freezer for food safety reasons, there's reason for pause if you don't want any hassle with your fridge freezer. Our advice, let it cool off a bit first before you put it into the fridge or freezer.
On some American fridge freezer, especially Samsung ones, this is imperative as condensation can build up on the polystyrene ducting at the back of the fridge, block the fan motor and you end up with a fridge that doesn't cool. It isn't good news as it needs a kit that will set you back about £100 normally.
Also consider condensation when you store a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge. Fresh foodstuffs like this "breath" naturally and produce water vapour that can lead to condensation and if you have too much in the fridge you can end up creating the same result.
Fridge Freezer External Airflow
Normally you will see on the front of a fridge freezer a grill at the bottom. Do not block it!
Any fridge freezer is, in essence, a big heat exchange so it needs to draw cool air from it's surroundings to cool the condenser on the back (the big black radiator looking thing) in order to cool the inside of the fridge freezer. On an American fridge freezer it will often look something the version shown below.
If you block or impede airflow to these components and do not allow cool air to reach the compressor (the black bottle looking thing at the back) you will kill your fridge freezer. For sure. It is a stone eyed certainty.
Often on American fridge freezers the condenser unit will actually be mounted in the base, making not blocking that grill at the front an even more important concern and the compressor will be cooled using a fan which will almost always double to feed or draw air across the condenser. Although they may differ in the actual execution, the proess is usually very similar to the way shown in the image above.
Obviously it is absolutely critical that this airflow is not blocked.
So, every now and again and, we know this sounds daft, you need to take that front grill off and hoover the dust away as if there is too much dust and dirt in there it will block up the airflow and, dead fridge. People with dogs and cats beware as these areas are great collectors of animal hair. Asides which, it's good to keep these areas clean for hygiene reasons.
This is also the reason why that, in many cases, you will rarely ever see a built in or integrated American fridge freezer as, if this airflow is blocked or impeded in any way the fridge freezer will die.
As we said, often, airflow is everything on American fridge freezers.