My fridge predates the Reagan administration
November 22, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

How often should an old manual defrost refrigerator need defrosting, and when does excessive frost indicate a problem?

Landlord thinks my refrigerator is fine. I don't. I need to defrost the freezer compartment (like in an office mini fridge) every two weeks which seems way too often, but I haven't had such a dinosaur of a fridge before (for reals, it says Sears and Robuck on the tag). I think it needs some kind of maintenance; new thermostat or something. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a quick fix or do I need to insist on repairs/replacement?
posted by slow graffiti to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Are there two doors, one for the freezer and one for the refrigerator? In this case having to defrost every two weeks is excessive. If there is only one door and the freezer is a small metal box with a plastic door, two weeks between defrosting is average, depending how often you open it.
posted by francesca too at 10:37 AM on November 22, 2011

Lets assume for the moment that the refrigerator is running fine. The amount of frost buildup will be a function of how humid it is where you live and how often you open the door to the freezer. In something like a mini-fridge where the freezer doesn't really have a separate door and you expose it to humidity every time you open the door the stuff can build up pretty quickly, two weeks might be right if you have a relatively low tolerance for frost and it is fairly humid where you live. If it has a separate door, and you don't open it all that much, you might have a door gasket problem.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2011

It also depends on how much frost is building up before you defrost it. I have a fridge with a freezer compartment inside (i.e. not behind a separate door). I also live in a humid climate (Pacific Northwest).

Within days of defrosting my freezer, I see frost beginning to build up. But this ain't my first time at the rodeo, so I let it build up pretty far before I defrost it. Like at least a full inch. I know the freezer says to defrost it when frost is greater than 1/8th of an inch, but that's crazy talk. I have better things to do with my time.

Even given that I am pretty frost-tolerant, as you can see, I still end up defrosting my freezer about every 3 months.

FYI a hair dryer works really well for this, and can do the job in about 15 minutes.
posted by ErikaB at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2011

To be clear, if I let it go for two weeks, the frost is already a quarter to half an inch thick. If I let it go a month, the frost would be about 1-1.5 inches thick and I would not be able to get things in and out of the freezer. This is Texas; it is humid and it gets worse in summer.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2011

Is electricity included in your rent? If it is tell the landlord that this antique energy-inefficient fridge is using way too much electricity. If you pay for electricity do whatever you can to convince him to get a new one for your sake. when I had this kind of old fridge I used to defrost every few months. Yours needs to go bye bye.
posted by mareli at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2011

Back in the olden days, during humid summer months we defrosted about once a month. But we were four guys that didn't mind some frost build-up.

Please don't put a big vat of boiling water in the fridge to speed up the defrosting, one of my housemates girlfriends tried this, spilled, and got second degree burns on her chest. Just put your food in an ice chest, turn off the fridge and put some towels in the bottom to soak up the water

And whatever you do, don't use a chisel to pry out the ice. You could pierce the cooling coils, which is an expensive fix.
posted by Marky at 4:34 PM on November 22, 2011

I think mareli has a good point in that it's costing you an arm and a leg to run this antique. Your local electric company has lots of free literature (maybe available online?) that gives the actual financial benefits to using energy-efficient appliances and I'd check that out for some real information to give your landlord - and get the figures that actually compare the old vs the newer Energy Star type. The thing is, your landlord is very unlikely to spring for a brand spanking new refrigerator (which would cost a year's rent, probably), but he can pick up an Energy-Star compliant used fridge that's maybe 7-10 years old that will work just fine for a long time yet - those are the numbers you need to show him.

Good luck to you. I didn't even know there were any of those monsters left, but I'm going to add my no-defrost refrigerator into my "things to be thankful for" this Thanksgiving Day.
posted by aryma at 10:56 PM on November 22, 2011

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