Affordable bedroom-quiet mini-fridge with a freezer?
December 27, 2012 1:15 AM   Subscribe

I have an old hand-me-down mini-fridge in my bedroom that I use to store cold water and medications. Husband for Christmas thoughtfully bought me a new one with a freezer compartment so that I could keep ice packs up in our bedroom as well, yay! We plugged it in Christmas afternoon and disaster: new one is SO LOUD! Let it settle through the day, but both had awful trouble getting to sleep, and he ended up getting up in the middle of the night and just unplugging it because it kept on cycling in a frequent pattern that he couldn't handle. Looking for recommendations because it turns out that every fridge for sale on the internet has least one review saying it's WHISPER SILENT and another saying it's THE LOUDEST EVER.

Does a quiet mini-fridge even exist? Is our new one generally thought to be quiet but got busted in transit? It sat in-place for quite some time as a mysteriously large present, then was moved up a flight of stairs, and we don't think we bonked it around much: nothing is obviously loose. Everything that Google tells me is contradictory.

The biggest problem with the new one seems to be not that it has a loud noise as it shifts cycles (the old one made a *thunk* and long rattley *hummmmmm* when it kicked off cycles too, although new one is perhaps 25% louder and doesn't seem to taper off in volume the way the old one did), but rather that its cycle seems to be on the order of tens of minutes rather than multiple hours as the old one.

Old one: GE 3.2 cubic foot compact fridge
New one: SPT 2.5 cubic foot mini fridge

Criteria for not just going back to the old one and bidding my dreams of convenient ice packs goodbye:
* Space inside for 2 good-size Nalgene bottles and some assorted medications (we could completely go down to a tiny cube like I had in university, if it met the rest of the criteria)
* Freezer compartment big enough to hold an ice pack or two (think able to hold 2-4 standard DVD cases)
* Either a tiny cube that we could relocate to the bathroom, OR a 2-4 cubic foot mini-fridge that's quiet enough at the loudest part of its cycle to sleep through, or is on a long enough cycle to not have it be a significant problem (one loud noise every 6-8 hours we could live with)
* Buyable in the Seattle area or reasonably shippable-to that area, for "a reasonable price" (anything over a couple hundred dollars is probably too much; apparently there's some sweet silent fridges for sale in the UK, but I don't think I can countenance that)
* Attractive would be nice, but the current one is a bit on the dingy white side so that's not too much of a worry, really.

Suggestions from the hive mind? Would also appreciate any tips on how to check ahead of time what the volume level of a fridge will be, as it doesn't seem to be something included in most specs. Would it be worthwhile to try to listen to one in a store or would the ambient noise be too distracting? Etc.
posted by laeren to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Was it tilted when it was carried up the stairs? As far as I know, it's bad for fridges to be switched on too soon after being tilted, they need to be left alone for a night after that.

But that may be outdated information. I'm not sure.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:36 AM on December 27, 2012

If your old fridge is one of the cheap fridges that use a solid state Peltier cooling system it will be virtually silent. To my knowledge a you can't remove enough heat with this kind of cooling system to use it in a freezer. Likely any unit with a freezer will have a compressor and do its cooling the old fashion way. It probably seems very loud in a totally silent bedroom.
posted by jmsta at 7:03 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am always unplugging the ones in hotel rooms, even though usually they are reasonably quiet. Reviews for the one you bought mention "a little too loud" as a drawback. So probably it is what it is.

Would this work for you: Fill any unused space in the freezer with those blue ice freezer packs. Fill any unused space in the fridge with something similar that will hold a lot of "cold", ie., thermal mass. Could be stone, for example, or just jugs of water. When you go to bed, turn the entire unit off. Turn back on when you rise. The extra stuff helps keep the inside nice and chilly. You can test this by sticking a thermometer in and seeing how much the temp rises overnight. Consider building some extra insulation around the unit, as well.
posted by beagle at 7:10 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a peltier fridge and it is indeed pretty quiet. All you hear is the fans running. After one of the fans went out I actually disassembled the back and installed some super quiet 12v computer fans and now it's even quieter. No freezer though.
posted by sanka at 7:23 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This Amazon reviewer suggests that your model of fridge can be particularly noisy for the first 24 hours before calming down. I would give it a few days before making a final judgement.

Do check that the noise is caused by the fridge and not by anything else that is being affected by the vibration of the compressor. Try moving the fridge away from the wall a little, for example. If tapping the fridge causes the sound to reduce for a moment then it is a sign that external vibration might be the problem. Make sure (using a spirit level) that the unit is absolutely level - you may need to adjust the feet if your floor is at all uneven. You could also putting rubber pads under each foot to see if that reduces the sound.
posted by rongorongo at 7:38 AM on December 27, 2012

laeren writes "Does a quiet mini-fridge even exist?"

Hotels will sometimes use absorption refrigerators which have the occasional gurgle as their only operating noise. A new one is going to be more than your budget but my Habitat for Humanity store has them on occasion.

Absorption refrigerators are also used in RVs. So if you don't mind the RV look you check used RV equipment suppliers. Around here I see small units out of tent trailers fairly often on Kijiji/Craiglist for very reasonable money. Just make sure you get a unit that has a 110V connection and not just LPG.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on December 27, 2012

In addition to home-brew noise nullification, look at building around it a layer of absorption (table, even with a door) that meets a bit more than its minimum clearance operating capacity requirements. And or do the same thing with a built-in style fridge.
posted by tilde at 10:13 AM on December 27, 2012

I have a Sanyo with a freezer (similar to this one) that I keep in my bedroom, and I thought it was pretty loud the first night, but then it settled down and only cycles once in a while, and the cycles are pretty quiet. I was hoping to get ice cubes out of it when I got it, but mostly it's good for ice packs and keeping already frozen stuff mostly frozen.
posted by clone boulevard at 11:11 AM on December 27, 2012

Perhaps the new fridge may be trying to pull more electricity than the extension cord / power strip can handle - Try plugging it in directly to the wall outlet and give it a while to calm down.
posted by alienzero at 11:42 AM on December 27, 2012

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