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Small Cabin Forum / General Forum / Refrigerator in an unheated cabin
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# Posted: 5 Nov 2019 12:16

So yesterday I got a big surprise with an electric bill for October that was quadruple the usage in September. for reference it went from 40 kw to 161 kw. That struck me as odd as we hadn't been to the cabin for the entirety of October. Thinking that the cabin had been broken into and perhaps had been tuned into a meth lab, I went down last night. Nothing was amiss but some items in the freezer had thawed. We had a cold snap here and that didn't surprise me. I went ahead and cleaned and unplugged the refrigerator.

Will a failing refrigerator suddenly quadruple it's usage? The refrigerator is a two season old 9.9 cubic foot Menards store brand unit. We left it plugged in all last winter and had no problems. The electric usage last year tapered off to virtually nothing and gradually increased in the spring. Of course we don't keep perishable items over the winter. I have no problem unplugging it but never bothered as my electric service includes the first 100 kw whether I use them or not. I also like to keep it plugged in as I typically spend a few winter weekends there and I want the refrigerator to be "beer ready".

# Posted: 5 Nov 2019 14:40

You don't say if the cabin is unheated or if not heated how cold it gets.

A standard household refrigerator is not designed to operate properly in a very cold (freezing) location. This should not cause an increase in electricity use though. I have never heard of a failing fridge using more power. Was the door properly closed?

When the weather turns very cold, especially if it drops to freezing temperatures for at least some of the day, a standard fridge will noy cycle on and off enough to keep the freezer frozen. The thermostat is in the fridge part, not the freezer. If the ambient temperature drops to 40 or less the thermostat will not tell the compressor to run. That allows the freezer contents to thaw.

Do a search for "refrigerators in freezing temperatures".

No real idea on why power use would shoot up though. It could be related to an incorrect reading of the meter if it is one of those that still require a human to read.

Nate R
# Posted: 5 Nov 2019 15:16

I had the same size fridge go bad on me after a couple years too. Compressor leaked, I believe. I don't believe there are very many actual manufacturers of these...So it could be that yours is running almost continuously now due to a lack of refrigerant? Or could be that it got stuck in defrost mode....

# Posted: 5 Nov 2019 15:38

ICC: The cabin is unheated. Probably the lowest it has gotten before this incident was 25-30 degrees at the lowest. You hit on it, my biggest question is the power use. The meter is not manually read and is one of the newer self report meters.

Nate: I hate to hear about your experience as it doesn't bode well on mine. It's a shame because that sized of refrigerator is about perfect for a cabin. I'd agree about the continuous run except it never ran while I was down there. Perhaps it's frozen up now (the compressor that is).

# Posted: 6 Nov 2019 08:09

Buy a killAwatt meter and plug it into it. There $20 and can tell you alot about your electric useage.

All frost free fridges/freezers use a heating element to thaw the frost. It could be that the fridge thinks it getting to cold and turns the heater on, could be why things thawed too.

In the back of the fridge there should be a wire diagram. Find the heating element and try disconnecting it.

# Posted: 6 Nov 2019 11:00

I too have had the same cabin fridge problems you've described. From my research, a very common problem of auto-defrost fridges is the defrost timer motor. Just like other timer switches, these tiny little motors tend to either get sticky and/or weak after several years. (They aren't repairable, the winding are like extremely fine hairs.) But they are usually rather simple to replace. It wont help the poor freezer performance, but it can help keep the defrost cycle in the correct mode. Good luck.

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