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Why Is My Refrigerator Freezing Food Even on Low?

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Refrigerator freezing food on low settingRefrigerators were a major breakthrough – they allowed us to move away from food cellars, provided a way to keep food fresh for much longer, and had a significant role in revolutionizing the way we live. However, they’re not without their foibles and flaws. When they don't work the way they’re designed to, they can actually make life quite a bit harder. For instance, if your refrigerator is freezing food even on the lowest setting, you’ve definitely got a problem. Why is it doing that, though?

Double check the refrigerator temperature setting

Before you do anything else, reach for that temperature control one more time. Turn it all the way to the coldest setting and let it sit for a few minutes. Once you hear the compressor kick in (the light inside the fridge may flicker when this happens, and you’ll hear it engage), turn it back down to the lowest setting. Wait a while and see if the refrigerator is still freezing things. Sometimes, they just need a bit of a reset. Note that “low” here refers to the warmest temperature setting. Your fridge will denote temperature in one of several ways. Just remember that if it uses a numerical display, you want a higher number, but if it uses symbols like snowflakes, you want to see fewer of them.

All refrigerators have problem areas

While refrigerators have come a very long way in recent years, they’re not without their flaws. Pretty much every machine made has problem areas – sections of the refrigerator that are colder than others, no matter what you do with the thermostat. The best solution to this is to identify those areas and then work around them. For instance, with some models, the very back of the bottom shelf is generally the coldest, and food will freeze there while items in the door are at the perfect temperature. For other models, the crisper tray is the issue, and for yet others, the problem area is the top shelf, closest to the freezer. Find your problem area, and then work to ensure you store your food appropriately (less freeze sensitive items in the coldest areas).

Keep your food way from the vent

You will most likely find that your refrigerator has a vent where the cold air is pumped into the body cavity. This is going to be the coldest part of the fridge, and you need to avoid storing sensitive foods near it. Finding the vent might require emptying the fridge and looking for it, but once you’ve identified it (look around the area where you’re having the freezing problem), you can work to keep food items away from the vent.

It could be the number of items in the fridge

Have you ever noticed how a refrigerator packed to overflowing can struggle to keep everything the right temperature? The same thing happens when you don’t have enough food in the fridge. You need items in the refrigerator to absorb the cold, otherwise the cold air simply sinks to the bottom, concentrates and freezes anything there. You need your refrigerator to be fully stocked, but not overstocked or understocked.

It could be a malfunction

While most causes of a refrigerator freezing food are not malfunction related, some can be. There are plenty of potential issues here, ranging from a faulty thermostat (your fridge doesn’t accurately measure temperature) to a problem with your controls. In this instance, you’ll need to either contact the manufacturer, or hire a repair professional to take care of it for you.

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