Have you ever opened your freezer, pulled out a tub of ice cream and found that it was soft and barely frozen? If so, you know how disappointing and frustrating that can be. Maybe you scratched your head in puzzlement as you saw that other items in your freezer were frozen solid.
Ice cream contains fats and sugars, and that means that it has to be stored at a lower temperature than something like ice or meat. In fact, ice cream won’t begin to freeze solid until it is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, ice cream should be kept in a freezer set to at least zero degrees.
If your ice cream is not solid, but other items in your freezer are, then chances are that your freezer is not getting cold enough. There are a few reasons that this could be happening, and we will take a look at some of these reasons below. You’ll also find some ways that you can troubleshoot and repair the issue yourself
Testing the Temperature of Your Freezer
The first step, which may seem pretty obvious, is to check the temperature of your freezer. You can purchase a dial thermometer online or at major hardware stores for between five and ten dollars. You can also purchase a laser temperature gun. Once you have your preferred tool to measure temperature, you’ll want to follow a few easy steps.
You will first need to locate the temperature dial in your unit. This dial can be found in a variety of places, and it basically depends on which unit you have. In newer models, the temperature thermostat can be a digital panel and not a dial at all. Check on the lower back panel of the unit or even up front. In some side-by-side styles, it can be located on the refrigerator side.
Place the dial thermometer in the freezer and note the temperature. Or take reading from your laser gun. Next, begin to lower the temperature using the digital panel or the dial. This will show you how lowering the freezer temperature on the panel or dial changes the temperature inside the freezer. Make sure you are lowering the temperature of the freezer only.
You can stop lowering the temperature when it reaches zero degrees or below. Experts now agree that the best freezer temperature is around 18 degrees below zero. As a side note, don’t worry about very cold temperatures causing freezer burn. Freezer burn is caused by air exposure and not cold temperatures.
Most Common Issues for Freezers not Getting Cold Enough
Dirty Condenser Coils
Another possibility to consider is that the condenser coils could be dirty. When these coils become clogged with dirt, dust or pet hair, heat that gets into the freezer has no way to dissipate properly.
These coils are usually located behind the kick plate and are fairly simple to clean. Make sure that you always unplug the unit before attempting any coil cleaning.
Steps to cleaning the condenser coils:
Remove the kick plate and remove the grill. You may visibly see lots of dust and hair. Remove what you can with your hands, but don’t be too rough. The coils are delicate and very expensive to replace.
Pull the unit away from the wall and open the panel on the back that exposes the fan. Using compressed air, gently pulse air on the coils in the front of the unit. A lot of dust and junk could come flying out the back, so you may want to put down a cloth or something. You can also gently vacuum the coils, but this is not generally recommended as the coils can be easily broken. You can also use a special coil-cleaning brush on some units.
Use a light brush or purchase a specialized condenser coil brush and lightly brush the coils. This will not only clear some of the debris but it will also loosen up debris for the next step.
Plug your vacuum in and starting sucking up the debris around the the fan in the back of the unit and to vacuum the floor as well. The idea is to keep the coils as clean as possible for as long as possible.
Location of your Refrigerator
It may seem like it doesn’t really matter where you put your unit, but the location can have a big impact on the proper functioning of your appliance. It is recommended that the unit should not be where the temperature is over 110 degrees or below 55 degrees. This means that places like a garage might not be the best location for your fridge because a garage can get pretty hot in the summer and really cold in the winter.
How you place items in your freezer can affect how well or how poorly your freezer functions. If your freezer is too empty, then there won’t be enough frozen items to keep a steady temperature. If it’s crammed with stuff, then air won’t be able to circulate properly inside the freezer. Here are a few useful tips to help you get that messy freezer under control:
- Go through your freezer and toss out old items that have been buried in there and have been forgotten. Do this on a bi-annual basis.
- Make sure you don’t try to freeze items that shouldn’t be frozen. Items such as lettuce, apples, raw potatoes, cottage cheese and certain sauces do not freeze well and should not be frozen.
- Place usable portions into freezer bags that have been labeled with the contents and the date. Lay the bags flat in the freezer until the items are frozen. Then they can be easily stacked.
- Use plastic organizers to sort items in the freezer. This helps make items easy to find, and you can keep like items together. Label the organizers.
- Keep ice cream towards the back of the freezer and closer to the bottom. Cold air sinks, and your ice cream should stay colder there. Don’t put your ice cream on the door of the freezer.
Following the above steps should help you troubleshoot freezer issues and keep your ice cream at that perfect consistency for scooping and enjoying.