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Troubleshooting: Why is my refrigerator or freezer not cooling?

When a refrigerator or freezer is not holding to the desired temperature range.

There are multiple reasons your medical refrigerator or laboratory freezer may not hold the desired temperature range. Start by ruling out the most simple potential causes. Ensure the unit is set at the correct temperature and receives consistent power before evaluating any further.  

1. Placement of the unit

Does the unit have adequate ventilation? Wherever your unit has vents, a minimum of 2 inches of space is required to ensure proper airflow so that the condenser fan can vent properly. Is the unit level? Is the unit operating in a temperature-stable environment free from excessive heat and humidity? Is the unit plugged into its own dedicated circuit? If "yes" to all of these, proceed to step 2. 

2. Evaluate condenser coils

When the condenser is at the bottom of the unit, dust can easily collect on the coils. Check to make sure the condenser fan is running. Unplug the unit and clean the condenser coils. 


3. Inspect the door gasket

Check the door gasket for gaps. If cold air escapes, the unit will not maintain a cold enough temperature. Make sure you are not running a data logging device or other monitoring wire through the door gasket.  Check our door gasket maintenance video below:


4. Payload organization

Proper airflow in refrigerators is necessary to keep the interior cool. Make sure there is at least 2" of space on all sides four walls of the interior cabinet.

While these next assessments are typically a cause for temporary temperature fluctuations, it's still best to evaluate and maintain good loading and storing practices. Avoid drastic changes to the amounts of product in the unit for the best temperature stability. Introduce products gradually and remove products gradually to avoid temperature fluctuations.

5. Ice accumulation  

If your unit has evaporator coils inside the unit, check to see if there is an accumulation of ice on the evaporator coils. Some frost may accumulate. This is normal. If you see ICE build-up, your unit needs to be defrosted.  If your unit needs defrosting, follow the instruction on the video below:


6. Compressor issues

When the unit is above the desired temperature range the compressor should start running to return the unit to the set temperature range. If the compressor does not turn on, is noisy, or running constantly, it may be faulty. If you suspect a compressor failure, or none of the above recommendations stabilize your temperature, reach out to your assigned representative to coordinate service, call K2 Scientific at 800-218-7613 option 2 to go directly to our technical service team or start a service ticket using the chat feature at K2Sci.com

Plan in advance

When storing high-value temperature-sensitive payloads, it is always important to proactively devise a written and communicated plan to address emergency outages or a sudden equipment failure.  Following are a few tips when considering your plan of action:

  • Use an external data logger that notifies you of temperature excursions and power failures 24/7.  Ask your K2 sales representative for data logging options that fit your unique needs.
  • Make arrangements with another department, nearby facility with extra storage capacity, or know where to purchase dry ice and have a proper storage area and container that is safe to house dry ice.  Note:  Dry ice cannot be stored safely refrigerators or freezers, or in any other airtight container. Dry ice produces carbon dioxide gasses as the ice "melts" and may cause the container to burst.  Dry ice should be stored in a cooler that is loosely closed and should be stored in a well ventilated area.
  • Manage your inventory so as to ensure any payload loss is minimized if an outage or failure occurs.
  • Consider using a power monitoring device that can track your units performance over time. Especially with an aging unit, this can be particularly helpful in predicting the decline and ultimate failure of an aging unit.  Ask your K2 sales representative for information on medical-grade power monitoring systems.