Your Place: Operating a refrigerator in an unheated garage

Posted: February 04, 2011

Question: What is the most efficient way to run a refrigerator in an unheated garage? My father unplugs his refrigerator and leaves the door open. Unfortunately, at that point all the liquids tend to freeze.

Answer: A garage does present some special issues for refrigerators. To avoid the premature compressor failure that can result from oil thickened by colder temperatures (and cause untimely fridge death), the air surrounding a refrigerator must be 55 degrees or higher.

Some refrigerators are designed specifically for garage use, with heaters that keep the temperature immediately around the fridge at 55 degrees or above even when the garage temperature drops below 55. This external heater also helps regulate the appliance's interior temperatures for optimum cooling and freezing.

You might want to look into buying one of these.

Fireplaces. A number of questions lately have centered on wood-burning fireplaces and just about any problem that arises with their use.

A recent one concerned using a fireplace with a heat pump. I knew I'd answered the question once before, and when I checked, this is the solution I offered six years ago:

It's possible that forced-air heating systems can induce unbalanced, and often negative, pressure, which can cause a fireplace to smoke every time.

Pronounced negative pressure in the basement when an air-handler fan starts is often associated with leaks in the cold-air return duct. The expert's solution: Wrap the return-air duct joints with the best duct tape you can buy, and open a window briefly while lighting a fire.

If the fireplace smokes with a window open, the problem may be in the venting system. With factory-built metal or masonry fireplaces, the chimney may be too short to provide adequate draft. Or, with a masonry chimney, the flue may be too small.

With factory-built chimneys, raising the height might simply involve adding a section of chimney pipe, or adding a bracing kit if the chimney already extends to a certain height (this is determined by the manufacturer's installation instructions). In either case, it's usually not terribly expensive.

If the factory-built fireplace is installed in a chase (a boxlike structure that conceals the metal chimney), extending the chase and the chimney would be more expensive.

Raising the height of a masonry chimney could be considerably more expensive and problematic, maybe involving scaffolding and determining whether there is adequate foundation support. Also, matching up bricks can be difficult.

More on bath-mat stains. "We also were surprised by our Armstrong vinyl floors staining yellow from rubber-backed bath mats in our bathrooms. When we discussed it with friends and neighbors, many were well aware of the problem back then. We promptly switched to nonrubber mats and within weeks/months, the stains disappeared. I don't exactly remember the time frame for the stains to disappear, but they did clear up."

- Cindy Barrett

Shower cleaning. "Recently, we moved to a house that had old, heavy scum buildup on the shower doors.

"A plumber friend recommended Kaboom, a liquid you spray on calcium and soap buildup on the doors. The product, found in many stores, worked well and even removed some buildup on the metal framework.

"Spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe off with a damp sponge. You may have to go back and repeat the effort where the cleaner did not reach the first time, but it did the job more effectively than anything else. It costs less than $4 a bottle. It is strong, and I recommend wearing rubber gloves."

- Kay Myers

Toaster-oven cleaning. "My miracle fix for the glass on toaster ovens (and regular ovens, too) is the heavy-duty Mr. Clean Eraser sponge. It took off baked-on splatters that had been there for years and I was unable to remove with glass cleaner or hot soapy water."

- Karen Azriel


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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