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Worried about my freezer, safe temperatures, and replacement

TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The DjinneratorAt the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
edited May 2019 in Help / Advice Forum
By way of explanation: I live in an apartment, so the freezer I use is not mine. It's a stacked freezer/fridge, just about as bog standard as you would anticipate seeing in any home.

Recently I've been thinking that it sounds like it's struggling often. Sometimes it feels like ice cream inside the freezer is a little soft (though that could just be that certain brands of ice cream are softer than others?)

About a week ago, I got home from a weekend vacation and was dead tired. I pulled out some frozen chicken yakisoba for dinner, and several hours later got the worst food poisoning of my life (I should note that the doctor did diagnose it as food poisoning, and specifically blamed something I ate). The people I had been on vacation with didn't suffer any illness, and the last day I hardly ate anything other than breakfast before the yakisoba - so I became even MORE suspicious of the freezer at this time.

I recently purchased a temperature probe and placed it in my freezer. It's only been going about 24 h, so I'm not finished collecting data, but I see the internal temperature of the freezer fluctuating between 2.0 and -6.8 °F. Is this a safe temperature range for a freezer? I've read that keeping it below 0 is ideal, and I'm seeing cycles of 15-20 minutes where it's between 0 and 2 °F. I'm not sure if that's enough, over a longer period, to cause a problem.

I realize this is a bit foolish of me, but I don't want to approach my landlord about replacing the freezer until I'm very sure that there is, in fact, something wrong with it. I just have no idea how to either verify the freezer is safe, or prove that it is malfunctioning.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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Posts

  • mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    That sounds OK but I would keep monitoring it. Could be it was not closing as well as you think and there will be fluctuations. I think the critical factor is time at temp. If it's only popping into higher Temps, that is fine where as staying at a high temperature is not

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  • JaysonFourJaysonFour Classy Monster Kitteh Registered User regular
    Might also be a good idea to check multiple sites in the freezer- you might have a bad seal, and parts of it are warmer than others.

    I'd also maybe look into the possibility that yakisoba was bad even before you chucked it into the freezer.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    2F is likely okay. How long are you keeping food in your freezer before you consume it?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    edited May 2019
    Condensers make noise. Every fridge I've had has gone through a cycle of silent->varying degrees of noisy over the first few years. That's not an uncommon thing.

    If your fridge has gaps in the sealing, you'll start getting moisture buildup (unless you live in a super dry location) that will start ice to form on the insides. If you have moisture freezing to the side of your freezer, you have a seal problem. If ice remains as ice in your fridge, its plenty cold enough to keep food preserved. That doesn't mean you want to freeze things forever, though.

    If you have a coolant leak, which is what would likely cause your fridge to warm up, its going to be a significant and rapid thing. Like overnight your fridge goes from cold to room temperature or (likely) hotter as the condenser produces heat. It doesn't happen slowly, if coolant can escape, it will, and pretty quickly with how old fridges work.

    I don't really think you can have a gradual failure of a freezer without noticeable seal break signs. And that sort of failure has nothing to do with the sound it makes.

    Enc on
  • TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The Djinnerator At the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
    edited May 2019
    Thanks everyone for the feedback! I let the freezer essentially run uninterrupted for the past 24 h, and the data that came back was pretty much in line with what I had seen previously. The temperature stayed between -7.3 and 2.3 °F. Moving the sensor to another location in the freezer actually tightened that range up, too (it was previously in the middle of the open space of the freezer, and I moved it to be atop some frozen meals).
    mts wrote: »
    That sounds OK but I would keep monitoring it. Could be it was not closing as well as you think and there will be fluctuations. I think the critical factor is time at temp. If it's only popping into higher Temps, that is fine where as staying at a high temperature is not

    It seems to peek out above 0 °F for about 20 min at a time, cresting in the range of about 2 °F before going back down.
    JaysonFour wrote: »
    I'd also maybe look into the possibility that yakisoba was bad even before you chucked it into the freezer.

    I'm entertaining the idea for sure. I'll admit, it was ready-made, prepackaged yakisoba. It came with two sleeves of yakisoba, one of which I consumed on a Thursday afternoon without issue. I left the other one in the freezer over the weekend, then ate it on Monday night, and that's when the bad stuff happened. I can't rule out that it was bad before it was packaged and frozen, though, even if the other sleeve was okay.
    bowen wrote: »
    2F is likely okay. How long are you keeping food in your freezer before you consume it?

    Usually no more than a week. Most realistically about five or six days, but up to ten days or more in some instances. I'll also do some meal-prep on occasion, making a huge meal on a Sunday, and then placing the leftovers into containers that I freeze, forget about for months, and then throw out because I'm a dummy. Honestly, I don't eat much that's been in the freezer for more than 10-12 days at most.
    Enc wrote: »
    Condensers make noise. Every fridge I've had has gone through a cycle of silent->varying degrees of noisy over the first few years. That's not an uncommon thing.

    ... I don't really think you can have a gradual failure of a freezer without noticeable seal break signs. And that sort of failure has nothing to do with the sound it makes.

    Thanks much, this is good to know! I've been hearing some odd knocking/rattling sounds, but I'm not seeing anything like standing water or ice build up inside the freezer. And if it's a sudden and really noticeable thing when freezers fail, then I suppose I'm likely getting worked up about nothing.

    I will say that on occasion I will find that the cardboard boxes of frozen meals feel 'damp', for lack of a better term? And sometimes I will feel like the outside of a bag of frozen vegetables is more wet than icy. But from what I've seen of the temperature monitoring, I'm not sure what that could be.

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  • JaysonFourJaysonFour Classy Monster Kitteh Registered User regular
    edited May 2019
    Have you thought about checking your drip pan? Maybe there's too much water or humidity in the air, maybe cleaning the seal would help- but if there's too much humidity, it could encourage spoilage and mold even in the freezer.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    12 days is absolutely fine for frozen even in 2f.

    Generally:
    • -5f, as long as the food is vacuum sealed and kept stable and not cycled up and down, the food can be eaten indefinitely (though texture and taste may fade)
    • 0f it has a lifespan of like ~6-8 months depending on what it is
    • 5f cuts it down to 2-3 months

    Since our food doesn't usually have psychrophiles, 2f should still be okay in that time period, assuming it doesn't go higher and doesn't stay at 2f for long periods of time.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    Also, you can get food poisoning from liquids.

    My wife got it from a fast food coke before. So while you may not have eaten anything, if you got a drink, and the cup was funky, or they didn't clean the soda lines recently, or the fast food person didn't wash their hands, or the ice was contaminated (ice contamination is a way a lot of people get food poisoning). That can definitely be a vector.

    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited May 2019
    zepherin wrote: »
    Also, you can get food poisoning from liquids.

    My wife got it from a fast food coke before. So while you may not have eaten anything, if you got a drink, and the cup was funky, or they didn't clean the soda lines recently, or the fast food person didn't wash their hands, or the ice was contaminated (ice contamination is a way a lot of people get food poisoning). That can definitely be a vector.

    It can also vary based on gut flora.

    If the bacteria in your gut differ from everyone else that was eating and you got the strain of e. coli or salmonella that they weren't sensitive too, you'll get sick and they won't.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • GdiguyGdiguy San Diego, CARegistered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    zepherin wrote: »
    Also, you can get food poisoning from liquids.

    My wife got it from a fast food coke before. So while you may not have eaten anything, if you got a drink, and the cup was funky, or they didn't clean the soda lines recently, or the fast food person didn't wash their hands, or the ice was contaminated (ice contamination is a way a lot of people get food poisoning). That can definitely be a vector.

    It can also vary based on gut flora.

    If the bacteria in your gut differ from everyone else that was eating and you got the strain of e. coli or salmonella that they weren't sensitive too, you'll get sick and they won't.

    Moreover, 'food poisoning' is a general term that includes a large number of actual specific organisms (whether bacteria, virus, etc), that have a large range of times from ingestion to onset of symptoms - like from a few hours to days later

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20356230

    bowenBouwsT
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    If you're really concerned, try to correlate times when it's quite noisy to temp changes, if you can.

    Typically nothing coming out of the freezer should feel wet, damp, etc. Dumb question here, but are you dead certain that your temp isn't reporting 0-2C?

    2F should be pretty hard frozen, no water or dampness anywhere in the freezer. That's 30 degrees below freezing. 2C is quite not-good for a freezer.

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  • The WolfmanThe Wolfman Registered User regular
    For a second I thought that said 2 degrees celsius, which would be damn dangerous. The danger zone for chicken is roundabout 40F/4C and up. 2F though is well below freezing.

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  • TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The Djinnerator At the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
    So! An update from this morning. Up until this morning, the freezer sounded fine and the temperature looked fine and dandy. Then it really started to make a LOT of strained, loud noise. Suddenly the internal temperature in the freezer got to 44 °F (yes! I even had a redundant probe in there, and both were reading in this range). Frost built up on everything, and then the freezer finally kicked in and started to cool it back down. But we're talking being over 0 °F for almost two hours before it managed to get back under that temperature.

    At this stage, I'm going to talk with my landlord to check in about getting this replaced. It looks like this might be happening once a week or so. And it's pretty unsettling.
    spool32 wrote: »
    If you're really concerned, try to correlate times when it's quite noisy to temp changes, if you can.

    Typically nothing coming out of the freezer should feel wet, damp, etc. Dumb question here, but are you dead certain that your temp isn't reporting 0-2C?

    Not a dumb question at all, because I've been worried about that too. I'm used to operating in °C, but all of the measurements I've been taking have been in °F for certain. It's what I've found on the regulatory pages and such that have been talking about safe temperatures, so I just wanted to align with that. So yes, all temps are in °F, even though °F is backwards buffoonery.

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    zepherin
  • JaysonFourJaysonFour Classy Monster Kitteh Registered User regular
    Yeah, at this point I'd toss everything you had in the freezer and wait until it got looked at or replaced. It wouldn't take that long for something to get in.

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  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    Is there much ice buildup in the freezer? Lots of ice around the freezing elements can reduce the efficiency of the freezer and sometimes it will make the freezer go nuts if it blocks internal sensors.

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  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    yeah call in a work order to have your fridge, freezer replaced.

    Enc
  • MugsleyMugsley Registered User regular
    Depending on floor space, you can pick up a "dorm fridge" or a small chest freezer for relatively cheap (we got a fridge/freezer combo from HD for ~200-300 when ours died while we looked for a replacement) as a hold over while you work with the landlord.

  • TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The Djinnerator At the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
    edited May 2019
    Just finally got this sorted with the landlord. There was certainly ice buildup in the freezer, but after cleaning the coils and the back of the unit, I still saw some disturbing temperature trends.

    Basically, my probes were reporting this kind of behavior several times a day. Each 'spike' was lasting roughly an hour at temperature I would consider unsafe for a freezer - or at least detrimental:
    K1ocxmt.png

    Fortunately, that was enough for the landlord. He's ordering a new refrigerator/freezer this week and will be replacing the old one. Thanks to everyone for your help and advice!

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