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Break Room Refrigerators Need Attention, Too: Troubleshooting A Fridge That Freezes Foods And Beverages

You probably take it for granted that the break room refrigerator will keep your employees'  food cool and prevent spoilage. Under normal circumstances, that's just what it does. But, sometimes, the refrigerator may keep things too cold and even begin freezing beverages and fresh produce. Before you panic and assume that your refrigerator has bit the dust, take the time to do a little troubleshooting first and see if you can do your own refrigerator repair.

Temperature Dials

Don't assume that because you haven't changed the dial that it hasn't been changed. The dial can get moved when containers or food items bump against it. Employees who are anxious to chill beverages or foods may set the dial to a colder setting and forget to turn it back to the correct setting. Just a little nudge to a cooler temperature  may be enough to freeze the contents of the fridge before you ever notice the dial has been moved.

  • If the dial has been moved, reset it to the middle setting.

  • Wait 24 hours for the temperature in your refrigerator to normalize.

  • Adjust the dial by one number, and wait several hours to assess the temperature change to fine tune the desired temperature setting.

  • If the problem persists, call your service person as the temperature gauge may be faulty and need to be replaced.

Alternately, if you suspect the temperature control dial is faulty and hasn't accidentally been set to a colder setting, turn the dial all the way off and then slowly turn the dial toward the highest setting. If you hear a click, this indicates that the dial is working properly. If you do not hear a click, this indicates the temperature dial may be faulty.

Air Vents

Your refrigerator draws air from the food compartment and circulates it throughout the fridge to cool your food. The fan draws the warm air away from your food and blows it over evaporator coils to remove the heat from the air. The cooled air is then blown back into the refrigerator to circulate around the food. When the air vent gets blocked by food or beverage containers the air cannot circulate freely. This can result in freezing inside the food compartment of your refrigerator.

  • Check that all vents are open with no food or containers blocking the flow of air.

  • Move containers away from the vents.

  • Instruct employees not to block the vents.


You may be surprised to learn that your refrigerator has a damper that opens and closes to allow cool air to blow into your refrigerator. If the damper does not close properly, too much cold air will blow into your refrigerator and freeze the contents. The damper is located at the top back of the refrigerator.

  • Turn the control knob back and forth to check that the damper is moving freely.

  • If the damper is stuck in the open position, look for pieces of ice or food particles that may be preventing it from closing.

  • If the damper is stuck open or does not move freely and you cannot determine the cause, call your service person.

Break room refrigerators take a lot of abuse as they are opened and closed frequently and are often overcrowded with an assortment of food and drinks. On warm days when the fridge is opened often, food may remain warm, leading employees to crank up the temperature dial in an attempt to keep food cold. To avoid problems, clean the refrigerator frequently and discard old food or abandoned bottles. Wipe down the inside of the fridge, paying close attention to vents and dampers to prevent food items from blocking them. If abandoned food items becomes an issue, requiring employees to label all food and drinks makes identifying the guilty party easy.