Don’t let food issues spoil your vacation. Cold food management and refrigerator effectiveness is the number one problem that we deal with here at the resort. 99% of the time, the refrigerator is working as designed. 100% of the time, both the resort management and the resort guests are frustrated. The guest is frustrated because their food is at risk and management is frustrated because it’s probably too late to remedy the situation. The purpose of this post is to give advice to help your family make the most of your summer memory by staying ahead of this problem.
Here is a short list of ideas to consider regarding food and refrigerator management.
Pack a large cooler primarily filled with cold beverages and just enough cold food to eat when you arrive. Use ice, not those cold packs. When you arrive, if there is still ice in the cooler, then your beverages are somewhere close to 32 degrees. Move only the cooler items into the refrigerator. Do not place anything else in the refrigerator for a few hours or even Sunday morning. If you have warm beverages that you want cold, put them in the cooler and come get some ice.
Do not bring dense meat or expensive fools from home. Even if it is frozen, if you end up with a refrigerator problem those are the items that will cause the most concern.
Do not stop for lots of groceries on the way to check in. You don’t want to fight the crowds anyway and waiting in line only makes the cold things get warm.
After checkin or on Sunday morning, plan a trip to the grocery store. A couple of good options if you want to save time. Cub Foods delivers to the resort and Walmart pickup is very fast.
Here’s why this makes sense - for those who are curious or like to know more.
Most of us don’t give our refrigerator a lot of thought. It’s one of those appliances that simply works - even those times when we pack it full for a family gathering. There are two key factors that makes all the difference; your resort refrigerator begins each Saturday empty and you are opening the door a lot more. Think of a refrigerator as a big, plastic lined cooler set on its side. Its primary job is to insulate the inside contents from the outside air. Everything inside normalizes to the same temperature. The compressor that adds cold air is very small and only cools the freezer. The small amount of cold air added to the refrigerator comes from a small opening between the freezer and the refrigerator compartments. All non-commercial refrigerators operate in this same way.
Every time you open the door, all of the cold air escapes and the whole process start over with warm air. If you tell us your refrigerator isn’t working, one specific thing we both know is that you’ve been opening the door and therefore, you have been acting against your goal.
Further, most refrigerators have two controls. One is in the refrigerator and one is in the freezer (if there isn’t one in the freezer then it’s basically hard-wired to the factory recommended setting which is the proper setting for 99.9% of a refrigerators use). I’ll cover both because unless you take a refrigerator apart, the controls are a bit confusing.
The control in the refrigerator is the thermostat. Every manufacturer and model may be different, but they will all have a range from low to high, typically using numbers like 1 - 7. Some will even have and “off” or 0. While the thermostat and control is in the refrigerator compartment, the cooling coils are in the freezer. This means that if you turn the dial to 7, the freezer is going to get really cold and the compressor will probably run at its maximum duty cycle.
The control in the freezer determines the amount of air that can move from the freezer compartment to the refrigerator compartment. It’s just a little butterfly valve. This is the counter-intuitive part. The reference of the range, which is usually cold - normal - coldest, is referring to the freezer. Mechanically, if you switch this control to coldest, the airflow from the freezer compartment to the refrigerator compartment is cut off. This can’t be over-emphasized; if you move this setting to “coldest” then no matter how hard the compressor works, there is no way your refrigerator will ever cool. The best it will do is maintain the existing temperature. Likewise, if you put this on the cold setting, then it will be more difficult to freeze anything in your freezer because too much cold air is going to the refrigerator compartment. And then in the morning your limes will be frozen and your ice cream will be soft - because as we learned in high school, cold air sinks to the bottom.
OK - that was a lot. So what should you do with this information?
When you arrive, the thermostat will be set on the coldest setting in the refrigerator and if it has a freezer control, that will be set to normal (please don’t change this). Avoid putting warm items (> 50 degrees) into the refrigerator the first day. After your entire refrigerator has attained a good temperature with a lot of items in it, probably on Sunday morning, you may want to move the thermostat to the middle zone (5 on a scale of 1-7).
What if you suspect the refrigerator isn’t working?
Don’t open the refrigerator door to check, open the freezer.
Is the freezer cold (< 32 degrees)? If the freezer is cold, then the compressor is working.
Is there a fan noise in the freezer? The fan is responsible for air movement. If it is not running, then the cold air in the freezer won’t make it to the refrigerator.
If those two things check out, are the controls set as above. If so, then the only thing left is food management.
What if I have a food concern, what can we do?
Call us, we can help. Please don’t wait until after 9:00pm because we might have left for dinner. We have a fridge in the store that is mostly empty except for water. We can put your more sensitive food items in there over-night while we manage the refrigerator.
For the record, we have 15 refrigerators on site with only 3 legitimate problems in 7.5 years. Two were frozen fans - this happens because an empty refrigerator set on high doesn’t completely defrost before turning back on. I thawed and oiled them and they ran just fine. This takes about an hour. The other was a failed capacitor that runs the compressor. Also an easy fix but takes a bit more time. In comparison, we’ve replace or fixed 6 of 9 water heaters and two of four central AC capacitors. Refrigerators are relatively problem free.