My Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator and freezer broke a few months ago and we had it fixed, but since then, the freezer has been empty except for ice. I shop locally and seasonally and we eat mostly fresh vegetables. I never use the freezer. Can I safely turn the freezer off, or is there something about the way the unit cools that will mess up the refrigerator half if I do this? I can't find anything in the owner's manual or online about this.
After several exchanges with one of Kenmore's technicians, who requested details such as the model number, we got the answer: “The freezer definitely needs to be turned on for the fridge to cool. If you turn it down too much, it won't keep the food. The customer has to find the appropriate settings that meet his needs."
To which I added, "So it seems like it should work keeping it on the lowest setting, but to be absolutely sure that setting the freezer too low doesn't affect the fridge, I recommend putting a thermometer in the fridge. It sounds like you guys are tech-savvy enough to do that."
Now I know she's tech-savvy is because while Megan was waiting for an answer, she e-mailed: "In the meantime, we heard the old 'fill it with milk jugs filled with water' thing. So my husband, who’s a physics professor, is trying to test this. He attached a Kill-A-Watt [an electric-use monitor] to the back of the refrigerator and has made a Google spreadsheet showing the temperature changes each hour (!), then tracking the changes after each time we add a milk jug filled with water."
Ever intent on encouraging citizen science, I asked her to share the results of this experiment. The latest word from her: "Our milk-jug experiment is going well. I'll definitely send you the results as we compile them. My husband is a perfectionist so it'll be up to me to actually convince him the data is 'good enough' to ship out."
So watch this space for the results. Or experiment with your own electric-use monitor (available for about $20 to $30) and track how much power individual appliances, computers, and other gadgets are using. You might be surprised at the waste caused by inefficient appliances, "vampire" energy drains from items left plugged in, and assorted stuff that doesn't really even need to be used.