What Is An Auto Defrost Refrigerator?

Auto Defrost is a standard feature that you will find in most refrigerators available on the market today. However, because that feature is so common, it’s easy to forget that defrosting was a crucial maintenance task that people had to do manually. So, what is an auto defrost refrigerator, and how does it work?

An Auto Defrost refrigerator is one that automatically melts away any buildup of frost or ice inside the fridge, particularly around the evaporator and the back walls. The fridge does this using a heating element located near or around the evaporator, which turns on several times a day to melt any frost before it accumulates. Then, the water from that process is drained and evaporated naturally.

This article will show you everything you need to know about Auto Defrost refrigerators.

What Is An Auto Defrost Refrigerator?

An Auto Defrost refrigerator is one that automatically melts away any buildup of frost and ice inside its compartments. The fridge does this with the use of heating elements near or around the evaporator, which is where frost typically accumulates.

How it works:

The way that Auto Defrost works is pretty straightforward. As the evaporator continually produces cold air to cool down the fridge, frost and ice tend to accumulate around it. 

Related: Refrigerator Auto Defrost Problems

Once in a while, a nearby heating element will turn on to melt away any frost and ice to prevent them from building up inside the fridge compartment. The water from that process will drip away to the bottom of the fridge into a pan where it will naturally evaporate.

Defrost Timer

The Auto Defrost cycle happens one or more times a day and lasts 15 minutes or more each time. The duration and frequency will differ depending on the design of the fridge and the manufacturer that produces it.

While the Auto Defrost cycle is running, the blower fans inside the fridge will run. That will ensure that cool air will continue to circulate and keep your food items fresh.

Most newer fridge models come with Auto Defrost as a standard feature. However, Manual Defrost refrigerators are still available on the market.

How Does This Differ From A Manual Defrost Refrigerator?

Defrosting a fridge is nothing new, but older refrigerator models had to be defrosted manually. That meant users would have to remember to do it regularly, or else a buildup of frost and ice could occur. If that ever happened, it would take much longer to defrost the fridge and melt everything away.

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The process would involve switching on the defroster for however long it took to melt away all the ice. You would then have to remember to switch the defroster off again, or else the fridge would struggle to cool down sufficiently.

Simply put, defrosting a fridge manually would take much more time and effort to do, making it quite a hassle.

Are There Different Types Of Auto Defrost?

Yes, Auto Defrost can come in several different types. The most common is an electric Auto Defrost, though there are also mechanisms that rely on hot gas, water, and off-cycle auto defrosting.

Let’s take a closer look at each type:

  • Electric Defrost: This is the most common form of Auto Defrost used in most commercially available fridges today. The appliance uses electricity to power a heating element which will melt away any frost or ice build-ups regularly, several times throughout the day.
  • Hot Gas Defrost: Another form of Auto Defrost relies on the hot gasses that vaporise off of the compressor. These hot gasses are channelled to areas where frost accumulates to melt everything off efficiently.
  • Water Defrost: Some industrial refrigerators use hot water to melt away the frost instead of a heating element or hot gasses. These are rarely seen in refrigerators for household use.
  • Off-Cycle Defrost: This form of defrosting is very straightforward, as it involves turning off the refrigeration process entirely for a short period. Again, this type of defrosting is used in industrial applications and not in household refrigerators.

What Is Frost, And Why Does It Matter?

Frost is a natural byproduct of a fridge’s cooling process. Remember: air contains moisture, especially the warmer air from outside that finds its way into your fridge compartment. 

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So, when the fridge cools down, any moist air will condense into water and turn into ice crystals (also known as frost). Frost has a tendency of sticking to the coldest parts of the fridge compartment, which is why you’ll find most of it on the back wall and around the evaporator.

The buildup of frost happens mainly when moist air from outside the fridge enters the appliance. Usually, some air will enter the fridge each time we open the door to put items into the appliance or take them out.

However, frost will build up at a much higher rate if the fridge’s door isn’t sealed correctly. When that happens, warmer air from outside will continuously flow into the fridge, speeding up the buildup of frost and ice.

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Kenmore evaporator fan frosted over

Why Is Frost Bad For A Fridge?

A little bit of frost is harmless and completely normal. However, frost will start to become a problem when it starts to accumulate. 

For instance, a severe accumulation of frost will lead to ice forming. That ice will take up a lot of space inside the fridge that would otherwise be used to store food.

Worse yet, an excessive buildup of frost can also cause damage to the contents of your refrigerator. 

For example, frost buildup on uncovered food can cause freezer burn, damaging the food to the point that you can no longer eat it. 

Also, the same frost will also wear out food labels and the food containers themselves. That will be a big problem if you’re planning on storing certain items over the long term, as you will not be able to read the labels that you’ve prepared, and the containers will no longer be able to store the food items safely.

What Are The Benefits Of An Auto Defrost Refrigerator?

There are several pros that an Auto Defrost refrigerator will offer you. They include:

  • Easy Maintenance: With Auto Defrost, you won’t have to worry about fridge maintenance. The fridge will take care of itself and melt away any frost or ice before it builds up into a problem. 
  • Plus, you won’t have to worry about removing any of the melted ice as the water will evaporate by itself. Overall, you will save plenty of time in the long run without having to maintain the fridge yourself.
  • Maximise Space: A lack of frost means that every inch of your fridge’s compartment will be available for use. None of that space will be taken up by frost or ice, especially towards the back wall or around the evaporator.
  • No Sticking: Frost causes food items to stick to each other. With the Auto Defrost feature running several times a day, you won’t have to worry about this. You can separate your food items quickly, even if they are pressed against each other.
  • Safer For Labels and Packaging: As mentioned earlier, frost can wear out or damage food labels and packaging. This problem doesn’t happen in an Auto Defrost refrigerator. So, you will be able to read labels and identify the different contents of your fridge quickly.

What Are The Drawbacks Of An Auto Defrost Refrigerator?

Auto Defrost refrigerators also have their fair share of cons. Here are some of the drawbacks with these types of fridges:

  • Louder Noise: Auto Defrost units are slightly louder than other types of fridges. The noise isn’t excessive, but it can be pretty annoying if you prefer a more silent fridge.
  • Price: These types of fridges come with an additional feature (i.e. the Auto Defrost feature) and will therefore include more components than a Manual Defrost fridge. That will also mean that the upfront cost to own the appliance will be higher than a manual defrost refrigerator.
  • Higher energy usage: With a manual defrost refrigerator, you would only turn on the defroster every now and then. However, an Auto Defrost unit will run on a regular schedule daily, whether or not there is a buildup of frost or ice. 

So, these fridges do use more energy in the long run, which will add to your power bill.

Should You Buy An Auto Defrost Refrigerator?

Yes, you should buy an Auto Defrost refrigerator. All things considered, these types of fridges have become the norm for excellent reasons. Defrosting becomes an afterthought because the fridge does it by itself, instead of you having to perform it as a regular maintenance task.

Plus, the Auto Defrost feature helps you maximise the space in your fridge. Better yet, it also protects your food, the containers you keep them in, and the labels on those containers.

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Bottom line: despite the additional costs of an Auto Defrost fridge, it is definitely worth the investment. In return, you’ll get much more convenience and a better user experience with your fridge overall.

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