Beverage-Air Mini Fridge Compressor Always Running?

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Old 03-31-15, 06:37 AM
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Beverage-Air Mini Fridge Compressor Always Running?

I picked up a coca-cola style glass door vending fridge for my game room, and have a couple questions about the way it's been running.

I've noticed when I set the inside dial which goes from 1-9 manually, I can control whether the compressor is kicking on or off, but I don't see it happening automatically on demand as needed.

When the compressor is off, the fridge seems to idle in the mid 40's as far as temperature. When it's on, its temperature drops below freezing. I haven't been able to find that "Sweet spot" to set the dial and I think it's because the compressor either turns on and stays on, or turns off and stays off. Is it possible there's something malfunctioning that would be the internal start/stop indicator for the compressor?

It's obviously able to sense something, as when I turn the dial down to around 2-3, it "clicks" off, and when I turn the dial up to around 7-8, it "clicks" on, but what I don't see it doing is clicking on/off on its own once the unit sits idle.

I hooked up a kill-a-watt electricity meter to it just to be sure. It's pulling around 160 watts when compressor is off, and 500 when it's on.

Anyone seen anything like this before and is there anything easy I can check on before I spend the $$ calling a pro out?

Thanks.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 07:21 AM
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That sounds like a defective thermostat.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 09:32 AM
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What type of fridge is that?

One door mini fridge, two door, auto defrost, manual defrost, fan forced???
Are you measuring the air temperature inside the fridge or the product temperature?
Is food freezing?

Fridges have different cycling characteristics depending on where the temperature control senses temperature and by which method the defrost cycle works.
It is common for some fridges to dip slightly below or above freezing for a brief time.
You need to set the control then walk away and let it do its thing without worrying about hearing the compressor.

Try sticking a thermometer in a glass of water to see how its really doing.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 11:25 AM
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I just love this forum, you guys are the best.

Here's some more information on the unit and a photo.

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The model number is a Beverage Air MT17-54. 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 5 feet tall. It is a double sliding door unit on both the front and the back of the fridge. Seals seem to be holding well on both sides (no cool air leakage I can feel). I don't know enough about the unit yet but am assuming this manual defrost and fan forced (I see two fans at the top of the unit inside and of course the compressor is in the bottom).

I have a Taylor digital thermometer hanging from the shelves around the center of the unit now to get a read on the temperature. I am also able to track the compressor's history via a kill-a-watt device connected to monitor electrical usage. Doesn't look like the compressor has stopped running (unless I turn down the dial) for the last 16 hours straight. Dial is set to "6" right now.

The compressor has been running for around 6 hours straight now since I turned the dial down to warm to see if it kicked off, then back to cold again, and the air temperature inside is at a 28 (has been dropping around 2 degrees an hour steadily). I will check it again in an hour or two to see if it is continuing to drop.

I can definitely get the compressor to eventually decide it's cold enough in there to shut off via the temperature dial, but once I turn that dial down, it never seems to want to come back on again at all (as if it's not properly sensing that the fridge has gotten to warm and it needs to automatically kick the compressor back on for a bit). Seems to be the opposite when I have the compressor running, it doesn't seem to get the signal that it's cold enough and KEEPS running, as if it would run 24/7 until it's ridiculously cold in there (though I have yet to attempt that, I will let you know how low the air temp in there gets before I force the thing to turn off again manually).

I don't have a basic liquid thermometer but will buy one and put it in a glass of water as you suggested, that is a good idea to get a liquid read vs. the Taylor air read anyway.

If it's a bad thermostat, is that something a rookie like me would be able to fix? I'm not afraid to change a light switch if that helps any. Just unplug and rewire-type jobs I can handle.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 01:32 PM
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Ah, ok.

Unless this unit has gone with electronic controls the thermostat will control the temperature as well as the defrost.
They use what is called a constant cut-in thermostat.

The thermostat probe will be inserted into the refrigeration evaporator coil.
The temperature setting of the thermostat will respond to the coil temperature not the fridge interior temperature.
Because there is a direct relationship between coil temp and space temp the mfr of the control will place markings on the thermostat that correspond to normal cooler temps.

The temperature of the coil has to go lower than freezing to satisfy the cabinet temperature.
The constant cut-in nature of the thermostat each time it cycles off will not start the compressor until the coil temperature is above freezing allowing it to defrost each on/off cycle no matter how cold the control is set.
Normally this is in the 35 - 40 degF range.

So, forget about how the compressor cycles, you will drive yourself crazy worrying about it.
If it runs day and night and doesn't keep up or freezes things stiff then you have a problem, otherwise, don't worry, be happy.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 02:09 PM
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Greg, you are awesome, thanks.

You are exactly right, there are two on/off rocker switches at the top (one for the light, one for the compressor to force it off), and a single digit analog dial. No electronic controls or temperature indicator.

I think I'll still get a submersible thermometer to try and figure out the best numerical dial position to have my liquids at the proper temperature, per your advice.

So the fact that the compressor is running non stop is not reason for worry then? It seems to be the case from the meter I hooked up (it looks like it's going to use about 10 KWh per day which is pretty excessive isn't it?

I do notice the sucker jumps from 160 watts to 500 watts when the compressor kicks on. And then never drops from the 500.ts

Maybe I got into more than I bargained for bringing one of these suckers into the house?
 

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Old 03-31-15, 03:11 PM
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I think your numbers are a bit off.
A cooler like what you have would run at about 10 amps if lightly loaded and in a room at about 22 deg C or 72 deg F.......and many times that to start.

The second thing you need to stop worrying about is how much power it consumes..........It's kinda like if you have to raise that question you can't afford to run it.

You have a very cool fridge that would be the envy of anyone outfitting a bar or man cave.
You also have one of the highest energy consumers you could have bought to cool home beverages.
These things are designed to display drinks that are sold and the cost to run it is offset by increased sales.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 03:37 PM
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(it looks like it's going to use about 10 KWh per day which is pretty excessive isn't it?
My entire house runs between 10 and 13 kilowatt hours a day.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 03:58 PM
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Point definitely taken, gents.

If this is considered normal energy consumption for this unit, I at least can sleep at night knowing that I'm doing the best I can in running it and it's not malfunctioning or running inefficiently.

If there was a repair or service that could be done to it to limit the condenser having to run 24/7, I would of course want to invest in that repair given that I'd make my money back in lessened electricity usage over the months.

However if that's the way these run, so be it -- I did the math and it's looking like the cost at current rates will be around $1 a day to run the thing. That's probably a little more than I had hoped to spend extra on electricity this year but my own fault for not doing my homework on how much juice these things use!

If it sounds like it's running right at the proper efficiency (if you can even use that word in this case) I won't invest in a repair service to take a look.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 04:21 PM
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Current wattage being pulled as compressor runs:

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Kilowatt hours used since 9 PM yesterday ( ~ 22 hours):

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Old 03-31-15, 05:47 PM
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Is the cooler full or empty? Once filled and chilled to the proper temperature the amount of cycling and consequent power usage may drop.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 05:56 PM
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The most heat gain is through the glass doors.
You could try cutting a piece of Styrofoam to fit the glass.

Just make sure it doesn't fall down and block the condenser vents.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 05:24 AM
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The cooler has glass double doors on BOTH sides and I'm only using one. The other side is against the wall in the corner. I wonder if I cut something like a space blanket and attached it to the back side to cover the doors in back if that would help at all?

So drawing this many watts and the compressor never shutting off is not unusual then, is what I am getting from you guys?

I will say I only have 1 1/2 of the 4 shelves in there filled up so far -- If the theory is that filling it up mostly will allow that compressor to shut down, I will give that a try.

If the compressor only didn't need to be running 24/7, this thing would get cheaper to run.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 03:08 PM
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Space blanket will not do much of anything.

If you are not using the back doors than cut a single piece of white Styrofoam to fit the inside of the back doors.
They aren't that hard to remove....take off the rear doors, fit a piece of Styrofoam inside then put the doors back.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 03:47 PM
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I agree with Greg although I would use foil-faced polyisocyanurate rather than Styrofoam. Nothing less than a one inch thickness.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 06:23 PM
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Thanks for sticking with me. So where might one acquire foil-faced polyisocyanurate?

Getting at the back doors from the inside should be easy enough if I empty the fridge, even, without having to remove them at all, if the idea is mounting the material on the inside of the doors which I assume it is.

Something else I hadn't considered either but I noticed today. I had the fridge open for a bit today to add more beverages and shelves, and since then the air temp inside shot up from 30 to around 40 degrees according to the digital gauge I have in there, and it is having a heck of a time cooling. It's dropped by maybe a half a degree each hour since being closed and not opened.

I still need to get a liquid thermometer in there, but if this air temp is accurate, is it possible that there are inefficiencies here that I need to have looked at still?

I do have the unit right up against a corner wall and noticed there is some warm air coming from the vents under the doors in the back, it feels warmer back there than in the front -- Given that this unit has the glass doors in the back, is it possible that I am cramping its ability to run by stuffing it into a corner an inch away from the wall?

It would really help if I could learn more about the expected way these are to run. I'll have to dig some more to find some details on the expected wattage and power usage of one of these running properly. I'm starting to hope there's something wrong that can be fixed, because I'm now up to around $2.50 of electric bill for 48 hours of usage on this thing. Sigh.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 06:59 PM
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I don't know anything specific about these units, just refrigeration systems in general. It reads as if Greg has had hands-on experience so I would defer to him whenever I make a comment that seems different from his.

So where might one acquire foil-faced polyisocyanurate?
Pretty much any big box mega-mart homecenter. It comes in different thicknesses and different sizes all the way up to 48 x 96 inches. It will be the very dense insulation, maybe with a slight yellowish tint. Do not get the much softer "beadboard" insulation as it is less effective. You want to cut it so that it is as close a fit as possible and will stay in place by friction.


I still need to get a liquid thermometer in there, but if this air temp is accurate, is it possible that there are inefficiencies here that I need to have looked at still?
I think by its very design it is not a very efficient cooler. It wasn't designed to be efficient but to display the beverages. Do you leave the lights on at all times? Turning the lights off may help significantly.


I do have the unit right up against a corner wall and noticed there is some warm air coming from the vents under the doors in the back, it feels warmer back there than in the front -- Given that this unit has the glass doors in the back, is it possible that I am cramping its ability to run by stuffing it into a corner an inch away from the wall?
The thing needs to "breathe". It does not "make cold" but transfers heat from the inside to the outside. The compressor also makes heat so all that heat needs to be dissipated into the room. If you are restricting that dissipation by restricting the airflow then it will take longer to cool and will use more electricity. My personal opinion is that it should be at least six inches away from the wall.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 07:32 PM
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I think that you may have bought something you were unprepared for.
It's like I said before, If you have concerns about the cost of running this cooler you maybe can't afford or justify this cost.

Although I have to admit its pretty, is is designed for a specific purpose and that's either as a status symbol or to make money for its owner.
You may be happier with something else.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 05:09 AM
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Hi guys,

Thanks again for all the great information so far. Hoping you are still with me but I wanted to update the thread regardless for anyone else who may stumble onto it some day.

I may have jumped to conclusions to assume the unit was running correctly. Even after adding the foam insulation to the back (great idea by the way, worked perfectly), the unit seems to be having trouble getting the temperature anywhere below 40 degrees now, even when I turn the temperature dial all the way up to 10. Turning it down to the off position seems to turn the compressor off, but I see no difference in temperature when I have it on now (even though it is running and using the extra electricity).

My assumption now (correct me if I am wrong) is that I may need coolant, and this could be why the compressor just keeps running but never reaches the proper temperature to tell itself to turn off.

Would that be your guesses as well, and perhaps grounds to call in a professional?
 
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Old 04-06-15, 06:16 AM
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You could be right about there being a problem.
Is this a new or used unit?....If new you need to get this repaired under warranty.

If used it could be possible the previous owner had this problem, had refrigerant added and flipped it.
I would assume you removed the cover and checked that the condenser coil was clean.
If refrigerant was added you may see evidence of a line adapter on the refrigerant tubing.
Theses units don't normally have service adapters.

If you do need refrigerant added the service person needs to find the leak and repair it otherwise you will have the same problem down the road.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 07:08 PM
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It's a used unit unfortunately so nowhere near having a warranty. I had to trust the seller that it "gets cold" and it did blow cold air and get cold when I showed up to see it (just not cold enough, turns out).

I figure it might be worth having a pro at least come out to diagnose what it might need. I also hope perhaps it's just low on coolant but not leaking coolant.

Will keep you posted on everything here and we can find out how much this $200 investment ends up costing overall, though if a repair gets the electricity usage down it will pay for itself in time.
 
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Old 04-07-15, 03:55 AM
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If you do need refrigerant added the service person needs to find the leak and repair it otherwise you will have the same problem down the road.
There will be a leak that needs to be fixed if low on refrigerant.
 
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Old 04-07-15, 07:19 AM
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Thanks Greg. This is all good information to know before I have a tech come out.

Here's what I learned yesterday after more fiddling.

There are two switches inside the unit, one controlling the lights and one controlling some sort of fan(s). I at first thought the fan switch was the same as the compressor, but I was wrong.

So here's where we stand now:

Light switch off - This saves 30 watts or so. Awesome.

Fan switch on/off - This is not the compressor but some other kind of fan (circulation maybe?). Having it on or off did not seem to help the temperature get lower at all. In fact, having the compressor off, but this fan switch on OR off, the internal temperature rose to over 50 degrees! No compressor on, no coolness at all. Which leads me to believe this is just some sort of circulation fan.

Temperature dial - This is what seems to control the compressor. Turning the dial all the way to the "off setting" seems to be the only way to get the compressor to stop running now. It does not switch off otherwise. However, once I turn the dial back up from the "off" position, I need to turn it almost all the way up (to around 8-9) to get the compressor to kick back on. It then seems to only be able to cool to around the low 40's and no cooler even on max setting.
 
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Old 04-07-15, 11:11 AM
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Just a shot in the dark, but since it is a used unit, have you cleaned the exterior coils so that they can dissipate a maximum amount of heat?
 
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Old 04-17-15, 12:09 PM
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Figured I'd give you all an update if you are still interesting in reading and/or helping.

A friend referred me to a local company who specializes in commercial repairs of these exact units, so I was lucky to have someone come over and give a free honest estimate.

He popped the bottom of the grilles off of both front and back and said everything looked good. No leaks, and the compressor looked clean and was running and blowing cold air.

However, the temperature does not get below 41 degrees any more. In fact, since adding the insulation sheets (one on the outside of one door, one on the inside, taped in with duct tape), the fridge actually is staying WARMER than before (it used to get down to around 37 degrees at least). I wonder if the glass doors on both sides somehow helps with circulation and I've actually hindered it?

Still never stops running.

His only thought was that the entire works of the unit that moves the coolant around would need to be flushed, lines replaced, and the like, as the unit had never been serviced before as such this would be an even MORE expensive proposition. $500 minimum. Theory is that the coolant in the line has some sort of blockage.

Now, I'm torn. I want to almost rip off the insulation and see if that helps at all (I was careful to only insulate the glass, nothing else, not blocking stuff), though I still even before then think the unit wasn't getting THAT cold).

At this point, still not sure what to do. I love the fridge but $500 to repair it? It just stinks. However if I keep it as-is and let it run and keep my beer at 41 degrees...I'm spending $30 a month to run it. Eventually (assuming it runs less after repair) I'd gain back some of this repair cost in saved electricity...

Any other ideas or am I basically stuck? Sell or fix right?
 
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Old 04-17-15, 06:51 PM
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Unless this "technician" connected service gauges and thermometers he is simply guessing. Although major leaks will usually show a slight oil film a smaller leak could be invisible to anything but a rather expensive "sniffer" probe.

I asked before and I don't recall you answering, do you leave the lights inside this machine turned on?
 
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Old 04-18-15, 05:00 AM
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Furd,

Thanks for responding. Apologies on missing the light question from before. It indeed has a fluorescent light inside which I have kept turned off since your advice and it dropped the watts down by around 30-40 so that was awesome. Did not have any change in the inside temperature, though.

I will admit I probably didn't ask as specific of questions as I should have when he came out, I did see him get a fairly weird looking probe-like device out and take a bunch of readings from various places around the unit, but he stopped short of actually connecting any devices like a service gauge to it as you are suggesting he should have. He seemed to indicate that these are a lot more expensive to work on the first time as you need to install service ports, they are not in there initially I guess?
 
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Old 04-18-15, 05:00 AM
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Theory is that the coolant in the line has some sort of blockage.
I agree.
A technician needs to give you a diagnosis, not a "theory" and like said, you can't look at a unit and offer an opinion on whether there is a leak or not.
It would be a sorry state if this is how the company as a whole conducts business.

We are spinning our wheels here.
You bought a commercial like piece of equipment with commercial repair costs.
I suggest calling a real service company for a competent estimate.

Try calling the local Coke distributor........ maybe their service department will make a house call.
They would fix hundreds of those every year.
 
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Old 04-19-15, 12:16 PM
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Greg, thanks again. You've re-inspired me to try and find another opinion. The shop that came out specializes in fixing these and works in the area on them so I wouldn't be surprised if they are the ones coke contracts to fix the things anyway. Still, I did call the phone number on the sticker on the fridge and got a nice coke representative who kindly told me that they don't work on machines in private homes, only for retail licensed distributors. Booo.

Agreed on the wheels spinning though. I need someone with a more definitive answer. The guy who came sure did have a lot of equipment and the probe looking thing you talked about I think (lots of beeping and moving around different areas of the fridge) but ultimately he didn't take it apart other than to yank a grill off to look inside the bottom. He didn't hook anything up.

I had another thought today - Is there any danger to this thing running non stop like this without a break? I worry the sucker might start on fire or just totally break down if the compressor literally runs 24/7.
 
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Old 06-28-15, 04:05 PM
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I figure no one ever comes back to update on these threads but I would since you were all so helpful, and maybe this can help someone else who finds this post down the road.

Labor hours were the killer here. I hate paying for labor as I like to fix stuff myself, but this was out of my depth I guess.

The unit was checked and they found "suction pressure at 0 psi. Suspect low suction caused by partial blocked cap tube." They then replaced all of the cap tube and filter drier. They pulled the vacuum, charged the system with new R414B refrigerant. Parts charged were for 108" of new cap tube, the refrigerant, a fitting, and a "vacuum pump" (unless that charge was just to inspect it).

I'll have her running this week and will check if we can now get below 40, and, more importantly, if the unit actually will stop running once in a while (saving me the previously documented high usage from a never-stopping compressor).

Thanks again. I hate paying for something to be fixed, but I couldn't bear to let the thing go. Good thing too, as my overflow fridge in the garage is starting to show signs of also wearing out, so this can be my new overflow fridge.
 
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