Air Flow In Freezer But Not In The Refrigerator Refrigerator’s Air Circulation and Humidity

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Refrigerator’s Air Circulation and Humidity

A refrigerator relies on forced air to transfer heat. Fans in the appliance circulate the air. The faster the air flows, the faster the heat is removed. For this reason, you don’t want to do anything to block airflow. There are three basic types of forced-air systems in refrigerators. In ceiling-type refrigeration,

A single fan is mounted on the ceiling of the device. It is adequate for small-volume interiors but is not used in large refrigerators. Because it only has one location, it can allow for hot spots in the corners of interior cabinets. In back-wall or mullion-type refrigeration, the airflow system takes air above the top shelf and releases it below the bottom shelf.

A duct-type refrigeration system is a combination of the first two types. Here, the forced-air unit is located at or above the ceiling, and air is circulated through a series of small air ducts that are routed to various spots on the back wall of the cabinet. How important is air circulation? Well, the difference between safe and unsafe raw materials can be as much as five to seven degrees Fahrenheit. Seafood, poultry or red meat will spoil within 18 to 24 hours if their refrigerated temperature rises above 42 to 45 degrees.

Fahrenheit, and you already know the HACCP guidelines for temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Would you rather risk the negative publicity from lawsuits and food-poisoning allegations, or keep your refrigerator properly ventilated?

Humidity is the amount of moisture (or water vapor) in the air. At different temperatures, air can hold different amounts of water. In refrigeration, the type of humidity we’re interested in is relative humidity, or how much water the air can hold at any given time, expressed as a percentage. For example, 85 percent humidity indicates that the air holds 85 percent water at that temperature. Relative humidity greatly affects the appearance and rate of deterioration of many substances. If the relative humidity in the air surrounding the stored food is too low, for example, the air naturally absorbs moisture from the food, causing surface discoloration, cracking, and drying.

If the relative humidity in the air is high, some of the moisture will condense on the food being kept dry, causing it to become soft or mold or bacteria to grow. Fortunately, most foods do best in 80 to 85 percent relative humidity. To achieve this optimum level, manufacturers are concerned that the evaporator coil of the refrigerator be large enough to operate at temperatures a few degrees below the desired temperature of the appliance. This difference reduces the amount of moisture that accumulates on the evaporator coils and instead keeps the moisture in the refrigerator cabinet. If the coil temperature drops too low, however, the moisture turns into ice crystals and becomes trapped.

coils

In this case, the air flow through the system is blocked and the humidity in the refrigerated space decreases. As you can see, getting all the ingredients right is a delicate balance, with your food cost and food quality at stake. In short, it is difficult to prevent frost from the coils but it is necessary to keep them free of frost in order for them to function properly. Adding heat to the area to defrost the coils can compromise the temperature of the food inside. A brand new concept from Husman Modular Defrost in Bridgeton, Missouri, it does exactly what its name implies: defrosts the coil in sections. The automated system defrosts the coils over nine minutes apart in each section and never defrosts adjacent sections at the same time, all programmed by an electronic controller capable of running up to six walk-ins.

This idea works for walk-in and reach-in refrigerators but not for freezers. This maintains food quality and saves energy by preventing the compressor from working overtime to compensate for frozen coils. Another humidity-control suggestion for indoor refrigerated space is from Humitech International Group, Inc. of Dallas, Texas. was promoted by Humitec uses a mineral product called sorbite to absorb moisture and odors.

We noted that most foods do best at 80 to 85 percent relative humidity, but fresh fruits and vegetables are an exception. They require higher humidity, up to 95 percent. To increase humidity, you can reduce air circulation. This explains why most refrigerators have separate, closed produce bins—to retain natural moisture from the vegetables and prevent air flow.

Freezers maintain an average relative humidity of only 30 to 35 percent. Excess moisture will automatically increase the temperature as it hits the coils, freezes in place and blocks airflow, making the freezer air hotter. The low humidity of the freezer requires special food storage precautions. Use moisture- and vapor-proof wrapping to prevent surface damage known as “freezer burn” if moisture condenses on the food.

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