HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Putting my refrigerator in the basement

I just bought a new refrigerator and I am going to put my current one in the basement and only use it from time to time and I won't be leaving it plugged into the electricity. Will it get a musty odor inside and what can I do to prevent it from happening? Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Leave the door propped slightly open until you use it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: monku

      i would NEVER leave the door on a non-working refrigerator in an unsupervised area of the house.
      way too many tragic accidents have happened that way.

      1. re: westsidegal

        What's the difference if it's working or not?
        If no one is in the kitchen it's an unsupervised area.
        I don't think I've seen a latch door refrigerator in 25 years.
        The OP didn't say they had young children.

        1. re: monku

          I agree with you, generally death trap fridges are a thing of the past.
          But the difference might be its easier to climb in an unused, stored fridge rather than a working, completely full, shelved, cold unit...

    2. Yeah, BLOCK it open a bit.

      1. It will help to put an opened box of baking soda inside, too.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Beckyleach

          And don't let children play unsupervised in the basement.

          1. re: buttertart

            Is the electricity that much where you are?

            Think of the added food storage if you kept the refrigerator running.

            In addition, doesn't starting and stopping a refrigerator impede its longevity somehow?

            1. re: anonymouse1935

              If you leave it plugged in and don't have anything inside, it will kick on and off more than it would if it were full. If you are going to leave it unplugged make sure it is very very clean and leave the door open, otherwise you will get a musty smell . If you have kids in the house it would seriously be worth taking the door off until you plan to use it.

              1. re: Samalicious

                My point exactly. Fill it with ice cream, candy truffles, frozen pesto, etc., etc.

                Unplugging it and plugging it back in can't be good for it.

                Take the door off and reattach the door??? Yikes.

                If it's not needed that badly, get rid of the thing.

                1. re: anonymouse1935

                  Leaving it plugged in is like burning money...easily cost you $30-$50 per month.

                  1. re: monku

                    Understood. But if it's used to store meat and ice cream and donuts et cetera, it's worth it.

                    1. re: anonymouse1935

                      I don't know...$300-$500 a year to store ice cream and donuts doesn't make economic sense to me.

                    2. re: monku

                      Where did you get that number? My electric bill was $48 last month. I don't think it only cost me only $18 to run my water heater, dishwasher, stove, tv, cable boxes, dvd player, and lights.

                      1. re: Mer_Made

                        Where did the other $30 of your electric bill go?...the refrigerator? 12x$30=$360/year

                        The largest portion of your electric bill are the refrigerator(if you don't have an energy efficient refrigerator) and air conditioner.


                      2. re: monku

                        Really? My new fridge--a 26cf Samsung--says it uses only about $60 per YEAR in energy.

                        1. re: Beckyleach

                          You'll notice a big difference in your electric bill.

                        2. re: monku

                          i was surprised by how much our electricity bill declined when we got rid of our second fridge downstairs!

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Especially if it's old, the refrigerator is among the largest consumers of electricity in any home. Keeping your extra fridge so you can stock up on items on sale is often a false economy.

                          2. re: monku

                            How do you figure this? Even a big refrigerator usually only draws about 200W when running. In normal service, you might have a 40% duty cycle, but the OP is talking about a rarely used storage fridge. Without the door opening and closing a lot, you could probably cut the duty cycle to 10% (or even less, if the seals are tight). But say it's 25% - that's 50 watt-hours per hour, or 1200 watt-hours per day. Since electricity is usually sold in kWh, that's 1.2kWh per day, or about 40 kWh per month.

                            The highest price I've seen for residential electricity in North America is $0.15 per kWh (we pay about $0.10 in Ontario). 40 x $0.15 = $6/month. And, if it's not being used a lot, some people suggest putting it on an automatic timer to cut it off at night, reducing the cost even more.

                            1. re: FrankD

                              My kilowatt hours cost me over 21 cents as of last bill. Yes I'm in North America. It doesn't stop me from using my upright freezer in the basement extensively, despite the fact that the tag it came with claimed it would cost me only $100 per year to run.

                          3. re: anonymouse1935

                            @ anonymouse: single-door fridge doors are made to be easy to attach and reattach so they will open in the direction you want.

                      3. re: buttertart

                        Actually, buttertart, there's little need to worry about that any longer. The danger was in the old latching ones that couldn't be opened from inside. Fridges made since the '70s on aren't exactly playthings, but you can't get trapped inside them like you could those old ones.

                        The latching models, though -- truly a parent's nightmare if you let yourself think about it too hard.

                        1. re: dmd_kc

                          That makes sense when I thnk about the ones we have these days. Fridges used to last a lot longer back when - my parents had one from the 50s that was working perfectly well in the 90s, so there is the very remotest chance that this would be an old model I suppose. Yes a nightmare...one of my worst fears is being enclosed in a space like this...there were kids killed that way when I was a kid.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Oh, it's a huge phobia of mine too. Both sets of grandparents had the old-fashioned kind (yes, appliances used to last four and five decades -- sigh). I've thought it through too many times.

                            1. re: dmd_kc

                              In the old days, walk in freezers in restaurants I worked in didn't have a latch to let you out sometimes, and I'd always try to trick someone else into getting what I needed.

                    3. When we did our kitchen, we put our old refrigerator in the garage. Intially, we left it off and the door propped until a service man came for another appliance and said that by turning on when we needed it and then turning it off when we didn't would likely shorten the life of the appliance. Since then, I have filled the refrigerator and freezer with things that were formerly in my cupboard, like different kinds of flour and beans and other dry goods that either get rancid or tend to attract flour moths. I don't think that it costs that much each month (the age of the older refrigerator will have something to do with the cost), and I have really enjoyed freeing up the space in my pantry for some other things. We have a lot of big parties, and when we do, we just empty the refrigerator of the things we don't actually need to be in there, and fill it with things for the party. It has worked out very well, and I think that you will have the same experience having it in the basement.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: roxlet

                        Exactly my points. Makes perfect sense.

                        1. re: anonymouse1935

                          Unless the OP wants to use the sucker maybe 3-4 times per year, for parties or the like.
                          I think plugging & unplugging once a week is kind of harsh, but if you need the fridge for 3 birthdays, christmas, new years, and 2 BBQs, thats perhaps 5 weekends and maybe a solid week or two. Worth unplugging I would think...

                        2. re: roxlet

                          I don't get this idea that unplugging your refrigerator will shorten its life. The thermostat turns the compressor on and off constantly throughout the day. Maybe if you leave it unplugged for a long time, so that the working fluid is all at an elevated temperature, that might have an effect, but if you (as suggested in another post above) leave it on, put it on a timer to turn it off at night, and don't open the door very often, you won't use that much electricity, and have the added benefit of another fridge when frozen foods go on sale.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            I *wish* we could keep our basement fridge just for occasional use...but given that we never met a condiment/curry/fish sauce/mustard/etc. we didn't love, and since it serves as a wine cooler, and given that I've gotten heavily into "Real Foods" and thus always seem to have some kefir brewing or sauerkraut fermenting or sourdough bubbling away...and I'm making buttermilk and saving whey, from the gallons of raw milk I get at a farm....and since the garden overflows in the summer, and giant hams and turkeys need temporary homes in the winter, it's never NOT in use.

                            Friends probably think we're weird when someone calls out, "I need the Major Grey's chutney!" or "would someone please bring me up the black bean paste" and we trot out of the kitchen, across the living room, and down the basement stairs to retrieve it.

                        3. I see by your profile that you live in CT. So, I will just add that if your basement isn't heated, you may want to plan to clean it out and leave it unplugged in the winter months. When it gets really cold here, our basement fridge stops working. It's very hard on a fridge to keep going in such conditions. We use ours year round unless we have a harsh winter, but we live outside the metro area. So, it makes financial sense to keep freezer and fridge back stock here--fewer trips to the groceries an hour away there and home.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: amyzan

                            I lived in New Jersey for nearly twenty years, where it gets about as cold as CT, and I can assure you that the temperature of my unfinished basement stayed a remarkably consistent temperature year round. My basement was cinderblock with a concrete floor and a few well windows. In winter, you might want a sweater if you were hanging out in there for a long time, but in summer, it was no hotter than 70 degrees -- ever. The basement, assuming it stays dry, is a very good environment for these kinds of appliances. If you had a really cold basement, perhaps your house was built differently from mine, as some houses have more of a cellar than a basement. But most houses I have seen that were built from the 1970's on seem to have the same type of basement I did.

                            1. re: RGC1982

                              All I'm saying is to pay attention to the environment. Of course, different houses have different situations. It pays to put a temperature and humidity thermometer in the basement and monitor, if you haven't already. No reason to strain an appliance by putting it in poor working conditions.

                              This basement is concrete poured on a native rock foundation. This house predates the 1950's, though that portion of the split level was added in the 60's. It's exposed on three sides and the walls are of native rock, which is probably adds to the damp and cold. Certainly it's unusual construction, but not uncommon here on the prairie in older homes.

                          2. Thanks for all your great responses. I usually do keep all the baking flours in the bottom of my current fridge and it sounds like a good idea to put all that stuff that I don't use often in the basement fridge. I could do for a month or so just to see how high the electric bill might go. Electricity is high in CT but according to my coworkers my electric is nothing compared to theirs, they tell me to stop complaining about my bill cause it's nothing compared to theirs but I still don't like paying more if I don't have too. I am all about conserving. I would only turn the fridge on when I have parties and around the holidays when I do a lot of baking so it's not like I will be turning it on and off all the time.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: javaandjazz

                              Make it your beer, wine and soda fridge. As others have said, put bags of flour and other things that can go rancid (oils, which "go liquid" quickly within a half hour or so on a kitchen counter). When you have a party, the extra space is nice...and you don't have to worry about forgetting to plug it in so it's cold enough to store the sheet cake for Grandma's 90th birthday party.

                              I have a chest freezer in my basement that is *always* filled. I use it for homemade tomato/meat sauce; stews, soups. I store chicken carcasses in there until it's time to make stock. Then, after stock is made, the containers go back into that chest freezer under I need it. I've got a list (Excel spreadsheet) on the side of my upstairs fridge that details everything in the downstairs freezer. It gets updated when the list gets too messy after crossing things out or added.

                              ETA: I'd suggest you keep it plugged in for a few months. See how you actually DO use it. Unplug it if you don't and plug it in when you need it.

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Yes! What Lindawhit said. Best advice so far.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  We don't drink much beer or wine but we do drink a lot of Diet Coke (particularly my husband). We have an extra refrigerator/freezer in the laundry room/mud room and there is always cold Diet Coke in there. We also keep a spare gallon of milk in there (both husband and daughter drink a lot of milk and I hate to run out) plus I keep a lot of yogurt in there to free up room in the primary refrigerator. The freezer is filled with foods that I cook and portion out, mostly for my kids...meatballs, chili, sauces.

                                  We do big entertaining several times a year and the extra space is priceless. Seriously, the extra refrigerator/freezer was one of my most favorite things when we moved from an apt. to a house almost 3 years ago (it still is!).

                              2. I keep a refer in the garage alongside a freezer. Both are made for being outside and have more insulation, probably larger motor etc. We use the garage one for drinks, sodas, bottled water and BEER!. It is also nice to have a place to stage food, and meat for big bbq's and tailgaters. In the kitchen we don't have a freezer at all, just a built-in ice maker.

                                Works for us!

                                1. If your old fridge is actually a refrigerator/freezer combo, and it is old enough to be replaced, you would be wasting quite a bit of electricity to keep it running in the basement. There was a time when I needed extra fridge space too. My solution? A small counter height Heier. It was great, was very energy efficient, and kept the extra beverages I used to keep in there as cold as anything without wasting energy like a frost free refrigerator/freezer does due to the cycling on and off. For what you would pay to run your big old monster for eight or nine months, you could buy a new, energy efficient smaller one, assuming that this size will work for you. There are also junior size models available too, slightly shorter and smaller than regular fridges, and they don't cost much to run either.

                                  Why don't you read the energy star and efficiency labels at the appliance store and make a judgment for yourself after doing the math? The last time I calculated what an old fridge-freezer combo cost (frost free model) it was nearly $30 a month, and that was a long, long time ago when electricity cost a lot less.

                                  I think you would find it fairly inexpensive to keep a junior size or counter height refrigerator running all the time, and the convenience would be worth it. You would be far less likely to use a fridge that you had to plug in and cool down, and unless you were planning to use it for say, the holidays or parties or other special occasions, it will always be too warm to use and will need to be chilled before you can use it.

                                  1. If you think you'll only use it occasionally, don't be afraid to unplug it, clean out the insides, and leave it unplugged with the door blocked open to keep the inside from molding (didn't do that once in my youth, was horribly sorry and spent a whole day cleaning the mold out of it). If you do keep it on, keep stuff in it. It won't hurt the compressor to shut it off for a few weeks or months or years either, might not be a good idea to change your mind several times a day. You could also turn it up so it's just fairly cool and keep things like flour and that in it.

                                    We had the same idea with the old fridge when we got the new one, but honestly I don't think it's been unplugged since. Whatever you decide will be just fine. :-)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      That's an idea too, just keep it cold enough for the baking flours. I can't see that I would be using the freezer that much.

                                      1. re: javaandjazz

                                        I was wondering about that- if the thermostat is kept pretty high, would that lessen the electricity used?I mean, if one were only storing things like flour etc, but didn't want to keep adjusting it or turning it on and off, would keeping it at it's highest temp setting be a compromise? I don't know personally, but wondered if that would work.

                                    2. OK, a little off-topic, but instead of sticking that puppy downstairs, how about painting it fire-engine red with yelow flames and make your own kegerator:

                                      I've been wanting to do this for years, especially with a 50s style fridge,
                                      something like this
                                      but the wife and all...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: porker

                                        LOL....I'm not that crazy about beer where I would need that much in my house! Thanks though!

                                      2. I have 2 refrigerators, one is in the basement. I didn't think I'd use it much, but now I can get the giant jar of arrtichokes at Costco and not worry about it taking up too much room. It's a luxury, but I bet once you have it, you'll likely leave it plugged in.

                                        1. FWIW- I'm so angry- the garage fridge is showing signs of a meltdown, I think we will have to buy a new one, but given the caliber of the previous owner I'm not surprised

                                          1. By all means, keep it plugged in. If not opened and closed frequently it won't heat up inside and no refrigerant odour will develop ( which happens right away to unplugged fridges). A box of baking soda ( opened, of course ) is also cheap insurance against odour.

                                            Finally, you may be tempted to make larger batches of whatever, once in a while. As a basically lazy bachelor, I occasionally enjoy producing larger batches for hardly any extra work or time. Store the main batches in large glass jars in your basement fridge.

                                            Gives me more interesting variety of quick meals and snacks.

                                            Additional hydro cost of infrequent use is no big deal !

                                            This semi-retired old English college professor has a roomy old style kitchen so, for a 2nd fridge, I invested 50 bucks in a 2nd hand vertical soda pop cooler with the see-thru glass door. I removed the always-on fluorescent tube inside. Plenty of natural light in my kitchen. I keep all leftovers and opened foods inside. Main fridge is not so cluttered too.

                                            I love looking over my " menu " without having to open the " fridge " door, dumping all the cold air out. All my visitors, especially womenfolk, rave about this Display Fridge idea and better organized perishables storage.

                                            On another note, I can't seem to get on your thread about eating healthier and basically more interesting, so here's one tip :

                                            Recent research concludes that pomegranate juice daily strengthens the old ticker. So I buy somewhat expensive Pomegranate Vinegar. Toss in thickly sliced up zuccini ( called cucumbers by the locals here in Busan, South Korea ). Instant and super-easy marinated " Pink Pickles " -- very healthy daily snacking and tasty side dish / condiment to liven up my humble meals. And making a big batch is so fast and easy.

                                            1. I've moved a lot and a musty refrigerator at the other ene of a move was a problem until I discovered coffee! I think it works better than baking soda, especially when the fan isn't running and moisture circulating. Take a new crew sock, fill it with three quarters of a cup of ground coffee (I always ground my own), then fold the top of the sock over a couple of inches, close tightly with a rubber and, then suspend the sock from a shelf using paper clips. If you have glass shelves, then just sit it on a shelf. Much easier than trying to prop the door open, and no problem with any stray critters, domestic or otherwise, nesting inside and messing things up.

                                              11 Replies
                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                What an interesting idea! And this makes the refrigerator smell less musty or smell like ground coffee?

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  It's an odor absorber, like charcoal filters.


                                                  This site says "To remove unwanted food smells inside the fridge or freezer, dry the coffee grounds in a cookie sheet and then put it in a bowl in your fridge. Fill old nylons with the dry grounds, and tie off the ends. You can hang this in closets; it will absorb odors, also in the fridge. "

                                                  So you've gotten good coffee to drink, and then you can use it again to deodorize your fridge!

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    LOL! I've been doing this with refrigerators when we move since the fifties, and it NEVER occurred to me to use dried used coffee grounds. I've always ground the beans fresh and stuffed the socks! Of course, in the fifties I was using a hand cranked coffee mill, so I would have loved to use the coffee and dry the grounds! Too late. Too late. <sigh>

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      See, when I hear about things like this, my first thought is, "Who tried this in the first place?" Oh, here are some old coffee grounds -- I think I'll put them in a bowl in the refrigerator to get rid of the odor. I would never have made the leap, and I find it fascinating that someone came up with that!

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          LOL! That was my first thought as well, Caroline!

                                                          And your refrigerators KNEW they were loved because you cared enough to grind fresh beans for them instead of using already-used grounds. ;-)

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Yes, but that still begs the question of what ever possessed her (if it was Heloise) to try putting coffee grinds in the refrigerator??!!

                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                              Good question. But hasn't that also been asked as to whoever thought that durian (::::or insert any odd-to-us food here, such as haggis::::) looked (or smelled!) like something to be eaten? LOL

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Yes, you're right. I always think, who was the first person who thought that an artichoke would be good to eat?

                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                  LOL! An artichoke was the first thing I had written in there, but didn't think it "strange enough" so I replaced it with durian. :-D

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                    Haha. Great minds, and all that!

                                                2. Even though we own a restaurant and almost never eat at home, we'd be totally discombobulated without our two spare boxes; one in our bedroom (a little one) and one in the basement. When you've got eight people in the house, the big side-by-side in the kitchen gets to be a huge mess, often. Sadly, not all the members of our household are as thoughtful about cleaning as we are.

                                                  If you've never had a spare, you'll find yourself wondering how you ever managed without one! and damn the expense; put them in places where they'll "breathe" well and it costs less to operate 'em.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: shaogo

                                                    I will repeat what I've said in other threads... I want a refrigerator with narrow slide-out "pantry shelves" like some upscale kitchen cabinets have, except I want mine in a refrigerator so I can keep all of my bottles and jars of stuff that need to be kept chilled in an easy-access form.

                                                    GE, IF YOU'RE READING THIS, GET BUSY AND I WANT THE FIRST ONE FREE...!!!! Pretty please? (Or any old appliance manufacturer will do.)

                                                  2. leave the door propped open and put a bowl of coffee grounds inside - this works so well! I left a fridge unplugged and closed for months and the smell just stuck around... I put a bowl of coffee grounds in (on the reccomendation of the movers) and the smell totally disappeared and there isn't much coffee smell at all.

                                                    And, if you don't need it don't plug it in.... it takes a very short time to come to temp - think of the environment, not just your electric bill.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: harryharry

                                                      coffee grounds or charcoal -- like for fish tank filters. "activated charcoal"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activate...

                                                      even regular natural charcoal (not the petro-briquets) will do to deodorize.

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        Are these used coffee grounds, or fresh ground?

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          i'd use fresh, because the used ones will mold unless you dry them first and that is a hassle. but my mom always swore by charcoal lumps.

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            And my Mom taught me to put chalk in my silverware box to keep away tarnish. Really the old ways are the best! I've gone to cleaning almost everything with either vinegar or ammonia and find it superior to Windex and 409. So another trick to add to my arsenal.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              ammonia will take the itch out of mosquito bites!

                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                And Mom always used vinegar and salt (the salt felt good when you rubbed it in, if nothing else).

                                                    2. When we moved into our new house it came with a 2nd kitchen in the basement. We didn't think we'd use it that much, but the fridge has been invaluable. In addition to the extra space for holiday meals and parties, we keep all our drinks down there. Beer, juice, bottled water, etc. I never realized how much space those things took up in our everyday refrigerator. Now we always have room for anything we want.

                                                      Not to mention when we bought a keg for a party and had some left over. We took the shelves out of the downstairs fridge and stuck it in there. Cold beer on tap at home!

                                                      Our electric bill is minimal. It's actually less than the last house where we lived with only 1 kitchen.

                                                      1. My father has a place in Arizona that he goes to each winter. When he leaves in the spring he fills the refrigerator and freezer with crumpled up newspapers after first a thorough cleaning. I always thought he left the door open but I found out that he actually closed them to keep the dust out. He has never had a problem with musty odors. (He has a problem with the refrigerator freezing milk and lettuce, but that's another issue).

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          i've heard that about newspapers, too. was it in the context of putting the crumpled newspaper in your summer ice chests so they don't get the funky smell over the winter?

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            I remember teasing my brother once about the odor in one of his coolers. Somebody called it a 'fishy smell' and I said that wasn't possible.

                                                        2. I would stock that fridge up with beer. Isn't that what spare refrigerators are for?