Friday, September 7, 2018

A death in the family

I've had freezers go kaput three times in my life.  The first time was 40 years ago and that load of bad meat represented not only a big waste disposal problem but a huge hit in the pocketbook.  I remember sitting on a stool in front of the open box, loading rotten steaks into a garbage can, trying not to puke from the smell, with tears running down my face every time I caught sight of a price sticker.

The second time was two and a half years ago; a different house, and this time the freezer lived in the garage.  We started noticing a bad odor in the house -- was it a dead animal?  It took us a couple of days before we realized that it wasn't a dead animal but a dead freezer.  The chore of cleaning out the rotten food was just as unpleasant, but at least this time I didn't cry over the hundreds of dollars down the drain.  The intervening years had given us not only a bigger bank balance but a more mature perspective on life: on the disaster scale, a freezer full of rotten food wasn't anywhere near the top.

The third time occurred last weekend.  We had had premonitions for a week or so beforehand, a gallon of ice cream that wasn't rock hard, but the temperature still seemed cold enough and we forgot about it.  Then on Saturday a gallon of ice cream was not only soft to the touch but sloshed around when I lifted it.  The bacon was soft and pliable.  The big ham yielded a bit to finger pressure.  Oops.  Of course this happens on a long holiday weekend when the repair people are off duty.

We bought two huge bags of ice and put them in the freezer, and monitored the temperature twice a day.  We invited people over for dinner and cooked up the big ham.  I sent a box full of food home with my daughter-in-law.  We moved some food into the little freezer in the kitchen fridge.  We cooked up a pot roast that was thawing and had bacon for breakfast.

Days passed.  The Maytag repair shop reopened -- but couldn't send a guy out until Thursday.  We watched the thermometer in the freezer go up.  Finally on Wednesday it hit 40 degrees, maximum fridge temperature. Time for the final solution.

I gave five pounds of ground beef to my house cleaner.  I gave ten pounds of chicken breasts to my friend Debby, who proceeded to poach it all, eat some for dinner and package up the rest for future use.  We moved various containers of leftover soup and spaghetti sauce into the fridge, told the previously frozen bread and nuts they would just have to get by at room temperature, and pitched a stack of TV dinners (good riddance).

No tears, no rotten meat; five stars on the dead-freezer-experience evaluation form.  My only big regret was that the two-year limited warranty had expired -- wait for it -- on Sunday of Labor Day weekend!  That is, the day after we realized we had a big problem.  I kicked myself for not acting sooner when the first gallon of ice cream seemed soft.

By the time the repairman got here yesterday the freezer was empty.  He diagnosed a leak in the plumbing, allowing the Freon to escape.  To fix it, he would have to inject dye into the innards and come back in a couple of days (at $89 per visit) to see exactly where the leak was.  Then, he thought, it would cost about $350 to fix it.  The whole freezer had cost $550, so the decision was a no-brainer -- DNR.

There was one bright spot: the two-year limited warranty wouldn't have covered Freon leaks anyway.  The repairman cynically pointed to the sticker on the door that in large type announced a ten-year warranty on the compressor.  He told us that compressors never go bad so why not be generous!  But leaky plumbing is only covered for one year.  Makes you think twice about buying a new freezer.  I guess we'll do that we did the last time around -- try to get by without a big freezer for a while and see what life is like.


  1. We got our freezer second hand about 35 years ago. Friends were moving and gave it away. Never had the slightest problem with it. Go figure.

    1. sounds like my microwave, which I got on sale for $75 in 1986 and is still going strong!! everybody is entitled to one like that -- makes up for the ones that die in two years.

  2. We usually take the insurance offered at the time of least for a while. At the least, it covers the call out fee.
    Do they have insurance offers with appliances?

    1. they have insurance offers with every conceivable product that you could conceivably expect to last more than a week, and if you bought them all, you would have no money left to buy a new freezer if your old ones die. (and probably the insurance wouldn't cover very much anyway)

      we've always made the policy decision to self-insure, and I think we're way ahead over the years. but who knows!!

  3. very entertaining the way you wrote this. I would not be surprised if you get along fine with less ice cream, lol.

  4. Wow this makes me feel incredibly lucky. Not that we have not lost a freezer full of food in the past, but they were all due to human error not a freezer dying. I currently have two deep freezes. One is over 50 years old, an upright that my parents bought second hand when I was a baby. It is still going strong. The door shelves have all broken off in the intervening years, but it keeps food cold.

    The second freezer was a gift from my Dad about 25 years ago. A Sears chest freezer it is great.

    Why two freezers? I freeze a couple hundred pounds of berries each summer and eat them all year. I also buy local beef, lamb, pork and chicken and get them in bulk. By the end of April, I can mo0ve everything into one freezer and unplug one until it is berry season again.

  5. The power goes out here. Maine. All the time and we lose everything in the fridge and freezer. So I keep nothing in there long term. I froze a bounty of berries from my garden one year--and had to dump them all into the compost pile. I cried. The fridge stopped working twice. The new fridge--the 24 year old one never had a problem. the new fridge lasted less than 2 years--the compressor.
    Which is sealed inside so no repairs--Whirlpool condemned it. the extended warranty gave me a new one. Which I refused. So I got a check.

  6. Your story made me smile. When my parents died, they left a very large chest freezer about half full of meat and frozen red currants. Their home was about forty-five minutes away from ours. Dad had currant bushes and he diligently harvested them every summer and froze them in old plastic tubs. I'm not sure how many there were or how long anything had been in the freezer. We cleared out some of the meat that we thought we might use and took it home, but decided to leave emptying the freezer completely until the garage was cleared out (a whole other story). Big Mistake!! The upshot was that over the winter, the power failed and the freezer never re-started when the power came back on. It definitely smelled like a death in the family (and the freezer was large enough to deal with that possibility)and was awash in thawed rotting meat swimming in mushy red currants. My dear husband was the unhappy soul who found the mess and cleaned it out. My brothers and I owe him big time. We laugh about it now, but at the time it was not amusing.