Refrigerator Maintenance

Clean Condenser Coils

Periodically cleaning the condenser coils every six to twelve months can improve efficiecency by up to 30%. The refrigerator works by “pulling” heat out of the enclosure and “rejecting” it outside through the coils. If dust and debris accumulates on the coils it acts as insulation, working against the process.

Locate the condenser coils; they can be easily identified because they are long and winding, and would be dozens of feet long if unruffled. In full size refrigerators, they are often behind a grill on the front side. The grill should snap off with gentle force or at most by removing a couple screws. In smaller, personal refrigerators the coils are usually exposed in the rear of the unit. Always unplug any refrigerator before moving it.

There are two ways to clean the coils. One can either use either a long, flattened nozel attached to a vacuum, or a coil cleaning brush. A coil cleaning brush may penetrate the crevices more easily.

Periodically Defrost

While the temperature of refrigerators should be set be set from 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the coil inside actually needs to get much colder to maintain that temperature. People may not notice that the cooling coil is covered in ice because it is often concealed behind a panel. If the coil is covered in ice it cannot as easily soak up heat, which hampers the refrigerator efficiency.

Most newer models are equipped with an automatic defroster that periodically heats the inner coil. Models with this feature need no additional defrosting. Manual defrost refrigerators and freezers should be emptied for defrosting every few months or when there is condsiderable ice buildup. Empty the refrigerator and freezer of all contents, put frozen items in a cooler with ice, and leave the unit’s doors open with the power turned off. Wipe out the water, return the foodstuffs, and return to the desired cooling setpoints.

Check Air Seal To Prevent Leakage

Close the door on a single sheet of paper a few places around the frame. Pull the sheet out. If the sheet pulls out easily, you may want to replace the gasket, which typically costs $30 to $50.

Check “Energy Saver” Switch

The “energy saver” feature is a fancy name for turning off heaters that were installed in the sides of the fridge to prevent condensation, or “sweating” on the outside surface of the refrigerator cabinet. If your kitchen is not especially hot and humid, you may not need the heaters turned on. The switch is probably located towards the back interior of the fridge. Read the label carefully. Sometimes flipping the “energy saver” switch to “on” actually means turning on the heaters.

Examine Location

Consider moving the refrigerator if it is by a major furnace supply vent or close to the dishwasher or oven. An external heat source worsens efficiency by conducting heat through the cabinet, as well as making it harder for the condenser coils to “reject” heat to the atmosphere.

Consider Upgrading

Consider replacing refrigerators that are more than 10 years old. The efficiency of modern refrigerators can be over 40% greater than older models. This can save $15 per month on your electric bill.