Refrigerator Condenser Maintenance

All too often, I go out on refrigerator calls and discover condenser coils clogged with dust and pet hair. Coil cleaning is often the only service a refrigerator needs to restore its cooling function.

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In one of the worst cases I’ve seen, a customer with two refrigerators called to say both were running warm, and food was spoiling. In both cases, I discovered condenser coils choked with thick layers of dust and pet hair. These accumulations were so dense, it was actually difficult to see the coils. These blankets of debris were preventing proper airflow, and the debris had actually begun functioning as insulation, preventing the coils from cooling. As a result, both compressors were overheated and although they were still running, they had lost their ability to cool these refrigerators. I used a vacuum with a coil-cleaning brush to clean the coils, and both refrigerators began cooling immediately. The next day, the customer called to thank me and express their happiness with such an inexpensive repair.

Clogged Condenser Coils

Your refrigerator can defrost itself, but it cannot clean its condenser coils. It will need a little help with this on a regular basis. If your refrigerator is not cooling well, its compressor is running longer than usual, and it’s been over a year since its condenser coils were cleaned, check those coils. If you have pets, I recommend cleaning condenser coils every three to six months. This problem is very common, and I find dirty coils on nearly every refrigerator I repair. Because coils are located below or behind the refrigerator where they are not easily seen, many people aren’t aware of a problem until their refrigerator stops cooling.

It’s not uncommon to receive calls from people saying, “I just bought groceries and loaded the fridge, but it’s not cooling and everything is ruined!” More than once, besides dust, I’ve discovered a child’s “crayon art” blocking the cooling fan’s intake grill. As parents and grandparents, we love to stick these on our refrigerators. But few of us notice when these “works of art” fall and disappear. Condenser coils are designed to dissipate the heat being pumped out of the refrigerator by the compressor. Airborne dust and pet hair collects on these coils, because it is drawn to the air intake by the condenser fan. As this debris accumulates, your refrigerator will lose efficiency, your electric bills will increase, the refrigerator’s compressor will overheat, and its life will be shortened. In extreme cases, a refrigerator will stop cooling and cause food spoilage. A visual inspection of the coils will quickly tell you if they need cleaning.

Before attempting to inspect or clean your refrigerator’s coils, it’s always best to read about this first in the manufacturer’s manual. You should also allow yourself ample room to work by pulling your fridge out from the wall. Always unplug the refrigerator before touching anything below or behind it. Compressor coils are best cleaned by vacuuming with a coil cleaning brush, and care must be taken to clean the coils on both sides. This may mean lifting and blocking the fridge up on one side so you can reach behind its coils. Be careful when doing this, to avoid knocking over anything inside the fridge, or dropping the refrigerator on its side. Coil cleaning is not always easy, but its rewards can be immediate, with your refrigerator running cooler, more efficiently, more dependably, and with years added to its life.



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