Your refrigerator is one off the biggest energy users in the home. Even if you can't or choose not to do it yourself, (it can be hard on your back) the nominal fee for having a professional appliance repair company provide this service will pay for itself in energy savings within just a few months.
Why does my condenser coils get so dirty?
A running refrigerator has a condensor fan located by the compressor. This fan pulls room temperature air from the kitchen over this coil while also cooling off the compressor at the same time. Dust, pet hair, household debris and even lil' Billy's report card that fell off the fridge magnet, can get pulled into the coil area, covering the coils and blocking free air-flow.
This causes the refrigerator to work 2-5 times as hard to get the fridge down to proper operating temperature. Imagine having a blanket covering your car's radiator. Though the car would still get you from point A to point B, the engine would run very hot until it, or some other component fails. This is basically what is happening to your refrigerator. It's already pretty hot conditions for the compressor to run in anyway, and a dirty coil surely doesn't help. Get a coil cleaning done right away before the need for costly repairs are in order!
To give you more insight, let me explain how refrigeration works. The refrigerator's compressor pumps a super cold liquid, commonly known as Freon into your inside cooling coil known as the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is located inside of the freezer section behind the wall that covers it. The super cold freon pulls heat though the freon lines from inside the fridge to the outside condenser coils. Now it changes from a cold, low pressure liquid to a hot, high pressured gas, making this coil rather hot. The condenser fan dissipates the heat, and your food stays cold at the pre-set temperature set by the thermostat, also called the cold control.
With a dust covered condensor coil, much like anything that runs too much, all operating parts get extra wear and tear and one or more of these parts stops working. Time to call the appliance man! So,if you need a good coil cleaning, and most of us do, here are some simple instructions, should you decide to do it yourself...
First gather a few tool you'll need a flashlight, screwdrivers, vacuum with attachments, and a refrigerator coil cleaning brush available online or at a home center such as Lowe's ( http://Lowes.com )
How to clean your refrigerator or upright freezer's condenser coils
1. Cut off power to refrigerator or freezer.
2. Remove the kick plate or toe panel in the front of our fridge.
3. Shine the flashlight underneath to see the dust and take note of wiring and fan location.
4. Start vacuum and gently loosen the dust and pull it toward the running vacuum hose.
5. When all is clean, pull out fridge, remove back panel by fan, and clean rear area as well.
6. Examine the fan blade and remove dust on fan blade, or remove blade and wash in sink.
7. Replace front and rear covers and clean floor underneath before cutting power back on!
It sounds rather easy to complete the job yourself but here's a few warnings that you need to know. Fan blades can be bent, or loosened insulation can get caught in the fan's blades, wiring can be loosened or pulled off as well, and yes, you may see missed dust balls flying across the kitchen floor over the next day or two, keeping the family cat on his toes:)
WARNING: If you have a bad back, the few bucks saved by this DYI method may go towards ibuprofen or Doan's pills. Top Cat Appliance Repair has completed many coil cleanings that were half way done because of back injuries! We also replaced a few condenser fan motors after the fan blades had gotten bent, stalling and burning out the fan motor itself after this task was placed on the "Honey Do" list! With all this said, good luck and Happy Cleaning!
P.S. If you're going to hire out this task, try to get a BBB Accredited appliance repair company rather than a craigslist handyman type or "appliance man" that's a laid off roofer. Though we have many licenses, accreditations and certifications, anyone can get a business license to perform appliance repair, as there are none required at this time. Not knowing the proper procedures may cost you the cost of a new refrigerator.
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Delayne Hiott is a PSA/EPA Certified Master Appliance Repair Technician, graduating at the top of his class at PTEC Clearwater Florida in the early 90's. Founder and President of Top Cat Appliance Repair. Top Cat provides 2 HOUR Appliance Repair services in the Tampa Bay, Florida area including Tampa, Clearwater, St Petersburg, Largo, etc. Appliances repaired include Your Refrigerator, Freezer, Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher, Stove, Oven, Water Heater, Garbage Disposal, microwave, and Wine Coolers.