“Refrigerator is not cold;” no matter what else the client says, this is almost always in my client’s first sentence when I’m called out about a refrigerator not operating properly and I ask the customer to describe what kind of problem they are having with their appliance. If you’ve reached this article because you are having a similar complaint, you’re in luck, I’m about to take you on a tour of the most common causes of this problem.
Of the many appliances that can disrupt your household routine, it seems that the refrigerator not cooling probably has the worst impact because it plays such a vital role in health and nutrition. There are quite a few working parts on a refrigerator and any of them breaking down can negatively impact your appliance.
The heart of your refrigerator is the compressor. This is what pumps the freon through the evaporator and condenser, these three parts do most of the main work in the refrigeration process. They may often have a blower fan or two to help accomplish their work, but not always. I won’t go into the principles of how freon interacts with your condenser and evaporator here.
The evaporator and condenser have no moving parts, they are systems of interconnected tubes that allow the freon to run through them and back to the compressor. Their main work is to hold the freon in, for this reason you want to be careful about trying to remove the ice on these systems if you are manually de-frosting them. Never use a knife or a sharp object, I have seen a few refrigerators ruined because the owner was trying to chip away the ice with a sharp knife and punctured the tubing, thus allowing the freon to escape. The best tool for de-frosting manually is a heat gun, which should be used on low heat and carefully so you don’t melt the surrounding plastic areas, or a hair dryer.
Refrigerators differ from air conditioners in one aspect though they have a lot in common. When your AC is low on freon, there are charging ports where a technician can add freon to the unit, a common repair on a lot of units. However, refrigerators are charged with freon at the factory and then the charging ports are soldered shut. In most domestic refrigerators a technician cannot add freon to the unit unless they install charging ports. The only problem with this is that these aftermarket ports tend to allow small amounts of freon to leak out and you are back to square one.
It is normally a simple matter for an appliance repairman to diagnose whether your compressor is functioning correctly. There are two copper tubes coming out of it which tie it into the evaporator and the condenser. If it is functioning normally the line leading to the condenser is going to be much hotter than the one coming from the evaporator, if fact I recommend using a set of light gloves or a cloth to protect your fingers when performing this check, this tube can be hot enough to hurt.
If there is not a big difference between the two tubes, it is a sure sign that either something has punctured the tubing and the freon has leaked out, or that the compressor has an internal problem. While many repair techs will offer to replace the compressor on your refrigerator, the cost is usually very high and I generally advise my clients that if they are going to spend that much money they are better off investing it in a new refrigerator, unless it is one of the really expensive high-end models such as SubZero.
Lastly if you have been able to ascertain that your compressor seems to be functioning correctly, there are a few other things that can be the cause of your refrigerator not cooling and we will continue exploring those in part two of this article.
Brett Singleton is a free lance writer from Charleston SC. He is also a responsive web developer as well as a Charleston SEO specialist. He also works as a consultant on web design, SEO and marketing for Appliance Repair-Charleston, a company providing appliance repair services in Charleston SC.
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