How to Triple the Lifespan of a Refrigerator

Perform these quick, once-a-year home-maintenance tasks to add life to your cooling kitchen appliance.

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    A refrigerator with a clean condenser coil will release heat more efficiently, operate with less strain on the mechanical parts, and draw less current.

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Perform these quick, once-a-year home-maintenance tasks, and you can actually triple the lifespan of a refrigerator. 

According to Leroy Richter, former director of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco-Village and refrigeration and heating instructor at a local technical school, proper maintenance of a modern refrigerator can extend the lifespan of a refrigerator from barely longer than the 5year warranty period to 15 or even 20 years. But wait. You say you have an old one out in the garage that's gone 30 years without a bit of attention? Why shouldn't your new fridge — the convenient side-by-side with ice maker — last at least that long?

How to Triple the Lifespan of a Refrigerator

Since AC power became widely available in the '30s, the vapor-compression refrigerator has changed quite a bit. Much of this evolution has been aimed at making the appliance more convenient and attractive — not more efficient or reliable — by relocating the condenser coil. Refrigeration is the process of removing heat from the inside of a box and expelling it through condenser tubes into the surrounding air. Until shortly after World War II, most refrigerators had their condensers on top — the beehive design — and were equipped with fans. Because hot air rises, this was a pretty logical place to put the condenser. Then, from around 1945 to 1965, condensers were usually mounted on the back of the box. As long as the condenser wasn't backed directly against a wall, airflow was adequate to sweep the heat away.

You may have noticed, though, that the condensers of most new refrigerators are no longer on top or in back. They're now underneath, a very convenient but inefficient and problematic location. Not only does hot air tend to rise and flow around the refrigerator's cabinet, heating the contents, but the horizontal condenser is almost completely dependent on the fan for heat exchange and also is quite likely to accumulate dust.

The most expensive component of a refrigerator is the compressor. And, according to Leroy, the most common reason for premature compressor failure is overheating resulting from inadequate airflow around the condenser. There is little doubt in his mind that many people are paying a high price for the "modern" appearance of a bottom-mounted condenser.

Without any maintenance at all, a new bottom-mount-condenser refrigerator will run with no problems through the five-year warranty period and then will be likely to conk out in the sixth or seventh year. "However, if just once a year, you'll take the time to clean the accumulated dust off the coil, you can prevent compressor failure and extend the life of your refrigerator to 10 to 15 — maybe even 20 — years," Richter explains.

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So let's say someone cares more about safety and durability of their fridge or freezer, THEN do they even have any options nowadays to purchase a fridge or freezer that has its coils on the back exposed like the older ones? Also were those older models with their coils exposed, safer for an environment that has animals and children around it? And with all that being said, then I guess the chances and risks of the modern bottom coils designs to blow up or start fires is higher than their older back coils counterparts? Any ways to prevent that when all we can buy are the bottom coils ones? Thank you! This was a very educational and informative read! Personally, I just bought a new fridge and a new freezer because my fridge broke down all together and has been repaired twice before too and it was heating up so bad that we legit were scared of it blowing up and brining the house down. That's a Samsung with bottom coils that seriously let us down and is more than 20 years of age and has been extremely noisy for the past 5 years. The freezer that's an old Bosch (not frost-free but then again, if a freezer offered high levels of safety and durability I had no problem defrosting it manually from time to time) is now more than 40 years old and while it hasn't had any real problems at all and has had solid performance, its coils that's on its back are now rusting and recently there has been mild unusual noises coming from it during the summer that got us a bit concerned about its safety. So eventually we just gave in and decided to buy a new fridge and freezer which not going to lie, has been a massive damage to the household's finances and savings. We had to go for Samsung again but they're both the new bottom coils ones and despite never having asked for it, the fridge has one of those water cooler thingies too that we are planning to keep it disabled since that's not needed and we thought that might help make the fridge's workload a tiny bit lighter. And I agree with those who say it's impossible to clean the coils when they're at the bottom and basically closed off. Just took a look inside the dead Samsung one's coils and fan and they're all pitch black from what seems to be legit sticky moist soot! There's no way any vacuum could clean those no matter how close I managed to get the vacuum to it! I'm really confused (and considering the financial strains, pretty pissed off) about why now we're forced to choose and pay for products that are designed to offer less durability and safety to us and can just hope that there was an actual reason why these coils are now at the bottom. The thought of me having to again pay massive prices in about 7 years to replace a broken fridge or freezer only because the coils are now at the bottom is kinda frightening.

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