How to Clean Refrigerator Coils
Refrigerators have probably done more to positively impact the modern kitchen than any other appliance. Largely unappreciated until they fail, they need only a minimal amount of maintenance to run effectively. This maintenance mostly consists of a simple cleaning of the condenser coil at 12 month (or less) intervals. This is very important, but is quickly and easily performed in an hour or less.
Disconnect.Shut off the circuit breaker, remove the fuse or slide the refrigerator away from the wall as needed to remove the refrigerator's plug from the electrical outlet. Shut off water supply lines if equipped with ice maker or water dispenser.
Locate the condenser coil.There are two sets of coils for cooling appliances like refrigerators, they are called the evaporator3and condenser1coils. Overly simplified, the two coils are filled with gas and liquid respectively, and are parts of a complex "circuit" that has a compressor4and expansion valve2that perform the work. The gas filled evaporator coil is located in the space to be cooled, and performs the task byabsorbing heatfrom that space. It is usually protected from damage and out of view inside the freezer section. The "heated" gas is compressed by the compressor, where it is further heated (hot to the touch) by the compression process. The heated compressed gas and liquid is passed through the condenser coil that is located away from the cooled space. This condenser coil is where some of the heat in the liquid is released to the ambient air. The cooled liquid is then drawn through theexpansion valveby the suction of the compressor, where the liquid immediately boils off to a gas. This causes the temperature of the gas to drop significantly (well below freezing) in the evaporator coil. The process repeats until the thermostat in the space is satisfied.Because the condenser coil is exposed to the ambient air on the refrigerator, it requires regular cleaning. There are a few locations that the condenser coil may be found:
- Older refrigeratorshave the coil (a grid-like structure often painted black) mounted on the rear of the refrigerator.
- Newer refrigerators often locate the condenser coil at the bottom. It is likely that a fan (that may or may not be readily visible) will be directed at the coil to assist with heat dissipation. Use a flashlight to assist locating the coil and fan if needed. The coil will be accessible from one of two places:
- Toe space panel. Remove the panel at the bottom of the front of the refrigerator and carefully slide the condensate tray out (if present, the condensate tray may contain water). A visual inspection upward into this space may reveal a flat condenser coil when located here.
- Rear access panel. If not found behind the toe space, the refrigerator will have to be slid away from the wall further to work from behind. Disconnect water supply lines if too short to allow enough room to work. Remove the fasteners that holds an access panel in position. The condenser coil may be flat, but will likely be cylindrical in shape when located here.
Disconnect power.Seriously. Make sure the power to the refrigerator is disconnected.
Vacuum the coil.With a plastic crevice or brush attachment, carefully vacuum dirt and dust wherever it is seen. Use care not to damage the fins or coil. A breach created in the coil will allow the refrigerant to escape and will likely result in an expensive repair.
Vacuum the fan.If the fan is visible and accessible, cleaning it will help it move air across the condenser coil as designed. Dirt and dust, if allowed to accumulate on the fan blades, decreases airflow, affects balance and can contribute to early failure of the compressor.
Brush away stubborn dirt and dust.Use a narrow paint brush to gently remove stubborn dirt and dust from the coil and fan if able to get sufficient access.
Slide refrigerator back into position.Plug the refrigerator back into wall outlet. Arrange any water supply lines and power cords so that they will not be kinked or crushed by the refrigerator.
QuestionI can't get the front grill off to clean the vents. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSearch "remove front grill on [name of maker] [model number]" Somebody out there had the same problem and wrote down how he solved it!Thanks!
QuestionHow much the condenser coil cost?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the particular refrigerator, and the store that you are looking for coils at. You can ask them for an estimate, or search on their website to price-compare the coils.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I access the coils when they are located underneath the unit?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake the cardboard panel off the lower rear part of the unit and you will see the fan, compressor, and coil if it is under the unit.Thanks!
QuestionAfter I remove the base grill, how do I clean the grills that aren't in front of the coils when I still see dust?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerUse a condensor brush to gently remove the built-up dust from the coils. A condensor brush is shaped like a very thin Christmas tree. It has a heavy gauge spine to keep it from easily bending when pushed between the coils. The brushes can be found at a hardware or appliance store. Very handy when cleaning time comes.Thanks!
QuestionCan I remove the water that collects in a container at the back of my refrigerator without turning the refrigerator off?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAs long as you don't have to mess with any wiring, yes. If the water container is outside the fastened-on covers, you're good to go. If in doubt, though, unplug the fridge.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I find the coils on my refrigerator?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey are located at the back of refrigerator. They are black in color. They are coiled up like a snake.Thanks!
QuestionThe light is on, but it's not freezing, what could be the problem?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCheck to see that the compressor is running and that the fan is spinning. Secondly, check the thermostat. Thirdly, check to see if the compressor is running and the fan is spinning. Finally, check the coils and see if they are dusty.Thanks!
QuestionWhat would cause my condenser to be very hot?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOften, this is a sign of the fan not working. Check to ensure the fan blades aren't restricted.Thanks!
QuestionWhy is my refrigerator still blowing air after it is unplugged?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis is not possible. Air movement is totally dependent upon electric power. There is no power to the refrigerator when it is unplugged.Thanks!
QuestionMy fridge coil is leaking so I had a new part put in, but that part has begun leaking too. Do I need to clean it or get another fridge?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBased on your post, I would recommend getting a new fridge.Thanks!
My GE refrigerator has a dead smell when turned on. Is the coil the most likely place to find a dead rodent, or could it be in the drain area? Do I have to access the area from the inside.
How do I clean the shoot where the water or ice comes out? It looks disgusting and I can't clean it.
Where are the coils?
How do diagnose a refrigerator that takes too long to freeze food?
How can I dry moisture from evaporator coil?
- If the refrigerator is enclosed in a cabinet frame, check that a gap of 2" is at the top and 0.5" at the sides.
- Increase the frequency of cleanings if located in dusty or dirty areas (garages, basements, etc.) or if pets are owned. Pet hair can collect on the coil and damage the compressor circuit faster than dirt and dust alone.
- Consider placing cardboard on floor to prevent possible damage to the surface when sliding the refrigerator in or out.
- To ensure air is getting to the back of the refrigerator place a piece of wood (2x4 or 2x6) flat on the floor where the back of the fridge will be slid in to place.
- Shutting off water supply lines is usuallynot required(unless being disconnected), but doing so can save time cleaning spilled water if the line should become tangled, caught and ripped from the refrigerator while moving away from the wall.
- Disconnect the plug from the outlet before attempting to clean the coil and fan.
- Be sure to have the area where the refrigerator is well ventilated as dust will fly.
- If you are sensitive to dust use proper protection or ask someone who doesn't have allergies to do this.
- If equipped with an ice maker or water dispenser, take the time to ensure that the water supply line is not ripped from or crushed under the refrigerator when moving out or in.
Things You'll Need
Vacuum cleaner with hose & attachments.
Simple hand tools
Narrow paint brush
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