Refrigerator FAQ

Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to all the Refrigerator FAQ (frequently asked questions) you might have with regard to the purchase of a new refrigerator, you might also have a desire to know a few basics. So, here are a few of the most common questions we get.

Refrigerator FAQ

(Click on any question below to skip directly to that answer.)

1) How does a refrigerator work?

2) What is a refrigerator's ideal temperature?

3) What does the fan in a fridge accomplish?

4) Why does frost form in a refrigerator?

5) How does a frost-free refrigerator work?

6) How do I get rid of an odor in my refrigerator?

7) What does painting the back of a refrigerator black do?

8) Can I recycle my old refrigerator?

9) How do I go about Saving Food in a Power Outage?

10) Why do refrigerators make noise?

1. How does a refrigerator work?

A refrigerator essentially works because of the properties of compressed gas. The compressor compresses the refrigerant gas which raises the pressure of the chemical refrigerant. It also raises the temperature. The heat exchanging coil that sits on the outside the refrigerator the allows the refrigerant to dissipate this excess heat caused by the pressurization which is why you feel heat coming from from the vent.

As the refrigerant cools, it condenses into a liquid. The liquid then flows into an expansion valve which allows it to move from high pressure to low pressure zone. This process forces it to expand and evaporate and in the same way that sweat keeps us cool in the summers, as the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat which makes it cold.

There are inside the refrigerator which allow the refrigerant to absorb heat. This absorption process makes the inside of the refrigerator very cold. This cycle will repeat tima and time again until the desired temperature (set by the user) is reached.

2. What is a refrigerator's ideal temperature?

The answer to this Refrigerator FAQ is that a refrigerator's purpose is to keep certain foods fresh by keeping them cold. A refrigerator extends the life of meats, dairy and produce for a few days or weeks. A refrigerator should be cold but not too cold or else it could potentially freeze the contents. The ideal temperature for most residential use refrigerators is between 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Here's some help for Why Refrigerator Is Not Cooling)

3. What does the fan in a fridge accomplish?

Most refrigerators today have 2 fans. There is one located under the refrigerator which helps to cool the compressor. It also forces air through the exterior refrigerator coils. The second fan is on the inside of the refrigerator. It's purpose is force air to move around the coils which improves the cooling efficiency. Should you not have a frost free refrigerator, you'll find that this fan is also helpful with the defrosting process.

4. Why does frost form in a refrigerator?

This is a very common refrigerator FAQ because so many of us have this problem. The reason why it happens is due to water vapor hitting cold coils and then frost forms. Just like the steam from your breath on a cold window, the water vapor condenses and turns into water. As the water condenses onto the coils, it freezes and thus forms a layer of frost.

5. How does a frost-free refrigerator work?

With the exception of a number of compact refrigerator models, most of today's refrigerator models are frost-free. There are essentially three basic parts:

  • The Timer

  • The Temperature Sensor

  • The Heating Coil

A timer is set to turn on the heating coil at varying intervals. The heating coil is wrapped among the freezer coils and as it turns on, it melts the ice off the freezer coils. As the ice is removed, the temperature sensor will sense that the temperature has risen above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point it will send out a signal which turns off the heater.

6. How do I get rid of an odor in my refrigerator?

You might find that there are times where no matter how many boxes of baking soda you add to your refrigerator, there's nothing you can do to remove an unpleasant odor. The best way answer this refrigerator FAQ for you to follow this step by step process:

  • Start by removing all items from the refrigerator. You may want to be sure to remove the items from the freezer as well as something in there might also be a culprit.

  • Throw away any spoiled foods. This might seem like a given, but take a close look at the food in the fridge and be sure that it hasn't gone bad. This applies to more than just a few bags of fruits and veggies. Open the jars, bottles, leftovers and all drawers. You might be surprised what you find.

  • Clean the shelving. Many refrigerators have spill guard shelves which allow you to take them out and wash them in the sink. Also remove any other parts that are meant to be removed. Hand wash these items with hot soapy water. Do not place them in the dishwasher as many of these parts are not meant to be exposed to great amounts of heat and could melt or warp.

  • Wash the door gasket with hot soapy water. Use a mild detergent (dish soap) and be sure you rinse the area well once you're done because any leftover soap residue could keep the door from closing properly.

  • Be sure to wash the interior walls and the door liner. Using a clean sponge and a solution of 2-4 teaspoonfuls of baking soda mixed with 1 quart of hot water, clean the entire interior of the refrigerator including the exteriors of the vent and the light. Wipe dry after you're finished and leave the door open for a bit to air dry.

  • For stubborn odors, try spreading a box of baking soda out on a couple of cookie sheets and place them on the top and bottom shelves of the fridge. This often will help to absorb any additional odors.

If you've tried everything listed above and still find that the odors are still present, then unfortunatley, it may have penetrated its way into the insulation. Only a skilled professional can replace the insulation, so you may need to contact a repairman to get an estimate. (Though hopefully the answer to this refrigerator FAQ will help prevent your having to call in for help.)

7. Why is the back of a refrigerator painted black?

If you've ever stood out in the hot sun wearing a black shirt, you know that black is excellent at absorbing heat. But because it works well as a heat radiator as well it is the perfect color for all external refrigeration coils.

8. Can I recycle my old refrigerator?

This is the most common Green Refrigerator FAQ we get asked and the answer is yes, you can recycle your old refrigerator! Most refrigerators are up to 95% recyclable. You can recycle everything from the glass and plastic shelving to the rubber gaskets on the door. For more information on recycling programs in your area that might take your old fridge off your hands, go to:

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What Other Visitors Have Responded

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