What is Refrigerant?
If your refrigerator is no longer keeping your food cold you may assume it needs more Freon—the trademarked name for liquid refrigerant. However, this assumption may be incorrect because Freon is pressurized inside a closed system. Unless the system has been compromised or damaged, Freon should not leak out.
A warm refrigerator is more often a result of component failure—such as a broken thermostat or faulty condenser—or an electrical issue. Fortunately, you can follow the troubleshooting steps below to see if the refrigerator’s conditions are due to Freon leakage (unlikely) or a problem with another component.
- Verify your refrigerator’s power cord is plugged into an electrical outlet by gently moving the fridge away from the wall and pushing the power cord to ensure it’s seated firmly into the outlet. Over time, vibrations from the fridge can cause the power cord to pull loose.
- Check the circuit breaker to be sure a power spike or overloaded circuit didn’t blow a fuse or trip the circuit. Test the outlet your fridge is plugged into by plugging in a different appliance—such as a hair dryer—and seeing if it powers on. If not, the circuit may need to be reset or the fuse replaced.
- Check the temperature control setting. If the temperature control was turned too high by accident, it might appear as if the refrigerator is not working. NOTE: The fridge should be set to 37° F (4°C) or lower, and the freezer should be set to 0° F (-18° C) to inhibit the growth of illness-causing bacteria.
- Ensure the fridge is not overstocked OR understocked. When items are removed from a refrigerator, cool air falls out and is replaced with warm, moist air forcing the fridge to work hard to re-cool the compartment. Likewise, overloading your refrigerator with boxes and containers can block the fan in the back of the compartment and restrict airflow.
- Open and release the door to check that it closes on its own. Refrigerator doors use gravity to help keep the door closed. If the door does not close on its own, the door’s weight can put pressure on the seal and allow warm air to seep in. To fix this, adjust the leveling feet on the fridge so the front of the refrigerator is angled higher than the back.
- Check the gasket—the flexible strip sitting between the fridge door and the compartment—to be sure it does not have cracks, loose adhesive, holes, or gaps. Replace damaged gaskets.
- Check your owner’s manual for space requirements and make sure your refrigerator has sufficient clearance around the back, walls, and bottom. Insufficient clearance can cause components to overheat.
- Check condenser coils on the back of the fridge for dust or debris. Dirty coils force the refrigerator to work harder to maintain its temperature and over time the fridge may lose the ability to stay cold. Check your owner’s manual for the location and cleaning instructions of the coils.
- Check the evaporator and condenser fans. If one or both are dirty or malfunctioning, they may make a loud buzzing or whirring noise.
- A dirty or faulty capacitor—this stores the electrical charge needed to start the compressor—may make a clicking sound when the compressor tries to start. The only way to test for a capacitor malfunction is with a multimeter. Day & Night Mechanical Solutions’ trained technicians carry multimeters and can perform this and other checks—compressor, thermistor, start relay, defrost timer, and defrost heater.
Checking the Freon
If you’ve ruled out potential problems in the troubleshooting steps above, follow these steps to see if your refrigerator is low on Freon:
- Turn off the fridge and icemaker by turning the temperature control to Off, unplugging the unit from the wall outlet, or switching off the circuit at the circuit breaker box.
- Listen. With your ear pressed to the refrigerator, you should hear a faint hissing or gurgling noise. The Freon will hiss and gurgle through the fridge’s capillary tubes as the pressure equalizes within the system. If you do not hear the hiss and gurgle, you may be low on Freon.
Recharging the Freon
An insufficient supply of Freon indicates a leak in the system that must be repaired by a trained technician before adding additional Freon. Freon is a hazardous gas and inhaling gas can cause respiratory difficulty, burns, brain damage, or even death.
NOTE: Do not recharge the Freon on your own. If you suspect a Freon leak, look to the experts at Day & Night Mechanical Solutions with 20+ years of experience.