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Maintain your fridge/freezer

Efficiency affects Cost.

Your Fridge/Freezer works hard and without routine maintenance can become inefficient and consume more energy than it is supposed to.

For example, if your door gasket leaks or the door does not shut properly, your refrigerator has to work harder, and use more energy, to keep the contents cold.  Similarly, if you don’t have the correct temperature setting, or the thermostat is broken either the food will not be kept cold enough and bacteria can form, or you will be running the motor too long and burning more energy.

The coils at the back and underneath your appliance are some of the components used to remove the heat from the inside.  If the air cannot flow freely around these coils, because of build-up of dirt, dust or dog and cat hairs, again you are using more energy to keep the system cold, and the fridge could fail earlier than expected.

If your appliance is a fridge/freezer combination then it will have a series of drain holes and possibly internal fans to extract moisture and move the air.   Allowing these to become blocked or cover in ice, again reduces the efficiency of the appliance and causes it to use more energy.

More energy = more money out of your pocket, so it is important to conduct routine maintenance on it.

cut-out of fridge
Vacuum condenser coils

For most refrigerators, the heat exchanger coils are underneath the refrigerator, and for some models they are along the back of the refrigerator.
For models with coils underneath, there is an access at the front of the refrigerator at the bottom. This panel pops off, and allows you to clean the heat exchange coils using one of your vacuum cleaner attachments.

As the coils become covered with dust, the dust acts as insulation, making it harder for the coils to exchange heat, which therefore makes your refrigerator have to work harder, costing more to operate, and reducing its service life.

Since the kitchen is a “high-traffic” area, a lot of dust will tend to accumulate under your refrigerator as rising heat causes air to be drawn past the heat exchanger coils.

If you have cats and/or dogs as pets you may want to make this a quarterly task, as clogged coils serious impair the efficiency of your appliance.

Clean and check door gasket.

Check the door gasket for cracks, breaks, or brittleness, and replace as necessary. To test the seal that the door gasket makes: close the refrigerator door on a piece of paper; if the paper can be pulled out too easily, then warm air can get into the refrigerator; repeat the procedure at four or five locations around the door, and the same for the freezer section if this has a separate door; if the paper slips out too easily, you probably need to replace the gasket. Clean door gasket with a mild detergent solution; rinse and clean.

Defrost the appliance and give it a thorough clean out.

To clean, turn off the refrigerator and empty. Remove all food and the interior parts that can be removed. Wash the inside compartment with a solution of 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Rinse and wipe dry. Follow your manufacture’s instructions for cleaning plastic drawers, shelves, etc. Otherwise, wash with a mild detergent , or the baking soda and water solution. NEVER use abrasives like scouring pads, as these can scratch plastic surfaces. Be careful not to use hot water, as this can crack cold glass on plastic parts.
The reason for doing this in January?   It’s cold outside and food moved into a cool box will stay fresh and frozen longer in sub-zero temperatures.

De-frost/clean freezer and ice-maker.

Never let frost in freezer build-up more than 1/4″. Do not use metal or sharp instruments to scrape off frost, as a slip could cause damage to the inside of the freezer. Clean inside with a solution of baking soda and water. Clean any mineral deposits from the automatic ice-maker, if applicable. Defrosting helps improve the energy efficiency.

Clean drain hole and drip

Refrigerators typically have a drain hole and a drip pan to catch water condensation. According to your manufacture’s recommendations, clean any food particles or deposits out of the drain hole. Clean the drip pan in soapy water to prevent bad odors.

Change water filter (if applicable)

If your refrigerator has an automatic ice-maker or chilled water dispenser, then you may also have a water filter in the water supply line. The filter in this line should be changed out in accordance with your manufacturer’s recommendation.

Adjust front support feet

If the doors of your refrigerator do not close by themselves (or close too quickly) then adjust the support feet appropriately. Doors left open obviously require more energy to operate.

Check inside temperature

Turn your refrigerator back on and return all the contents.  (Remove ice buildup from packages etc before replacing them in the appliance.  Use either a special refrigerator thermometer or, place sensing end of an outdoor-type thermometer in a glass of water that has been in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (simply putting a thermometer on a shelf in the refrigerator doesn’t sense a true temperature reading).

If the temperature is below 40°F, then move your refrigerator’s temperature control up a notch. Repeat the procedure until the thermometer reads 40°F.