Like many large appliances, the money invested in a refrigerator can be a significant amount. Since you’ve spent so much on the appliance, it makes sense to do what you can to take care of it and avoid expensive repairs. While there are some tasks that most people will remember to do when completing fridge maintenance, many people forget to clean the refrigerator coils regularly.
The process of cleaning refrigerator coils may sound like a complicated one, best suited for professional repair and maintenance technicians. Actually, the process of cleaning these coils is simple and will take about an hour of your time, perhaps less once you get used to the process. To help with the process of cleaning refrigerator coils, it helps to get the basics on how a fridge works.
Workings of a Fridge
A fridge and an air conditioner work in similar ways. The most obvious difference is that the air conditioner cools your home and a fridge cools the smaller area of the inside of your fridge. Both appliances use five key components.
– Expansion valve
– Condenser coils
– Evaporator coils
These five components work together to convert liquid into gas during a process known as phase conversion where the gas absorbs the heat. A fridge’s phase conversion process continually forces liquid (a chemical based refrigerant called tetrafluoroethane [HFC] in most modern fridges) through system cooling coils. Older refrigerators used a refrigerant most commonly known as Freon, which was discovered to be harmful to the environment.
A compressor pressurizes the HFC which heats up as it’s compressed. This gets directed through the condenser coils at the back or bottom of a fridge and then through evaporative coils on the inside of the fridge where the gas is cooled, converting to liquid as it gets cooled and absorbs the heat inside the fridge. The liquid flows through an expansion valve where it returns to gas through a process called vaporization. The compressor sucks up this gas and the process is repeated.
Cleaning Refrigerator Coils
The first step to any refrigerator maintenance is to turn off the unit. This can be done by simply turning off the refrigerator. For maximum safety, it’s suggested to turn off the breaker to the unit to so that there’s no chance of an electrical current going through the fridge. Next shut off the water valve if your fridge has an ice maker or waterspout.
You’ll need to move the fridge next so that you have access to the condenser coils. It’s a good idea to lay down some old towels or a drop cloth to protect your floor from scratches and fluid drips.
The appliance repair expert in San Diego County know that the condenser coils can be found either behind the unit or underneath it. You may find a panel covering the coils or they may be exposed, depending on the age of the fridge. The panel will be easy to remove with a screwdriver. If you’re not sure where the coils are located, the manufacturer guide book or website will provide a diagram of the fridge and its various parts which can be used to help locate the condenser coils.
Bottom lying coil panels can be cleaned with a long wired brush inserted between each layer and moved back and forth over the surface of the coils. While you’re there cleaning the coils, brush over the condenser fan too. The condenser fan is a unit that blows air onto the coils. Follow the same steps, if cleaning coils from the back. Keep a vacuum handy to collect any stirred dust. Once you’re finished cleaning, replace any parts you’ve removed and push your unit back into place.