Are you stressed because your refrigerator is not cooling food properly? Well, it could be a sign that the fridge’s condenser coils are dirty.
But you need not worry much because this is a common refrigeration problem that you could quickly solve. Before you call the repair guy, try cleaning the condenser coils and see whether the problem will be solved.
The step-by-step guide below will assist you on how to clean refrigerator coils for maximum fridge efficiency and a longer lifespan.
What You Need to Do Before Cleaning
If you have a refrigerator model manufactured after 2001, check whether it has a NeverClean™ Condenser. If it does, you do not need to clean the coils because they are located in an area that does not require you to clean them.
So if the food is not cooling food properly, you need to call in a technician to diagnose the problem with your fridge.
If you have a small kitchen space, likely, the fridge is also located near other electronic appliances. If you are not careful, you may end up damaging other appliances with water as you clean refrigerator coils.
So before you start to clean the coils, ensure that you have enough space and that all other appliances around the fridge are covered with plastic paper sheets.
You also need to ensure that you:
- Wear Proper Safety Gear
- Come Prepared With the Proper Equipment
- Dilute Cleaners Appropriately
- Inspect Coils Before and After Cleaning
- Prep the Space to Prevent Damage
Steps on How to Clean Refrigerator Coils
What You’ll Need
You should be prepared with these essentials when cleaning the condenser coils:
- Gloves and Eye Protection
- Drop Cloths
- Rags or Towels
- Soft Coil Brush
- Wet/Dry Vacuum
Step 1: Unplug the Fridge
It is always advisable to disconnect the wall and pull out the power cord before cleaning. Keeping the fridge running while you clean could cause electrocution.
If you are afraid that your food could get warm during the cleaning process, you could put the most perishable foodstuffs in the freezer. But this may not be necessary because the cleaning process is quick.
Step 2: Pull the Fridge Away from the Wall
Gently pull the refrigerator at least 1 meter away from the wall to access the coils. This will allow you to access the coils and give you plenty of room to clean them. Your fridge probably has wheels, so this should not be a difficult task, but you need to do it slowly so you don’t damage your floor.
Step 3: Locate the Condenser Coil
Condenser coils are u-shaped metal tubes located at the bottom of the fridge or back of the refrigerator. If you have an older model, you should find the exposed coils mounted at the back of the refrigerator.
If your model is more recent, the coils are located at the back of the fridge behind the rear access panel or the bottom of the fridge behind the toe space panel. There is a toe guard at the front of the unit that can easily be removed to access the coils.
Step 4: Access the Condenser Coil
If the coils aren’t at the back, unclamp the bottom panel on the fridge—Unsnap the panel to remove it and place it in a safe place. You could also lift it slightly before pulling it out to remove it with more ease.
Step 5: Scrap the Dirt Out with a Brush
Using a soft brush, gently scrape the dust and dirt from the coils. This process will agitate most of the dirt on the coils. You can use a wire brush or a toothbrush to scrape the dirt above, below, and between the coils.
You could also use a coil condenser brush, which is about 10 dollars in most DIY stores. It measures approximately 27 inches long and has a cylindrical design that quickly allows you to work your way between the coil grid.
Use a flashlight to see areas that still have clumps of dust and remove them. As you dislodge the dirt, be firm but cautious not to damage the coils.
Step 6: Suck the Remaining Dust and Dirt with a Vacuum
Hold the narrow end of the vacuum cleaner nozzle close to the brush with the other hand and suck in the remaining dust with the vacuum as you dislodge it with the brush.
However, if the coils are at the refrigerator base, alternate brushing the debris and sucking it up with the vacuum.
Move the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner over the coils and suck the remaining grime. Use the narrow vacuum attachment to reach all the crannies and the nooks of the coils before vacuuming under the refrigerator.
Repeat the process of brushing and vacuuming until all the dirt is removed.
Step 7: Clean it off with a Duster.
Take a piece of dump cloth and shove it between the coils. It will remove the remaining grease, grim dust, and pet hair that could be clinging to the refrigerator condenser.
Pass the vacuum cleaner over the condenser one last time and use a flashlight to ensure that all the debris has been removed.
Step 8: Replace the Panel and Plugin
Once the coils are clean, replace the panel onto the fridge by pushing it back to position. Clean the area that the refrigerator was positioned and then move it back to its place. Ensure that you leave an inch or half an inch between the wall and the appliance for air circulation.
Clean the outer surface of the fridge in case it got dirty, and then plug it in and turn the power back on. Include this quick cleaning session in your routine cleaning twice a year.
Note: Although it’s recommended that you clean your refrigerator condenser at least once or twice a year, if your refrigerator is located close to an area that is dusty or if you have pets that shed, it’s advisable to clean the condenser more often.
Results After Cleaning
After cleaning, the efficiency of the appliance will be much higher. The refrigerator will cool much better, and the system will be slightly low in the refrigerant. The fridge will also perform better in terms of wattage consumed, so you can expect to spend much less on electricity bills.
Common Challenges to Cleaning Refrigerator Condenser Coils
The objective of cleaning refrigerator condenser coils is to restore the entire operation capacity of the appliance. Hence, when cleaning the refrigerator coils, make sure not to:
- Removing Factory Coatings
- Damaging the Fins
- Harming Techs or Occupants with Chemicals
- Causing Damage from Water or Chemical Runoff
Why do You Need to Clean Refrigerator Coils
This section discusses reasons why it’s essential to clean refrigerator coils. Refrigerator coils have two primary functions, heat transfer and airflow. Both of these functions enhance the efficiency of the refrigerator.
When your appliance is not cooling foodstuffs well enough, it’s because the filthy condenser coils are obstructing heat transfer and airflow in and out of the fridge.
Common Problems related to Filthy refrigerator condenser coils include:
- High Compression Ratio
- High Head Pressure
- Compressor Overload
- Compressor Wear
- Low Capacity
- Poor Efficiency
The refrigerator coils transfer the heat from the fridge to the surrounding air using fins attached to the tubing. These fins assist in moving the heat by adding surface area through which hot air contacts the metal as it passes by.
Condenser coils are often made of copper, aluminum, or an allow. These types of metal have good thermal conductivity; hence heat moves quickly through them.
When the refrigerator coils get a coating of dirt over time, it acts as a thermal insulator. The dirt impedes the movement of the heat in and out of the coils, thereby causing the fridge to overheat.
This happens because heat moves from the coils to the dirt via conduction. Dirt has a low thermal conductivity and a high resistance to heat. Hence, the overheating resulting from this malfunction impacts its performance because it cannot keep the optimum temperature.
Over time, dust and other debris block off the refrigerator coils, causing a substantial drop in air pressure across the coil. This drop-in air pressure is mainly caused by a decline in airflow over the coils.
Filthy condenser coils also cause higher consumption on the motor, although this depends on the type of fan and motor. Some refrigerator condensers have axial fan blades with fixed single-speed AC motors.
This type of fan and motor blade is significantly impacted by the increase in air resistance, which is also called static pressure, which results from obstructed airflow. As the refrigerator coils get dirtier, it reduces the amount of air that the motor moves, causing low heat transfer and less refrigerator efficiency.
A dirty appliance is often less efficient than a clean appliance. Dirt inhibits the movement of heat from the fridge to the outside surrounding. This inhibited movement of energy causes compressors, motors, and pumps to overwork to compensate for this deficiency.
Cleaning refrigerator coils is therefore crucial for maintaining the peak performance of your appliance. Energy loss before cleaning is often between 10 to 37% depending on the refrigerator model and level of dirt.
Increase the efficiency and performance capacity of your appliance by following these easy steps on how to clean refrigerator coils.