Repair or Replace – Can Your Fridge Be Fixed or is it Kaput?
Leaks, constant running, or just broken — here’s how to tell if it’s time for a technician or a new fridge.
Your refrigerator can cost money in more ways than just repairs, especially if it is several years old. Older models are less power efficient. Put simply, your old fridge may be the reason your electricity bill is high.
When it comes to problems with your fridge, there’s not a lot of mystery.
Here are the five most common problems and their likely causes.
#1 Problem: Noisy fridge
A brand new fridge will make some noise, but it shouldn’t be in the category of feeling as though it is going to shimmy out of the kitchen. If your fridge starts making a noise, it could be the build up of ice, a bad fan motor or blade, or even a noisy condenser to blame. It is always good to have your fridge looked at as soon as you notice any strange noises.
Average cost of repair: unfortunately a technician will be required. The cost could spiral from there.
#2 Problem: No water coming out of the dispenser
Press a button and ice cool water flows into your glass without opening the fridge or faffing around with ice cubes — fabulous stuff! Unfortunately water dispensers on older model fridges are often more trouble than they are worth. No water coming out of the dispenser probably means a clogged water filter. Which means you need to clean the filter.
Over time, the water filter in your fridge will collect and store the debris and contaminants it’s designed to filter out. The filter needs to be changed regularly, but it’s not necessarily clear how regularly it needs to be done. Thankfully many newer fridges have a sensor inside the door that tells you when to do it.
Average cost of repair: minimal but there is the hassle involved in changing the filter on a regular basis.
#3 Problem: Constant cycling or running
The refrigerator is already one of the most power-intensive electrical appliances in your home. Allowing it to run more than it should can send your energy bill sky high.
You may find the constant hum of the fridge comforting – like a purring cat – but what it really means is you need to get off the couch and clean your fridge. A peer inside won’t help, this problem requires puling the fridge out from the wall to vacuum off the build-up of debris or dirt on the condenser coils.
Average cost of repair: generally speaking, this should be a quick fix. Unplug the fridge and give the coils, which are usually on the bottom or back of the fridge, a quick vacuum
#4 Problem: Warm fridge
If you are noticing an increasing number of what looks like science experiments in your fridge or a reeking smell every time you open the door, it is possible your fridge may not be as cool as it should be. The first thing to check is the temperature setting inside your fridge. Sometimes a simple adjustment can solve the problem.
If the temperature is set properly but your fridge still isn’t cooling, then there are still some low-cost possibilities. It could just require a clean of the coils with your vacuum or a condenser coil brush.
A more complicated fix involves the fridge seals. If they’re damaged, they can let warm in and cool out. If you have a French Door Fridge or side-by-side fridge, then check both doors carefully for cracks or small areas of damage. Checking and replacing seals is time consuming but simple, and there are plenty of tutorials to help you reseal your fridge on the internet. You can even buy universal seals for most old models.
However, if the seals are fine, it might be a blockage or another more serious problem involving the motor or thermostat, both costly fridge parts.
Average cost of repair: if you’re lucky, it’s one of the DIY fixes above, but if you’re not, it could cost you big bucks. For blockages, motor and thermostat problems, a professional technician will be required to solve the problem and replacement fridge parts can be expensive and hard to source.
#5 Problem: Water leaks
Water pooling under fridge doesn’t look good. But, while it is one of the most annoying problems, it is also potentially the easiest and cheapest to fix.
Water leakage is typically due to one of two problems — a blocked or clogged defrost drain or water line. This happens when food particles or other debris clogs up the hose, which can lead to ice build up and eventually water leaking out of the freezer and refrigerator.
Average cost of repair: with a bit of elbow grease this problem should be easily fixed.
The cost of repairing vs a new purchase
Sometimes the problems are ones you can live with, like shelves that could do with replacing, but are good enough for now. Other times, they’re more significant, like smart appliances that aren’t looking so clever. It’s up to you to decide what you can live with and then embark on either fridge repairs or kitchen appliance shopping.
Remember, your fridge is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your house. As technology improves over time, there is an argument that repairing an old fridge will cost you more money than purchasing a new one.
For example, a 1986-era 510-litre fridge uses 1400kWh of power a year, while a modern energy-efficient model uses only 350kWh — an astounding 75% reduction.
Today’s models use less energy than older refrigerators and, since they are on all the time, a new one can save you money in the long run. Replacing a 1992 fridge with a modern high Energy Star-rated model could save $1800 in electricity costs over the useful life of the fridge.
Refrigerators and freezers have been required to display an energy label since 1986 in Australia. Since 1999, these home appliances must meet minimum energy efficiency levels.
The Energy Rating Label tells you how much energy a refrigerator or freezer uses per year and gives you a star rating that allows you to compare its efficiency to refrigerators or freezers of the same size and type.
As a result of these laws, refrigerators and freezers are now 70 per cent more efficient than they were 30 years ago.
You can calculate your own potential savings by using an Energy Rating calculator on the Energy Rating website — a cross government initiative. The calculator is designed to provide an estimate of the running costs and energy consumption of your current refrigerator or freezer.
It might just be the push you need to send you into the consumer electronics aisles.
#HisenseHack: Fridges are one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your house. Odds are that repairing an old fridge will cost you more money in the long term than purchasing a new one. Find a new fridge that’s right for you.
Kelly has been writing about technology for more than 15 years - since the dot-com boom! She loves sunny days biking with her boys and a good glass of pinot noir whilst snuggling up with a book.
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