Kitchen & Cooking

Study: Your refrigerator might die this summer

Don’t worry—there’s something you can do about it.

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Between the warm temperatures and backyard barbecues, there’s plenty to celebrate in July. But did you know that it’s also the month your appliances are most likely to fail? A report published by appliance repair company Puls concludes that July is the busiest month for appliance repairs, followed closely by June and August. May and September are right behind them. As the temperatures rise, the number of appliance repairs increases—and refrigerators struggle more than the others as things heat up.

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Credit: Getty Images / AndreyPopov

Summer is tough on refrigerators.

Why is summer tough on your refrigerator?

Puls’s Dieb Shetayh, who has over 15 years of appliance repair experience, says that summer can be hard on your refrigerator for some surprising reasons. “Summertime brings families together and that means more food, more fun, more of everything,” Shetayh says. “The increased use can sometimes push appliances past their breaking point."

According to James Granado, another appliance repair technician at Puls, “Just like an air conditioning unit in a home, your refrigerator has to work harder to keep the contents inside cold on a hot day. That puts stress on the compressor, which is the mechanism in the refrigerator that actually cools everything. If it is not working, your refrigerator will not cool properly.”

Granado points out that your refrigerator’s icemaker can be subject to additional stress at this time of year. “People are also more likely to get ice for drinks or to fill coolers during the summer months,” he says.

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Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton

The icemaker is a common point of failure for refrigerators.


And while you might be able to ask your family to go easy on the ice, your refrigerator may fail in the summer for reasons beyond your control. Summer can mean more thunderstorms, which can create power surges that damage the control board. If that happens, it will almost certainly require a service call.

How cold should my refrigerator actually be?

When your refrigerator isn’t cooling properly, it’s much more than an inconvenience. Both the CDC and FDA say that to reduce the chance of food-borne illness, your refrigerator temperature should always stay below 40°F. A refrigerator motor doesn’t run constantly. During the times that it’s idle, the temperature increases. That’s why it’s actually safer for your refrigerator to average 37°F so that when its temperature fluctuates, it’s still in the safe zone.

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Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton

Don't leave your refrigerator's doors open. Warm temperatures stress the compressor.

How can I troubleshoot my refrigerator problems?

If you suspect that your refrigerator is having an issue, you can troubleshoot some common problems before you call for service.

1. Temperature isn’t cold enough

Everyone needs a refrigerator thermometer, because the digital display may not be accurate. If your thermometer shows that your refrigerator is running warm, unplug the fridge and brush or vacuum the condenser coils. See if that affects the temperature.

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Credit: Reviewed.com

Use a refrigerator thermometer to determine how cold it is inside your refrigerator. Placing the thermometer in a glass of water is a good idea, because it will measure the temperature inside your food, as opposed to the temperature of the air in the fridge.

2. The icemaker stops making ice

Almost anything that goes wrong with the icemaker requires service. Whether the problem is a seized-up motor module, a clogged water inlet valve, a clogged filter, or a problem with the ice-making mechanism, you’ll need a professional repair. One thing you can do yourself: Shut the valve to your home’s water supply so you won’t add a flood to your problems.

3. The refrigerator isn’t running at all

A thunderstorm passing through your area may have damaged the electronic control board. Maybe it has worn-out relays or open circuits. Expect that it has to be replaced. Call a professional.

4. Funny noises are emanating from the fridge

This is another case where the electronic control board could be damaged and in need of replacement. Call a professional.

5. No water or ice is coming out of the dispenser

If you haven't done so lately, change the water filter. If that doesn’t help, a clogged water valve may need replacing. That’s another job for a pro.

Maintaining-refrigerator
Credit: Getty Images / AndreyPopov

You should have your refrigerator maintained annually before summer arrives to put stress on its operation.

How can I prevent summer problems with my refrigerator?

When you’re home, check your refrigerator thermometer frequently and adjust the temperature manually to keep it in the safe zone. If you’re going away this summer, consider leaving the air conditioner on low in your kitchen. That may sound crazy, but remember, the hotter that room gets, the more stress it can put on your refrigerator.

Maintenance is also key. Puls recommends that you schedule a maintenance check every summer. Well, yes, the company is in that business, but it might make sense. Granado says, “Ask your repair technician to check the compressor on the refrigerator to make sure the voltage is right and that the freon level is not too low.”

What if my refrigerator stops working for good?

No matter how well you care for it, eventually your refrigerator will need to be replaced. Average life expectancy for a refrigerator is about 10 years. When you end up needing a new one, look at the best refrigerators we’ve found in our tests. Use our recommendations, your budget, your favorite style, and your feature preferences as a guideline to help you choose the right one. Then, pour yourself a cold drink and enjoy the rest of the summer.