How Long Do Refrigerators Last?

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Nowadays, the average refrigerator can last for up to 12 years. This, of course, is true if you keep it well maintained and check it over every few months or so. For a better understanding of how long your refrigerator will live and when you should replace or repair it, read below.

Refrigerator Longevity

Twelve years is a long time, especially for an average kitchen appliance like a refrigerator. Once you exceed that point, you should start looking for a replacement, usually one that will be cost-effective and save on energy.

Warning Signs of a Dying Fridge

The best way to avoid issues with your fridge is to get ahead of them when you notice them. If these problems occur in your old fridge, then it’s cheaper if you get a replacement rather than throw money at repairs, whether DIY or professional. Some warning signs of your refrigerator dying include:

Hot Exterior

Refrigerators should never be hot to the touch, especially on the outside. While the motor does generate heat when it runs, that heat should always be contained to the coils that run behind the motor, rather than the interior or exterior of the fridge. If you feel that heat on the outside, then it is a sign of a faulty motor or that your refrigerator coils have stopped working.

Food Is Spoiling Quickly

If your refrigerator has kept your food well in check beforehand and you start to notice signs of spoiled food all of a sudden, you may be experiencing a dying fridge. Call in a repairman to assess the damage, and if the fridge is on its last legs, immediately think about getting a replacement.

Exterior Condensation

Another issue is if you notice condensation on the outside of your refrigerator.

The fridge is made of five compartments, all of which work together to keep the set temperatures within the cooling compartments (the fridge itself and the top component, which is usually the freezer).

If one or more of these systems are failing, then you will likely see condensation spreading on the exterior door of the refrigerator. This is one of the worst signs, as it means the motor is working itself too hard to keep the temperatures down. If this happens, replace the refrigerator immediately.

Tips for Refrigerator Maintenance

Luckily, there is a way to tackle these issues before you get them. You can easily do this by:

Cleaning the Inside Regularly

Cleaning your fridge is a simple and timely way to reduce odors, keep your food stock rotating, and save you money by reducing spoiled leftovers. To clean out your fridge, simply turn off the unit, remove food and any interior shelving, and clean these thoroughly and separately. Temporarily store foods in a cooler so that, while you clean, they can keep their temperature.

You should be using a concentrate of one quart of warm water (not hot, as this can raise the temperature of the fridge) and two tablespoons of baking soda. Rinse with clean water in a bucket, using a disposable rag or sponge.

Then, turn the unit back on and replace all shelves and foods back to their rightful place. Assess foods, particularly ones prone to spoilage, for any issues.

Cleaning Out the Coil Yearly

Every refrigerator has a condenser coil, which works by releasing heat and keeping your food cold. Pet fur, dust, and other debris can get into these coils, clogging them and preventing your fridge from working properly. This forces your condenser coil to work harder than normal. Not only can it cut your refrigerator’s life short; it can leave you with higher bills to pay.

To clean your coils, simply:

  • Find them either at the back of the fridge or underneath a pop-up panel, usually located under the fridge. 
  • Vacuum them out yearly.
  • Additionally, if your condenser coils are underneath the refrigerator, you should be equipped with a condenser fan next to it. Clean these as well.

Checking and Cleaning Seals and Gaskets

The seals and gaskets of your refrigerator are an overlooked but important part of maintenance. Like the condenser coils, they, too, keep the cool temperatures in by releasing heat. As you clean the seals and gaskets with vinegar on a damp rag or sponge, check them over for wear and tear.

Common signs of a faulty gasket or seal include:

  • Cracks
  • Brittle feel
  • Lack of firmness on door seals (lack of grip)

If you see any excessive damage, then you should replace the seals and gaskets as soon as you can.

Checking the Temperature

Often we assume that the refrigerator stays at the correct temperature but neglect to see if it is at the correct temperature to begin with. Fridges should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This ensures food and beverages are kept well for longer, making them safe to eat or keep without spoils.

Keep tabs on the temperature in your refrigerator and check the exterior every now and then to make sure it never runs warm. Warm refrigerators, like we discussed above, are a major sign of a failing motor. Motors are generally hard to replace, as they are a larger scale repair, so it is best to replace your whole refrigerator if you sense a warm exterior.

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