Home Improvement

How to Tell if Your Refrigerator Compressor Is Failing

Refrigerators. They are the life of a kitchen and a home.

When people purchase a refrigerator for their home, they expect it to last a long time. The average lifespan for a refrigerator is about 13 years.

When you consider everything that goes into making a refrigerator lasts for as long as possible, you have to consider all of the refrigerator components. One of those components is a refrigerator compressor.

What is a refrigerator compressor? Why is it important for your refrigerator? How can you tell that it is failing?

This is your guide.

What Is a Refrigerator Compressor?

You may not be an expert on home appliances, so you could have no idea what helps a refrigerator run properly. Relax; we are here to help.

Before you can know how to tell that a refrigerator compressor is failing, you have to know what it is. Some call it the heart of the refrigerator.

That is because it is the part of the refrigerator that helps keeps things flowing smoothly, and it controls the environment in which you leave your food and drinks. The job of the compressor is to control the flow of the refrigerant and compress it to make sure that it is operating in a stable environment.

Why the Compressor Fails

Now that you know what a compressor is, it is time to discuss some of the reasons why a refrigerator compressor may fail. Here are some of the most common causes.

Voltage From a Storm

Like with anything else, certain electrical appliances cannot handle a large amount of voltage at one time. If a compressor is used to a certain flow of electricity and all of a sudden gets hit with a high amount of voltage, it may end up overwhelming the compressor.

How does this happen? Typically, a bad lightning storm in your area can be the culprit of it.

People underestimate how many volts a flash of lightning has. It has 300 million volts and 30,000 amps. Compare that to the average home that has 120 volts and 15 amps.

That is why if you have a bad thunderstorm in your area and you think your compressor is vulnerable, you should check on it to make sure that the storm did not damage your compressor.

Dirty Coils

The next thing that you need to think about is if your compressor coils are clean or not. These can either be at the bottom or at the back of your refrigerator.

Keeping these clean can be a big deal because if they have a lot of dirt or dust piled up in it, it can disrupt the airflow of the refrigerator. When that happens, the compressor will start to have to make more and more effort to run properly.

As you can see, when that happens, it is more likely that your compressor will have issues sooner rather than later. This can happen when people are not aware or neglectful of the fact that these coils need to be cleaned once in a while.

If you clean your coils, you can increase the odds of your compressor having a longer life.


Another thing that you need to be aware of when it comes to your refrigerator is the possible outside influence of your compressor. Essentially, if your compressor is exposed to something outside of your refrigerator, that could compromise the integrity of it.

An example can be certain moisture that is leaking inside the refrigerator. That can disrupt the airflow of the refrigerator, wear down your compressor, and cause the refrigerator not to work as it properly should.

Then, you have the possibility of the contamination not causing the right balance of airflow in the refrigerator. If there is too much or too little, then you can cause it to not function properly.

Check on your compressor and make sure that there is no contamination in your refrigerator. If you are not sure or want it fixed, look here for fridge repair.

Wear and Tear

While all of the above problems can be unexpected issues, something that you should expect to happen to your refrigerator is general wear and tear. As described in the introduction, the average refrigerator is expected to last about 13 years.

However, this can be as short as 10 years and as high as 20 years, depending on how you handle wear and tear. If you stay on top of potential issues and fix problems before they become bigger problems, you can minimize the wear and tear that your refrigerator compressor may suffer.

If you are not on top of these issues, you may be shorting the lifespan of your compressor, but there is some good news. Luckily for you, a compressor does not start failing until years after a problem first arises.

With this in mind, it is unlikely to fail if your refrigerator is still new. Rather, it is something that you are going to have to keep in mind when your refrigerator gets older.

Signs of Compressor Failure

So, now you understand what a refrigerator compressor is and some of the top issues that lead to its failure. Now, you need to learn to recognize the signs of refrigerator compressor failure. Here are some of the biggest things that you should look out for.

Noise From Your Refrigerator

Have you ever been out driving on the road, and your car starts to make a noise that it usually does not? You then take it to the mechanic, and they tell you that it was a sign that your engine was failing.

The same concept applies to refrigerator compressors. One of the signs of a bad compressor is that it starts to make a lot of noise that you may not be used to hearing from your refrigerator.

For example, in your refrigerator’s prime, you may be used to it having a humming noise that almost sounds numbing. You could barely notice that the noise is there.

However, a bad noise from your compressor could be loud and distinguishable. It would be difficult to ignore for you.

With that in mind, do not ignore your refrigerator making odd noises. Check it out to see what the issue is.

Turning Off Randomly

Another sign that your compressor may be nearing its end is when it starts to turn off randomly. This can be a bad sign, especially if you do not lose electricity in the rest of your house.

You will start to notice this if you open your refrigerator and realize that no airflow or cooling power is occurring. This can be very bad for you because it can put your food and drinks at risk. It may result in you having to throw a lot of fresh food out.

A compressor that is working properly should not go out randomly if the rest of the house has power. If it does, it could mean that your compressor is starting to near the end. Do not ignore this and look into it further if you notice this.

High Electricity Bills

Finally, your refrigerator can end up using a lot of electricity in your house. If everything is working properly, then this should only have a minimal impact on your monthly electric bill.

Say that you are used to paying $200 per month in electric bills at a certain time of year. That time of year comes around but this time, it is $300 for your electric bill.

You make sure that your electric company had no changes to your fees, so you are left wondering why your bill has increased. Well, it could be because your compressor is failing.

You see, when your compressor starts failing, it takes more effort to keep the refrigerator working properly. The way to do this is to acquire more electricity to use to keep your refrigerator cool.

If you want to avoid finding paying high electric bills, check on your compressor to see if it is failing.

Learn More About Your Refrigerator

These are some of the signs that you can tell that your refrigerator compressor is failing. You may start to notice high electricity bills, compressor noise, or even the compressor shutting off completely.

Do not forget to consider thunderstorms, dirty condenser coils, or general wear and tear as culprits. Once you learn this information, you should have a better idea of how to keep your refrigerator running.

For more relevant information, check out our Home Improvement section.

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