How to Clean Refrigerator Condenser Coils

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The refrigerator’s condenser coils are responsible for dissipating heat as refrigerant passes through them so that the refrigerator and freezer compartments reach their desired temperatures. If your refrigerator or freezer is struggling to reach the correct temperature, dirty condenser coils are often to blame. Fortunately, cleaning refrigerator condenser coils is relatively easy and you should be able to do it yourself without needing to pay a repair technician.

In most cases, you can use a household vacuum with attachments to clean the coils, or you can buy a refrigerator condenser coil cleaning kit. If your refrigerator’s condenser coils are underneath the refrigerator, a condenser coil cleaning kit designed to clean underneath the refrigerator is recommended.

Where are the refrigerator’s condenser coils?

The refrigerator’s condenser coils may be located underneath the refrigerator, behind an access panel at the back of the refrigerator, or covering the back of the refrigerator. If you can’t locate the condenser coils, check the refrigerator’s manual for their location.

Do the refrigerator coils need cleaning?

Most modern refrigerators, in typical home environments, don’t require condenser coil cleaning unless the refrigerator is located in a particularly dusty or greasy environment. Having several furry pets in the home also increases the chances of the condenser coils needing to be cleaned as pet hair often manages to accumulate on the condenser coils.

Regardless, to keep your refrigerator running without issues and to increase its lifespan, cleaning its condenser coils once a year is recommended by some refrigerator manufacturers.

When should the refrigerator condenser coils be cleaned?

The main reason for  checking the condenser coils is if the refrigerator isn’t cooling properly. Another symptom is if the refrigerator’s compressor is running for longer and more frequent periods than normal. The compressor is responsible for circulating the refrigerant throughout the system to keep the refrigerator at its set temperature.

When the temperature rises in the refrigerator, the compressor activates to lower the temperature. If the compressor needs to activate more often than normal, dirty condenser coils may be to blame. When the compressor runs often, you’ll end up with a higher than normal electricity bill. Long run times also may damage the compressor or reduce its lifespan. Because this is typically the most expensive refrigerator component to fix or replace, keeping it running as little as possible is ideal.

How to access and clean the condenser coils

Condenser coils underneath the refrigerator

It can be difficult to clean condenser coils when they’re underneath the refrigerator as it’s difficult to see what you’re doing. Therefore, a condenser coil cleaning kit designed to clean underneath the refrigerator is recommended. Typically, the coils won’t be covered so you can easily move the brush underneath the refrigerator to remove the dust and pet hair that has accumulated.

Condenser coils located under the refrigerator are usually behind a grill on the bottom-front of the refrigerator. The grill can usually be removed by unscrewing it with a Phillips-head screwdriver or carefully pulled off if it isn’t secured with screws.

Condenser coils behind the rear access panel

If the condenser coils are behind the refrigerator’s rear access panel, the refrigerator will need to be moved out from the wall and the access panel removed. The rear access panel can usually be removed by unscrewing it or by releasing it from the clips that secure it.

Once you’ve removed the rear access panel, you should see the condenser coils next to the compressor. The coils can be cleaned using a vacuum cleaner with an appropriate attachment, brushed, and then vacuumed again.

While you have the refrigerator moved away from the wall and the access panel removed, you can take the opportunity to clean the compressor and surrounding components as well to increase the lifespan and efficiency of your refrigerator.

Condenser coils covering the back of the refrigerator

If the condenser coils are on the back of the refrigerator, the refrigerator will need to be pulled out from the wall to locate and clean the coils. The coils can be cleaned using a vacuum cleaner with an appropriate attachment or you can use a condenser coil cleaning kit. For best results, the coils should be vacuumed, brushed, and then vacuumed again to finish the job off.

In Summary

If the refrigerator isn’t cooling or if the refrigerator is exposed to excess grease, dust, or pet hair, the condenser coils likely need to be cleaned to fix the issue and to keep the refrigerator operating at an optimal condition.

Refrigerator condenser coils may be located underneath the refrigerator, behind a rear access panel, or on the back of the refrigerator. Purchasing a condenser coil cleaning kit is often the most effective option; however, a household vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment can also be used.

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