Is Replacing a Refrigerator Compressor Worth the Cost?

June 13, 2023
Refrigerator Repair

Of all the things that can go wrong with your refrigerator, a faulty compressor is among the most serious.  You might just want to throw in the towel and buy a whole new refrigerator, but don’t give up just yet! Do your research first and make sure you’ve carefully looked into the cost. There are a lot of options, ranging from hiring a professional to buying a reconditioned compressor and installing it yourself. We’ll walk you through the pros, cons, and costs of all the options, so you can feel confident and informed when making your decision. 

Weigh up whether replacement is worthwhile

If your refrigerator is old and has a few parts that are wearing out, replacing the compressor is probably not going to be a financially sound move. Something else is quite likely to break in the near future, and you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on something that doesn’t have much time left. However, if your refrigerator is just out of its warranty period or only a couple of years old, it may make sense to replace it. Before you make your decision, here are some questions to ask yourself:

How old is the refrigerator?

The usual lifespan of a fridge is about 10-15 years, so if your fridge is getting to the end of its life expectancy, it would probably be a better decision to purchase a new appliance instead.

Is your fridge energy efficient?

If you have an older fridge, it is going to be less energy efficient than a newer model. Even if your fridge is otherwise functioning well, buying a new one can still be a more cost effective option due to long term energy savings. 

How frequently are you making repairs?

If your fridge has needed repairs for issues other than the compressor in the recent past, it is probably better to get a whole new appliance rather than continue to throw money at an old one. 

What is the overall condition of your fridge?

Look honestly at the overall condition of your fridge, including its cooling levels and the condition of other components such as door seals. If you can see that other parts are showing wear and tear, it is a better decision to replace the whole fridge rather than just the compressor. 

Cost Breakdown

The cost of replacing your refrigerator compressor varies based on the type of fridge you have. In general, you can get a reconditioned part for a lot less than you’ll pay for a new part, but costs can be wildly variable. Some reconditioned parts can be bought for around $100, while other new parts go for over $1000 – you’ll really need to do your research to figure out how much it will cost you and whether or not it’s worth it. 

If you don’t feel confident doing the installation yourself, you can pay a professional to install the part for you – this can range from $150 to over $500 depending on where you live and the model of your fridge. Often, a professional technician will advise you to purchase a new refrigerator instead of installing a new compressor on an old one. 

There are also very specific tools that you’ll need to install the compressor that the average person doesn’t own. You will need to factor in the cost of buying or renting these tools if you don’t have other access to them, and this could also increase the cost of the job. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of refrigerant disposal. 

A good rule of thumb when costing the job is to look at whether the total cost of replacement is half or more of the cost of a new refrigerator. If the replacement cost is at or more than the halfway point, then it makes more sense to purchase a new one. 

Important note: If you decide to go for a reconditioned compressor, make sure you’re getting it from a reputable seller. A faulty compressor can cause refrigerant to leak, which is a danger to both you and the environment.

Should you do it yourself?

If you’ve decided that replacing the compressor is worth it, it is tempting to do it yourself to save the cost of labor. This is not one of the easier DIY projects and you need to be aware of all the dangers and pitfalls before you start. It is a dangerous job and has the potential to cause harm as well as permanently ruining your refrigerator. 

If you’re an expert DIYer and feel up to the task, make sure you’re aware of EPA regulations regarding refrigerant handling and disposal. 

What tools will you need?

Before you begin the job, you’ll need to make sure you have all the necessary tools in place. You’ll need:

  • A new or reconditioned compressor
  • Safety gear, including gloves, glasses, and protective overalls
  • Screwdrivers and wrenches
  • A refrigerant recovery unity
  • Vacuum pump
  • Manifold gauges
  • Soldering supplies

What is the process to replace the compressor?

The process is very variable as it depends on your refrigerator type, so make sure you first look carefully at your manual before beginning. In general, though, these are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Unplug the fridge and remove everything from inside
  2. Locate and remove the old compressor
  3. Using the refrigerant recovery unit, remove the refrigerant. 
  4. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, install your new compressor
  5. Using the vacuum pump, make sure all air and moisture are removed from the refrigerant lines, then add in the new refrigerant. 
  6. Turn your fridge on to test if it is working, being vigilant for any leaks of refrigerant. 
  7. Dispose of the old refrigerant according to EPA regulations.

If at any point you are not comfortable with the task, don’t hesitate to call a professional to help you. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially when handling dangerous chemicals like refrigerant.


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