Why a Refrigerator is Running All the Time

In order to keep food cold, your refrigerator will work to maintain a constant temperature through the production of cold air. Like an air conditioner, you can expect to hear your refrigerator kick on for a cycle every now and then. However, if you have been in your kitchen all day and noticed that your refrigerator has not really shut off at all, then you have a problem.

As refrigerators run rather quietly, the act of your refrigerator running all day probably won’t disturb the peace in your home. However, what will disturb you is the much higher energy bill you will receive because of it or the fact that your refrigerated food – like your eggs – might be freezing over as we speak. So the only thing left to do is to start your investigation with these common culprits.

Dirty Condenser Coils

If your refrigerator is running what seems like all day, one of the most common causes is also the easiest to fix. The answer is simple, the condenser coils in the back are dirty. Located either behind or underneath your refrigerator, these coils are part of the sealed system in your refrigerator-that cools it. Specifically, the condenser coils are responsible for releasing heat gathered from inside the refrigerator back outside of it.

The process used by the condenser coils can produce slight condensation that makes it kind of a serious magnet for dust and dirt in the home. Overtime as this builds up on the coils, the condenser coils have to work harder to dissipate heat. This puts stress on the entire system which will make it run for longer. The dirtier the coils get, the longer your refrigerator will run and the more energy it will use.

If you have never cleaned your condenser coils, they likely need it. Even if you keep a very clean kitchen, dust is ambient in the air and will build up there. To clean your condenser coils on your refrigerator, you will want to unplug the appliance, remove the protective grill, and brush away as much dust and pet hair as possible. Appliance manufacturers like GE even make a special brush for cleaning the coils. This makes the job easier (and more thorough), but it is not mandatory to use. The key is to remove as much dust and pet hair from the coils as possible with minimal risk to the actual coils. Once done, your refrigerator should run more efficiently.

Faulty Condenser Fan Motor

In order to produce cold air, your refrigerator depends on a condenser fan that draws in air over the condenser coils. This air than become cold by this act and is directed inside your refrigerator. However, if the condenser fan isn’t working, your refrigerator will still be drawing in air, just much less efficiently. The refrigerator will have to run almost constantly in order to make up for the fan not working anymore.

The small bit of good news is that this fan motor is pretty easy to test. With the power disconnected from your refrigerator, you should be able to reach behind the coils and turn the fan blade on the condenser fan. If the motor has gone faulty, when you try to turn the fan, it will be very difficult. A healthy condenser fan will turn freely when you touch it.

Faulty Evaporator Fan Motor

If your refrigerator running all the time, but for some reason, it is actually warmer than normal and no air is blowing? Then it is probably a case of your evaporator fan failing. If the fan has gone out or is only working sometimes, then the cool air will not be able to circulate.

The evaporator fan is responsible for circulating the cold air from your coils and into the refrigerator section. Without it working, the cool air will not be efficiently blown onto your fresh food. However, your refrigerator will still try to maintain that temperature by instead just running all the time. While you can inspect the actual fan in the evaporator for damage, it is far more likely that the motor that turns it has gone out.

Faulty Compressor

There is a difference between a refrigerator that runs constantly and a compressor that runs constantly. A refrigerator fan may have gone faulty and stays on. However, if a compressor is malfunctioning and staying on, it will be a lot more noticeable. Your refrigerator will not only run more loudly all the time, but it will also have some effects on the inside.

Unfortunately, compressor repairs to the refrigerators sealed system can be particularly complex. While it can likely be done, you may feel more comfortable leaving it to a professional appliance repair technician.

Worn Door Gasket

The issue may not be a problem with the parts that actually produce the cool air, but rather the parts responsible for keeping the cool air in. In refrigerators, the outer door or inner compartment is lined with a pliable plastic seal. When the door is closed, this plastic seal molds to the refrigerator and keeps the cool air in. However, with time, these plastic seals may fail due to damage or even just because of age.

If your refrigerator is running constantly, the easiest check is to visually inspect your door gasket. Look around the whole edge of the gasket for gaps or damage. If any area is not even in look or appears rough, then the gasket will need to be replaced so it can form a tight seal. If the gasket is bad, it is letting cold air escape from inside your refrigerator and the appliance is desperately trying to replace it. This makes it have to run almost constantly, especially if it is very warm in your home.


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