The refrigerator is supposed to keep food cold, but when the compressor inside the refrigerator is hot, it defeats the purpose. A refrigerator is like an engine. It has parts that need to work together in order to run smoothly. If one part of the refrigerator is not working properly, this can cause problems with other parts. The same is true of the compressor.
When a refrigerator’s compressor begins to overheat, the appliance becomes a ticking time bomb. Not only does it pose a risk of fire, but when it’s in this state, it’s also consuming more energy than usual, resulting in higher utility bills. Nearly all refrigerators come with built-in alerts and indicators to alert users when this issue arises.
Refrigerator Compressor Is Hot – Troubleshoot and Diagnosis
Refrigerators are complex pieces of machinery. When something goes wrong, it can be hard to diagnose the root cause of the issue. One small change could solve the problem, saving both time and money.
The reason your refrigerator compressor is hot could be because there’s a lack of refrigerant, the temperature inside the unit is low, or a faulty sensor. Additionally, if your refrigerator is showing signs of a clogged compressor, it’s either a problem in the condenser coils or in the internal temperature setting.
When a refrigerator becomes too hot, it’s usually because the compressor is overheating. In many cases, this is due to a cooling system malfunction. Although some issues can be resolved on your own, any damage caused by a clogged condenser coil or faulty fan motor may require a professional repair. If your air conditioner is running correctly and you have ruled out a problem with the temperature settings, contact a local HVAC contractor for diagnosis and repair.
1. Internal Temperature is Too Low
A common household mistake is setting your refrigerator’s temperature too low. Setting your refrigerator’s temperature lower than recommended can cause the compressor to overheat and even fail, costing you time and money. If you set your refrigerator’s temperature lower than 35 degrees F, the compressor will work harder, causing it to overheat more quickly.
Unfortunately, modern refrigerators overheat if temperatures inside aren’t set correctly. To prevent your refrigerator from overheating, check the temperature setting on the control panel and make sure it is set between 37 – 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the inside of your refrigerator is colder than 35 degrees Fahrenheit, you risk overworking your refrigerator compressor and potentially having it overheat. If it’s warmer than 40 degrees F, there’s a chance that you’ll promote bacterial growth on your leftovers — making them potentially unsafe to eat.
2. Faulty Temperature Thermostat
Temperature control is a basic function of a refrigerator, and the thermostat monitors the temperature. If it’s too warm, it activates the compressor to make sure everything stays cool. The refrigerator has a thermostat that keeps the temperature at your desired setting. When it reaches that level, the thermostat shuts off the compressor to maintain the temperature.
If the refrigerator temperature thermostat fails, it’ll keep the compressor running even when it doesn’t have to. As a result, it’ll overheat and eventually burn out.
Fridges come with a variety of thermostats, each with their own pros and cons. Mechanical thermostats are more reliable but often difficult to set, while electrical ones are easier to operate but less durable.
Your fridge’s temperature thermostat might fail at any time. This can be due to several reasons: voltage surges and spikes, power outages, the circuit breaker popping, and simply old age wearing down the appliance.
Fridges run best when they’re maintained regularly. If your fridge’s components, like a mechanical thermostat or a digital thermometer, start to malfunction, your appliance will consume more energy and be less efficient. You have to know that your fridge’s thermostat housing is vulnerable to expanding and contracting temperatures. When it flexes repeatedly, the residual moisture that seeps out can damage the electronics in the thermostat.
If your fridge compressor is running hot, you should look into replacing the thermostat before replacing the entire unit. If you’re the handy type, you could purchase the thermostat online. If you are not so handy, contact a local refrigerator technician.
3. Poor ventilation
The back of the refrigerator should have enough room to facilitate ventilation. If hot air cannot escape, it’ll cause the compressor to overheat. It will run inefficiently if it is not given enough room on all sides for air to flow.
It’s important to avoid placing any obstructions/objects in front or top of your refrigerator. This can hinder cooling, leading to an increase in temperature. Further, magnets and mementos can contribute to temperature changes. These temperature changes can lead to compressor overheating.
4. The Refrigerator Is Placed On The Sunny Side
One of the most common problems with refrigerators is too much sunlight. If you put your refrigerator in a solarium or balcony facing the sun, you might really struggle to keep the temperature low inside.
If this is the case, there are two possible reasons why your compressor might be overworking. The first, and most obvious, is that the sunlight hitting your fridge directly has heated it up. The second reason is less obvious: sunlight can actually heat the fridge, and then the air cooled by the fridge’s compressor has to work extra hard to cool everything down — leading to an overheated compressor.
Refrigerators require one very important thing: good airflow. That’s why an ideal location for your refrigerator is one that’s close to a good amount of natural air flow. This can be achieved by having it placed pretty much anywhere in your kitchen other than the corner. If you have more than one zone in your house, and the bedroom is cooler than the living room, placing it there might be suitable.
5. Lack of Refrigerant
If your refrigerator is running too loudly or seems to be working harder than usual, the most likely culprit is a low level of refrigerant. It’s a common problem in older refrigerators and can cause an assortment of problems.
A refrigerator’s main cooling system uses a refrigerant to circulate around the closed loop. The refrigerant is pressurized by the compressor and circulated throughout the closed-loop. This way, your refrigerator can stay cool.
There should always be the correct amount of refrigerant in the system. When the system is too hot or undercharged, it can lead to problems.
Small leaks in the refrigerant system can cause your fridge to overheat and stop working. This is because the small leak causes the compressor to run harder with the same amount of refrigerant, making it hotter and hotter until it shut down.
Don’t try to fix your refrigeration leak or add refrigerant yourself — you may damage your refrigerator and void the manufacturer’s warranty. You should always seek the assistance of a professional to repair leaks or adjust refrigerant levels.
6. Dirty Condenser Coils
A clogged condenser coil restricts the air flow through your refrigerator and freezer, causing both compartments to overheat. An overheated refrigerator can lead to premature failure of the compressor — which is expensive to repair or replace. Check the air filter often, clean the condenser coils, and vacuum out any debris that has accumulated in your fridge to avoid unnecessary repair costs.
Regularly cleaning the coils on your refrigerator can stop a compressor from overheating. Every now and again, you may find your fridge is not cooling as well as it should, but cleaning your coils can get things moving again. Cleaning the coils helps to eliminate excess dust and pet hair, which could be interfering with the fridge’s ability to maintain its temperature.
There are three basic steps to cleaning the condenser coils:
- Find the access panel
- Disconnect power and remove the access panel
- Clean the condenser coils, reconnect power, and put the access panel back.
If your fridge’s condenser fan develops dust on it, the easiest way to clean it is with a vacuum cleaner or paintbrush. First, unplug the fridge and remove food and drinks from the inside. Next, use your vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the condenser fan. Vacuum gently so as not to damage the fan’s blades. If you don’t own a vacuum cleaner, you can use a paintbrush to firmly sweep dust off the blades.
7. Broken Condenser Fan
In a refrigerator, condenser fans help to keep the refrigeration system running smoothly. They do this by circulating cool air from the appliance’s back panel into the rest of the body of the refrigerator so it can be used for cooling your food.
When your refrigerator condenser fan is blocked or dirty, it can cause the refrigerator compressor to overheat and damage sensitive electronics. This can result in costly repairs, time spent without a fridge, and potentially food spoilage.
You know that sinking feeling when you open your fridge, get a whiff of that rancid smell and have to throw away half of your food? Luckily, a faulty refrigerator fan doesn’t usually mean the entire fridge is faulty: A stuck fan can be removed with a vacuum cleaner; if that doesn’t work, remove debris from around the fan blades and try again.
A refrigerator’s condenser fan is responsible for getting rid of all the heat from the internal components, and because of its placement at the back of most fridges up top, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to go at alone. If you find yourself at a loss when fixing it, try checking your local repair service near you for more information before attempting this on your own.
Hi there! I’m Sam Hendricks, and I’m a repair technician and expert. I created this website to help people like you save money and time by fixing your own appliances.
Over the years, I’ve seen people spend a lot of money on unnecessary repairs or replacements. That’s why I decided to share my expertise and create easy-to-follow guides for fixing appliances on your own.