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How to Make Your Refrigerator Last Longer

Follow these easy maintenance tips and your refrigerator will run smoothly for years.

BY: Jessica Tolliver

Your refrigerator is one of the most expensive appliances in your home. Here’s how to keep it running smoothly and efficiently for years.

1. Vacuum the coils.
Look for coils either on the back of your refrigerator or behind a panel under the refrigerator. These coils remove the warm air inside the refrigerator and replace it with cooler air. When dust and grime build up on the coils, the refrigerator works harder to operate and uses more energy than it should.

  • Vacuum the coils once a year to remove the buildup of dust and grime and properly maintain the refrigerator.

2. Check the seals.
Another refrigerator maintenance tip is to check the rubber seal around the doors of the refrigerator and the freezer. If the seal is cracked or brittle or coming loose, cool air could be escaping, forcing the refrigerator to work harder and increasing your electricity bill.

  • Clean the seal with warm, soapy water.
  • Call a repair company to replace the seal if it is dry, cracked or coming loose.

3. Clean the drip pan.
To maintain your refrigerator, look underneath it, and you’ll find a drip pan. Condensation from the refrigerator drips into the pan, and food particles and other gunk can build up there.

  • Empty and clean the drip pan once every three to four months.

4. Defrost the refrigerator.
If your refrigerator does not have automatic defrost, you will need to defrost it whenever ice in the freezer builds up more than 1/4 inch.

  • Defrost the refrigerator by turning it off. (Be sure to remove all food and store it in a cooler with ice packs or in another refrigerator.)
  • Clean the inside of the refrigerator and freezer with warm soapy water.

5. Change the water filter.
If your refrigerator includes a built-in water filter for the ice and water dispenser, you’ll need to change the filter to keep the water fresh and pure. Note: Water that runs through a dirty filter can get dirtier than it was in the first place.

  • Replace the water filter every six months.

6. Level the refrigerator.
The doors on a refrigerator that is not level may not close properly, letting air escape and compromising energy efficiency.

  • Use a carpenter’s level to check if the refrigerator is level.
  • If necessary, adjust the feet underneath the refrigerator to level it.

7. Check the temperature.
The ideal temperature range to keep food safely chilled is between 37 and 40 F. A refrigerator that is colder than 37 F is working harder than necessary and using excess energy. (A setting warmer than 40 F can speed up the growth of bacteria on foods.)

  • Measure the interior temperature and raise the temperature if necessary.

8. Clean the refrigerator.
To properly maintain your refrigerator and make it last and keep it smelling fresh, clean the interior often. Smelly spills or old food particles can lead to bacteria buildup and impart an “off” smell to fresh foods.

  • Empty the refrigerator and clean all shelves and drawers with warm, soapy water about once a month.

9. When to consider replacing your refrigerator.
If your refrigerator breaks down, compare the cost of fixing it to replacing it to determine which course to take. Note: Refrigerators built before 2001 are significantly less energy-efficient than newer models and can cost more to maintain than newer energy-efficient models.

  • Consider replacing your refrigerator with a more energy-efficient model if the cost to fix it and maintain it outweighs the price of purchasing a new one or simply delays the inevitable need to replace it.

By following these simple refrigerator maintenance tips, you will be protecting your investment for years to come.

Jessica Tolliver is a writer and editor with 15 years of experience in covering home improvement and decorating topics for variety of publications, including House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens and Consumer Reports. She is also the author of two books on design.




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