Fixin’ the Fridge

By Jennifer Lueck
It was one thing when the milk in my fridge spoiled before the expiration date, but when the half & half curdled as soon as it hit my coffee, I got really worried (and upset because I couldn’t drink my coffee!). I bought a refrigerator thermometer and was shocked to see that my fridge was only 50 degrees inside (the recommended temperature is between 35 and 38 degrees). It’s a fairly new refrigerator, so I really didn’t think it could be failing, especially since the freezer was functioning normally. I did some research and ended up learning a lot more about refrigerators
than I ever wanted to know. Since part of my problem was possibly related to my dogs, I’m going to share my new knowledge with you.

One thing I learned is that you’re supposed to clean under your refrigerator regularly, especially if you have pets. Now that I think about it, it’s a no brainer, but it just never occurred to me to do it in the four years I’ve lived in this house. It makes perfect sense (now) that dust and pet hair on the refrigerator’s coils will make the motor work harder and that keeping the coils clean will make a refrigerator work more efficiently and might even prevent expensive repairs down the road.

My research also revealed that refrigerators work by circulating air from the freezer.* If the vents inside the refrigerator are blocked, cold air can’t enter the refrigerator and it will not be as cold as it should be, no matter how high you crank the cold setting. (Yes, I tried that.)

With my new fridge knowledge, I carried out a two-part fix-it strategy. First, I removed the vent on the bottom of the fridge and the panel in the back of the fridge. Not surprisingly, I found a lot of dust and dog hair. I vacuumed both compartments thoroughly… and I’m pretty sure I heard the fridge sigh in relief. Next I investigated inside the fridge and, sure enough, there was a small plastic bag blocking the main vent. I moved the bag, and within a few hours my fridge was back to the normal temperature. I suspect the bag in front of the vent was the main problem, but cleaning the coils had to have helped, too. Either way, there’s a note on the calendar to clean under the fridge again in December and I plan to be a lot more careful to avoid putting things in front of the vent.

*That’s how the Whirlpool website explained it. It might be an oversimplification because had a much more complicated explanation for how refrigerators work.
** Yes, the pictures are in here to make the article more interesting to dog owners. 🙂