One of the last places homeowners consider when talking about home maintenance is kitchen appliances, primarily, the refrigerator.  It’s relatively easy to think of maintenance on a furnace, outdoor AC unit, or even the garbage disposal, but few think about the importance of maintaining one of the most crucial appliances in your home. 

Refrigerators are obviously important to every home, and like any mechanical item, need to be maintained to help ensure proper cooling, work efficiently, and to provide the reliability you need for many years.  Following are some tips to help understand what parts of the appliance need care.

  1. Clean the door gasket surrounding the doors on both the refrigerator and freezer. The  gaskets are similar to gaskets on car doors in that they keep what’ s inside, in, and outside, out.  Simply put they need to seal properly to do the job and they must stay clean and flexible to do the job.  Analyze the gasket for chips or nicks and replace if it is damaged.  Also, wipe down the gasket with a  simple all-purpose cleaner and rag to eliminate dust, grease, and any other gunk that may accumulate.  It is also a good time to check the sealing power of the gaskets:  put a dollar bill in between the gasket and cabinet and shut the doors(s).  When pulling the bill out, there should be some resistance.  If the dollar falls out or comes out easily it indicates you need a new gasket and you are losing too much cold air. 
  2. Make sure the condenser coils are clean. These are the coils either on the back or under the unit.  Most newer units have this underneath and can be accessed by pulling off the cover on the front.  You will possibly be amazed at the accumulation of pet hair, gunk, dust, toys, etc. (or maybe I’m just speaking from experience) in that area.  Take a vacuum and clean out this area and then pull the refrigerator away from the wall and continue cleaning behind and under it.  This will help the unit to be more efficient.  It is recommended to do this every 3 months, (same as changing a furnace filter), or more if you have pets.
  3. Clean the drain hole and drip pan. This is more specific to the model, so consult the manual that came with the unit to locate.  Most units have a drain hole and drip pan to remove condensation, so it’s important to clean this and ensure proper operation so you don’t have a backup on to the floor of the kitchen or worse.  Drain pans also tend to collect debris because they are frequently wet and collect dust at the same time.

Some other steps to take that go a long way toward the good health of your refrigerator, and you, include changing the water and air filters, making sure the refrigerator is level, and listening for changes in the compressor operation.  Water filters are in any (most) units that have ice dispensers and / or water dispensers.  These should be changed every 6 months or so depending on how often you use the water and ice.  Air filters should be changed to help keep the air and food inside the refrigerator as fresh as possible.

One final tip:  Keeping the refrigerator and freezer full of food and drinks will help to keep things cool.  The “thermal mass” is helpful in keep the consistent temperatures desired, especially when the kids are home and they door is opened 100 times per day (I exaggerate slightly).  It is recommended to keep the refrigerator at between 37-40 F and the freezer at 0.