A friend of mine mentioned that after laying my fridge on its side or back, that I need to let it sit for several hours before plugging it in.

In the discussion, he said that it was to allow the lubricants and refrigerants settle back toward the compressor so that it doesn't dry-pump, causing potential damage.

Now this does make a degree of sense, but is this actually necessary or standard practice? I've moved many times in my life and I can't think of a single time that we've ever done that... so is it actually needed?

I doubt it makes any large difference, but I have a Frigidaire that is about 5 years old.

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    I have moved refrigerators before, and tilted them on a refrigerator dolly, but never laid one horizontal. I have read that one should wait 24 hrs before turning on a refrigerator after it has been laid horizontal. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 22:09
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    You've been lucky. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 6:10
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    "several hours" Please advice your friend 'several' may not even be enough, depending on how rough it was handled, size and exact type of system. The 24h mentioned in one of the answers should be considered a minimum. You simply don't want to risk it.
    – Mast
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 13:35

5 Answers 5


As a certified HVAC person I can tell you it might work after standing back up and plugging in but depending on the system the oil drains from the compressor. On many units it takes time to make its way back to the compressor (if it can at all). I have seen brand new window AC units that were shipped on their side and turned on after several hours that blew the breaker. The oil went into the coils, and because of the design, the oil was trapped enough so when the unit was plugged in it destroyed the compressor.

  • Those window ACs you have in the US are the weirdest things...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 16:23
  • @einpoklum -- the caveat is true for anything that uses compression-refrigeration and a hermetic compressor though Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 18:07
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    @jpmc26: Split/"ductless" models - which don't sit smack in the middle of your view, and doesn't require messing with glasses and window-frames (just making a hole in the wall and covering it) - are pretty cheap where I'm from (Israel/Palestine); $400 gets you something reputable and basic.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 18:59
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    @einpoklum And the window units don't require putting holes in the wall to connect an indoor and outdoor unit (which most people would hire someone to do that part). Trade offs. I think the window units have also been around a lot longer.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 19:02
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    "doesn't require messing with glasses and window-frames (just making a hole in the wall and covering it)" Opening a hole in the wall is a fairly big deal, if you don't want it to cause leaks when it rains, and colder climates you may need to do something special in the winter. Not to mention that altering the structure of the building (the hole in the wall) will certainly require permits and possible inspection. Or I can buy a $200 window unit.
    – Andy
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 21:43

Instruction manuals for refrigerators and freezers typically tell you to transport upright, or if not possible to allow to stand 24 hours upright before using.


AFAIK this is to let the coolant and the oil settle back into place. The system contains refrigerant as gas and liquid, also liquid oil. Pumping one when the motor should be pumping the other is not going to go well. Either the pump will be trying to compress a liquid (very difficult) or will have insufficient liquid (could overheat, overspeed, wear rapidly, run out of oil.) If the oil is in the pipes when it should be in the motor, lubrication will suffer and the motor will be damaged. For all the times you get away with it, either the general reliability is reduced or you were just fortunate.

My son works for a domestic appliance company's support line and he gets this regularly. Day after day, he has to tell the customers that they should have read the instructions. Unfortunately, they have generally not followed these instructions and are expecting that his company will replace their "faulty on arrival" refrigerator, which ain't going to happen. Of course, he has to have a broad back....


I have a portable A/C. The manual states that if ever tipped on its side e.g. for transport, it must be left upright for some number of hours (I forget how much) before starting, so that liquids can settle so they won't enter the compressor.

Whether for a fridge or an A/C, the compressor is designed to compress gas, not pump liquid. Compressed refrigerant condenses to a liquid in the (aptly named) condenser where heat is removed from the system, and evaporates in the (again aptly named) evaporator where it picks up heat to cool your food, your room, or your house, before returning to the compressor. Liquid, whether refrigerant or oil, is incompressible, so if any enters the compressor (other than a trace of oil to keep things lubricated), there's likely to be a problem.

It's possible that some refrigeration devices are designed in such a way that tipping won't cause liquid to arrive at the compressor, or the compressor is designed to be tolerant of liquid. But, I'd never assume so.

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    WRT your last paragraph, we run a boat fridge (12/24V compressor) in our campervan. That can tolerate a lot of tipping without needing settling time, but still less than 90°
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 8:48

We just got a new refrigerator. The old was moved elsewhere in the house. The installers said it was fine to turn the new one on right away (new design) even though they had tipped it on it's side, but the old one we were supposed to wait 2 hours before plugging it in. Note that it never tipped more than about 15 degrees from vertical in the move.

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