When it's cold outside (like in winter) and the interior temp of my house is around 65°, my fridge works just fine. But when spring/summer gets here (like now) and we get into hotter days and the temp in my house gets to 72° or hotter, my fridge won't keep cool. Freezer hovers around 40° and fridge is 60° (Would be great to keep my house at 65° or lower all the time lol but I don't have central AC or the money to do that) Any ideas on what the problem could be?

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    How old is your fridge? Do you have it set at it's lowest, coldest setting? – JACK Apr 30 at 13:23
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    The first thing to do is to thoroughly vacuum under and behind the unit, getting as much dust and lint out as possible. – Hot Licks Apr 30 at 17:53
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    And, depending on the design, you may need to "defrost" the unit. Even "frost free" units sometimes need this in humid weather. – Hot Licks Apr 30 at 17:54
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    What refrigerator, where do you live, and how many inches of clearance top and sides do you have? – Carl Witthoft Apr 30 at 18:04
  • insulate it with a lot more padding. see fridge insulation guides. If that doesn't work, buy a new fridge. – aliential Apr 30 at 19:48

Refrigerators are cooled using a heat pump, the principle that all air conditioners work on. Basically, a refrigerant is pumped through the cool side and absorbs heat, then that heat is radiated out into your home. The hotter your home's air is the more difficult it is for the fridge's cooling system to radiate heat. A refrigerator that is working fine won't have a problem with this, it just takes a bit more energy to work, however your refrigerator has a problem.

I can't say for sure what's wrong with your refrigerator, but it could be a number of things:

  1. Fouled radiator: over time the radiator on the back of the refrigerator can get covered in dust and crud which reduces its efficiency. If it's bad enough the fridge won't be able to work. This is easy to resolve, you pull the refrigerator away from the wall and vacuum the radiator off. If there's stuck on grease clean it off with a brush and/or cleanser, but don't use any abrasives or power tools. Make sure all grates are clear of dust and aren't blocked so the internal components can cool too. When you put it back make sure you leave enough clearance for air to circulate around the radiator
  2. Low refrigerant: Over time the refrigerant in your refrigerator may seep out and need to be replenished. There could also be a slow leak. You obviously have some refrigerant or it wouldn't cool at all. You'd need to get a specialist in to replenish the refrigerant, they'll also run a pressure check for leaks
  3. Mechanical problem: there are compressors and pumps which move the refrigerant around the system, if these have problems they may not be able to keep up with the demand. You'd need a specialist to diagnose and fix these problems

So, pull out your fridge and give the back a thorough clean, then make sure it's got good airflow and see how it works. If that doesn't solve your problem you'll have to get someone in.

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    In addition to this excellent advice - it may be that it just can't get good enough airflow to the radiator at the rear. If it's under a counter-top, there should really be a vent at the rear to allow air to circulate, unless there is a large gap between the top of the unit and the counter. – SiHa Apr 30 at 11:10
  • Hopefully the condenser coils are accessible. Sadly, many refrigerators (like ours made in 2012) are made so that the condenser coils are under the bottom and very difficult to clean. But it's worth getting as much dust and lint as possible cleaned out. – Tommy Trussell Apr 30 at 20:00
  • get someone in - ideally people who have a new fridge with them. Parts, labor, and still an old fridge: yay! :\ - I prefer free delivery and removal by people who will take your front door off w/o a second thought or an up-charge, because I'm within 100 miles of Glenview, IL: ABT - It's probably not low on refrigerant if this has been going on for years. – Mazura May 1 at 0:05
  • Yes, as Trussell suggests, on some units the condenser coils are under the unit. But cleaning these isn't usually that hard, as usually the front toe plate is removable to allow access. – Hot Licks May 2 at 1:54

If basic cleaning doesn't help, your next call is to the local utility, and local government.

Because many of them have rebate programs to subsidize, or even entirely pay for replacement of a fridge. A random appliance store won't necessarily know this; you need to hunt these programs down.

Most fridges have refrigeration machinery is a sealed unit and non-repairable. Further, paying to repair an old fridge is usually good money after bad: Newer fridges are MUCH more efficient and will pay for themselves after a few years. So that's a double win. (Of course it's impossible to map that savings, so many people treat it as non-real.)

The reasons governments do this is to reduce power plant smog. The reason utilities do this is that building a new power plant costs $5/watt. It is cheaper to help consumers buy an efficient new fridge than build the plant capacity to support the old fridge. That just makes sense at a social level; the trick is making the money work, which is what these rebate programs do.

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  • In the old days, it was "a new power plant costs $5/watt". But now many utilities don't even own their power plants. They are very often held by a separate (related...) company for tax/stock market/etc. reasons. It is really: incremental power (kWh) purchase from the grid/network at peak time on peak days" costs more than they can charge the customers, so cutting the overall peak (flattening the curve as they say) is the key to the business. That includes incentives on refrigerators & light bulbs, peak demand pricing (where the govt. will allow it), remote shutoff of a/c on peak days, etc. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Apr 30 at 15:47
  • As far as the appliance stores, I suspect that many won't advertise the subsidies because they put a mental upper limit on things. If the subsidy is "cost of refrigerator up to $500" then even though the $500 would count as a credit towards a more expensive model, many people will "think" (except they ain't thinking...) that they shouldn't spend more than the subsidized amount. They should be saying "I want the $1,000 side-by-side with icemaker, now I can get it for 1/2 of what I was going to spend" and instead they say "why should I spend anything" and then get a model they're not – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Apr 30 at 15:51
  • really happy with (because their previous one had the ice maker, etc.) and then complain back to the appliance store who tells them (rightly so) that they can't give a full credit based on buyer's remorse because they can't sell the now-used refrigerator as new. And if I were running an appliance store, I'd probably figure that avoiding the problem is worth losing the occasional low-end sale - since the big/fancy/expensive models are where the profit margin is anyway. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Apr 30 at 15:53

I have an Associates degree in Industrial Maintenance. I went into another field but while I wait for an answer on my own question let me see if I can be of some help.

The most common cause of your problem is a dirty condensor coil. It's usually located in the bottom of the fridge,accessible in the rear of the appliance.

FIRST UNPLUG IT! Very important!

The condenser coil has a condenser fan which blows air over the coil to help cool it. (that's the heat it removed from your refrigerator!) It's a strong little fan some with a hefty aluminum blade. When your refrigerator triggers the need for cooling this fan will come on with no warning.

If you do not have the maintenance/care manual for your refrigerator check online, you should be able to access a copy. (model # on back of fridge or inside door) The manufacturer should have an online copy as well. This will give you specific instructions but here are some general ones.

Normally you'll need to remove a press-board cover to access the coil. You'll find it near the compressor on most refrigerators in the back,at the bottom. Don't tear it off,it's important that it is put back on for the system to operate properly.(On older refrigerators the condenser may be a huge ,usually black, flat grid covering most of the back of the refrigerator. These units have an enormous surface area and do not require a fan but are more susceptible to damage.)

The coil attracts dust so it can clog up the fins restricting the air flow. Cleaning it with a vacuum (hose) and soft upholstery attachment works best as it'd usually very dry. Be gentle,you don't want to break any of the metal lines running to/from it. Be especially gentle around any soldered joints. If you crack one open you'll lose all your refrigerant.

On frost-free units there is usually a pan in the bottom of the refrigerator that catches the water produced by the defrost cycle. If you have to empty it ,ever, you have an issue with your coil being clogged or most likely yor condensor fan. They design these type units to also blow some of that air over that tray and cause it to evaporate faster than it can fill it. You normally shouldn't see more than a cup of water in the bottom.

If the coil is clean or it doesn't improve try this...

With it still unplugged,physically check the fan blade for damage. Careful! It could have a sharp jagged edge that will cut you if it has been hitting something. Also make sure it turns freely and actually turns with the shaft (not stripped out). The fan motor can run all day but it won't do any good if the bade isn't turning! This is more common on plastic blades.

Plug it back in with the cover still off. Since you had it unplugged for a bit the condenser fan should start right up. If it doesn't,open the fridge door and give it 5 minutes. If it does not come on by then your fan is bad.(or it's not getting electricity) Bench test it or have it tested before replacing as it could be a wiring issue. If your handy it's a do-it-yourself job for even the most inexperienced. Normally the fan is mounted in a bracket and held in place by 3 small screws and "plugs" in. It can be tight in there so small hands are a plus.Get your full model number (usually inside the door) and order it from your favorite discount internet sites for around 25.00 U.S. or from the manufacturer (if they sell parts directly) for 100.00. The fans do go bad and are probably the second most common reason for your issue.

Not the coil or the fan?

Next step would be to check the evaporator coil and fan. This one is usually located in the freezer. You've probably heard it running many times when getting some of your very soft ice cream. Has the fan been making any funny noises lately?

Like with the condenser coil give this one the same test by opening the freezer door for 5 minutes (probably much less) It should kick on. When it does put your hand near it's vent openings. You should feel a nice cool breeze and it should run relatively quiet and smoothly.Be sure not to stuff the freezer so full that this air can't circulate. Next see if you can locate the passageway between the freezer and refrigerator as it blows the cold air into the refrigerated section as well. Some refrigerators will have an adjustable "vent" in the roof of the refrigerated space,usually in one of the far back corners (or back-center). A large pitcher or jug bumped into this vent can cause it to move to a "closed" or "not fully" open state. This will normally only affect the temp in the fridge portion (can also make the freezer section too cold). When the evaporator fan is running feel for that cool breeze coming out of this opening. Sometimes they will clog up with ice and block the flow.

Some one had mention a lack of refrigerant. This is not actually an issue. It is an issue in automobile AC units as they use rubber hoses which eventually leak refrigerant. Your home unit is a SEALED system. It will not lose ANY refrigerant unless you poke a hole in one of your coils or lines. If this happens you'll lose ALL your refrigerant and it will not cool at all.

Actually, to be correct your refrigerator doesn't cool anything! Refrigeration is the process of removing the heat. So here we are....hopefully you've already figured out the problem but if not lets reach out a bit further.

Is your refrigerator in a place where it gets direct sunlight? If the sun is beating down on it, even for just a few hours it can dramatically effect the temp of the fridge and freezer especially if it is a dark color. (the angle of the sun will be different in the winter so it may not look like it's in the sun.) Your refrigerator is indoors so this can happen any time of the year but worse in the summer months. This will also add a noticeable amount to your electric bill and strain you refrigerator as it works way harder trying to do it's job.

I'm assuming you checked for temperature adjustment knobs in the fridge and freezer? I have to ask. lol If you do turn each one you find all the way in one direction then the other. the fan should kick on. Sometimes the knobs get stripped out or the control itself is froze up (even in the fridge section) and your just turning the knob.

Believe it or not but some knobs are fake! There is really no reason for you to adjust it. It's at it's optimal temp but people early on expressed their need for "adjust-ability". Numerous manufacturers simply mounted a knob on a screw that turned but did nothing. I don't think they still do that though.

Okay, I'm running out of answers. Three shots left before you call a professional.

Does your refrigerator have it's own power outlet? As in nothing else plugged in to it? Does it have a dedicated line or are there other plug-in on the same electrical breaker? In newer homes it will and they may even make the electrical connection unavailable to you so you do not plug anything else in. In an older home there may be several outlets on the same breaker. Open the door to your breakers. Legally they should be labeled. If it is labeled "kitchen" it has other outlets (and they may not all be actually in the kitchen). "kitchen" meant in that general area some years back.

Do you have a window AC unit out on the same line as the as the fridge? The reason I ask is the fridge requires a major surge of power when it starts up. Other than an AC unit it certainly has a bigger "start-up" power draw than anything in your house. Your refrigerator runs an average of 12 hours a day (12 on/ 12 off). This is not exact but it's pretty darn close. On those hot days your AC and your fridge are going to want to "beat the heat" on pretty much the same schedule meaning your fridge will try to start but won't if it doesn't have the required voltage for the capacitor. In this state it will continue to try until it gets too hot. At that point a bi-metal switch inside the compressor pops the other way disconnecting the circuit. It does this to protect the motor from damage. When the metal cools it pops back and the cycle repeats.

Some homes,furthest from the electric transformer, have lower voltage,doubtful it could be coming in at a level too low to operate the fridge during the heat of the day but not impossible if everyone between you and that transformer has their ac on. The electric co. checks to make sure the guy at the end is getting enough volts but probably not on a high use day.Conversely if your going blowing a lot of light bulbs your probably near the transformer. They have to jack it up a little so the guy at the end is getting at least 115 volts I believe. I've seen voltages over 130 before. Even around 122V will blow your light bulbs frequently. Easy to check with a voltmeter...just stick a prong in each hole!

One last ray of hope.....

If you can get access to the compressor you'll see a super duper skinny short length of copper tubing coming out of the larger tubing which comes out of the compressor. (About the diameter of pencil lead) This is your capillary tube the hole inside it is slightly larger then a human hair. It's purpose is to compress the refrigerant as it circulates. Without getting too crazy and bending it a lot check it carefully for any damage. Sometime when moving for example they can get smashed or get a sharp bend in them as they are very soft and pliable.Very gently straighten any sharp bends. If you find a spot that is clearly smashed you can turn it on it's "side" wrap it with a dry washrag , set it on a block of wood and VERY gently give it a few taps.Then check it for roundness.The tube is not so delicate that it breaks easily but if you move it back and forth several times it can break. If your uncomfortable doing it call a professional (and point it out to save time) Then get a cup of tea and go sit and read a book or something. He'll get it working faster without the homeowners looking over his shoulder. Hope this has been a little educational if nothing else and if you run out of options you can use a shelf in our fridge:)

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    I don't have the points to comment above but just to clarify for everyone. Your refrigerator will never get "low" on refrigerant. It is a sealed system (and in a vacuum). You either have all of it or none of it in which case it won't "cool" at all. The confusion on this is because automotive AC units DO get low. This is because they use rubber hoses which allow leakage over time. – Hackman22 May 1 at 18:06

While it's likely that the more repair-oriented answers may be appropriate here, I'd consider taking another approach here based on my experience.

My refrigerator is quite new - only 4 years old - but unfortunately has some issues that sounds sort of like yours but less extreme: during the winter it performs great, but come summer it tends to be a bit weak, more like +5-+7 degrees rather than +40, but still - not the performance it should give.

What we've found is that it is due to internal airflow issues. We shop at a warehouse store for our food, once a week/once every two weeks (when there's not a global pandemic anyway), and that means that we tended to do two things that you shouldn't do:

  • Put a lot of things into the refrigerator at once that are not at refrigerator temperatures (after the car trip from the store, anyway), raising the internal temp some, combined with opening the door a lot during the put-away period (never leaving it open, but still, fifteen or twenty brief openings in a half hour is a lot of warm air)
  • Fill the refrigerator to its full capacity, blocking airflow through the refrigerator compartments

This leads to the compressor having to work extra hard on those Saturdays when we stock up, without anywhere for the (now very cold) air to go due to the airflow issues. What eventually happens is that we get ice blockages somewhere in the system, which never really go away (due to the fact that it's never getting to the desired temperature, so it's constantly trying to cool).

During the winter it doesn't have to try nearly as hard, so it's able to get back to proper temps; during the summer it's unable to get back there, so the constant cooling and the snowball effect.

What we do to fix this when it happens is to turn off and empty the refrigerator, wait a few days, and then turn it back on. Basically like a manual defrost cycle. You might want to put a towel down near the bottom if it has somewhere it's likely to drain to, though it usually isn't very much water - it's not a full blockage or anything, that would have a much more serious impact on the cooling capability.

Then, try to keep it more like 1/2 to 2/3 full with attention to the air vents - remember, it's not cooling the walls of the fridge, it's cooling the air. It's most likely cooling the freezer first, and then moving the freezer air into the fridge.

The easy way to tell if this is the problem or not, is what happens when it's warm for a few weeks, fridge gets bad, then it cools off again. If it recovers quickly in that time, then this isn't your issue; but if it stays bad for a good while, even when the house is cooler, this could be at least part of the issue. I suspect it's not all of it - but perhaps keeping the airflow smooth could help reduce the length of these issues, at least, if you're able to keep the compressor from over-taxing itself and freezing as early.

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