I just acquired a double door Amana refrigerator. I'm not sure when it was manufactured but from the design and the dates on referenced patent numbers on the back, it seems to be from the late 70s/early 80s.

It seems to be working although it's giving off some cool air from the bottom.

Is it safe to use it?

  • "Safe" as in, will it explode? Will it suddenly heat your food? Will it single-handedly punch a hole in the ozone layer? – Tetsujin Feb 24 at 19:18
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    For your power bill, probably not. Otherwise, sure. "Cool air from the bottom" sounds like it needs new door gaskets or otherwise has an air leak, which is also a heat leak and will make it run more. The fact that it's 30+ yars old means it's likely to be a power hog .vs. a newer more efficient refrigerator (mine runs on less than 1 KWH per day, though I have not yet measured it in the summer, as I only bought it last fall.) – Ecnerwal Feb 24 at 19:19
  • The biggest risk is that you will spend more on electricity running it than it would cost to buy a new one (and power it). Got a "Kill-a-watt" energy monitor? Plug it in for a day and post the hours and KWH. We can tell you how new ones run. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 24 at 20:19

Safe? Yes. Economically wise? No.

Refrigerators older than let's say the mid to late 90s are woefully inefficient, and use quite a lot of electricity compared to ones made in the last 15 years or so. Buying a newer fridge (even one 10 years old) will often pay for itself in just a few years in the amount of electricity saved.

So if you're planning on using the fridge for more than a few years, it's likely wise to not run it and find something newer. Utilities in the US (and possibly even other countries) will often even give you a rebate on disposing of an old fridge like this.

  • Thanks! It's just for 3 months so hopefully the electric bill shouldn't be a huge issue! – Opt Feb 24 at 20:46
  • Electric use is one drawback, but an old fridge is also probably built better and might even last longer than a new fridge. Might also die tomorrow. If parts are still available(iffy at best) would be easier to fix, no electronics to worry about. Price you paid for it, plus extra cost electricity, about only reason to worry, free should cover electric cost for year or two. – crip659 Feb 25 at 0:16
  • @crip659 I wouldn't be too sure about that. Refrigerators are pretty simple devices and haven't changed much over the years except maybe the refrigerant. I don't know that they're any better/worse than they were in the past. As I understand it the efficiency is more about the insulation than anything else. The persistent myth about "they don't make 'em like they used to" is really about the junk they sold 20 years ago is in a landfill, and the good stuff is still working. People said that 20 years ago, and they'll say it 20 years from now! – Steve Sether Feb 25 at 1:19
  • @Opt I haven't done the math for a while, but as I recall it was about $10 extra a month for the old fridges vs new. So you're not going to break the bank. – Steve Sether Feb 25 at 1:37

The cool air you're feeling is mostly likely from the fan, which sounds like is mounted on the bottom of the unit. Refrigerators work in theory the same as air conditioning units. Freon circulates through the system, and as it attracts heat, this heat needs to be released to the "outside" of the unit. That's where the fan comes in. It pushes/pulls cooler air, typically across a condenser, which the heat transfers to and gets pushed out into the room. As a result, the refrigerant/freon passing through the condenser is now cooler/colder, so it travels back to the compressor, and eventually draws out more heat from inside the refrigerator. As more and more heat is extracted from inside, then the inside becomes/maintains it's colder temperature. IOW, it's operating as designed.

As far as safe, if you're willing to take a chance on it, then just thoroughly clean it out/sanitize it before storing food inside. Unless the previous owner was storing some kind of infectious/biological/toxic chemicals in it, you're probably fine. Of course, you should also plug it in and let it run for a day or so to ensure it keeps running before going to the trouble of putting it inside, as well as stocking it up with food/drink.

If it was free, then I wouldn't worry about the "economics" of how much energy/costs will be involved. That's kind of like looking a gifted horse in the mouth. If you needed a car, and someone gave you a free one that was not as economical as others, then would you turn it down? How much electricity could you pay for to run the frig. that would amount to the cost of a new one, as well as the cost of the assoc. electricity to operate it?

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