What could be wrong with my elderly, non-cooling fridge?
August 21, 2010 1:40 AM   Subscribe

I just discovered that my fairly elderly refrigerator and freezer have stopped cooling. What is most likely to be wrong, and is it worth it to attempt to fix it?

The refrigerator came with the house, and it appears to be a Kenmore Coldspot of indeterminate age (probably at least 10 years old- likely quite a few more). I went downstairs for a midnight bowl of cereal just now, and the freezer is about 80 degrees; everything is melted/ruined. The fridge is slightly cooler- probably about 65 degrees.

It is making sounds like it is running, and the lights are on. The coils are clean, and the thermostat dials are where they always have been. The back of the fridge is quite cold to the touch, much colder than the inside of the appliance.

Possibly related: the ice maker majorly flooded the kitchen a week ago (I did not fix it or investigate further, just turned off the water supply to the freezer so it wouldn't happen again). I did have to move the fridge to clean up the flood- is there something that I could have dislodged that a week later might have given up the ghost? Or something that could have been hosed (ha) inside the fridge or freezer when water thoroughly flooded both compartments?

Very related: any Anchorage residents know a good appliance guy to call on Monday? I don't think I'll call anyone this weekend; what's ruined is already ruined, and I don't want to pay weekend rates.
posted by charmedimsure to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
(if it matters, the model # is 106.8770683)
posted by charmedimsure at 1:55 AM on August 21, 2010

annnnnnnd- in cleaning the now 90-degree freezer out an hour after I discovered this (RIP this summer's salmon), I touched the icemaker and gave the back of my finger a splendid blistery burn. Thinking that must be the problem, I disconnected it and took it out of the freezer; gave it 10 minutes and it already seems to be getting better.

Could have been exciting had the icemaker managed to flood my house one week, and burn it down the next. Learn from my idiocy, kids- if yours malfunctions, take the 10 seconds and remove it.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:32 AM on August 21, 2010

The annual cost of running old appliances is often a significant percentage of the cost of buying a new one.

You might consider determining your actual running costs using an electrical usage monitor such as this one.
posted by fairmettle at 3:01 AM on August 21, 2010

Seconding fairmettle. Go shopping for a new one.
posted by omnidrew at 7:26 AM on August 21, 2010

When this has happened to me, it's always been the fan for the condenser. If it's not spinning, even when it cycles on and sounds like it's cooling, check the electrical connections and clean out the dust. If it's not that, then you're going to need to check out the entire defrost system: the fuses for the heater (blown?), the coils (clogged?), the evaporator fan (working?), etc. If it's not that, I think it's time to call someone. :)

In any case, I agree with fairmettle, and there's a lot of incentives out there from the power companies themselves - especially here in CA, not so sure about AK - to replace your appliances with newer ones. Sounds like it might be time, in your case.
posted by kcm at 7:28 AM on August 21, 2010

I'm sorry about your fridge and I hope you are able to get it fixed, or that you get a new one.

In case you get a new one: See if you have a local salvage and take the fridge down there and get some money for it. If that's not an option, be sure and check with your electric company to see if they have a program where they pick your old fridge up and give you $50. Ours does (NC), but we made more than that taking it to salvage....
posted by Leah at 8:31 AM on August 21, 2010

The fact that the freezer side is warmer than the fridge side is every indication that your icemaker is the culprit. In most models, the cooling of the fridge actually comes from the air in the feezer... so if your condenser or some other cooling mechanism was going out, the freezer would still be colder than the fridge until they both reached room temp. Something had to be throwing heat INTO the freezer; I think you've identified that the icemaker as the culprit.

Having said that, personally, even if things return to normal sans-icemaker, I would get a new one... they're really not that expensive if you get a basic model, and like others said, you'll probably pay the cost back in energy savings sooner than you realize. Not to mention the fact that the condenser and everything have been working constantly to bring the temp back down since the icemaker went tits up - this may have stressed the system enough to significantly reduce its life, and you don't know what other parts this event may have damaged.
posted by SquidLips at 8:36 AM on August 21, 2010

I touched the icemaker and gave the back of my finger a splendid blistery burn

The icemaker has a heating element that it turns on briefly to get the fully formed ice to fall out of the molds. It sounds like the cycle timer got stuck.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone. Things are indeed pretty much back to normal. Getting a new modern fridge was about half the way up on our list of housey-things-to-get-done-within-the-next-year, and it has just moved to the top.

That said, I am glad it has not moved up to the top of the things-to-get-done-this-weekend list, which I was concerned about. We just replaced my big single paned glass patio door and the front door two days ago in the name of efficiency and readying for winter, and that used up the summer's getting things done budget- fall's fund doesn't start until I resume getting a teaching paycheck. :)
posted by charmedimsure at 11:56 AM on August 21, 2010

Definitely test the power consumption before shelling out for a new fridge.
posted by Chuckles at 12:01 AM on August 23, 2010

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