Can an electrical outlet be "weak"?
August 22, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Our 11 year old refrigerator stopped getting cold enough (42 to 48 degrees). It's done this before and we've replaced parts. This time I decided enough and replaced the unit. Now this new LG refrigerator is doing the same thing. I've had a tech come out and they replaced the board with all the pertinent parts and it still isn't getting colder. But I've plugged in our old unit in the garage, where it is cooler, and now it's at the correct temp. Is it possible that it can be something to do with the electrical outlet? Wouldn't the service guy have had something to test that?
posted by miramy to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's possible you're not getting enough air movement in the place you stuck the fridge. A fridge needs room behind if for air to circulate. Is it wedged into a little fridge nook?

I don't know about power, though. I don't know that a power socket can be "weak". It either works or doesn't. However, the universe holds many mysteries.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2011

This happened to me two years ago; bought a new LG fridge and the board had to be replaced twice in a month. Third time the repairman told me that he strongly recommended returning the fridge and getting another brand/fridge that was less "computerized" (his words). He said that the current was probably fluctuating enough that it was frying the board. (He'd seen this quite a bit in homes in my neighborhood.) Returned it, got a less advanced fridge, no problems. (Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with LG, but the repairman said that specific brand tends to have these issues.)
posted by sorrygottago at 4:55 PM on August 22, 2011

A fridge is just a heat exchanger, and hence needs somewhere to dump heat. Is the back of your fridge covered, blocked in or insulated somehow?
posted by mhoye at 4:55 PM on August 22, 2011

In the case of the older unit, it might just be coincidental. If its "freon" has leaked out partially over the years, it won't have as much ability to transfer heat. In a cooler environment, it is able to manage.

With the newer one, who knows? I've heard that LG fridge needing boards replaced story before, but I don't know how accurate it is. LG was an OEM manufacturer for a whole lot of companies before they set out on their own, and still is afaik. (LG stands for Lucky Goldstar, by the way. How can you go wrong?)

The air movement solution seems the most likely. If the outlet was somehow weak, I would expect that you'd get breakers tripping and the machine would run constantly. An outlet can be "weak" via some form of resistance in the circuit. Corroded contacts in the outlet itself, a bad splice somewhere along the way, a bad breaker (check if the breaker is really f-ing hot), or the breakers aren't properly balanced in the load panel and one side is being overloaded and the voltage is dropping.
posted by gjc at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2011

Is the fridge "running" (i.e. you can hear the compressor whirring) ALL of the time, or is it doing the normal off for a while then on for a while cycle?
posted by trialex at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2011

I know this is obvious... but have you tried manually defrosting? I've "inherited" work refrigerators with long service histories of periodically losing cooling and "needing new parts", etc. When I arrived on the scene, I "solved" subsequent instances of the problem by defrosting the condenser coils. From the records, that's never something that was mentioned by a service tech. Could be that the time the old unit was unplugged was sufficient to defrost the coils. I've also noticed my machines need more frequent manual defrosting during the warm, humid months.

I generally hold appliance service companies in low regard. Being told I "need new parts" when the problem lies elsewhere (and is a simple fix) is something I've encountered multiple times from multiple service providers, all of them "authorized" by the manufacturer.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 5:30 PM on August 22, 2011

Yes, the fridge is in a nook in the cabinetry. In fact, that's how we ended up with an LG (slogan: Life's Good); it was the only one with a model narrow enough to fit. But we are within the recommended air gaps all around and in back. Still, that may be insufficient. It's not running constantly, I checked the breakers and none are hot. The old fridge may be working well because of the defrost but the new one didn't cool properly from the first day installed. There may be something to that current fluctuating. Both times the older fridge stopped working it was during intensely hot weather. I recall wondering if it was beyond bad timing/luck. This time, ConEd had made automated calls asking everyone to not use power unnecessarily and adding, perversely, that it was okay to leave refrigerators on when ours had just stopped cooling properly. Perhaps they reduced energy output and that was enough to fry it. Would a surge protector be helpful for this if it gets working again or LG ends up replacing it?
posted by miramy at 6:27 PM on August 22, 2011

In addition to all you're already checking out - is the fridge across from/near a window? I've found that fighting the heat from a window can make a fridge do what you're describing.
posted by batmonkey at 7:04 PM on August 22, 2011

do not discount the possibility that the new fridge not working on delivery is purely coincidental. what makes it interesting is the idea that it is not running constantly, so the fridge seems to believe the fridge is cold enough. how are you determining that it is not cold enough?
posted by davejay at 7:09 PM on August 22, 2011

miramy posted "But I've plugged in our old unit in the garage, where it is cooler, and now it's at the correct temp. Is it possible that it can be something to do with the electrical outlet? "

Your old fridge started working again because you had it unplugged long enough for it to manually defrost. Keep it running for a 3-5 weeks and it'll stop working properly again.

It's really unlikely your outlet is providing insufficient voltage unless you are experience brown outs generally though it is pretty easy to check and you could mention it to the tech the next time he is out.

miramy writes "the new one didn't cool properly from the first day installed. "

Keep calling for warranty service until they either get it working or they replace the whole thing. GE for example used to have a 5 calls for the same problem and then replacement. If the guy doesn't fix it by the third time out then I'd be escalating with LG.
posted by Mitheral at 7:23 PM on August 22, 2011

If it is a problem with heat being trapped behind the fridge, you could try putting a fan on top of it to get some circulation going, at least to help diagnose the problem.
posted by alexei at 11:40 PM on August 22, 2011

I'm keeping track of temps with a thermometer made for refrigerators, freezers. I highly recommend them as they've alerted me early rather than that surprise milk. They stay in with little suction cups. No window nearby heating it but I'm going to try plugging it in to another outlet with heavy extension cord to compare. LG has finally agreed to replace it but having trouble getting Home Depot on board. I should find out if it's my outlet before they bring another.
posted by miramy at 6:02 AM on August 23, 2011

Is it possible that it can be something to do with the electrical outlet?
Yes, but unlikely. Did the fridge regularly trip your circuit breaker? If so - you may need a higher current breaker for that area of the house. Consult an electrician if this is the case.

Wouldn't the service guy have had something to test that?
No, he would have assumed that you are receiving 120VAC at 60Hz. Just because it isn't getting cold enough doesn't mean you are not getting power at the outlet. It means the fridge is running, just not properly.

I agree with the comments about airflow at the fridge's location.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:50 AM on August 23, 2011

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