Can laying a mini fridge on it's side damage it?
July 3, 2013 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I bought a mini fridge today and the guy said not to put it on its side or If I do, not to turn it on for 24 hours. I was trying to fit it in my car and I put it on its side for a second but it wouldn't fit so I rented a truck and put it upright not sideways and took it home. When I got it home I turned it on right away. It is very loud, enough that I hope it doesn't stop me from sleeping tonight since it's in my bedroom. Is this because I put it on its side for a few seconds?
posted by john123357 to Technology (29 answers total)
It could be but in my experience minifridges are LOUD unless you drop a couple of bucks on them.
posted by hiddenknives at 11:36 PM on July 3, 2013

Instruction manuals usually say that you should let a fridge rest a bunch of hours after moving it, no matter what. That's what the guy really was supposed to have told you, and it is more likely the problem here than putting it on its side for a few moments.
posted by Namlit at 11:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The fridge I got was the Vissani 3.1 cu. ft. Mini Refrigerator for $200 from home depot. Because I didn't let it rest for 4 hours can that make it loud?
posted by john123357 at 11:40 PM on July 3, 2013

Mini fridges, in my experience, are indeed louder than you would expect, if your experience is based on full-size fridges (which can be loud sometimes in their own right). If you're worried about it, perhaps try unplugging it and letting it "rest" in its upright position for a few hours before turning it on again.
posted by amyms at 11:40 PM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: I had a Kenmore mini fridge before and it wasen't as loud as this one. Also someone told me that mini fridges and large fridges work the same so why would a mini fridge be more loud?
posted by john123357 at 11:43 PM on July 3, 2013

Okay, perhaps you can describe the loud sound to helps us narrow is down and provide more insight. Is it whirring, clunking, what?
posted by amyms at 11:47 PM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: whirring
posted by john123357 at 11:49 PM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: Sounds kind of like a computer when the fan is running loudly
posted by john123357 at 11:49 PM on July 3, 2013

That whirring may just be an artifact of the brand (if so, it's amazing how quickly you'll become accustomed to it and not notice it after awhile). But, you could always try unplugging it for a few hours and letting it settle before restarting it again.
posted by amyms at 11:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is unplugging it any better than just letting it run?
posted by john123357 at 11:56 PM on July 3, 2013

If you're concerned that the loudness may be related to not having let it settle before, then yes, unplugging it and letting it come to a "stasis" might help.
posted by amyms at 11:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Vissani/Magic Chef/Home Depot fridges are cheap (I know this from personal experience). The first 24 hours of running ours were loud, while the refrigerant recirculated through the condenser. Afterwards, it will "gurgle" every now and again. You get what you pay for.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 PM on July 3, 2013

Just wanted to add that Blazecock Pileon's experience is valid too. Letting the fridge run for awhile and seeing if the loudness lessens is a completely viable alternative.
posted by amyms at 12:03 AM on July 4, 2013

Response by poster: So why exactly are you supposed to let it rest for a few hours before plugging it in, what is the reason for this? And what's the worst case scenario if you don't follow it?
posted by john123357 at 12:05 AM on July 4, 2013

The main reason you are not supposed to turn a fridge on its side is that the coolant will flow up into the coils. If you start the fridge before it has a chance to drain down where it's supposed to be, Bad Things may happen. See this previous AskMe.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:08 AM on July 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

This may all seem like "woo" but the rule of thumb (or old wives' tale, if you will) is that because refrigerators have various liquids related to their optimum performance, it's best to let them "settle" if said refrigerator has been transported, in a non-upright position, before plugging it in and turning it on. Of course this could all be mindless speculation, and perhaps your fridge is performing normally and you'll get accustomed to the noise. It's all relative.
posted by amyms at 12:10 AM on July 4, 2013

Response by poster: I also noticed a whooshing sound from my fridge
posted by john123357 at 12:38 AM on July 4, 2013

I'd unplug it, let it stand for 24 hours then try again, and see if the problem persists.
posted by singingfish at 1:34 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you really want to know what your fridge fluid is doing, go mix some oil in a bottle of water and shake it a lot. Then leave it for a few hours. See how it separated? It's a bit more complicated than that, but that's why letting it settle for a while can help. That said, letting it 'settle' overnight next week or today won't make much of a difference if you want to wait. Unplugging it WILL help it settle (or at least turning it off, anyway.)

Older fridges and cheaper fridges tend to be louder. It costs more to avoid making noise. They work the same way, but it's basically a motor that makes it cool. All different types of motors make different amounts of noise!

If it really bothers you, try moving it to a different room. Settling may or may not make it any quieter.
posted by Ashlyth at 2:06 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Besides turning it off to let the coolant settle, make sure it's totally leveled.

Everybody just assumes the floor is perfectly level, but there's sometimes a bit of a dip or even slant, and refridgerators run best when on a truly level surface. If necessary, use tiny slips of wood to help.
posted by easily confused at 2:34 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sources of noise are compressor noise, motor noise, fan/air noise, and possible loose pieces. Of these, you can change the loose pieces, if there are any. The rest is what it is. If it's too noisy, complain and try another. It could be unit-specific. You got a bad one, maybe, in noise terms.

Nth the explanation on tilting it. What you did probably wasn't sufficient for it to be a problem, and if it were, it would go away soon. The contents of your hermetically sealed refrigeration system are freon and lubricant. The freon is in a gaseous state or liquid state, depending on where it is in the running system. The compressor is quietest when it's only having to deal with gaseous inputs. If liquid gets in there, it not only makes noise, it makes for noisy and higher current starts for the compressor motor.

Any noise maker in a small room is probably going to be a problem. However, it should run relatively quietly. I'd go back to the vendor and get them to demo one or two units. If yours is out of norm, swap it. Or bump up to the next quality level. Try it out at the store, first, though. Save yourself some trouble.
posted by FauxScot at 4:59 AM on July 4, 2013

Modern fridges are a lot different from fridges of yore. Unless you drop considerable bucks, you will probably notice that a fridge bought today is louder (or differently loud) than a fridge from 20 years ago. I think it has a lot to do with trying to be more energy efficient and other differences in the refrigerants.

At least that's how the tech explained it to me when I had them come out to examine my new Kenmore which was running a lot louder than the 30+ year-old Admiral it replaced. In addition to just being louder, it, too, was making "whooshing" sounds. The tech said that's the sound of the refrigerant rushing through the pipes/tubing, and that it's normal.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on July 4, 2013

If you have plugged it in it's too late - either it will work or not. If it's getting cold you're ok. Besides the oil getting mixed, the real problem with used fridges is that there may be small metal shavings from the bearings and other solids that settle to the bottom. Tipping it may stir these up, that's why you wait. Refrigerators work by pumping the cooling fluid through a small orfice, if it gets plugged you're done for.
posted by 445supermag at 6:50 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I also noticed over the night then when the fan or compressor shuts off (which is not often as it seems to run constantly) it makes a popping sound. What does that mean?
posted by john123357 at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2013

Modern fridges do all sorts of popping, whining, swooshing, ticking, whatnoting. Not super loud, perhaps, but they do. Ours in the kitchen sometimes sounds like a very slowly dying mouse.
Go by what others said here: if it cools, it likely survived the trip. If it doesn't cool, it's perhaps shot.
posted by Namlit at 12:50 PM on July 4, 2013

Response by poster: What is the worst case scenario that can happen to the fridge if you don't let it "settle" before plugging it in?
posted by john123357 at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2013

The worst-case scenario is that it won't get cold enough to safely store your food.
posted by juliplease at 4:16 PM on July 4, 2013

Response by poster: Will it make it loud?
posted by john123357 at 10:55 PM on July 4, 2013

TBH the worst-case scenario is that the refrigerant not being in the compressor when the compressor is compressing burns it out. It may well have flowed in by now, so it's too late to do anything, but that period of pumping air may have shortened the life of the part.

In fact if your fridge sounds anything like that (large HVAC compressor), i.e. more like a metal-stmaping machine than a gurgling pipe... Well, maybe it cools, but it won't for very much longer.

When our central air transformer died, it caused a consequent compressor and fan failure that sounded like an A-10 Warthog making an aerial attack on the neighborhood.
posted by dhartung at 2:58 AM on July 5, 2013

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