Fridge compressor died, or maybe not?
July 12, 2015 5:16 AM   Subscribe

It seems like there have been a lot of broken refrigerator questions here, but none really addresses what happened to mine, so here's another one! I /think/ my compressor broke, but the freezer and fridge are still cold.

Yesterday, I heard a loud kind of metallic banging noise in the kitchen. It was odd, but I assumed something fell? (I have a cat.) Then I heard a bunch of weird kind of metallic crunching noises and was like, what did the cat get into? But he was sitting there with a big ol' puffy tail and nowhere near anything making noise. And there seemed to be kind of popping noises coming from the freezer, and there was a strong chemical/freon sort of smell. I could actually see a haze of gas, and then the smoke alarms went off! (Opening the back door cleared things enough that the alarms stopped, though the smell was still VERY strong throughout my house.)

It was Saturday, so I couldn't get anyone on the phone to come fix it. A friend and my dad both called contractor friends and both diagnosed a broken compressor and recommended just buying a new one, which I did.

BUT! My freezer and fridge are still cold just like normal! I mean, sometimes when I open one or the other I smell freon, but everything still seems to be frozen solid/cold. Is my fridge about to die? Should I take stuff to a friend's? Is my fridge ok, and I spent a ton of money yesterday for no reason? I have no idea how old the fridge is--it came with my house. I mean, something clearly went wrong, the house still smells like freon and a lot of gas definitely came out of the fridge. I just am really second-guessing myself about a major appliance purchase that may not have been necessary, and wondering if my food will be ok till the new one is delivered (Monday).
posted by leesh to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Well it's still well insulated and full of cold items, so yeah it will feel cold for a while.

You wanna test it? Put a bottle of water in the freezer and see if it freezes.
posted by ryanrs at 5:23 AM on July 12, 2015

I'll try that!
posted by leesh at 5:24 AM on July 12, 2015

Also, if you were to put a thermometer inside a freezer full of food, then unplug it the freezer, the temperature over time would look like this:

- start at 0 F, normal temp for a working freezer
- increase to 32 F over the course of several hours
- sit at exactly 32 F for a couple days
- start increasing again until reaching room temperature

That long plateau at 32 F is the food inside thawing. Heat energy is moving from the outside environment into the freezer compartment (slowly because it's insulated), but the heat energy goes into melting ice into water, not raising the temp. Only when all the food is thawed will the temp increase above 32 F.

I'm mentioning this in case you measure your freezer at 32 F and conclude it's still working. If it's that warm, then it's probably dead.

The fridge won't have the same plateau effect since no ice is involved. The fridge temp would just increase from normal (high 30s) to room temp over a day or two.
posted by ryanrs at 5:41 AM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

tldr: it will take about two days or so for your food to thaw, so just because stuff is still frozen the next day doesn't mean your fridge is ok. Leaking refrigerant is a sure death sentence for any refrigerator, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.
posted by ryanrs at 5:45 AM on July 12, 2015

Oh no, this actually makes me feel /better/, because it means I was right to buy a new fridge! But I should keep an eye on especially the dairy in the fridge for sure. Thanks!
posted by leesh at 5:50 AM on July 12, 2015

Don't open the fridge or freezer doors unless absolutely necessary, leesh.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could have knocked over the fan blades inside the exhaust. The fan doesnt' turn all the time.

Actually found a dead mice there once. It was started to smell too.
posted by kschang at 11:33 AM on July 12, 2015

I don't think the problem is with a fan. The freezer and fridge are both still cold (a bottle of water froze in the freezer this am and has not yet thawed despite several hours in the fridge). Now I am once again doubting my purchase of a major appliance. :(
posted by leesh at 3:52 PM on July 12, 2015

Yeah if it froze a bottle of water then it's still working. Huh.

If it was in that long plateau at 32 F I mentioned in my earlier comment, it would not be forming new ice.
posted by ryanrs at 6:56 PM on July 12, 2015

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