Is it time for a new refrigerator?
May 26, 2022 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I have a 20 year old refrigerator that doesn't get very cold anymore. Is it worth trying to fix or is it time for a new one?

The freezer gets to about -5c or 23f and the refrigerator gets to about 10c of 50f.

What I've checked: the compressor/fans are running, the coils are clean, the auto defrost is functioning on the proper interval and it is not frosting over. The refrigerator seals are in good condition and the doors close properly. It just doesn't get very cold! It appears to have a "sealed" refrigerant system.

Do refrigerator just run out of power after a certain amount of time? Can I get someone to add more refrigerant into the system or would it be best to just buy a new refrigerator at this point?
posted by smurfzambo to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As long as it's working, many power companies will PAY YOU like 50 bucks, and remove it for free, just to get you to buy a new energy efficient model. Makes so much sense, and better option than repairing a 20 year old model.
posted by mmf at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

We faced this recently when our fridge was running but not cold. It's a 23 year old Amana and we callled a repair guy and he was fantastic. He fixed it. The good thing is that old refrigerators are more repairable than new ones. They use more generic parts that are mechanical instead of electronic. Our repair was $340. So not nothin', and that could have been used for a good portion of a new fridge (but we have other issues with the space that it'll fit in).

However, a newer fridge will be far more efficient and as mmf points out, your local power company may give you a rebate for an efficient one.

Fridges are more available than they were a year ago, so you should be able to find something in stock.
posted by typetive at 10:19 AM on May 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

typetive's answer is spot on. This might very well be not that bad to fix, but a new one will be far more efficient. To put it another way: are you able to weather the up front cost to have a newer unit that uses far less energy (and will, over time, likely pay for itself) or is your cash flow/attachment to the property such that getting back online cheaply is a better option?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:25 AM on May 26, 2022

Best answer: Get a new one. 20 years is a good run. If you fix it then it will betray you by failing at the worst possible moment. Ask me how I know.
posted by caek at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2022 [6 favorites]

Ditto what caek said. We pushed our big, old, beloved and once-reliable Amana a little too long and then faced a stupid period of first nursing it along at the border of food safety and then living out of coolers, until a model that fit our kitchen space was in stock. If you can afford a replacement, go for it (but measure your space carefully to spec out the new unit). And beware - if you wait for it to actually conk out, the utility company might not pay you cash to haul a dead fridge away; you might then need to pay the appliance company a fee to remove it when they bring in the new one (depending on where you buy it).
posted by aught at 10:42 AM on May 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "A 20-year-old refrigerator could use 1,700 kWh of electricity every year, compared with about 450 kWh for a similarly sized new ENERGY STAR model. At an electrical cost of 12 cents per kWh, that represents a savings of $150 per year.."

In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, there's the benefit of not having it die at the worst possible time, with the risk of losing all your food, as mentioned.

I don't know what current conditions are now in your area, but I've heard of some long waits for appliances, so best to start looking soon.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:51 AM on May 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

I was so surprised at the reduction in my electric bill when I dumped my old refrigerator and bought a new one. I'm convinced your new refrigerator will ultimately pay for itself.
posted by SageTrail at 11:14 AM on May 26, 2022

Like many of the other responders, our electricity bill plummeted when we replaced a 20-year-old refrigerator.
posted by expialidocious at 11:55 AM on May 26, 2022

Our repair was $340.
If you have a BestBuy outlet or similar store, you can buy an entirely new basic regular fridge (ie: not fancy, no water dispenser, not gigantic) for that much.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:08 PM on May 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Buy a new one. Even 20 years ago, planned obsolescence was a thing. You've got more life out of the fridge than it was designed for, so consider that a bonus.
posted by dg at 1:51 PM on May 26, 2022

We moved to a new home not that long ago and knew we needed a basement fridge/freezer. We contemplated a used one off of Facebook marketplace or whatever, but we ended up buying a brand new Frigidaire, full size, basic, freezer on top, no ice maker (but you could buy a kit), delivered inside from an independent shop in the DC close in suburb for $520. It went in the basement, but that's neither here nor there. Had bins and all that. Works great, and is energywise. Full size basic fridge/freezers are harder to find right now because of (waves hands) supply chain issues, but it's worth waiting for an open box, ding and scratch, sale or otherwise for the energy savings on a new vs 20 year old repaired fridge, I think.
posted by atomicstone at 5:00 PM on May 26, 2022

I don't know if you need to replace your old refrigerator, but it's probably worth you knowing that new refrigerators have a much shorter lifespan than older ones did. If you decide you need to replace yours, you might want to poke around the appliance-related subreddits to help you decide what to buy. Going from memory, LG and Samsung are supposed to be horrible (pretty, cheap, but don't last), and Whirlpool and its sub-brands are supposed to be okay.
posted by Susan PG at 5:04 AM on May 27, 2022

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