A worker services refrigerator condenser coils

All refrigerators have condenser coils underneath or behind the unit that condense the refrigerant and allow your fridge to cool. We know you’re always eager to do what you can for a greener household. But, like many homeowners, you may wonder if you can save on your energy bills if you clean these coils.

So, will cleaning your dirty fridge condenser coils help in that area? 

Today’s article will examine why you should clean your refrigerator condenser coils and how to do it. So keep reading, as there’s lots of helpful information to come! 

Can You Save Energy (and Money) Cleaning Your Fridge Condenser Coils? 

Dirty condenser coils can’t release excess heat, so cleaning them is worthwhile for better energy efficiency. As a result, your fridge will work better, reducing energy usage. You’ll also prolong the life of your fridge.

However, if you’re expecting huge gains in energy efficiency and, thus, considerable reductions in your bill spending, you might be a little underwhelmed.

First, let’s talk about why cleaning your refrigerator condenser coils is important. 

The condenser coils have two jobs, as we discussed in the intro. The first job is to condense refrigerant, aka coolant. Without coolant, the ambient air in your fridge would stay ambient, and all your food would spoil.

The second duty of refrigerator condenser coils is to provide cooling. Unfortunately, as the condenser coils get gunked up with dust, dirt, and other debris, the coils’ ability to do both jobs diminishes. This buildup makes your refrigerator work much harder to achieve and maintain a cool temperature. 

By cleaning the condenser coils, you’re ensuring they work optimally, which means your fridge will as well. Refrigerators only suck up one or two kilowatt-hours of energy per day, which means that per year, your fridge accrues about $150 in energy costs. 

Keeping the refrigerator condenser coils clean will allow your fridge to run to at least that level of efficiency so that your fridge energy costs don’t get too pricy. 

How to Clean Your Refrigerator Condenser Coils

Do you have 15 minutes? If so, you can clean your refrigerator condenser coils.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Unplug Your Fridge

You’ll recall that the refrigerator condenser coils run hotter when backed up with debris. They and the other components of your fridge are not hot enough to burn you, of course, but even still, why take the chance?

An RV owner searches for the power guidelines label on his RV fridge

You might have to have another person help you grab the fridge and pull it out a few inches so you can finagle behind it and unplug it, but it can’t stay plugged in while you work. 

Since you’ll work quickly, the food in your fridge won’t even have time to reach ambient temperature, let alone begin spoiling. 

Step 2: Find the Condenser Coils

You’ll recall from earlier that your refrigerator condenser coils are in one of two locations—underneath the fridge or around the back. 

Some fridge models even feature the coils in a third location, the front of your fridge. If that’s the case, your fridge will have a toe grill that you can detach.

The coils themselves are placed in a U-shaped grid. They’re wound up and made of metal. 

Step 3: Clean the Dust and Debris

It might be a good idea to wear a face mask and goggles for this next step, as dust and dirt can go flying once you dislodge them.

Using a flashlight, assess the state of the condenser coils. Then, with a portable vacuum cleaner, suck up the debris, dust, and other gunk that easily comes off the surface of the coils. 

Step 4: Use a Coil Condenser Brush to Clean Deep Within

You probably don’t have a refrigerator coil condenser brush on hand since it’s such a specific tool. 

It costs about $10 to procure one, and it will be helpful in future instances of cleaning behind or underneath your fridge. With the coil condenser brush, slip it into the crevices and spaces between the condenser coils to clean where the portable vacuum cannot go.

Most refrigerator coil condenser brushes are 27 inches, so they can go pretty far and get quite deep. That said, make sure you’re twisting and rotating the brush to lift the dust from the surface of the coils effectively. 

Step 5: Vacuum One More Time

Cleaning with the coil condenser brush likely lifted a lot of loose dust and dirt. It’s a good idea to vacuum the coils and the surrounding area once more before you push the fridge back into place and plug it in. 

Step 6: Plug Your Fridge In

A fridge with open doors shoing all the food stored inside.

Don’t forget this step! After all, it’s one thing if the food in your fridge goes 15 minutes without cool air, and it’s another thing entirely if it’s hours and hours—then the food does indeed risk spoilage. 

Other Benefits of Cleaning Your Refrigerator Condenser Coils

Cleaning your refrigerator condenser coils isn’t too challenging, and you only have to do it about once a year to boot. 

As if all that wasn’t incentivizing enough, here are some additional benefits of clean fridge condenser coils. 

Less Food Spoilage

You’ll recall that when you have dirty refrigerator condenser coils, the unit has to work harder to reach the proper temperature.

If the coils are so backed up that the fridge has lapses in performance, the risk of ambient air entering the fridge increases. Short-term bursts of ambient air are probably not enough to cause spoilage, but we cannot say the same for longer-term exposure to warmer air.

It’s no secret that groceries are incredibly costly right now. From milk to eggs to butter, produce, thawing meats, juices, and more, you don’t want to have to throw out the contents of your fridge because everything went bad. 

A homeowner looking at tomatoes in her hand as she stands in front of the open natural gas refrigerator in her kitchen

By keeping clean condenser coils, you’re at less risk of this scenario occurring! 

Better Fridge Longevity 

The average lifespan of a refrigerator is 10 to 20 years, but yours might not make it that far if the condenser coils stay dirty for too long. If they do, you may begin having a lot of fridge breakdowns. 

Fridge breakdowns are no fun—you must put all the contents of your fridge on ice or throw things away. 

It can sometimes take days before a technician can come to address the issue, which means days of inconvenience for you and your family. Not only that, but you’re out hundreds, potentially thousands of dollars on the repairs.

It’s only a matter of time before the fridge breakdown eventually causes the failure of your refrigerator. A new refrigerator can cost anywhere from $500-$2,000, depending on how many bells and whistles you want.

For instance, an Energy Star fridge and freezer combo might start at $500, while a stainless steel fridge with French doors can retail for as much as $2,000. 

By prioritizing clean refrigerator coils, you can save a lot of money and reduce the instances of fridge breakdowns and failure. 

Cleaner Air

Even if dust is lingering around the refrigerator condenser coils, don’t think that the dirty air is limited to only your refrigerator

Dust and dirt can travel in the air, spreading throughout your kitchen and possibly other parts of the home. The indoor air quality in your house is lessened as a consequence.

This development might not be such a big deal if you’ve cleaned your condenser coils in the past few years, but what if you’ve never cleaned them? Then, the amount of dust lingering in the air can be severe. 

Conclusion 

Cleaning your refrigerator condenser coils can lead to mild savings on your energy bills. But, much more importantly, by keeping them clean, you’re ensuring that your fridge produces cold air to reduce food spoilage and that your fridge is in working shape for longer. 

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