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Refrigerator Maintenance: 8 Things You Should Never Do

5 min read

The refrigerator is often the most expensive appliance in the kitchen. Proper refrigerator maintenance is essential to keep your fridge looking and running at its best. Regular upkeep improves both the appliance’s energy efficiency and performance. It saves you money on your energy bill and postpones the day you need to replace it.

But good fridge maintenance is also critical to avoiding water damage, which is one of the top five claims made against home insurance policies. So, make plans now to prevent this type of damage. Toward that end, let’s unpack eight things you should never do when caring for your fridge.

1. Never Set the Thermostat Too High or Too Low

One of the most critical steps of good refrigerator maintenance is preventing problems before they happen. Your refrigerator should be set around 35-38 degrees F. Setting the temperature too low will cause the fridge to work too hard, shorten the appliance’s life, send your electric bills soaring, and result in frozen food. But if you set it above 40, you risk spoilage.

2. Never Ignore the Seals

The efficient cooling of your fridge relies on seals and gaskets that prevent the loss of cooled air or the leakage of warm air into the system. The seals and gaskets must remain in a good, flexible, clean condition to keep food fresh and prevent the fridge from overheating.

Use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down the seals around your refrigerator and freezer doors. Avoid using a knife to get debris out of the folds. Use a toothbrush instead to avoid damaging the seal. Avoid harsh detergents. A mix of one part vinegar to three parts water works well.

3. Never Overlook the Water Lines

Fresh, cold water from the refrigerator is a refreshing convenience, and keeping the water lines clean and in good repair is part of refrigerator maintenance. A blockage or break in the line can result in a flooded kitchen and severe water damage. So, it’s a good idea to inspect and clean the water lines every 6 to 12 months. Follow these steps:

Cleaning the water line like this should only take about 30 minutes. Make fridge maintenance a part of your home maintenance checklist.

4. Never Forget the Drain Pan

Inspecting and cleaning your refrigerator’s drain pan is essential to fridge maintenance. Every time you open your refrigerator door, warm air enters the system. This causes condensation when the warm air meets the system’s cold air. Your refrigerator’s drain pan at the bottom collects the excess water and condensation that forms throughout the cooling and defrost cycles.

As long as the system works correctly, you should never have to empty the drain pan -- the water should evaporate. However, a cracked, broken, or dirty drain pan can allow mold and mildew to develop. Left untended, this mold can cause structural damage to the floor under the fridge and potentially a downstairs neighbor’s ceiling.

5. Never Put Hot Food or Containers in the Refrigerator

Have you ever wondered why you shouldn’t put warm food in the fridge? There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if the item is too hot, the temperature difference may cause cold glass shelves in the fridge to crack or break. Also, forcing your refrigerator to cool hot food and containers works the cooling system too hard. This is hard on the appliance and your utility bills. Letting the food come to room temperature naturally won’t cause the condenser to work hard or cost you any money.

6. Never Overpack Your Fridge

It may feel satisfying to see a refrigerator filled with food, but overfilling it can be a problem. Your fridge cools food by circulating cooled air. If the contents are packed in too tightly to allow proper air circulation, you’re forcing your refrigerator to work too hard. Overpacking compromises the appliance’s efficiency, potentially shortening its life. Be thoughtful about your refrigerator use and how you load it. Not only does overstocking it with groceries risk damaging your refrigerator, but it also causes the food to spoil more rapidly.

7. Never Block the Vents Inside Your Refrigerator

Refrigerators don’t actually add cold to our food; they remove heat. The appliance transfers heat from the food and the air inside the fridge to the outside. This is the essence of refrigeration. But the heat must have a clear path to the outside to prevent the fridge from overheating and breaking down.

Refrigerators have vents at the back that must be allowed to dissipate heat. To ensure proper ventilation, never place the back of the fridge against the wall. Always maintain at least a two-inch clearance. Similarly, the vents inside the fridge should never be blocked.

8. Never Forget to Vacuum the Condenser Coils

The refrigerator’s condenser coils are responsible for cooling the refrigerant and continuously expelling the built-up heat. Over time, through everyday refrigerator use, these condenser coils collect dust, cobwebs, pet hair, and grime that can impair their effective functioning. Dirty coils will cause your refrigerator’s compressor to work harder and use more electricity. Regularly cleaning the coils can expand the serviceable life of the appliance.

Your refrigerator’s condenser coils are located at the back or underneath the appliance. Unplug the fridge and remove the access panel covering the coils to clean them. A vacuum cleaner’s crevice attachment or a coil brush is ideal for cleaning the coils. Then, replace the access panel and plug the fridge back in. This quick bit of fridge maintenance can be done when you tend the water lines.

Refrigerator maintenance is key to protecting your home and restraining your utility bills. Another way to conserve your resources and keep expenditures bills low is to ensure your homeowners or renters’ insurance is up to date. So, why not contact one of our helpful agents to review your coverage?

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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