Refrigerators are typically transported upright, but due to certain circumstances, there may be no other choice but to lay a refrigerator on its side during transport. I’ve heard a lot of questions about this throughout my time working in the home appliance industry. Is it safe to do so? Moreover, will it create problems for your fridge later on?
Fortunately, the effects of laying your fridge on its side will only be temporary. Transporting your refrigerator this way is safe as long as you let your fridge rest upright for at least 4 hours (24 hours at most) before turning it on.
In this article, I will discuss what happens when you lay your refrigerator on its side and what to do before turning it on.
Warning: if you plan on not reading the proceeding parts of this article (though we highly suggest that you read through it!), take note that some of the bigger refrigerator models (e.g. French Door, Side-by-Side, Bottom Freezers, and Built-in Refrigerators) should not be laid on their side at all times due to their weight.
How a refrigerator works
Refrigerators work by continuously evaporating and condensing a refrigerant gas to produce a cooling effect inside the compartment. They do this with the help of a compressor that pumps the refrigerant gas to the refrigerator’s coils.
To help this operation run smoothly, refrigerators have specially formulated oils that lubricate and cool the compressor. This oil is what causes issues to the refrigerator when you lay it on its side.
What happens to a refrigerator when you lay it on its side
When the fridge is laid sideways, the oil can run off from the compressor and make its way up to the cooling coils. Since the oil is thick and viscous, it can easily clog up the coils and may prevent the refrigerant gas from flowing through them and thus causing cooling issues for your refrigerator.
Apart from that, if the compressor runs with an improper amount of lubricating oil, it can cause overheating and eventually break down from worn-out parts due to excessive friction.
Moreover, the innards of the refrigerator may get misaligned or dislodged on account of their weight and awkward position. For example, the compressor is supported by brackets that hold it in an upright position. If laid on its side, the brackets may give way as it was not designed to hold the compressor at that angle. The compressor’s internal parts may get dislodged as well. You’ll know something went wrong if loud banging and shuddering sounds are coming from the compressor after you turned it on.
Can a refrigerator be transported on its side?
Ideally, refrigerators should be transported upright to minimize the disturbance of the sealed refrigeration system and to prevent damage to the internal parts.
With that said though, it is generally safe to lay a refrigerator on its side during transport provided that you let it rest upright before turning it on to allow the lubricant oil to flow back down to the compressor.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to let the refrigerator rest upright (and unplugged) for the same amount of time that it was lying on its side. If you laid it on its side for 4 hours, then you should let it rest upright for 4 hours as well.
Do note that not all refrigerators can be laid on their side. Larger models like Side-by-sides, french doors, bottom freezers, and built-in refrigerators should be kept upright at all times on account of their weight as transporting them horizontally may cause dents or misaligned hinges on the side that the fridge was laid on.
If you are unsure, consult with the brand’s representative to give you the best course of action.
Tip: you can compromise by tilting (not fully laying) your refrigerator sideways. This will keep the compressor oils from spilling somewhat and keep the fridge supported by one side of its base.
What to do after you lay a refrigerator on its side
Luckily, the side effects (pardon the pun) of transporting a fridge horizontally are only temporary. Here are the steps to take before turning your refrigerator on after it has been laid on its side.
- Remove the box and set it up in its final position.
- Let it rest upright and keep it unplugged for at least 4 hours (24 at most) to let the oil settle back into the compressor.
- Run it at the max temperature setting for at least 2 hours while it’s empty to let it reach the perfect temperature.
- You can now put food into the refrigerator!
I hope that I’ve answered your questions completely! In summary:
- Yes, it is generally safe to lay your refrigerator on its side when transporting it.
- No, it is not ideal.
- But the adverse side effects can be prevented from happening by letting the compressor oil settle down before turning your refrigerator on.
Please comment down below if you have any more refrigerator-related questions that need answering.
- removeandreplace.com. (n.d.). Refrigerator laid on side when moving now will not cool properly. Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://removeandreplace.com/2015/10/30/refrigerator-laid-on-side-when-moving-now-will-not-cool-properly/
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.