Why Are The Sides Of My Refrigerator Hot?

Refrigerators work by transferring the heat from inside its compartment to its exterior. This is why a little bit of warmth should be expected from your refrigerator. However, when the sides of your refrigerator get too hot to touch, it may indicate that there is something wrong with your fridge.

Not everything is lost though. For most cases, a few easy fixes are necessary to reduce the heat coming from your refrigerator.

In this article, we will go through how a refrigerator works to find out why the sides get hot, and the things we can do to reduce its temperature.

How a refrigerator works

Refrigerators work by harnessing the power of the evaporation process to cool down their compartments. It does this by continuously evaporating and condensing a refrigerant gas that runs through copper tubes inside the refrigerator.

The copper tubes are called the evaporator (the part that takes off the heat a.k.a makes things cold), and the condenser (the part that transfers the heat to the exterior). The heat you feel coming from the sides of your refrigerator is from the condenser and the copper tubing leading up to it.

Why the sides of your refrigerator are hot

A little bit of warmth should be expected when you touch the sides of your refrigerator. However, when it gets abnormally hot, it may indicate a problem with your refrigerator. Here are the possible culprits:

No ventilation space around your refrigerator

Your refrigerator needs a ventilation space of around 50mm (2 inches) of space at the sides and the rear, and 100mm (4 inches) at the top to make the transfer of heat efficient.

If your refrigerator does not have this breathing space, the heat coming from the condenser may reflect off the wall – causing the ambient temperature around the fridge to shoot up – making your refrigerator work harder than it should.

Note: different models require different ventilation spaces. The above measurement is only an average – please consult with your user manual for the specific ventilation space requirement for your refrigerator model.

Dirty condenser coils

If you don’t properly maintain your refrigerator, dust and grime will coat your condenser coils over time. This coating of dirt will prevent heat from dissipating properly.

To properly diagnose your problem, check the condenser fan located either at the following locations: (1) at the back, (2) beside the compressor, or (3) inside the back panel of the fridge.

For #3, you may have to have it checked by a technician or an authorized customer service personnel from your refrigerator’s brand.

Malfunctioning condenser fan

Some refrigerator models (typically no-frost models) have a fan that helps cool down the condenser. If this fan malfunctions in any way, it can cause the sides of your refrigerator to turn hot.

Check if the condenser fan is running freely. Unplug your fridge and clean it out if it’s dirty. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to replace it.

Note: if your condenser coils are exposed at the back, then your refrigerator does not have a condenser fan.

How to reduce excessive heat coming from the sides of your refrigerator

There are several ways to reduce the heat coming from the sides of your refrigerator. Luckily, these are relatively easy fixes.

You should do these as part of your annual maintenance routine for your refrigerator, and not just when you feel the sides getting too hot.

Things you’ll need:

  • Refrigerator coil cleaning brush
  • Clean cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner (optional)

#1: Clean the condenser coils

The first thing you should do is to clean the condenser coils of your refrigerator. Here’s how to do it:

Procedure:

  • Unplug the refrigerator, and move it where you can access the back
  • Locate where the condenser coils are
  • Remove as much dirt and dust as you can with the brush or the vacuum
  • Wipe the coils with a clean damp cloth
  • Check the condenser fan (if your model has one) – refer to #2

Tip: do not use “heavy” water or mineral water for this as the minerals may calcify on the coils, and can be a harder layer to remove when the time comes. Do not use soap as well for this same reason.

#2: Clean the condenser fan

While you are cleaning the coils of your refrigerator, check its condenser fan as well if it needs cleaning.

Procedure:

  • Locate where the condenser fan is
  • Remove the protective coverings if there is any
  • Gently brush the condenser fan clean
  • Plug-in the refrigerator to see if the fan is working
  • If it is not, have it replaced
  • Move the refrigerator to its proper place

#3: Mind the ventilation space

Now that you’re going to return your refrigerator to its proper place, you should mind its ventilation space to keep your fridge’s side from getting too hot.

As said earlier, most refrigerators need a ventilation space of around 50mm (2 inches) of space at the sides and the rear, and 100mm (4 inches) at the top. However, you should consult with your user manual to find the exact space requirement your model needs.

Conclusion

The sides of your refrigerator normally get warm by the virtue of its operation. However, when it gets too hot, there might be a problem. Luckily, regular maintenance can prevent it!

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