Grabbing a snack from the fridge, you notice it’s not as cold as it should be. And, what’s that musty smell and puddle on the floor? What should you do if your fridge is leaking refrigerant?
First, take a minute to confirm that it is refrigerant. It could be an overflow of condensation, an accidental spill, or a water leak. However, because refrigerant is toxic, you’ll want to ensure the space is well ventilated and keep children and pets out of the area until you investigate the problem and contact a professional. It’s also a good idea to don a respirator mask before you continue reading this! Here we discuss what refrigerant a refrigerator uses, telltale signs of a refrigerant leak in your refrigerator, and how it can be fixed.
While a refrigerant leak isn’t very common, it’s dangerous. Before you jump to conclusions, take a minute to assess if the leak aligns with other refrigerant leak characteristics. Consulting a refrigerator repair professional is the quickest and safest way to get peace of mind.
Beware of odd smells. If you note a musty smell around your fridge, don’t dismiss it as the odor of food going bad. Freon and other types of refrigerants omit a musty smell and could be an indication of a leak.
Look for oily residue. You may notice an oily substance on the bottom of the fridge or your floor. Don’t touch it. The liquid could be refrigerant escaping your fridge.
Assess unexplained sickness in your family. Limited exposure to some refrigerants can cause nausea, migraines, and fainting. However, lengthy exposure can be more harmful. Because gases from refrigerators hang lower to the ground, children and pets have the highest risk of exposure.
Note if the motor runs constantly. Your refrigerator should only kick on a couple of times per hour to cool back down to the set temperature. If the motor is always running, it’s a sign your fridge is working too hard to maintain its temperature, which can be a telltale that refrigerant is leaking.
Check if the food is warm. Another sign that the fridge is having trouble keeping temperature is when the food doesn’t cool and eventually rots in your fridge.
Finally, here’s a common false alarm: If your freezer is warm but your fridge isn’t, your defrost heater may be stuck on. When this happens, you may find puddles of water on the floor that could be mistaken for a refrigerant leak. This should be simple to diagnose if you feel the bottom of the freezer is hot.
The short answer to whether new refrigerators use Freon is no. Refrigerators manufactured after 2020 no longer use Freon for refrigerant. Manufacturers used Freon for decades to cool refrigerators, despite knowing that the synthetic gas is incredibly harmful to the environment and toxic to people. In January 2020, the U.S. discontinued all production and import of Freon.
So, what type of refrigerant is in a refrigerator now? While some refrigerators made before 2020 still contain some type of Freon, most modern refrigerators now use hydrofluorocarbons like HFC-134a.
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If your refrigerator is leaking refrigerant, it needs immediate attention. However, since refrigerant is toxic and requires proper disposal, we advise seeking an expert refrigerator repair service rather than attempting to repair the leak on your own.
Patch rust holes on the condenser coils. If the cause of the leak is a rusted hole, the professional can weld a patch onto the condenser tubing, or they may use glue that hardens like a patch.
Replace condenser tubing. If there are several holes instead of just one minor one, patching them all will be less effective than changing the damaged tubing.
Swap out the valves. It’s possible that the leak is coming from faulty valves on the compressor or condenser. If this is the case, those parts can be replaced.
Install new compressor or condenser. It’s also possible that the leak culprit is a component of the compressor or condenser. In this case, the technician may install new parts to fix the refrigerator.
If the refrigerant leak was quite major, your appliance repair technician may recommend that you connect with an HVAC expert for expert refrigerant disposal services to ensure every little drop is cleaned up.
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