General Question

flo's avatar

What makes the of fridge top and the sides get warm, intermittently?

Asked by flo (10879points) September 17th, 2010

The fridge is bigger than the small ones in hotel rooms and smaller than your regular sized fridge. It happens to need defrosting. It gets warm enough to feel it from ½ a foot away, It is as if it is a space heater on very low setting. It is not mine so I can’t provide any more info.

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12 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Long answer: A refrigerator works by removing heat. Somewhere on the fridge will be a radiator where you can feel the warmth of discarded heat. Also, the motor will be warm when it’s running.

Ice build-up makes the fridge less efficient, so the radiator and motor will run warmer until you defrost.

Short answer: It’s normal.

flo's avatar

@jaytkay but it happens almost once in a while, with no regularity. I have never known a fridge that did that. It is the sides and the top.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

A refrigerator is a type of heat pump. It chills the air inside the box by means of a motor-driven compressor and circulating coolant. The coolant cycles through coils on the outside of the compartment (usually on the bottom on newer models, and up and down the back of the compartment on older models) and that’s where the heat is given off.

The coils need air to circulate around them in order to work effectively, or they don’t cool properly and continue to put out heat that isn’t well dissipated. It could be that there isn’t enough air circulating, and you’re just feeling the heat buildup.

All refrigerators work this way. The compressor and coil arrangement can vary, and the coils on commercial models can even be located outside of the building in order to cool even more effectively. But they all work this way.

jaytkay's avatar

@flo I would defrost it and see if it helps. But regardless, it will sometimes be warm on the outside. That’s how it works.

flo's avatar

@CyanoticWasp So, are you saying the symptom – warm enough to feel like it is a space heater – is normal? Because I have never come accross, or heard of a fridge that did that. None that felt so warm that it makes people think it might be an indication something alarming. I have known probably close to a 20 frideges (other people’s, mine).

flo's avatar

@jaytkay I will try the defrostin. Do you know of a way of reducing the frequency of defrosting? Is ther a trick, like someone mentioned to cover the surface with glycerine, which I understand it didn’t work.

jaytkay's avatar

The seals may be bad, or the doors need adjusting. That lets warm room air inside.

Easily detected, you can feel the cold air escaping.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If the fridge (and freezer) have ice buildup on their walls, then the cooling coils aren’t able to remove heat from the air in the box, and as @jaytkay says, the compressor keeps running, inefficiently and ineffectively.

Defrost it, and check the seals. If you can close the door on a dollar bill and pull the bill out easily, then the seals are bad.

jaytkay's avatar

This is very, very , very, very unlikely. But there are gas powered refrigerators. And by gas I mean there is a flame. Most common in motor homes and remote areas without electricity.

Gas and Propane Refrigerators

Gamrz360's avatar

Motors and electricty power motors to keep cold air in the firdge but take out hot air at the same time. The motors give of heat, which of course heats your fridge.

flo's avatar

Thanks everyone.

gasman's avatar

One more possibility: Most fridges these days are “frost-free”, meaning that they actually have a heating coil in the freezer compartment that intermittently comes on to heat the sides to melt frost. It’s possible that the heater coils are malfunctioning—maybe not switching off when they should.

In any case, if you want to diagnose the problem I’d start by removing all the food, unplugging the whole thing & thoroughly defrosting it. It’s good to clean them out now & then anyway & wipe down the interior.

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