How does a refrigerator work?


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Refrigerators, once an item of luxury, has become an item of necessity now. In this article, you will see tips on refrigerator maintenance, how to organize your refrigerator, and more importantly you will understand how your refrigerator works. So, let’s get to it.

Tips for refrigerator maintenance

  1. Clean the door seals using a toothbrush once in a while. Unclean door seals may cause your fridge to not close all the way. This way, the temperature inside the appliance cannot be maintained and the whole purpose is lost.
  2. Clean the coils behind the fridge. The coils, also known as the condenser, operate best when free of dust. Since this part faces the wall, it tends to get dustier. Pull out the appliance at least on a bi-annual basis and blow the dust off using a vacuum cleaner for best results.
  3. Maintain the temperature of the fridge as well as the freezer to suit your needs. The freezer must always be at 0°. The temperature of the fridge maybe somewhere between 37° F and 40° F. Refer to the user manual to find out what the recommended average temperature of the appliance is.
  4. Stock it up. Even if you never cook, at least fill up your fridge with bottles of water. This way, the thermal mass of the appliance is maintained. This ensures that your fridge has a longer life without much servicing.
  5. If you frequently use the ice maker, make sure to change the filters. Even for this, you may use the manual to check the recommended replacement for your appliance.
  6. A pro-tip, but a very simple one, is to keep the food in your fridge properly sealed. You can use a Ziploc bag, or air-tight containers to store your food in the refrigerator. This way, your food has a longer life, and the moisture content inside the fridge is minimized.

If you’re wondering whether it is time to replace your fridge, look out for the following conditions:

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  • Food in the fridge is not as cold as it usually is.
  • Perishables gone bad.
  • Ice cream/ ice cubes are melted.
  • Water around the appliance
  • Repeated clicking sounds from the appliance.
  • You’ve had the appliance for more than 10 years.
  • The motors run really hot.
  • The energy-efficiency of the model is reduced.
  • You’re spending constantly for its repairs.


To understand how a refrigerator works, let’s first look at its basic components.

The main five parts of a refrigerator are – Compressor, Condenser, Evaporator, Capillary tube, Thermostat.

Let’s look at what each component does in a nutshell.

  • Compressor: This is the “heart” of the refrigerator. Just as our heart pumps blood to all parts of our body, the compressor pumps refrigerant (gas) to the device.
  • Condenser: This helps the refrigerant to cool down and then condense. In other words, it converts the gas back into a liquid.
  • Evaporator: This component is the reason the items inside your refrigerator is cold. The process of evaporation turns the liquid back into gas, thus cooling the surrounding area. This creates the apt atmosphere for storing your food.
  • Capillary tube: This acts as a median between the condenser and the evaporator. The liquid refrigerant passes through this tube before being sprayed into the evaporator.
  • Thermostat: Obviously, this component maintains the temperature of the device. It does this by turning the compressor on and off, whenever necessary.

Understanding how a refrigerator functions

Now that you know what the basic components of a fridge are, let’s see how it works.

First, the refrigerator triggers the refrigerant inside it, converting the liquid into a gas. This process is called evaporation. As a result of this process, the area around the component is cooled down and hence, the products stored are cold.

However, for the process of evaporation to begin, the pressure on the refrigerant needs to be reduced. That’s the job of the capillary tube mentioned above. It releases the liquid refrigerant into the low-pressure atmosphere of the evaporator.

In order for your fridge to keep running, the refrigerant, which is now in gaseous state must be liquefied again. To bring it back to the liquid state, the gas must be compressed to a higher pressure. That’s the job of the compressor we saw earlier. This is the reason why the compressor is the “heart” of the refrigerator, because without it, your refrigerator cannot keep running.

After this process, the gas would be really hot, as it would have been under high pressure. Now comes the job of the condenser, which is located on the back of your fridge, to cool it down. Once cooled down, the refrigerant attains a liquid state yet again. This liquid refrigerant flows back into the evaporator and the cycle goes on and on.

Organizing a Refrigerator

It’s not a perfect world. Your fridge obviously contains expired condiments and week-old food and stale vegetables. Keeping a refrigerator organized is always a major task. There are some tips you can follow to organize your fridge and maintain it the same way.

Emptying out your fridge before organizing it is the very first step to be followed. Clear everything out entirely and give the insides of your fridge a good wipe. Add a deodorizer to get rid of lingering odor. Once the cleaning is done, now it’s time to put everything back in.

To make things easier, let’s divide the fridge into four sections. The upper shelf, the lower shelf, the door, and the drawer.

The upper shelf is ideal for foods that are about to expire. Make a box that says “eat me first” and place all the food that is about to expire, so that you can consume it first. There are small boxes that stick to the wall of your fridge using suction cups. Use them to store small ketchup sachets, string cheese, etc so that it doesn’t get lost in the mix.

Let’s move on to the lower shelf. This is ideal to store raw food, like meat, chopped vegetables, etc. You can also keep your snack items in here. If you’re using Ziploc bags to contain some items, you can hang it from the edge of your shelf using curtain clips. Simple hack, right?

The door is ideal to keep your water bottles, booze, milk cartons, etc.

The drawer is best suited for fruits and vegetables, as the temperature in it keeps the items crispier.

By now, you must have understood a few key points on the functioning of refrigerator, and how to maintain them. There are other tips like lining the bottom of the fridge with paper towels, learning humidity controls, grouping like-items together, etc that help you keep your device clean. If you don’t feel like using a label to categorize the items in your fridge, you can very well use an erasable marker to write on the inside of your fridge.

It is also important to professionally clean the components of the ridge using a professional, in order to maintain optimum performance in your appliance. No matter what model you use, it is advised to spotlessly clean your fridge at least once in every four months.

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