Why Renters Need to Clean Their Refrigerator Coils and How to Do It

by Cora Gold | Published: Oct 8, 2020

Renters get the benefit of being one email or phone call away from a maintenance professional. You rely on them to unclog your toilets and repair your locks, but there's even more you can have them do, or simply do yourself, to maintain your rental unit. Think about it: when was the last time you took care of your kitchen appliances? More specifically, when was the last time you took care of your refrigerator and thought about how to clean refrigerator coils?

It's easy to forget this appliance needs special attention. It's on all day, every day and may seem to be working just fine. However, the constant use leads to wear and tear on the coils that cool your food.

If you've never thought about the inner workings of your fridge, keep reading. We outline why and how to clean refrigerator coils. You'll extend the appliance’s life and may avoid paying extra fees if it's broken when your lease ends.

Is it necessary to clean refrigerator coils?

When you think about how to clean refrigerator coils, you might not even know where to look for them. Most can be found on the back of the fridge, but sometimes they're along the bottom. 

The coils wind their way across the fridge and end in a drip pan. Most of the time, you won't have to empty the pan. Refrigerators cool food because they force the refrigerant liquid through an expansion valve, which absorbs any internal heat energy and sends it to the compressor coil.

Constantly transferring and releasing heat within these coils causes condensation. Floating dust collects and forms an insulating barrier. As more dust accumulates, it holds more heat. Your fridge will work overtime to cool what's inside if you neglect this essential cleaning routine.

What would the symptoms of a dirty coil be?

The first symptom of a dirty coil is extended refrigerator cycles. The next time you open your fridge, listen closely after you close the door. It will turn on to absorb the heat that came in when you opened it. It should shut off after a minute or two, but may take longer if you propped the door open.

Longer intervals between shutoff periods means your fridge is overworking itself to cool down. You may need to pause your dishwasher or air conditioner to hear the cycles. Record how long it takes to shut down and try again after a few days or weeks to determine if the cycles get longer.

You can also get a quick answer by looking at your electricity bill. Pick a month when your HVAC unit isn't running all day and you do fewer loads of laundry. You'll still receive an expensive utility bill if your fridge requires more electricity to cool off.

How often should you clean refrigerator coils?

Throwing away expired food is the only weekly maintenance your fridge needs. Coils require time to collect dust and dirt, so schedule a yearly or biannual inspection. If you have a long-haired pet, we recommend quarterly checkups since the shedding will create extra airborne debris.

Learning how to clean refrigerator coils isn’t a difficult task. Simply wipe between and around the coils with a brush — it only takes a few minutes. Cleaning the coils might save $5-$10 each month in electricity, resulting in nearly $120 per year. 

Starting a preventive maintenance habit will help save you money in other areas, too. If you take care of your fridge, you'll likely start paying closer attention to your other kitchen appliances and surfaces. You'll notice things like stains on your counters and learn how to remove them.

Training your eye to spot tiny kitchen discrepancies will improve your rental's overall quality and can make you happier in your home.

Does cleaning refrigerator coils save energy?

As you read about how to clean refrigerator coils, you might wonder if it saves energy. If you're only going to save a few dollars per month, is it worth your time?

It's always important to take care of your belongings, especially when you rely on them every day. Brushing dust, dirt and mold growth off the coils could reduce energy usage by nearly 50%, depending on your fridge's age.

Think about your average energy bill. You could save at least $100 each year. It's a great deal for an effort that only takes a few minutes and investing in a single brush.

Consider starting today

Now that you know how to clean refrigerator coils, you can start saving money today. Quarterly, biannual or yearly cleanings will improve your refrigerator’s efficiency, and now you won’t need a landlord or maintenance team to fix it in the future.

Categories: Renters

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