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Good resource to get the full, straight story on refrigerators, efficiency, etc.

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair' started by Doc, Jul 9, 2007.

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  1. Doc

    Doc Guest

    Looking to replace my current Hotpoint refrigerator if I can't easily
    do a DIY repair - i.e. if it isn't just a matter of replacing an
    internal fan - freezer works fine, refrigerator section having
    problems. Or maybe even if I can repair it. I'm not in immediate
    desperation, I'm using an old shorty "student" model that will tide me
    over but will want to get the big one fixed or replaced in the near

    I've read assertions that "new refrigerators are more efficient".
    Looking through the archives I see some debate as to whether this is

    How are they more efficient? How much more efficient? With a new 18
    cu. ft. no-frills top-freezer Hotpoint -vs- a 1988 no-frills top-
    freezer Hotpoint how much of a difference am I likely to see in the
    monthly electric bill? For example, if I were to find the problem with
    my old one is relatively easy to remedy and manage to squeeze a few
    more years of service out of it, how much less would I be spending
    over those same years on a newer model if in fact it's even true? I
    see these tags inside the floor models with a measure of "cost per
    year" and comparative energy consumption, but have no idea if they're
    remotely realistic, or are more like the old EPA gas-mileage ratings
    that in no way reflected reality.

    Where do you find the straight story on dependability? Is Consumer
    Reports really the gospel?How does anyone do a meaningful reliability
    test on an item with so many models and where it might take years to
    prove itself a "lemon" under real-world daily use. I wonder if brand
    name is a reliable indicator since manufacturing/corporate issues can
    change over time, so a brand that was possibly once regarded as great
    becomes crap. Further, I don't see much concensus regarding what
    brands are good/bad. I'm more interested in rock-solid dependability
    and longevity than a lot of features. I've never even had an ice-
    maker. Still using plastic ice-cube trays.

    How would you find out the nitty-gritty on issues like where the
    compressor for various models come from and what makes it great or

    What's a good resource to learn DIY refrigerator diagnosis and

  2. Check the "Energy Star" web site.
  3. ransley

    ransley Guest

    You can maybe save 75% on operating costs vs your old unit. Shop by
    the Yellow Energy usage tag. a few years ago Sears were the most
    efficient, my 19.5cuft unit uses apx $4.50 a month in electric
    verified with a Kill A Watt meter, gives full
    ratings of usage, it may take a while to find the page but its there.
    You should buy a Kill A Watt meter and see what your old unit uses. I
    would not repair the old one.
  4. Ken Layton

    Ken Layton Guest

  5. Lou

    Lou Guest

    Energy efficiency ratings, like EPA mileage estimates, are just that -
    estimates. EPA mileage estimates assume certain things about they way the
    car is driven, the relative proportions of city and highway miles, and
    driving conditions (hilly country or flat, ambient temperatures, etc.). If
    your personal situation agrees with those assumptions, your mileage will
    pretty much agree with the estimates; if your situation doesn't, it won't.
    Even if your mileage doesn't agree with the estimates, the presumption is
    that the relative ranking will still hold true - a car rated at 30 mpg will
    get better mileage than one rated 20 mpg, even if you don't get 30 mpg on
    the first car.

    I'd tend to agree that the EPA estimates are somewhat inaccurate - in my
    experience over the last 15 years or so, they're too LOW by a factor of ten
    to twenty percent.

    For refrigerators, the assumptions include things like the ambient
    temperature, seasonal variations in temperature and humidity, whether or not
    anti-sweat heaters are operational, how often the door is opened, and the
    settings for the compartment temperature controls. The testing and
    calculation are technical and complex - you can read the regulation at
    (and much good may it do you). The end result is an estimate intended to
    approximate how much electricity the appliance can reasonably be expected to
    consume in a typical residential setting. Almost certainly, your actual
    consumption will be different from that on the label, but again, the
    presumption is that the relative rankings will be preserved under almost all

    A current energy star refrigerator uses approximately 40% less energy than a
    conventional refrigerator sold in 2001 (as determined by these tests). In
    2005, the most efficient refrigerator-freezer in the class you're talking
    about was an 18.8 cubic foot Kenmore top mount with automatic defrost at
    387 kWh/yr, again according to these tests. As expected, side by side
    models use more electricity, and interestingly, bottom mount models also use
    more electricity.

    Is this rating realistic? If you keep the thing in a garage in Florida, or
    for that matter an un-air-conditioned kitchen in Florida, probably not. I'm
    all for healthy skepticism, but this stuff is fact based science, not
    political opinion. If you buy a refrigerator rated at 600 kWh/yr instead of
    one rated at 387 kWh/yr, regardless of what the actual electrical
    consumption turns out to be, it's going to cost you more to run than if you
    had bought the better rated model.
    If the thing lasts for years, I wonder how it can be considered a lemon?
    If you're going to adopt this sort of perspective, it's impossible to assess
    dependability. A company's track record is apparently meaningless, since
    this year, the year you decide to buy a new frige, they could have decided
    to chuck a half century's worth of sound practice in favor of maximizing
    this year's profit by producing something cheap that will fall apart and
    charging all the traffic will bear for it. The only way to tell is to buy
    one and wait a few decades to see if it's still working.

    Actually, by this kind of standard, your current appliance is a piece of
    crap - it's lasted only 19 years. The fridge I had in my college apartment
    in the 1970's was manufactured in in the 1930's and never needed a repair.
    It was probably still chugging away a decade later when the building burned
    to the ground.

    One final word on the efficiency of new vs older refrigerators. My parents
    had the same refrigerator for something like 20 years - all the time I was
    growing up in their house. They finally bought a new one, and some long
    period of time after that, replaced it with a newer model. About five years
    after buying the last one, my Dad had the electric company in to do an
    energy audit of their house. They GAVE him a new fridge, saying that the
    efficiency had improved in those five years enough to make it worth their
    while to replace it at no cost to him. I suppose you could be real cynical
    and say maybe the new fridge they gave him used more electricity than the
    old one, but I don't believe it for a second. If you're a senior citizen
    and live in Massachusetts, maybe you don't have to actually buy a new
    fridge. And if it's good enough for the electric company, it's good enough
    for me.
  6. Hi!
    The good news is that sealed refrigeration systems are very reliable. Many
    of the things that go wrong are relatively straightforward and inexpensive
    to repair as long as the unit generally operates as it should.

    The FAQ for this group has some good information on things you can do to
    repair your refrigerator. is a good starting point in
    the FAQ.

    If the freezer seems to be working fine, something to do first is to make
    sure the fridge is receiving air. Most modern refrigerator designs have the
    majority of cold air going to the freezer, while some is diverted to the
    refrigerator. Check to make sure this pathway hasn't become plugged with
    ice, food or any other gunk. Also, check to make sure the temperature
    adjuster in the refrigerator compartment a) works and is b) set properly. I
    know it sounds basic, but...while you're in there, make sure the light bulb
    goes out when you close the door.

    If the unit is a frost free model, try to determine if the defrost timer
    motor is running and advancing properly. Sometimes after many years of
    service these things gum up and stall, break, or burn out. Generic
    replacements are available at a low cost if yours is bad.

    Another thing to check before giving up--is your fridge getting enough
    power? Even small cooling systems need enough electrical energy to run
    effectively and efficiently. Check the plug to be sure it fits tightly in
    the outlet and make sure the prongs on it are both clean and in good
    One thing is certain--as time goes on, the technology used to accomplish a
    certain task tends to improve and become better. On the other hand, there is
    always the drive to do something cheaper. As a result, quality of the
    finished product can suffer.

    Cooling systems have become more efficient, and that includes refrigerators.
    However, a refrigerator isn't a terribly high power draw appliance in the
    grand scheme of things. As for reliability, I recently saw some very old
    (1950s?) and "well used" (to put it kindly) freezers that were running along
    quite nicely. They were standing next to a pair of much newer refrigerators
    that had failed.

    Efficiency improvements will come from smaller, cooler running compressors
    and more effective insulation.

    I doubt you will see a large difference in your power bill if you buy a new
    refrigerator. Your cost will depend upon what electricity costs in your
    area, and how hot the room the refrigerator is in. A hotter room will make
    any fridge run more often. A fridge whose condenser coils and fans are kept
    clean will also work more efficiently.
    Only time will tell, but in the case of sealed cooling systems, reliability
    is generally very high. Controls, bulbs, drain passages, seals, gaskets and
    the defrost timer are likely to fail long before the cooling system ever

    One way to find out is to ask people you trust to give you their opinion.
    In the case of the compressor, the actual maker's name is usually printed on
    it somewhere. I suppose opinions vary, but I've had good service from
    Whirlpool, Goldstar, GE, Sanyo and Panasonic compressors. I also have a
    dehumidifier with an Embraco compressor in it that still works well. It is
    about 10 years old.
    Start with your common sense and the SER FAQ I mentioned above. Ask
    questions in a relevant group when you have them. Check the obvious stuff
    first--you never know and sometimes a problem ends up being something really

  7. Doc

    Doc Guest

    If it craps out in say 4 years, as opposed to 25 years.

    I appreciate the input.
  8. Guest

    buy used and hope that the fridge wasn't the jeffrey dahmer or edward teller fan club's
    old fridge.

    yeah, like those tv ads, "filmed on a closed circuit by professional children. please
    keep adults away from this car and drink responsibly"

    even when hardly ever used, icemakers die in a few years. funny thing is well into the
    80's even the plastic on the outside looked like the 80's icemakers. i imagine
    icemaker guts in new fridges are the same old 80's garbage.

    i don't use ice.

    imLIMITEDe, it's either refrigeration which i've never considered messing with, or it's
    easy stuff (of which weirdest is only the defrost timer. the rest is obvious).

    moving the fridge will break your back. so maybe the largest fridge
    replacement expense is the medical bills :)

    no, actually i remove the innards and doors, and roll fridges strapped to hand truck on
    shallow ramps out the door.
    in ca, utility(?) issues a list, which i saw a few years ago. $ energy use of 8 year old
    fridge was almost as good as new fridge. IIRC, even if you had a 15 year old fridge,
    purchase cost of new fridge wasn't justifiable if repair of 15 yearold was more than
    minor. (a pile of obnoxious minor repairs equals a bigger repair. examples: tearing
    gaskets on both doors, bubbly rust where gasket "seals".) in my case, i was
    comparing the existing 80's fridge (too damaged to repair) to a low mile (hardly even
    "dirty") $125 4 year old fridge. i was only curious about running costs because the
    benefit of the 4 year old fridge was undeniable :)

    either new or old fridge might be better than the other, if one fridge incurs terrible
    ordeal to delint the coils and fan, etc.

    the fat doors on newer fridges seem convenient, but are pigs.
  9. imascot

    imascot Guest

    Have a look around this guy's website. I subscribe to his newsletter (archives on site) and he's got a lot
    of good appliance info:

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