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How Long Do Refrigerators Last?

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When it comes to kitchen appliances, there’s arguably none more important than your trusted refrigerator. After all, it’s responsible for keeping your favorite foods cool and safe from spoilage. But if your fridge breaks down and you’re not prepared, it can mean a massive headache. Here’s how long a refrigerator lasts, plus what you can do to help it live longer.

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How Long Will My Fridge Last?

The average life of a refrigerator is 12 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Though, this number varies depending on the type you buy as well as the upkeep of the appliance. In reality, a faulty fridge could break within months, while a well-kept appliance could last as many as 20 years. Take care of your fridge and freezer to help extend its life—and save you money down the road.

How to Tell if Your Refrigerator Is Dying

If your fridge is dying, there’s a good chance you’ll know something’s up. But here are a few tell-tale signs that it might be time to call a technician.

1. Food Won’t Stay Fresh

Whether your freezer isn’t keeping items frozen or your tomatoes are going rotten quicker than usual, this is a serious issue that should be addressed. Spoiled food creates a health concern – and a waste issue – that you’ll want to get fixed—stat. Essentially, if your food won’t stay fresh, your fridge isn’t doing its job, and it’s time to call in the experts.

2. More Condensation

If you notice more condensation than usual on the outside of your fridge, it’s likely because of an issue with the seal, or gasket. If the insulation around your fridge door isn’t helping keep things cool, it may be time to speak to a professional.

3. The Fridge Is Hot

While it’s not abnormal for a fridge to feel slightly warm on occasion, a hot appliance is a cause for some concern. If the refrigerator is much warmer than usual (or close to painful to the touch), then it’s a sign that your appliance is working harder than is normal.

4. The Motor Is Extra Noisy (Or Too Quiet)

A noisy motor might be running harder (or more often) than is usual for your machine. On the flip side, a completely quiet fridge might not be working to cool food at all. Both are worth checking out with a professional.

Troubleshooting Tips for Your Fridge

If you’re noticing issues with your fridge, be sure to troubleshoot a few things before you call a technician.

Is the temperature set correctly?

It seems obvious, but it can be easy to bump the temperature settings on accident when moving food around. Check to be sure your temperature settings are correct before assuming the worst for your fridge.

Is anything blocking the vents?

Be sure the vents in the fridge are clear and able to circulate air effectively. Sometimes, the problem can be as simple as a blocked vent.

Is the fridge placed correctly?

Your fridge should be an adequate distance from the walls so that heat can ventilate correctly. If there’s no room for the appliance to breathe, be sure to correct it and see if the problems resolve themselves.

Tips to Extend Your Refrigerator’s Life

While most kitchen fridges will eventually require replacement, there are a few fridge maintenance tips to keep them running as long as possible.

1. Clean the Condenser Coils

The coils on the back of a fridge help to remove heat from the appliance. If the condenser coils are gunked up with debris, they won’t be able to function as effectively. You should clean the condenser coils once or twice a year to help keep your fridge running at maximum capacity.

2. Check the Doors

The door seal is the rubber that runs around the entrance to your fridge. Over time, this seal (also called a gasket) can crack or become misshapen. It’s important to check the rubber insulator now and then to ensure the seal is in place and working effectively. Look for loosening, warping, cracking, or anything that suggests the gasket is worn down.

Quick Tip: Some experts recommend occasionally rubbing the refrigerator gasket seal with some form of lubricant (like petroleum jelly) to help it stay in tip-top shape.

3. Replace The Filters

Just like your fridge, your water filter wasn’t built to last forever. Replace the filter around twice a year to help make sure you’re drinking clean, uncontaminated water.

4. Keep It Full, but Not Too Full

Think that less food means less work for your fridge? Think again. An empty appliance means a lot of empty space to keep cool. While you should never pack your refrigerator to the gills, keeping even a few gallons of water in a mostly-empty fridge will help make things easier.

Why? Because cool items will help chill the items in the surrounding area – just like packing a cooler for the beach.

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When in Doubt, Contact a Professional

While DIY is a viable option for a lot of home projects, when it comes to your refrigerator, it’s often best to call in help from the pros. They can help accurately diagnose any issues with your appliance and get it resolved quickly, so you can enjoy safe, spoil-free meals.

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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