When refrigerators go bad
February 1, 2017
Standing in the kitchen polishing off a snack of pretzels dipped in peanut butter, I prodded PiC. Ready for Sherlock?
We had one last night to catch Episode 2 of the new BBC season, before PBS stopped streaming it, so I was looking forward to a little Saturday night treat.
That’s when I heard it.
The fan in the refrigerator spun up an alarming rumble, loud enough to be heard from the next room, and it rumbled the doom of our relaxation. An hour of Googling and Youtubing later, we settled in for a long night of DIY.
According to a dozen semi-reliable (meaning also semi-sketchy) sources, this particular brand is prone to icing up and they have to be taken apart and de-iced before the icing destroys the fan compressor. Awesome.
PiC wanted to get started right away, figuring it’d only take an hour and a half. The brat in me whined “but, Sherlock!” while the ever so slightly stronger, more responsible side, grumpily conceded even though it really preferred to go to sleep and get an early start.
As it turns out, we were both wrong. It definitely didn’t take only an hour and a half, and we would have regretted starting the next morning.
We spent the first hour prepping: unplugging the fridge, unpacking the fridge, packing perishables into the cooler, and hauling out all the shelves to inspect the work area. Only one person fit in the space available so I worked on cleaning all the shelves which were overdue for a wash, while PiC used the hairdryer to melt the ice around the fan cover.
Try as he might, though, that fan cover wasn’t budging like it should according to the DIY videos until we realized why. The icing problem wasn’t just around the fan cover, it was a solid block of ice behind it as well! No wonder he was getting nowhere prying it off. It was 11:30 and my hands were aching from the additional late night labor, so I proposed an overnight break. We’d leave the fridge unplugged, set up a mini space heater aimed toward the fridge three feet away on high so we didn’t melt anything, and let it (try to) melt overnight. If it all worked out, we’d be able to pick up in the morning.
I usually ration my energy for the day pretty strictly, based on prioritizing absolute musts against the nice to have chores. This was definitely nowhere on my list and I’d thought I was done for the night.
I can’t quite accurately describe the level of tired and dread that passed over me as we contemplated whether this would work or not.
Nothing for it but to try!
For extra cooling, the perishables went into coolers that were rolled out on the porch to take advantage of the rainstorm chill. I prepoured JuggerBaby’s milk into sippy cups to minimize how many times we’d need to open the coolers if the fridge wasn’t back in order the next day, and placed several other morning needs at the top. With that, off to bed.
Around 3 am, my brain couldn’t leave well enough alone and I had to go check. We’d left a towel under the unit to catch the water and it was soaked. Thank goodness! I replaced the towel and slumped off to bed.
By morning, the jury-rigging had done the job and with more than a little interference from JuggerBaby, PiC had the whole lot of shelving back in, plugged the unit in and it was humming back down to temp by the time I emerged from my hibernation.
These same sources say that this issue is going to keep happening. We could attempt to MacGyver a solution but since we’re not positive what the true problem is, I’m less motivated to monkey around with it.
If it does ice up again, at least we know what should work, but what a pain!
Pessimistically I’m assuming that this is something that will keep happening or we’ll have to replace the unit. What are the odds that we find a real solution?
(No really, what are the odds?)