The refrigerator is the most important (and probably most expensive) appliance in your home, which is why keeping it functioning well and as long as possible is something that should be a top priority. Certain habits and decisions you make can impact the overall life of this unit. Here are a few thing to keep in mind that could drastically improve the lifespan and functionality of your fridge.
1. Store Food In Its Proper Place
Refrigerators are designed in such a way that different types of food have designated storage places. This is due to how the cold air circulates in the fridge, so storing each thing according to its preferred temperature location will result in food fresher longer and your fridge smelling nice and working well.
2. Don't Over Pack
Packing the fridge to max-full will disrupt the proper distribution of airflow, which could cause some food to go bad faster. Not only that, but be wary of weighing the doors down with heavy things like liquids. Doing this could damage the hinge, causing the fridge to not seal properly and thus not maintain temperature. If you're running out of space, consider upgrading to a larger capacity unit, or if you don't have the room for one, just starting a simple weekly food-plan can help you to use up all the food you buy in a timely manner!
2. Don't Leave It Open Too Long
Your refrigerator's main job is to maintain a constant temperature in order to keep your food at its optimal freshness. When you're running around the kitchen grabbing things and putting things away with the fridge door wide open for too long, this not only ruins the perfect temperature that your fridge has worked very hard to maintain, but it also makes the compressor -- which is the most expensive component, and is responsible for cooling the fridge -- work harder to where it will eventually overheat and shut itself off until it is cool enough to start working again. This can have lasting negative effects like unwanted bacterial growth in your food and the appliance itself.
How quickly your fridge warms up when open will depend on factors such as how humid your home is and what the outside temperature is in comparison to the fridge's temperature. It takes about 2 - 4 hours for a fridge to cool after being at room temperature (70°F), and it takes much less time for that coolness to escape when opened, so making an effort to be strategic about how long and how often you open it is a good habit.
TLDR; Let's just say: don't prepare dinner with the doors wide open for convenience's sake. It's fine to get milk from the fridge and pour it in your coffee while the door is ajar.
3. Clean The Fridge Regularly
Cleaning often not only reduces the risk of bacterial growth and contamination that could lead to food poisoning, but it also serves the purpose of seeing how your fridge is holding up and if parts need to be replaced. It also makes replacing parts easier if the unit is clean beforehand.
For most of us, this problematic task is usually done once every however-long-it-is-before-something-smells-really-bad. The trick to keeping the fridge clean is wiping (and drying) on a daily basis to prevent build up of muck and bad smells. Make a habit of doing a weekly or bi-weekly food purge, and do a deep-clean seasonally (every 3-4 months).
5. Leave Room for Airflow Around The Refrigerator
The heat that is emitted from the refrigerator as a byproduct of the cooling process needs to be able to escape. This is why it is recommended not to install standard fridges in tight spaces that aren't designed for such. Built-in refrigerators are specially designed with an open grille to accommodate such spaces while maintaining airflow. If the fridge is not set up for proper ventilation, the compressor may overwork in order to keep things cool, thus creating even more hot air.
According to Yale Appliance: "If the compressor runs at an above average temperature for a prolonged period or is unable to properly cool down, you may see the following issues: Poor cooling, unusually loud compressor noise and vibrations, an increase in electricity bills, and compressor or condenser issues including component failure unusually early."
Another important part of the fridge to keep clean is the grille (AKA toe-kick) which can generally be found on the bottom front of the unit. Clearing away any dust/hair/grime from this part will help ensure that hot air is ventilated properly.
6. Never Put Hot Food In The Fridge (In Large Quantities)
The truth is, you can put hot food in the fridge - if it's in small quantities. The myth that says you can't at all comes from the fact that the steam from a large quantity of hot food will create a humid environment in the appliance, resulting in sub-optimal conditions for the rest of your food and making things like eggs, dairy, meat and leftovers perish quicker. Additionally, refrigerators are not cold enough to cool large quantities of food quickly, which may promote the growth of bacteria. Let it cool to at least room temperature before storing. You can speed the process by breaking up large quantities into small containers.
7. If Something Isn't Right, Call The Tech Right Away
Certain problems if caught right away can mean cheap repair. Refrigerators are delicate machines with many components that all have to work in synergy to perform properly. If any one thing is broken or unusual, don't leave it to get worse as the problem could turn into something even more expensive to fix.
For instance, ice build up in the freezer could be the result of a door seal issue, which is a relatively cheap and easy thing to fix. However, leaving the ice to build is problematic as it can cause the temperature to become too low throughout the appliance, causing some foods to spoil quickly. Not just that, but neglecting to clean the ice can create more sealing problems in turn, which eventually cause the compressor to overwork itself and give out faster.
Are there any other fridge maintenance tips you live by? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below.