How to Prevent an Old Refrigerator from Overheating

Are you nursing along an old refrigerator with coils on the back? While these old refrigerators are extremely “retro” in appearance, they do tend to overheat if not properly maintained.

One of the first signs of an overheating refrigerator is a slight burning odor which often smells like hot dust. That hot dust smell usually indicates that the coils aren’t being vacuumed enough or that the heat generated by the refrigerator has no place to escape. Here’s some simple instructions for keeping your refrigerator operating at its best:

Supplies and instructions

Supplies needed include a vacuum cleaner with a circular brush and crevice attachments, warm water and vinegar mixed up in a bucket and an old rag.

  1. Unplug the refrigerator.
  2. Pull the refrigerator away from the wall.
  3. Step behind the refrigerator and thoroughly vacuum both the coils and the wall behind the unit. The brush attachment works best, though the crevice attachment will be necessary to reach those smaller spaces.
  4. Wipe down the sides with vinegar and water, dry.
  5. Push the refrigerator back towards the wall, leaving a space of 4″ between the coils and the wall.
  6. Pull off the skirting beneath the front of the frig and vacuum up visible dust. Replace the skirting.
  7. The final step is to remove anything that you may have piled on top of the refrigerator. Items such as cereal boxes, liquor bottles, cookie trays, and table linens will prevent heat from escaping from the top of the unit which can also contribute to that overheating smell. After the top of the refrigerator has been decluttered, wipe down the surface with vinegar and water to remove dust. Dry.
  8. Plug in the refrigerator.

Regular vacuuming, adequate air circulation, and keeping the top clear of clutter is really all it takes to prevent an older model refrigerator from overheating. If the odor originating from the fridge smells like burning dust, these tips will fix the problem. If however, that burning odor smells like burning rubber, the refrigerator should be unplugged until it can be checked out by an appliance repairman of a residential HVAC company like Service Tech, Inc.