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Refrigerator Is Hot to the Touch

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Beth Stackpole
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Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Beth Stackpole   4/16/2012 7:22:31 AM
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Wow, Bill, ingenius fix, but I'm curious how you fit the fridge back in its place with a full-size office desk fan attached behind it. Any idea of why the fridge's own fan kept failing??

Bill DeVries
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Iron
Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Bill DeVries   4/16/2012 8:28:48 AM
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Actually the counterdepth fridge is no longer counterdepth. It sticks out from the wall a little to allow room for the desk fan. I'm more of a mechanical guy than electrical guy so I took the easier route of installing an external fan rather than figuring out why the fridge keeps burning out fan motors.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Beth Stackpole   4/16/2012 10:30:49 AM
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I applaud your mechanical touch, Bill, but I have to tell you, I would balk at paying top dollar for a counterdepth fridge only to have it stick out to accomodate an external fan. Runs counter-intuitive to my non-mechanical brain!

Bill DeVries
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Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Bill DeVries   4/16/2012 10:50:01 AM
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The counterdepth fridge will most likely be replaced with this years pending tax return. A real downside to the counterdepth fridge is that it doesn't have enough room for a week's worth of groceries. We have a family of 6, two of whom are teenage boys, both at 6'-2". Half of the food we buy gets kept in the garage fridge. The kitchen is plenty big enough for a regular size fridge, so extending out a few inches is really no problem.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Rob Spiegel   4/16/2012 4:20:49 PM
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Sounds like the solution is to go with a conventional-size fridge. I once owned an older home that was charming, but the kitchen was tiny and the fridge was an ancient tiny fridge that fit into a very small space -- not quite an icebox, but not much taller. I had to keep fixing it because there was nothing on the market that would fit the space. Luckily, my kids were small at the time.

Charles Murray
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Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Charles Murray   4/16/2012 5:43:32 PM
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Wow. How old is this fridge? At the risk of pointing out the obvious, it seems like this shouldn't be happening to a new refrigerator.

Bill DeVries
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Re: Hot fridge can leave you out in the cold
Bill DeVries   4/16/2012 6:05:31 PM
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The fridge really isn't that old - 5 years. It survived the warranty period, so i guess it was a success for the manufacturer. It will probably be headed to Craigslist in a few weeks (I will, of course, give the new owner the desk fan).

tekochip
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Upgrade Time?
tekochip   4/16/2012 4:27:21 PM
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A few years ago I replaced my aging fridge and was surprised to see how much the newer unit saved on my electrical bill.  It was well worth the upgrade.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Upgrade Time?
Ann R. Thryft   4/17/2012 1:12:39 PM
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I also replaced my fridge a few years back, with an Energy Star design. A model with the same basic footprint and interior size costs about half the electricity to run as the old one did by the even more inefficient end of its not-very-efficient life.


JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   4/16/2012 10:20:23 PM
Isn't it disappointing how expensive devices fail, just after warranty? As an electronics engineer, I am constantly faced with the battle between designing stout, long-lasting and robust designs, vs. the corporate marketing need for planned obsolescence and recurring revenue. I "get" it -- but I just don't like it.

But I suspect many appliance manufacturers today are taking it to a frustrating new level. For example, I have a garage Beer-Fridge that's nearly 30 years old and never had an issue. Meanwhile we're on the third Kitchen fridge in about 17 years.

Bill DeVries
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Re: Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
Bill DeVries   4/17/2012 8:34:12 AM
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Yeah planned obsolescence has got to be what it is. My "good" kitchen fridges have not lasted very long- 4th one in about 20 years. My garage "beer & deer" fridge is about 20 years old and still works fine as long as you know where to put different foods. Top shelf left side will freeze - don't put lettuce there, frosty beer on a hot summer day is quite nice. Anyway, the garage fridge holds the kitchen fridge overflow just fine. The ice maker in the garage fridge died, so I just removed it, insulated the hole in the door, and covered the hole with a plastic storage box lid - it almost looks like it was meant to be that way.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   4/17/2012 1:38:44 PM
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Less Deer - More Beer - that hole in the front can be used to put a very natural looking tapper, direct from the pony keg within!  One of my college room-mates very first projects, as soon as he was in his own home, (post graduation).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
Rob Spiegel   4/17/2012 2:29:05 PM
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I'm not so sure appliance designers are diabolical enough for planned obsolescence. Besides, disgruntled employees would eventually spill the beans if it were really a conspiracy to build products that break down. I think it's poor (in a hurry) craftsmanship mixed with pressure to build inexpensively. 

joshin
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Iron
Too hot to touch?
joshin   4/17/2012 4:42:13 PM
hmm, sounds like my wife's best friend.

Wife continually tells me that if I touch that, I will certainly have my fingers burned off. Frequently find I have to cool down after she visits. Turn on a fan or take a cold shower.

I will admit, my eyes do burn from staring so hard...so must be something to it.

 

Charles Murray
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Re: Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
Charles Murray   4/17/2012 7:08:17 PM
Putting your story into context, it seems ironic that appliance makers are adding capacitive touch screens to their fridges and washers, but (in your case, Bill) they are failing to make a refrigerator that lasts more than five years. I'm sure that a reliable refrigerator is far more important to you than a touch screen.

Bill DeVries
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Re: Lean, inexpensive, "smart" -vs. robust quality?
Bill DeVries   4/17/2012 8:34:12 AM
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Yeah planned obsolescence has got to be what it is. My "good" kitchen fridges have not lasted very long- 4th one in about 20 years. My garage "beer & deer" fridge is about 20 years old and still works fine as long as you know where to put different foods. Top shelf left side will freeze - don't put lettuce there, frosty beer on a hot summer day is quite nice. Anyway, the garage fridge holds the kitchen fridge overflow just fine. The ice maker in the garage fridge died, so I just removed it, insulated the hole in the door, and covered the hole with a plastic storage box lid - it almost looks like it was meant to be that way.

Droid
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It was a good time to punt...
Droid   4/17/2012 9:30:58 AM
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Sound like a good solution - although a bit of a "duct-tape band aide" approach.   I probably would have gone on line to some place like surpluscenter.com and searched for a fan that I could cram into the spot.

Droid
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Platinum
Re: It was a good time to punt...
Droid   4/17/2012 9:46:11 AM
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By the way - I LIKE "duct tape band-aide" approaches to solving things like this.   Which is the reason for occasionally having the title of "cobblemiester"...

diyernh
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Iron
Make sure your solving the problem, not the symptom
diyernh   4/17/2012 1:20:37 PM
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Double check your defrost timer.  It is the number one failure mechanism.  It is a mechanical rotary timer that shuts off the compressor and turns on the heaters to defrost.  It gets dirty and stops turning after several years.  Yours may have stopped in the "compressor on" cycle.  This will run the compressor too much, causing frost build up.  As the frost builds up, the compressor will have to run more to get the fridge cold.  I could picture this continuing to the point where the compressor is overheating, breaking the icemaker tube etc.

Look behind the lower grill, or sometimes it is inside the fridge.  It is a small knob.  You should hear the compressor turn on and off, also the heaters will crackle when it is in defrost mode.  Usually, just turning it a few times will loosen it up for the next few years.

 

 

 

Bill DeVries
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Re: Make sure your solving the problem, not the symptom
Bill DeVries   4/17/2012 1:59:03 PM
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Thanks - I'll have to look for the defrost timer. What would cause the fan motors to burn out other than cheap fan motors?

The deer is only short term seasonal until I can finish processing into vacuum seal bags and the deer can then find its way into the freezer for later consumption.

I might have to take up home brewing. I've been into craft IPA's lately.

Thinking_J
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new vs old frig designs
Thinking_J   4/17/2012 4:50:35 PM
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There are only two significant areas of improvement/change in Frig design over the last 40 years...

biggest-  insulation of the temperature chamber

next biggest-  efficiency of electric motor(s) used

The remaining changes... minor (impact on energy efficiency) , possible exception: reduction in door opening for ice/water.. since I don't use ice or cooled water, it has not been an issue for me.

Insulation improvements are a traded against wall thickness (over all size vs interior size).. shouldn't affect reliability of frig.

Electric motor(s) and their control systems .. "efficiency" is OFTEN traded against "reliability".

When I was a electrician (in my youth) .. would often come across electric motors from 1930-50s that would likely never die. Reason: overbuilt (is that possible?) with extreme amounts of iron and electrical insulation space resulting in bulky/in-efficient motors that ran cool due to the mass and would last as long as the bearings didn't fail...  - Society expected capital equipment to last forever and energy was cheap.

Now the engineers are asked to push the limits for efficiency with the latest materials.. in expectation of:

-lower energy consumption

-expected further improvements in materials (want to rotate "out" less efficient appliances in the field)..

- and yea, it makes business sense to have this planned obsolesce (speed of money and it's effect on economy).

Closer to the limits of materials.. the less reliable the product. .. AKA risk vs reward.

Is that a conspiracy? Gov. mandated social engineering?  Unstoppable technological change? Response to Energy costs? Response to environmental concerns? Capitalism at work? ....    There is some truth in all of these observations, just a matter of perspective.

Example:

If someone made a Refrigerator that was guaranteed for 30 years.

Would society be OK .. being stuck with no improvements in energy efficiency because of much lower rate of replacement? After all, a refrigerator's energy consumption is a pretty small percentage of a household's total. But it may have a significant total in a community. Tomorrow? someone MAY create a refrigerator that is another 25% more efficient... but no one will buy it, because they don't need a replacement  and it will take 20 years of energy saving to recoup the investment.

The specific choice is often determined by expectations based on the past (my old frig lasted 25 years!) . When the best choice may not be related to this past experience.

Change or "faster rate of change" .... creates tough decisions.

tekochip
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Platinum
Re: new vs old frig designs
tekochip   4/17/2012 9:47:38 PM
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When I was doing appliances we would frequently lament the hours upon hours of engineering time we would pour into a motor control because the customer had bought the cheapest iron for the motor.

MMorgan
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Bronze
Hot refrigerator
MMorgan   4/20/2012 8:01:17 AM
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I'm surprised at your problem.I have had only two refrigerators over 46 years in my home and found them to be very reliable. While not trouble free,they are unusually reliable. Replaced a defrost timer once on each of two. Had a Sears Kenmore for about 25 years, replaced a defrost heater after about 20 years and sold it because of redecorating.

Maybe the newer ones are having these problems. On the other hand, the newer ones with all of the bells and whistles are bound to be more problematic. More parts, more parts to wear or fail.

Looks to me like you did a pretty good job of trouble shooting....isn't that what we do as engineers. Bravo!

Charles Murray
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Re: Hot refrigerator
Charles Murray   4/24/2012 8:34:20 PM
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I agree with you that newer refrigerators have features that are more likely to be problematic, MMorgan. It's ironic, though, that progress gives our refrigerators shorter useful lives and less reliability. Seems like it should be the other way around.

MMorgan
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Bronze
Re: Hot refrigerator
MMorgan   4/25/2012 8:00:49 AM
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It is inevitable that the more parts you have, the more parts there are with a Mean Time Between Failure that can at time be additive. I remember seeing very old refrigerators, (in the 1950's) that were made in the early 1920's. These had only a compressor and coils, no fans, no timers, not even a light inside. Of course they were more reliable.

Charles Murray
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Re: Hot refrigerator
Charles Murray   5/1/2012 8:19:07 PM
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Just curious, MMorgan: How long did those fridges from the 1920s last? Longer than today's?

rathomas
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Iron
Re: Hot refrigerator
rathomas   5/1/2012 10:14:24 AM
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My GE side-by-side was subject to a class action suit which GE settled without admitting fault.  In the settlement, we got a couple of free service visits (started failing just outside the warranty period) and eventually a new freezer door to replace the dispensary mechanism that had been damaged by moisture.

All of that happened *before* the fan motor went out!  I replaced the fan assembly with one with ball bearings and designed for a 2 or 3U rackmount server application.  That fan has now been running at least as long as the original one.

So when it came time to buy a new fridge for the new house, we steered very clear of GE and wound up going with Whirlpool.  A couple of months after it was installed, we noticed that the compressor, fan and all had stopped working.  When pulling it away from the wall to investigate, it started up again.  Loose connection somewhere!  I dug into it (don't tell Whirlpool, it's still under warranty!) and found single wire termination was not pushed all the way into its keep in a Molex style connector.

So, design compromises and errors?  Yes.  Poor quality control?  That too.  Or maybe I'm just unlucky ;)

bob from maine
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Refrigerators and pet hair
bob from maine   4/23/2012 12:35:40 PM
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Annual vacuuming of the air passage and coils under and in back of the fridge reaps great benefits in reduced energy consumption and extended fan life. My dog and cat enjoy lying in front of the fridge (can't have someone going into the refer without finding something to share I guess) and apparently laying quietly causes their hair to fall-out in great quantities. The hair gets sucked into the grill and after a time will block 90% of the air movement. This will cause overheating and early failure of the fan motor. Newer refers have almost silent motors which seem to be more susceptable to overheating. Older model fans were much louder and drew significantly more current, plus were designed to have free-air movement up the back and out over the top so a dead fan may not even be noticed unless you closely monitored your electric bill.

Cadman-LT
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Nice fix
Cadman-LT   5/20/2012 9:51:59 PM
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Very nice fix. So crazy that you solved the problem and reengineered their design so quicky. Applause! Isn't it lovely that it takes an engineer to own anything these days, well to make them work properly anyways!

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