You depend on all your home’s appliances, but none more than your refrigerator. Without it, you simply can’t safely keep fresh food in the house. So when it breaks down, you need to take swift action to repair or replace it.
But which is most appropriate for your situation -- repair or replacement? A refrigerator is, after all, a major purchase, with new models costing from about $400 to more than $4,000 at the high end. So, it’s understandable that you’d want to get as much use out of your old fridge as you can before investing in a new one.
While there are few problems on a fridge that can’t be repaired, that doesn’t mean it’s not more cost-effective to replace a fridge in certain circumstances. Consumer Reports advocates replacing a refrigerator if the cost to repair is more than half the price of a new one. But before you schedule a service call, you need a general idea of what issues can or should be repaired and which ones generally warrant throwing out the whole appliance.
Before you pick up the phone to call a repairman, troubleshoot your broken refrigerator yourself to see if it’s something you can fix on your own. If your refrigerator suddenly isn’t cooling, check the power source to make sure it’s plugged in, and check the breaker box to make sure you haven’t tripped the breaker that powers the refrigerator.
If the refrigerator is running, but feels warmer than usual, make sure that items in the fridge aren’t crowding the cold air vents and blocking them. Check the temperature dial to make sure it hasn’t been accidentally adjusted to a warmer setting. The inside of your fridge should be between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the freezer should be about zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Are you having problems with the ice maker or water dispenser? When was the last time you changed the water filter? If you don’t change them regularly, they can get clogged up eventually and the fridge will stop dispensing water or ice. If the filter isn’t the problem, make sure the ice maker is turned on.
Some refrigerator problems can usually be repaired. Problems that cause the fridge portion to stop cooling adequately can usually be fixed. So can problems with the water dispenser or ice maker. Noise issues caused by problems with the fan can also usually be fixed.
If you’re having problems with refrigerator gasket, you can have that seal replaced. You may find that problems with the gasket can cause the door to not seal properly, which will make the inside of the fridge warmer than usual. You might also just see cracks or other signs of damage to the gasket. A damaged gasket means your fridge will be working overtime to keep things cool, so it’s important to fix it right away.
You can also usually fix a fridge that is leaking water. Often, fridges leak slowly because the drain pan is full or because the drain line is clogged with ice from the freezer. Sometimes, the valve or water lines for the ice maker and water dispenser fail, causing a much more obvious leak. And, while an overheating fridge is often bad news, sometimes it’s merely a matter of vacuuming dust and debris from the coils.
You can fix some refrigerator issues yourself, but for others, it’s worth calling a repairman. The easiest way to find a qualified service professional is to use a home services company like Candu Home Services. These companies do all the vetting for you, so you don’t have to spend your time looking up reviews, getting quotes, and trying to make a judgment call about who’s going to be the most reliable.
While you might be able to fix a fridge that isn’t cooling the refrigerator compartment fully, the freezer is another story. A freezer that isn’t cooling indicates the need for a new fridge. So does a humming sound coming from the compressor. And, honestly, if your fridge is 15 years old or older, it’s time for a new one anyway -- they only last so long. And, as previously mentioned, if the cost of repairing your fridge is more than half the cost of a replacement, it makes sense to replace, especially if your fridge is older or if this isn’t the first time it’s broken down recently.
When your fridge breaks down, you don’t always want to spend the money on a replacement. But when is replacement the right option? It really depends on how old your fridge is, what’s wrong with it, and how much it’ll cost to fix. If you’re going to need to spend a lot of money anyway, you might as well get what you need from it -- a fridge you can rely on.