Fridge in New Apt Throwing off a Lot of Heat - Should I be Concerned?

And if so, what do I do about it?

Background: we just moved into a new apartment. It is equipped with a side-by-side fridge. The fridge is completely encased in the cabinetry on three sides and above, and it has a vent under the doors. This vent is continuously emitting hot air. If you stand in front of it, it is quite noticeable. I have rented a lot of apartments with everything from brand-new to considerably ancient fridges and never experienced anything like it.

Based on certain design features (especially the glossy black non-magnetized plastic exterior veneer) I suspect it was new sometime around 1989-1992. I checked the inside of the door and all around the outside and found no identifying marks or brand names.

Also, the vertical panel that devides the fridge from the freezer is always noticably hot to the touch. Not burning/melting hot, but hot enough for you to say… "hmm, strange, that’s really warm. "

Fridgewise, it seems to work fine. I am just very concerned about the amount of heat its putting out, and wondering if there is anything I, the humble semi-ignorant tenant, should do about it.

I’d guess that the area behind the fridge just isn’t well ventilated, so that the coils are heating up the air, which then only slowly escapes through the bottom vent. Fridges are supposed to work by cooling their insides by making hotter somewhere else, so the hot air isn’t a sign of malfunction. It being unable to escape might be making the fridge less efficent though, so it might save you some money on your power bill to see if you can open up a ventilation hole higher up somewhere.

ETA: The landlord does not live on the property, and, I suspect that if the fridge is replaced by him, it will be much less nice than the one that is there now, which apparently was put in by a long-term tenant who recently vacated. (although its possible that a el cheapo fridge won’t fit in the space available in the cabinetry, I do not want to press him into replacement, if there is something simple I can do by way of maintenance). Or if it needs service, I would like to be able to explain why, since nothing is “broken” about it (yet).

turn off or set lower the freezer defrost control.

the fridge likely has a fan underneath to cool the coils. hot air should blow from there when the fridge is doing cooling. move it so there is 2 inches behind for good air to get to the lower rear of the fridge .

Fridges do draw quite a bit of power, maybe 500 watts or more when they are running. All that is exhausted as heat. Could be that its physical installation concentrates the heat mor than a conventional one. There is the Kill-A-Watt device you put between the plug and outlet to measure the power used. You could compare notes with other tenants and talk to the landlord.

Thanks for the tip. Where would I find that control? Or just generally, what does it look like? A dial, a switch?

Less nice than one that’s 20 years old?

Fridges are designed to take in air from underneath and expel heat at the back. Since your description suggests it’s surrounded on all sides, that’s the only place for the hot air to go. I wouldn’t worry about it at all, especially since you say the temp inside the fridge and freezer is sufficiently cold.

Also, the part of the fridge that you mention being warm to the touch, where the door meets the fridge. Many freezers have a heater there to prevent frost from building up and either freezing the door shut, condensation and making a mess or preventing the door from closing properly.

Next time you’re at the supermarket in the freezer section put your hand on the mating surfaces of their freezer doors. They really kick into overdrive on humid days.

there may be a switch near the temperature control for the freezer.

In the sense that it would most likely be “standard” configuration, not have a water dispenser, and might be as small as 3/4 size to fit in the somewhat narrow available space.

First law of thermodynamics at work. You can’t cool something down without heating something else up. As others have pointed out, based on your description there’s nowhere else for that heat to vent. Unless your landlord wants to cut holes in the cabinet that you say it’s encased in.

Look at the bottom of the fridge, there is likely a removable cover plate of some sort, see if you can open it up and check underneath, there is probably an accumulation of dust bunnies that can be vacuumed out.

Be careful, there may be a tray containing some water down there, that is condensation water, assuming that the fridge is a frost free or self defrosting type.

My fridge has the coils on the bottom, and blows warm air out of the front, and it is not encased in anything. I think yours is operating normally.

Better yet - pull the fridge out and clean things up back there. The coils are probably behind an access panel, which helps keep them clean, but also makes it harder to clean them when they eventually get dirty.

with coils underneath a fan blows hot air out the front into the room.

there is likely a louvered grill on the back (might need to be removed with screws) that could be partially blocked with dust. there is a louvered grill on the front that pops off. take the front grill off first, empty the drain pan there, move the fridge out (sometimes the drain pan is only reached from the rear so move the fridge carefully to not spill), remove the rear grill. clean the coils carefully with a brush or vacuum, do so gently because you can damage fins or other components, good idea to get your eyes down there with a light to see what you are doing.

Update: I vacuumed out the vent, and turned down the freezer a few notches er… turned it up… er… I made it be less cold. It’s fairly full, and I understand from the signs I read on the subway that a fairly full freezer is actually more efficient, so I figured I could turn it to a less-cold setting without ill effect, and I was right. The vest was clogged with dust. I doubt if the previous tenant ever cleaned it out in her many years of residence. There were entire dust rabbits in there.

As a result, there is still warm air coming out the front, as it is likely designed to do, but it is no longer quite as hot, and the compressor has begun turning itself off more regularly.

Thank you for the update.

No worries. I hate it when people never come back and say what they did with your advice! :smiley:

Correct. A frig pulls in air from the front on the bottom of the unit. The air goes accross the condencer coils, where it picks up heat and blows out bottom on the other side of the front of the unit. Years ago it was necessary to have the air go out the back.
It is still a good idea to clean out the dust bunnies from the coil.

I would never touch the defrost control. They are normally at the bottom in the back near the compressor.