Is It Worth Replacing The Compressor On A Refrigerator?

The compressor is one of the most important parts of a refrigerator, and it can be a nightmare when they go bad. Many homeowners opt to replace a bad compressor, but there are several reasons that is a bad idea, including the cost. Follow along as we explore why it is not worth replacing a bad refrigerator compressor.

Is It Worth Replacing a Compressor on a Refrigerator

There are a few crucial components to your refrigerator that can mean the difference between it working properly and you needing repairs in short order. One of those crucial components is the compressor.

It’s better to buy a new fridge rather than replace the compressor. Usually, the compressor wears out over time, and if your fridge is old, there are bound to be more problems that follow. You will pay between $200 to $500 for the compressor, and that doesn’t include any other parts you might need. 

The compressor is responsible for moving refrigerant fluid throughout the coils so that your fridge can cool properly. But what happens when the compressor goes bad? Should you even bother replacing it or just get an all-new fridge?

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What Kind of Fridge Do You Have?

The decision on whether or not you should replace the compressor or get a new fridge entirely depends on the kind of fridge that you have. If your fridge is just a basic one – main refrigerator and freezer – then you are probably better off getting a new fridge entirely as they can be had for $500-$1,000.

When you have a fridge that comes with a bunch of different features, that is where it may be more cost-effective to get the repairs done. Fridges that have ice makers, water dispensers, and other bells and whistles can be quite a bit more expensive to simply “get a new one” and replacing the compressor is probably the better play.

What Does it Cost to Replace the Compressor?

Compressors can’t be repaired when they are damaged, so they will need to be replaced if you don’t wind up getting a new fridge altogether. The cost of the compressor can depend on the type of fridge as well as the size of the previous compressor.

Service Cost
New Compressor $50-$300
Labor $150-$200
Total $200-$500

So, depending on the kind of fridge that you have (as detailed above), it may be more cost-effective to simply get a new fridge. Compressors are rarely cheap, and the labor is much more costly than the already somewhat expensive part.

How Do You Know if the Compressor is Bad?

There are a few ways to tell if your compressor is on the fritz. The best way is to pull your fridge away from the wall slightly and listen carefully. If you notice that the engine is producing a slight humming noise and the temperature is slightly above what it should be in its normal range, the compressor is likely bad.

Another way to check the compressor without having to take things apart is to pull the fridge off the wall and check the thermostat. More often than not, the thermostat gets accidentally turned up. That can easily be fixed without you having to take anything apart.

One of the other common issues that may seem like a compressor is if there are boxes or food items that are blocking the vents. This prevents the cold air from circulating throughout the fridge properly.

Signs That Your Compressor is Bad

While those are instances where there is something wrong with the fridge and the compressor isn’t the culprit, there are plenty of instances where the compressor is at fault and needs to be replaced in short order.

It runs constantly. One of the most obvious signs that your refrigerator’s compressor is about to fail is that it will run constantly yet still not get the freezer or refrigerator compartments to their normal operating temperatures. If it isn’t the compressor, the refrigerant system itself could be failing.

The fridge trips the breaker. Whenever the refrigerator intermittently trips your circuit breaker, it can be a good indication that your compressor is starting to fail. The electric motor on a fridge generally draws in around 5 or 6 times its operating current whenever it starts up.

When the compressor starts to age, it can take longer and longer to get up to operating speed. This kind of prolonged period of inrush current can wind up tripping your breaker on a consistent basis. You should replace the compressor soon thereafter.

How to Reset Your Compressor

Before you go making that soon-to-be-expensive phone call to a repair service, try resetting the fridge’s compressor first. It could be the trick to getting the compressor back to working properly once again. Worst case, it won’t work, but at least you know that you tried everything before having to open up your wallet.

  1. First, find the power cord in the back of the fridge and then disconnect it from the wall. When the power goes off, you might hear a whoosh or even a light tapping noise. Give the fridge a couple of minutes to completely power down so that you can reset the compressor safely.
  2. From here, set the fridge and the freezer controls to either “0n” or “off” depending on your model. You can then plug the fridge back into the electrical outlet once again. With the power back on, adjust your freezer and fridge controls back to your desired settings. Most go from 0-9; a 5 might be the normal setting.
  3. Lastly, you’ll need to give the fridge about a day to adjust and attain a stable temperature. If it isn’t doing so at the end of that day, your compressor is likely bad, and you’ll need to have it replaced if you don’t get a new fridge entirely.

The Compressor Can Be Behind Your Freezer Troubles

There are times where one component of the fridge – the main fridge component and the freezer – is working and the other isn’t. When your refrigerator is on the fritz, the freezer can stop working, leaving you with food that doesn’t freeze properly and winds up spoiling.

The compressor can be the lead cause of this. Pull the fridge out and listen for the humming sound mentioned previously. In conjunction with checking the thermostat and resetting the compressor, you will be able to pinpoint the reason that your freezer isn’t do its job.

How Long Does a Refrigerator Last?

While there is no scientific length of life for a fridge, you can generally expect it to last anywhere from 10-20 years. With proper maintenance, it should last closer to two decades. The older the unit is, the more that it will cost to repair the unit if you are looking to salvage it.

Repairing the fridge all depends on what you have into it, what it costs to repair it, and what it costs to replace it. While it may be ideal to keep your current fridge, it just may not be fiscally reasonable to keep that fridge for much longer. Additionally, consider what you use your fridge for. If you tend to use it for a lot of things, replacing it may not be the smartest option versus repair.

How Long Does Food Last When the Fridge’s Power Goes Out?

A power outage or a busted component that robs the fridge of its cooling power can leave you with serious question marks about how long your food may last. A good rule of thumb is that if the power goes out and you don’t open the doors, the fridge component can last for around 4 hours before foods will stop cooling properly.

The freezer, meanwhile, should last for 48 hours if it is a full freezer. If you have a half freezer, as is the case with smaller models of fridges, the food inside should remain fine for a full 24 hours. All of this is contingent on you not opening the freezer door, so keep that in mind.

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How Long Does It Take for the Freezer to Get Cold After Defrosting?

When the fridge loses power, or there is something specifically wrong with the freezer, it will take some time before it can get back to optimal temperatures once again. A good tip is to replace the frozen foods after 20 or 30 minutes. This helps to lower the temperature in your freezer, much the same way that a cooler works.

Generally speaking, it will take anywhere from 4-12 hours for the freezer to reach its optimal temperature once again and stay there. If you have a cooler or chest freezer nearby, consider transferring the contents of your fridge’s freezer to one of them until it can get back up to temperature.

Foods that aren’t kept at optimal temperatures can begin to thaw, potentially spoiling or damaging the food and leaving you to throw it out. Power outages may not happen often, but being prepared is a good idea.

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Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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