How Does A Refrigerator Work: A Complete Guide

By Arindam Roy

If you don’t know how your refrigerator works, here is a step-by-step explanation. You will learn about the parts that are inside the refrigerator and how they work to keep it cold.

It’s really not that complicated! Refrigerators use a few different methods to keep food stored at the perfect temperature. Mostly, this is done by circulating cool air in and out of the inside of the fridge. The compressor module moves refrigerant in and out of your fridge which creates cool air from outside that replaces warm air coming from inside.

The fan blows cool air into the fridge through filters which removes most of the smell from anything intended for storage. The fan also removes any dust and debris from the food and air inside.

The heat element in your fridge keeps the food cool by removing heat energy from your food with a temperature gradient. All refrigerators use some kind of a heat exchange system to remove heat from the inside of the refrigerator to cool it down.

The fan is what keeps all this working together at an efficient rate. Although it is not covered in this article, I will cover why the fan is important in creating a powerful heating system for your fridge later on if you’re interested!

The compressor module moves refrigerant into and out of your refrigerator using a small amount of electricity which helps keep your fridge running smoothly. Your fridge is made up of many moving parts, and the fan plays a big role in how your fridge works as well as providing the air for your food to breath.

Read more: What Temperature Should A Refrigerator Be? – Expert Advice

What Is Refrigerant?

First off, what exactly is refrigerant? The compressor module in your fridge pulls refrigerant from the outside air which cools it down with energy coming from electricity. This is how your fridge gets its cold air from outside, and also what keeps your food cold.

The main component of refrigerant is called R-22 or “R” for short but don’t grab any before it’s time to replace! R-22 is a toxic chemical that has been banned. Once used, it could only be disposed of by a special disposal company that charges a dumb fee for doing so.

Your fridge is made up of many different parts which each require different types of refrigerant or R-22. All refrigerators use a variable amount of R-22 to remove heat energy from your food with the help of the heat exchange system in your fridge.

Relevant reading: Why Refrigerator Noisy? : Expert Tips

Main Parts Of A Refrigerator

Most people think that the compressor module is all there is to running your refrigerator well, but that’s not true! The compressor module has many moving parts to help keep it running smoothly. Inside your fridge are two major pieces: the compressor and the heat exchanger (a power supply). Both of these pieces are part of your refrigerator’s module.

In a refrigerator, the heat exchanger is almost always an expansion valve or “expansion device”. The expansion device moves refrigerant from the inside of your fridge to the outside and vice versa. The expansion device is inside a closed loop which means that it is always open to the air.

The expansion device takes cool air outside by way of the compressor module which then sends it back in to be cooled again and again. A little bit of refrigerant goes outside every time this loop is opened, thus moving refrigerant from inside to outside and vice versa.

The compressor module is made up of multiple parts too! The compressor itself is a mechanical device that moves refrigerant from the inside to the outside and vice versa. The motor, or electric motor, on the compressor module works in conjunction with a mechanical clutch which provides power to move your refrigerator’s heat exchange system.

The clutch controls how fast or slow your compressor runs, which means it can be turned on or off whenever you want. Some people like to leave this on all the time to provide a constant cool air supply. Others, like me, prefer to turn it off some of the time and turn it on again when I want cold air in my refrigerator.

There are many different models and designs of refrigerators, so it’s really difficult to generalize what type of compressor is inside each one. Some newer models use compressors that have more moving parts which operate more efficiently, although these are less common nowadays.

Related article: How Much Does A Refrigerator Weigh And How To Move A Refrigerator?

The heat exchanger or expansion device also has many parts! One part of the heat exchanger is called a condenser. The condenser takes outside cold air and transfers it inside for cooling your food with energy from electricity.

The condenser does not have its own cooling system which means it will get warmer and hotter over time. To counteract this, you can put a thermoelectric cooler made for refrigerators on the inside of your fridge. The thermoelectric cooler is a small plastic box attached to a fan that warms up to absorb hot air from your fridge and cools down when it absorbs cold air from outside.

The thermostat is used to control when the heat exchanger or condenser turns on or off. There is also another term for the heat exchanger called an evaporator, but these are more common in large units such as freezers. The condenser is used to cool air coming from the outside, and the evaporator is used to heat up air from inside your fridge.

The thermostat or “thermo” in a refrigerator is what controls how cold your fridge will get. The thermostat has a small thermistor (a temperature sensor) located on it that detects changes in temperature in the fridge. The sensor sends the information relayed back to the thermostat so it can make sure your food stays at a safe temperature.

The compressor module works with the fan and defroster (defrosting system) to keep your food cold. The fan blows cool air into your fridge, while warm air comes out of it too. The fan helps circulate air through your fridge to keep everything running smoothly and at an efficient rate.

The defrosting system or “defrost” system in a refrigerator is what makes frost and ice go away. When your food starts freezer burn, the defrost system will run to warm things up so that they don’t become frozen again.

Related post: How To Reset A Refrigerator: A Quick Fix Guide

The defrost system typically consists of a heating element, a thermostat and a motor to help warm them up. This is why there is usually some sort of indicator light on the defrosting unit which shows that it is working properly. The warming element helps warm your food up so it won’t freeze next time you put it into your freezer.

The thermostat in the defrost system (which is different than the thermostat in the heat exchanger) controls when it should start defrosting and stop. The defrost system should turn off sometimes to help avoid making ice buildup.

The evaporator is very similar to the expansion device found in a refrigerator, except that it uses a fan instead of refrigerant to pull cool air from outside. The evaporator uses cool air from outside to cool your food inside your freezer. It works with a blower or fan which pulls air from outside and blows it inside your freezer.

The heat exchanger and condenser both work together to transfer different types of energy between them through your fridge. There is a lot more to know about them, but this is just a brief description of the basics.

Tips For Keeping Things Clean In Your Refrigerator

Wall Mounted Refrigerators

Some wall mounted refrigerators can be pushed out so you can see what’s inside! You can use appliances for cleaning and maintenance, and the LED indicator lights make it easy to see what’s running. They look good too! Check out this post here .

The Inside Of Your Refrigerator Should Be Cleaned Regularly

Without knowing what’s inside your fridge, I’ll just say that most people don’t clean their refrigerator enough! Of course that depends on how often you use your fridge, but don’t go crazy with the cleaning.

If you have a large side-by-side, it’s a good idea to vacuum it every so often. If you have a small freezer on the bottom or keep your appliances in the back, then you don’t need to do any cleaning.

At least once a year, remove all your food (potatoes, eggs, juice and milk) and throw them away. Take out all of your toaster racks and cupboards and wipe them down with an antibacterial cleaner. Use a cloth with some bleach solution to clean all of the shelves and drawers in there as well.

If you have a side-by-side, take out the drawers and clean behind them. If you have a freestanding fridge or freezer, take out the shelves and clean behind them too. If you don’t do this every year, then there’s no telling how long it’s been since your last fridge cleaning!

Wipe Out The Dust

Bread crumbs and anything else that falls down to your bottom shelves can be a big problem if left alone. Crumbs can get stuck in light fixtures or even in the vent system which causes an odor! Also, with so many people suffering from food allergies these days, anything that falls onto the floor of your fridge could be very dangerous…

Wipe all of the shelves clean with a clean wet cloth to help keep them dust-free.

Clean The Exhaust Fan

The “exhaust fan” is located inside your fridge and blows out air to the outside. This will help to keep your food from getting too warm and can also prevent any odors from escaping. Clean out the fan every year to make sure it’s in tip-top condition!

Maintain Your Dishwasher To Keep It Clean Inside

If you have a dishwasher, take care of it! Wash it at least once a month or more often if you have lots of dishes…especially if they’re extra heavy duty like plastic cutting boards.


You may also be interested in:

Best Refrigerator Below Rs. 15000: Top Picks
Best Refrigerators Below Rs 20000: Buyer’s Guide
Best Refrigerator Below Rs 30000 in India: Top Brands 2021
Best Whirlpool Refrigerator in India 2021: Top Picks


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