Understanding How Your Refrigerator Works



The refrigerator is an essential home appliance that modern humans can’t live without. Most of your food won’t be fresh, they will be pickled in some way or get spoiled. Moreover, you won’t get to drink that chilled glass of water after spending hours in the sun. That’s why you quickly search for “refrigerator repair near me” and hire a technician to fix your refrigerator as soon as it breaks down. Let’s check out how your refrigerator works:

The Details

  1. Basic principle of a working refrigerator – Nowadays you’ll find numerous refrigerators with advanced smart features, ice dispensers, and big LCD touch screens on the door. However, all of them have the same basic working principle under the hood. It’s basically removing heat from one part of the refrigerator and depositing it in another.

A low-temperature liquid is passed close to objects that need to be cooled. The heat from these objects is transferred to the liquid. The liquid then evaporates and releases the accumulated heat. Gasses heat up when they are compressed and cool down when they are allowed to expand. The refrigerator uses this basic property of gasses. That’s why your bicycle pump warms up when you pump tires and perfume feels cool when it gets sprayed out.

  1. Components of a fridge – Modern refrigerators have too many components that do plenty of stuff. However, the basic components for refrigeration remain the same. They include the expansion valve, compressor, evaporator, condenser, thermostat, and refrigerants.

The expansion valve is a flow control device that controls the flow of the liquid refrigerant or coolant into the evaporator. It’s a tiny device that is very sensitive to the temperature changes of the refrigerant. The thermostat does a similar job. It controls the other end of the cooling process by monitoring the temperature inside the refrigerator and switches the compressor on or off.

The compressor is the heart of a refrigerator that does most of the heavy lifting. It pumps or circulates the refrigerant throughout the system, adds pressure to the hot part of the circuit, and heats up the refrigerant. On the other hand, the evaporator cools down materials stored in the refrigerator. It has finned tubes made from metals with high thermal conductivity.

These finned tubes are great at releasing heat and the process is quickened by a fan blowing on the tubes. The evaporator absorbs all the heat kept inside the liquid refrigerant and turns it into vapor. The condenser also contains a similar coiled set of tubes with external fins. This component is usually located outside at the back of the refrigerator. It expels more heat from the gaseous refrigerant and expels it to the surroundings. That’s why you should maintain a small gap between the back of the refrigerator and the wall.

When the refrigerant gets cooled down and its temperature drops below condensation temperature it turns back into a liquid. By now you can understand that a refrigerant is a key component that keeps the refrigerator’s cooling and heating cycle going. Before the turn of the century, fluorocarbons and CFCs were mainly used as refrigerants. However, since they had many negative environmental effects, they were replaced by R-600A, R-290A, ammonia, and more.

  1. Working of a refrigerator – With that out of the way let’s check out how these components come together to cool down things inside the refrigerator. It starts with the compressor. The compressor compresses pressurized gas, and the gas gets heated up. The coils on the back of the refrigerator allow the coolant to release heat and turn back into its liquid form at high pressure. This liquid then flows through the expansion valve and immediately boils and evaporates.

Right now, the temperature of the liquid is around -25 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and, in this state, it passes through the expansion coils inside the refrigerator. This way the liquid absorbs a lot of heat inside the refrigerator and makes the internal chamber cold. After that, the low-pressure refrigerant is sucked up by the compressor and this cycle keeps repeating to bring down the temperature of the refrigerator to your desired level.

However, the cycle doesn’t keep going eternally. If that happened the refrigerator would consume a lot of energy and would have the highest operational cost among all your home appliances. They would also break down more easily. To prevent this there’s a thermostat inside the refrigerator. The thermostat can be adjusted to different temperature settings. Modern smart refrigerators even have automatic thermostats that are controlled by AI.

The thermostat constantly monitors the temperature inside the refrigerator and acts as a switch for the compressor. When the internal temperature inside the refrigerator is lower than the set temperature, the thermostat switches off the compressor. When the internal temperature rises more than the set temperature the compressor is turned on and the cycle continues till the set temperature is reached.

That’s why you’ll hear the refrigerator humming on and off on its own several times throughout the day and staying silent for the most part.

  1. Refrigerator doors – While the compressor, refrigerant, evaporator, and condenser do most of the heavy lifting the door and insulation of the refrigerator play an important passive role to keep the other components efficient. The insulation blocks off most ambient heat from entering the refrigerator.

That’s why the door has a nice and tight seal. Make sure to inspect the seal often to check if the door maintains a tight seal. Otherwise, your refrigerator will become inefficient, stress out the key components, and break down more easily. You can also get your refrigerator checked out by a technician once a year to make sure everything is in good condition.


Your refrigerator is an intricate piece of technology that has numerous components that keep the whole thing functioning and allow you to preserve food in your home. That’s why most people panic when their refrigerator breaks down. If yours breaks down as well, you can hire a technician to fix it by searching for “refrigerator repair near me”.

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