How to Tell if Your Refrigerator is Working

Figuring out how to tell if your refrigerator is working How to Tell if Your Refrigerator is Working

Is your fridge running but your food isn’t as cold as it should be? It may need some TLC. Here’s how to tell if your refrigerator is working as it should and what you can do to fix it.

We all take our refrigerators for granted. For the most part, they sit there and quietly work without any effort on our part.

Given that the average working life of a fridge is around 7-12 years, there’s not much reason you should fret over your fridge.

As a general rule, your fridge will maintain the freshness of your perishable groceries, takeout, and leftovers.

You’ll open it up and take out well-preserved food. You can expect crisp lettuce and fresh milk for your meals. All within their average life expectancy of course.

What if food isn’t holding up in the fridge the way it once did? You might wonder how to tell if your refrigerator is working properly. Keep reading and we’ll give you tips on checking the health of your fridge.

Food Doesn’t Go Bad

Food storage is a refrigerator’s primary purpose. Depending on what you store inside, the food should remain good for days or weeks. Condiments can last for months.

As long as your food remains unspoiled, the fridge is fine. If food starts to smell or you see mold much sooner than you’re used to, it’s a sign that something may be wrong.

The Fridge Cycles On and Off

A fridge in proper working order doesn’t run all the time. It’s a sealed, insulated box once you close the door.

So, when the inside reaches the right temperature, the compressor and motor turn off. It can take some time for the internal temp to climb enough for the cooling system to kick back on.

As long as the motor and compressor turn on and off regularly, your fridge is most likely fine.

If the motor and compressor stay on all the time, that’s a warning sign that there’s a problem. Constantly running means the system must work all the time to maintain a static level of coolness  inside the fridge.

The Fridge Noise Is Consistent

Every refrigerator makes a certain amount of noise. Some prove extremely quiet, even when the motor and compressor run.

The compressors on most fridges make more noise right out of the box.

Consistency is the key here. As long as the fridge produces approximately the same level of noise, it means the motor and compressor don’t need attention.

When the motor or compressor start to malfunction, you often get an increase in noise as in the volume level.

If a component utterly fails in the motor or compressor, the noise increase can prove dramatic as if to signal to you that repair is needed.

A slowly failing component will create a gradual increase in the noise. At a certain point, the noise will probably reach a level that becomes annoying.

For example, you must raise your voice so other people in the kitchen can hear you.

Your Utility Bills Remain Consistent

Utility bills always fluctuate a bit as the seasons change.

Assuming you don’t have any unusual or extreme weather changes or dramatic change in the number of occupants in your house, those fluctuations remain pretty consistent year after year.

Your utility bill drops in the spring and fall when you need less heating and cooling. They go up in the summer and winter when you need extra cooling and heating.

As long as your bill remains consistent, it means your fridge isn’t experiencing problems. If it is, there can be some serious additional energy draw.

Let’s say you see a sharp increase in your bill when nothing about your home or lifestyle changes. That often means a problem with one of your appliances.

Take the example from above where the compressor and motor stay on all the time. That constant work demands a lot of electricity over time, and it will show up in your bill.


If your fridge is less than seven years old, don’t immediately panic if it seems out of order. You should try a few things before declaring it an emergency.

Say that food spoils ahead of schedule. It might mean you need to turn the thermostat in the fridge down a little. Hot weather can tax a fridge the same way it taxes an air conditioning unit.

You can also pull the fridge away from the wall and look at the back of it (or underneath, depending on where your the coils are on your fridge that release heat).

See a bunch of dust, pet hair, or cobwebs hanging off the exposed components. Clean that stuff off because those things can impede proper functioning.

You can do this with a special coil brush, or simply vacuum off using a hose and extension. Your fridge will love you for this and will be working like new again from a general maintenance standpoint.

What if the fridge stops working? First things first, check that the plug is firmly seated in the outlet. A lot of things can knock a plug loose and break the electrical circuit.

Test another device in the same plug if that doesn’t fix it. If the new device won’t turn on, you  know that the outlet or breaker is at fault. Plug the fridge into another outlet and see if turns back on.

What To Do Next

The next step when fridge problems show up vary depending on a person’s situation or location.

Let’s say you’re at a leased house in Sydney, Australia for an extended business trip. The fridge works, but not in top form. Your best move is a local repair business, like Norwest Appliance Service.

Fixing it will prove more cost-effective than replacing a fridge you only plan on using for a few months.

If your home fridge starts acting up, you have more choices.

You can go in for the repair route but there’s no guarantee it will last. The fridge might soak up repair after repair and never work right again.

You can look for a used fridge as a replacement. It’s a cheaper option most of the time. Plus, you can find a lot of used fridges that still have years of life left in them.

You can also replace the refrigerator outright with a new model.

Parting Thoughts on How to Tell if Your Refrigerator Is Working

If you ever wondered how to tell if your refrigerator is working, there are lots of telltale signs.

The big sign is that your food stays cold. The fridge motor and compressor cycle on and off. The motor and compressor don’t make more noise than they used to make. You don’t see a sudden spike in your utility bill.

If your fridge does start acting up, use the troubleshooting tips above or contact a repair service. If all else fails, you can always replace it.

Decide to replace the fridge? Maybe it’s time for a new kitchen look. Check out our post on designing your dream kitchen for some ideas.