Refrigerator Compressor is Hot to Touch: In Depth Analysis


The refrigerator compressor is responsible for ensuring that the fridge maintains the required temperatures. I do not have to tell you that a refrigerator is suppose to be cold from the inside (I hope yours is) and slightly warm at the back and on the bottom. Therefore, you do not have to worry when you feel your refrigerator is slightly warm at the back. The compressor produces some heat to evaporate refrigerant in system coils, thus maintaining low temperatures inside the refrigerator.

The fridge may be functional but overheating of the compressor can result in system break breakdown that is expensive to repair. More so, a fridge compressor that is hot and produces a buzzing sound can cause a fire in rare cases. The refrigerator can eventually stop working and you end up with tainted food. Therefore, it is important to take quick action if you suspect your refrigerator compressor is hot beyond acceptable temperatures. The first step is checking factors that could be making the compressor overheat. You can also look for a qualified technician to check your refrigerator.

How the Refrigerator Compressor Works

The compressor is the magic behind the ability of a fridge to maintain cold temperatures that inhibit bacteria growth on food.  A refrigerator compressor serves as a pump and motor that facilitates the flow of refrigerant in the systems of a fridge.

  1. Temperature sensors trigger the compressor to start working when temperatures inside the fridge rise above the set point.
  2. The compressor takes in cold refrigerant gas in liquid form. It then compresses it into a gas and the temperature in the compressor goes up (which is why is the compressor is warm)
  3. The compressor then pushes hot and compressed refrigerant gas through metal coils placed at the back of the fridge. The metal coils or tubes release heat to the surrounding area. 
  4. The compressor then pumps the liquid gas through the system until it reaches the expansion valve. It turns into cold mists when pushed through a small hole and evaporates while flowing through the fridge coils. The cold liquid gas absorbs heat from the air in the refrigerator compartments. Essentially, the compressor is the heart of a refrigerator.

Below is a good video showing the insides of a fridge compressor and an overall description.

Hot Refrigerator Compressor Troubleshooting Tips

Several factors can make a refrigerator compressor to become hot without cooling.

Poor Ventilation/ High Indoor Temperatures 

Poor ventilation or high indoor temperatures can make the fridge compressor hot and produce a buzzing sound. This happens when the refrigerator is placed close to the wall or if the room is not ventilated. The solution is to pull the fridge away from the wall and ensure the room has adequate ventilation.

Dirty Condenser Coils

Condenser coils are located at the back and bottom or the front and bottom of the fridge. Their role is to condense the refrigerant. These coils do not work effectively if clogged with dirt because they are unable to release heat to the surroundings. This makes the refrigerator compressor hot and it does not cool. The solution is to clean condenser coil.

Cleaning the condenser coils is quite simple, the first step is to located the condenser coils. The location of the coils might vary depending on the model of fridge you have. Once you have located the condenser coils you can use a dust catching brush and then use a vacuum that has a thin nozzle that can get into tight spaces.

Failure of the Automatic Defrost System

The automatic defrost system prevents frost from building up in the refrigerator. It heats the interior refrigerator coils regularly to ensure it is frost-less. That way, the cooling process can take place effectively. The compressor is likely to overheat if the defrost system is faulty. The solution is to call a technician to check the defrost system and probably replace the defrost thermostat.

Faulty Condenser Fan & Motor

A refrigerator has a cooling fan that helps in reducing temperatures of the compressor and condenser coils. The compressor is likely to overheat if the cooling fan is clogged or faulty. The solution is to clean the cooling fan or look for a technician to repair or replace it.  

An Electric Problem

An electric problem can also make the refrigerator compressor hot but not cooling. Issues such as power and voltage spikes can make the compressor to overheat. The solution is to check if your home’s electrical system is in good condition.  You can also hire a certified technician to check the electric system of your home.

Inadequate Refrigerant in the System

A fridge compressor can be hot and producing a buzzing sound if there is inadequate refrigerant in the system. The solution is to call a certified technician to test the compressor pressure and refill the refrigerant if need be.

There is a lot to learn about fridge freon or other wise known as refrigerant. If you want to know all relevant information on refrigerant read this detailed post.

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