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7 Ways You’re Shortening the Lifespan of Your Refrigerator

Updated: Apr. 03, 2023

Believe it or not, it's easy to break your refrigerator. These seven common habits could be taking years off your very expensive appliance.

French door refrigerator in new kitchen
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How you may be shortening the lifespan of a refrigerator

Refrigerators are a necessity in the home, but they cost a pretty penny. They can range in price from $700 to thousands of dollars, depending on which refrigerator brand you buy and which bells and whistles you want. Since it takes a good chunk of change to pay for this appliance, it makes sense to take great care of it so it lasts as long as possible. The typical lifespan of a refrigerator is 10 to 15 years, but it could last up to 20 years if you take superb care of it.
Knowing how you may be shortening the life of your fridge helps you nip bad habits in the bud and make those well-spent dollars go the extra mile. That’s why we’ve rounded up the ways you may be knocking valuable time off your fridge’s life—read on and take note! Then, brush up on the signs your refrigerator is about to die and what your refrigerator temperature should be—both important things to know for fridge upkeep.

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Hand of a woman is opening a refrigerator door

You’re not cleaning the internal mechanics

“If the defrost drain is clogged with debris, or frozen, the water dripping off the coils will overflow the drain trough and drip into the bottom of your refrigerator,” experts at the Repair Clinic told Reader’s Digest. Not only can this overwork your fridge, leading to a shorter lifespan, but it potentially causes your fridge/freezer to leak water all over your kitchen floor. Leaking water is a sign you should get any appliance looked at—it’s also a symptom of some of the ways you’re shortening the life of your washer and dryer.

Employee hand in rubber protective glove with micro fiber cloth wiping a fridge's stainless doors. Early spring or regular cleanup. Commercial cleaning company concept.

You’re not cleaning the fridge itself

Additionally, debris, foodstuff, sticky spills and more common food mishaps that stay on the gasket of the refrigerator’s door too long can tear or break the seal of your refrigerator door. That can cause a leak, allowing cold air to escape. This makes learning how to clean your refrigerator properly all the more important (psst—these are the best fridge cleaners that’ll get the job done). To keep your fridge in tip-top shape as long as possible, wipe down the door edges often. And while you’re wiping down your fridge, see if you’ve organized your refrigerator the right way to keep ingredients fresh and avoid food poisoning.

refrigerator kichen repair coil appliance

You’re not cleaning the coils

According to our sister site Family Handyman, more than 70% of service calls for your fridge can be eliminated by cleaning your coils once a year—and Family Handyman recommends upping that to twice a year if you have furry pets (like an adorable but extra-fluffy pup). Debris on the coils can stop your fridge from properly dissipating heat, which means your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to. That makes your fridge use more energy and shortens its lifespan.

Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

It’s too full

We’ve all played a few games of Tetris with our refrigerator after we get home with the groceries, but be careful when stocking up and storing. While this isn’t a huge problem with newer models, some older models have fan blades that are less protected. You may even be able to see the fan blades in your freezer or fridge.

Cramming your food into the fridge and freezer to the point of applying undue pressure on this small part can affect its shape and fit among related parts of your fridge, risking a break. Ineffective fridges are overworked fridges, which will eventually lead to a refrigerator that doesn’t work. To avoid overfilling your fridge, do a deep clean of the contents of your fridge every once in a while and eliminate clutter. Not sure where to start? Look for these fridge items to toss out.

Male hand is pouring cold water from dispenser of home fridge.
Nataly Mayak/Shutterstock

You’re not changing the water filter often enough

If you have the type of fridge that makes ice—with the dispenser either within the freezer or on your door—the water filter is key to keeping this part of your refrigerator in great condition. An old, broken or dislodged water filter can create all kinds of problems for your fridge. At best, your ice dispenser breaks. At worst, your fridge overworks itself to an early death and you’re stuck footing the bill for a new one. Luckily, CNET reports that you likely can detect this problem early, as your ice cubes will start coming out smaller, oddly shaped or not at all. Keep this in mind next time you’re filling up your water bottle.

Freezer is defrosted to clean.

Your freezer temperature is too high

“Ideally, the temperature should be set between zero and five degrees Fahrenheit,” said experts at Repair Clinic. The wrong freezer temperature can affect the longevity of your ice maker, as well as the safety of the food you’ll be eating. A temperature higher than 15 degrees Fahrenheit can also cause the defrost thermostat to stop working, which, in turn, overworks your refrigerator and shortens its life.

gary yim/Shutterstock

You ignore weird noises or constant running

If you notice that your fridge is always running, or is running louder than usual, do something about it right away. Some fixes are easy enough that you can do them yourself, or they’re inexpensive for a professional, but even if that’s not the case, allowing a fridge to work itself harder than it is intended to is a good way to put an early expiration date on it. Depending on the age of your fridge, you may want to decide not to fix it and invest in a new, more energy- and cost-efficient option.

Now that you know how to avoid shortening the lifespan of a refrigerator, make sure you know how to avoid shortening the life of your coffee maker.