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When it Comes to Refrigerators, Compressors Matter!

by Ann Ferguson

Refrigerators are one of those items we likely take for granted. If you have ever had a refrigerator go out, then you know how devastating it can be trying to replace all that was inside. Getting a refrigerator with a good compressor is important, and you might not even realize it.

What is a refrigerator compressor, and what does it do?

The compressor of a refrigerator is like the main operating system. If you want to think of it as a heart, think of the lines coming out of it the veins of the appliance. What’s in those veins that the heart pumps? The answer is refrigerant or coolant, just like your air conditioner or car air conditioner. It is the green stuff that keeps your appliance cold and your food fresh. The compressor pumps the refrigerant throughout the system through repeated cycles. If you are hearing weird noises from your refrigerator, the compressor is likely what is malfunctioning, but only a professional will be able to confirm.

refrigerator compressor pump with air condenser unit

What types of compressors are there?

That’s right—there is more than one type of compressor system. If you are researching the compressor in a refrigerator you are looking to buy, you will need to be aware of the popular types. They are as follows:

Reciprocating Compressor

This compressor uses a piston-like motion to compress the refrigerant. It has a motor and a crankshaft, just like a car. A single-action compressor gets refrigerant on one side of the compressor whereas double-action gets both sides. This is the most common model found in residential kitchens.

Rotary-Vane Compressor

These compressors have five main actions: start, suction, compression, discharge, and end.

Rotary-Screw Compressor

This one is used for compressing larger volumes of refrigerant, so they are more likely found in commercial models.

Centrifugal Compressor

This is also called a turbo compressor. This model has higher speed and higher pressure. This type is also more often found in commercial appliances.

Why does the compressor matter so much?

If you go the cheap route, buying a refrigerator that has an adequate or subpar compressor, that means it could eventually go out. If it does, you could be looking at a hefty repair bill. The type of compressor in a refrigerator will determine how loud or quiet the refrigerator runs in addition to the amount of energy used, which impacts maintenance costs—a.k.a., your energy bill. However, you need to take into account the cost to run the appliance over a few years against the cost of replacing the appliance if it has a short lifespan. Some compressors are more environmentally friendly than others when it comes to their carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions.

girl and mother in front of side by side refrigerator

Does anything else matter with the compressor?

Absolutely! The location of the compressor is also important. Depending on the type of refrigerator, some are located at the top of the appliance and some are located towards the bottom. Because a compressor is a type of motor, airflow is really important. If the compressor is towards the bottom of the unit, it may not get good airflow and have to work a lot harder. This could lead to quicker burnout and increased cost to run. The size and capacity of the compressor need to be enough for the size of the refrigerator.

Once I have a new refrigerator appliance, how do I take care of the compressor?

Keep your refrigerator and the area around it clean. Make sure you vacuum and dust around frequently. Quarterly, you should briefly unplug your refrigerator, pull it out, and do a deep clean. You want to keep the coils in the back clear of dust or cobwebs to make sure the airflow can circulate right.

Call or Visit Us!

If you find a good refrigerator with a good compressor and take care of it, it should last a long time. Check out what our impressive selection of name-brand refrigerators can do for you! And if you have any questions, reach out to our experts. We are always happy to help.