Appliance repair experts say regular maintenance on refrigerators, such as cleaning the condenser coils, can help prevent costly appliance repairs or replacement.
While refrigerator malfunctions may not rate among the worst homeowner disasters, they certainly create inconveniences when they occur.
Alexandria, Va., member Kathryn Agoston and her family experienced such a rotten surprise after returning from a vacation last December. “When I opened up the fridge, it smelled and it was hot,” she says.
Large appliance repair ranks among the highest-searched categories in the Washington area, with nearly 4,000 member searches in the six months prior to press time. Reports in the category include stories of refrigerator emergencies, such as spoiled food and water leaks that required immediate attention.
Agoston noticed clicking noises before her family left on vacation, but didn’t count on returning to a failed fridge. She called highly rated Discount Appliances Repair of Falls Church, Va., which replaced her main circuit board and starter for $360.
Bonnie Woolsey, owner of highly rated All American Appliance in Springfield, Va., says homeowners often wait too long to address problems. “If you hear humming or clanking or any noise that you’re not used to hearing, you might have a problem,” she says. Her company provides customers with a packet of information that provides maintenance tips and a list of symptoms that could lead to a repair.
Experts say cleaning your fridge’s condenser coils regularly can forestall the need for repairs.
To reduce the chances for emergency service, Woolsey suggests cleaning the condenser coils commonly found on the back of the unit once annually with a soft brush. “That’s the main cause of loss of cooling,” she says, adding that pet owners should clean them twice as often to remove fur buildup. If a fridge stops working, remove ice immediately to prevent leaks and keep the door shut as much as possible to retain the cool air until a technician arrives.
Refrigerator repair specialists must be licensed in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Virginia and Maryland require an HVAC license, while the District of Columbia mandates a refrigeration-A/C license, so make sure your contractor holds the proper license.
Member Cheryl Wagner of Manassas found All American on Angie’s List after returning from a weekend trip to discover a puddle in front of her fridge and spoiled food inside. “I saw they had a lot of reviews that had a positive experience and quick turnaround time,” she says. Not all service providers offer weekend or emergency services, and some charge extra for weekend service visits, so call for details.
Alexandria member Patricia Ann Jacubec panicked after discovering her fridge shut down on a Sunday morning. “I didn’t know what to do,” she says. She checked the List and hired highly rated Expert Appliance Services of Centreville, Va., a 2011 Best Contractor. The technician who responded diagnosed a blown fuse and fixed the fridge the same morning Jacubec called for $450 and no extra fees for the weekend service.
“If there’s a problem we can’t fix right away, we let them use a loaner [fridge] to get by until we can get out there,” says Gary Nolan, owner of highly rated Apache Appliance in Silver Spring, Md. The average repair costs about $200, according to Nolan. He also says new units typically come with a one-year unit warranty and a five-year compressor warranty, so check in advance if any of your repairs might be covered under a manufacturer, dealer or home warranty contract.