Help and advice

Is your fridge safe?

The fridge might be one of the household appliances you take entirely for granted, assuming that little could go wrong with a machine that has just one job - to keep food and drink cold.
While it's true that fridge malfunctions are relatively rare and they break down much less frequently than a lot of other kitchen appliances considering they are in constant use, that doesn't mean people can afford to be complacent about their statistic.

Fridges contain toxic gas - don't worry, it's only a small amount that helps it to work - and occasionally this can start to leak if there is a fault with the appliance.

So what do you need to do to make sure your fridge stays safe?

What to check

Any sort of malfunction with your fridge will usually become quite obvious. If your food and drink is not being kept as cold as you would expect, then check to see if the dial is turned to the temperature you expected. If the temperature on the dial does not seem to match the coolness inside, then there might be a problem.

One of the other things to bear in mind is the smell of the fridge. Obviously the inside of the fridge will usually smell a little of food - depending on what sort of pungent foods you are keeping inside it - but any other type of smell should put you on alert.

In particular, you want to watch out for the sharp smell of ammonia, as this could be a sign that the gases within the fridge are leaking. If this is the case, you need to get it fixed as quickly as possible and you may even need to evacuate the house.

It may seem like an extreme measure, but leaking ammonia is not something you can risk being around for any length of time.

How do fridges work anyway?

As much as we use fridges, there's a general lack of awareness of how they work and this can make it harder to maintain them properly.

Fridges used to use a gas called Chloro-Flouro-Carbon or CFC, but the newer models tend to avoid these due to them being harmful to the atmosphere. Instead, your fridge probably uses another type of gas called HFC-134a, which becomes a liquid at -26.6 degrees Celsius.

A motor inside the fridge then compresses this gas to heat it, then it turns into a liquid when it cools. Once cooled, the gas flows as a liquid through a valve, which forces it back into a gas. The gas then goes through the coils in your fridge to keep the whole thing cool.

Remarkably, for a process that sounds so complex when you try to describe it, there's actually little that can go wrong with your fridge.

But you still need to clear out mouldy food on a regular basis, wipe down the surfaces inside the fridge and make sure its drain is unclogged - do this once a week if possible.

And remember to be aware of that ammonia smell - that's the main thing to watch out for if you're worried about the safety of your fridge.


© Axonn 2015