Fridge & Freezer Noises
We find ourselves asked about noisy fridge freezers a fair bit as well as the odd question on noise from a standalone fridge or freezer although complaints of noise from separate fridges and freezers are more rare.
In this article we will try to explain what the different sounds and noises that you can commonly encounter on a fridge freezer for the most part but some can apply to standalone fridge and freezer models as well.
Do bear in mind however that what one person thinks is a gentle humming noise may sound like a dentist's drill to others as it depends on how you regard noise, where the fridge is installed and a myriad of other contributing factors.
One good piece of advice is that, if it is at all possible in any way, never have a fridge freezer installed in the same room as you sleep, get it as far away as you can as they all emit some sort of noise at some point.
When a normal fridge fridge freezer is plugged in and working the compressor (or motor) will be running up to 60% of the time you have it switched on and, if it is a frost free model it will often run for more than 80% of the time it is powered up. What that means is that, for at least 60% of the time your fridge or fridge freezer will be making some sort of noise, regardless of how quiet it might be or, not as the case may be and there is nothing that you can do to alter this.
Fridge Freezer Humming Noise
A gentle humming noise is usually perfectly normal and will most probably simply be the compressor running as it should, circulating the gas that makes the refrigeration system operate.
It is actually more of a worry if you never hear a gentle humming noise as that is often indicative of a failure. But, some fridge freezers are very quiet indeed and the important part is that the fridge freezer is cooling correctly.
On newer fridge freezers we now have what is known as "linear compressors", these are compressors that, unlike their older relatives that would only switch either on or off, will actually run at an infinitely variable rate. Think on it like a dimmer switch, you only use the power that you need instead of having all or nothing. These compressors were introduced to reduce energy consumption but an interesting side effect is that the seem to also run quieter. The downside is, they are more expensive.
Cracking And Groaning Noises
After it was discovered that the old Freon based gasses were a bad thing, creating a hole in the atmosphere and culling polar bears etc, we switched onto a gas known as R134a as a stopgap measure and, from there to a gas known as R600a.
R600a is a butane based refrigerant gas, very close to normal Calor type gas and, yes, it can also ignite and burn just like its relative but, in any domestic refrigerator the quantities of gas in use are miniscule. If you set a flame to it the most you would normally get is a loud pop and maybe a fright under most circumstances. But we drift from the noise thing.
When R600 came along we started to get more complaints about cracking and groaning noises from fridges, freezers and fridge freezers.
The official line is that it is due to expansion and contraction within the refrigerator cabinet as, these days, the evaporators are almost always hidden behind the rear walls to make the fridge and freezer easier to clean.
There were all kinds of theories as to why this happened and some manufacturers even resorted to injecting oil into the walls of the cabinet to try to quell the noises and wiggle out exchanging the fridge freezer. Problem being of course that even a new one could end up doing the same thing and making the same cracking or groaning noises so exchanging the machine was probably going to be futile.
Often the problem was never solved.
Whether this is caused by the gas, the new eco-energy saving designs or not nobody really knows for sure but, chances are that if you experience this, it is entirely possible it cannot be cured.
Whirring Or Scraping Noise
This is usually related to a fan motor and will usually only be heard on frost free fridge freezers and American style fridge freezers.
Normally it is caused by a build up of ice around one of the fans, how many there are and where they are can vary a lot depending on the make and model of fridge freezer. But, 99/100 this will be where the problem lies.
The trick is to work out why the ice is building up in most cases.
Of course it can also be indicative of a faulty fan motor which is again, not entirely uncommon.
If the fridge or freezer isn't cooling properly and you get a whining noise from inside it's possible that the fan motor or, motors, have been jammed up with ice.
Clicking And Buzzing Noises
There are exceptions, the most notable being the Whirlpool American fridge freezers with clicking noises but, often this is the compressor cutting out on the overheat relay. In other words, not good news usually as it will often indicate a compressor failure, especially if you hear a repeated "click, buzz" repeated and the fridge fails to cool down.
On large American side by side units there are electronic modules used that control the various functions such as water and ice. On these electronic modules there are relays that, if the control board goes faulty or the relays fail, can give an almost constant clicking sound.