Refrigerator Coolant Leak: Fix or Replace?

A repair man working on a refrigerator.

Nobody wants a refrigerator that is no longer keeping things cold. A refrigerator keeps things cool by circulating coolant between the condenser coil and the evaporator coil. A compressor is used to circulate the coolant. The condenser coil is located outside the refrigerator, and the evaporator coil is on the inside. When you find that your refrigerator is no longer keeping cool inside, it may be a loss of coolant. Generally, you can smell a coolant leak. Once you know it's a coolant leak, you need to decide whether to fix or replace the refrigerator. Here's what you should consider before you make your choice.

Age and Efficiency

The older the refrigerator, the less efficient it is going to be. Newer refrigerators are made to stricter standards and have far higher energy efficiency levels. In fact, a big selling point of a new refrigerator is to save energy and, therefore, money.

If your refrigerator is leaking coolant, it is likely older and it may be time to evaluate whether it is more cost-effective to fix the problem and continue on or replace it with a newer model that will save you money over a longer time period.

Cost of RepairFixing It Yourself

While you can save money by fixing a coolant leak yourself, there are some hazards involved and it may not be worth your time. Before working on a refrigerator or freezer repair yourself, you need to determine if the motor or compressor has a capacitor. The capacitor, which is located in a housing unit on the top of the motor, will retain electricity even when the power to the unit is turned off. This can be dangerous if the power is not discharged and can lead to a bad shock.

Smaller parts, which can easily be removed, are generally easy to repair by yourself. It is more than likely that the cause of the leak is something larger and more complicated.

Cost of Repair—Calling in Help

There are times when it is best to call in a repair person. If the leak is caused by the condenser, evaporator coils, or by the compressor, calling in a professional repair person would be necessary because these are generally sealed. It can be a costly repair and you will need to get a few estimates before settling on your service person.

Buying a New Refrigerator

If you decide to buy a new refrigerator, there are many advantages. You will likely have higher out-of-pocket costs, but you may save money in the long run on your energy bills. Again, you will need to compare the energy efficiency of your current unit with that of a new one.

Keep in mind that different refrigerators have different efficiency ratings and this information is always available when you shop. There are many rebate programs that will refund some of the money you paid on high-energy efficiency units. Some localities have refrigerator recycling programs that will actually pay you money to take away an old working refrigerator.