How Does a Refrigerator Compressor Work?
As one of the key components of every refrigerator, you’ve probably heard of a refrigerator compressor. They often get a bad rap as a part that fails frequently, but that’s usually not the case. Which is good news, because compressors can be a costly repair. If your compressor does fail however, it is certainly capable of throwing a wrench into your day. So knowing how a refrigerator compressor works is very useful information:
How a Refrigerator Compressor Works
A refrigerator’s compressor plays a vital role in the refrigeration cycle. It works in conjunction with the refrigerator’s condenser, expansion valve (aka capillary tube), and the evaporator. These parts each do their part in converting liquid refrigerant into a gas, and then back into a liquid. This evaporation process (done at very cold temperatures) absorbs heat, creating cold temperatures within the refrigerator and freezer. The compressor is activated when the temperature sensors indicate that the internal temperature has risen above a certain point.
- When the compressor starts, its pump draws in the cold refrigerant gas from the evaporator (left over from the last cycle). It is then the compressor’s job to heat up the gas. A motor powers this function, increasing the gas’ temperature by compressing it. This is where the compressor get its name.
- The compressed gas then gets sent to the condenser, where the refrigerant is liquefied by lowering its temperature.
- The expansion valve then lowers the refrigerant temperature and pressure, causing about half of it to evaporate.
- The evaporator takes the remaining liquid refrigerant and turns it back into a gas. This is what the compressor uses to start the cycle over again.
Normal wear and tear over many years can cause compressors to malfunction, but this process can be accelerated if the refrigerator isn’t well maintained. For instance, dirty condenser coils will make the compressor have to work harder. That said, compressors are not usually the root cause of your refrigerator not cooling. Many other components should be ruled out first, such as the condenser, evaporator, start relay, and temperature control thermostat to name a few. If you suspect something is wrong with your refrigerator’s compressor, contact your local appliance repair technician right away.
To see what the inside of a refrigerator compressor looks like and its inner workings in detail, check out this video below (courtesy of sixtyfiveford’s YouTube channel).