If last night's chicken dinner is already looking sad and slightly spoiled, odds are that you've got a refrigerator issue on your hands. But how do you know if you really need to replace your fridge or if it just needs a little TLC? Try looking out for the following tell-tale signs of fridge problems, then have a heart-to-heart chat with yourself about whether it's really time to let go or not.
1. There's condensation (or frost!).
If your fridge is sweating, something's likely not right. All refrigerators have to work to maintain the gentle balance between hot and chilly, but they shouldn't be working so hard (or so little) that water droplets form all over their exterior. Same goes for condensation inside the fridge or even frost in the freezer or on the door's exterior. Don't panic, though — this could very well be a minor problem.
First, check the rubber sealing around the doors. Close the fridge door on a dollar bill. Then, pull the bill out slowly. If it slips out easily, you can try replacing the gasket yourself with a kit from the hardware store for about $50. If that doesn't fix the condensation or the bill has drag when you pull it, have a local appliance expert come out to take a look before giving your fridge the boot.
2. The motor's constantly running — and you can hear it.
Your fridge's motor shouldn't always be running at max speed. That's because, for the most part, there's just no need for it to constantly regulate and re-regulate temperatures — unless the door is being opened and closed a lot. If your motor's always going and going, you should have a pro come out to take a look (and a listen).
3. It's hot to the touch.
Yes, you'll always feel some heat coming from the back of your fridge — that's only natural, and it means the ventilation system's working. But because the coils should be insulated, an excessive amount of heat is unusual. Call a pro to see if the fridge just needs new coils or if there's a bigger issue at hand.
4. Your food's going bad way faster than it should.
A fridge has one job: to keep food cold. If your farmers market finds are spoiling faster than usual or you notice that it's taking longer to chill a bottle of white wine, there's a problem. Your fridge could be using a lot more energy than it should, which means you're wasting energy and spending more than you need to on your electric bill. Sure, forking over the cash for a new fridge will be painful at first, but you'll stop wasting money on spoiled food or a too-high electric bill.
5. It's just old (and really inefficient).
It might seem wasteful, but if you've got an old fridge on your hands, you actually could save money by switching to a newer model. Yearly improvements to refrigerator efficiency mean your energy bills might get cut in half if you switch over to a newer, more efficient model. How old is too old? In fridge years, you might want to start looking for a new one if yours is between 10 and 20 years old.