Refrigerator and Freezer Maintenance: Clean Your Coils!

Whether located at the University or in your home, the refrigeration coils on all refrigerators and freezers must be regularly cleaned in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safe and efficient operation. Cleaning may be necessary as often as every month – a quick visual is typically your best indicator.
Coils and/or coil filters are either found in the front-bottom, or on top of the unit.  Occasionally they are also found in the rear of the unit.

Failure to regularly clean the coil and/or filter can cause the unit to:

  1. Work harder and longer to keep it functioning properly, thus shortening its useful life  
  2. Use more energy
  3. Overheat and/or fail unexpectedly, compromising the unit’s contents, which can lead to significant loss in a research laboratory  
  4. Create a fire condition.  A recent fire at CUMC was caused in a laboratory when the excess stress placed on the unit’s electrical and refrigeration components resulted in overheating.

A service contract is a proactive way of maximizing a unit’s efficiency and lifespan.  Short of a service contract, one can contact Facilities to discuss cleaning laboratory equipment coils to remove lint build-up or take a “do-it-yourself” approach.  Additionally, consider contracting with a company that can install equipment to monitor the temperature of your critical laboratory refrigerators and freezers. A monitoring service can provide both peace of mind and immediate notification if there is a temperature excursion beyond the normal operating range, so you can intervene quickly to prevent a loss of valuable research materials. 

For more information about critical equipment monitoring, please contact labsafety@columbia.edu.

Refrigerator grate over coils nearly completely covered by dirt and debris.

Photo shows build-up of lint across the refrigeration coils. Build-up causes the unit to work harder, run longer, use more energy, and places strain on electrical and refrigeration components that can lead to a fire.