Fridge Runs Excessively

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GE Profile Side by Side, about 20 yrs old.
It's maintaining temps but it has to run nearly non stop to do so. Previously when I'd notice long runs it meant the condensor underneath needed a good vacuuming & brushing. This unit always seemed sensitive to that. But I've done that.
Also for background info, one time many years ago there seemed to be an issue with sufficient cooling on the fridge side. (On this machine as with many others, the freezer side runs the show in terms of the thermostat directly controlling the refrigeration system while the fridge side is controlled via a thermostatic bleed air vent.) I found the internal fan to be sluggish and replaced it and the control board myself. Pretty annoying to dismantle the evap area at the back of the freezer -- at one point one must hang the evap on a cable to attend to this.
But I've never messed with the refrigerant circuit itself.
I know it's a sealed system and in theory there is no place for it to leak. But who knows what 20 years of vibration can do. Also, to tell the truth while it's a nice looking appliance, I was never impressed with the build quality as there are refrigerant lines down in back that stick out so much they are barely covered by the fiber board access & vent panel.
This is an R134a machine so I believe it's legal for me to charge it. The full charge is VERY small...far less than even one can like I would use on my car. Obviously there is no service valve.
So the question for you folks is whether it is worth buying a piercing service valve (probably would put it on the service stub on the compressor) and shoot in a TINY, TINY amount of gas and see if that helps before calling a pro. Did I mention TINY?
Ancillary questions:
On HVAC, one can tell a lot about the state of things by measuring temp drop across the evap coil. Is there any equivalent for a fridge?
What should the low side pressure be on a R134a refrigerator be? This may be a completely different figure than for an AC system with the same refrigerant.
Points if you recognize my handle without searching.
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On Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 11:28:34 AM UTC-4, Chet Kincaid wrote:

I can see trying to add Freon if you can do it yourself for not much money. But calling a pro on a 20 year old unit, IMO, is a waste. If the Freon got out, it must have a leak somewhere. Putting a new evaporator or whatever into a 20 year old basic fridge doesn't make sense to me. And putting in Freon will only delay the inevitable. That assumes the problem is a small leak, could be it's something else.
If it's any consolation, new ones cost about half to run compared to that old one. How much you save depends on your electric rates, but at least $50 a year would be typical. And that's compared to a properly working one. Given that yours is running 24/7, it's probably much worse. If you have a KillaWatt meter you could measure it. The new big side by side I bought a few years ago only uses 90W when running.
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trader_4 wrote:

I suppose there is no point to speculations as to what the issue could be besides refrigerant level. Anything from worn out compressor to internal wear & tear debris causing a clog in a line but none if it matters if it is not worth fixing.
You make a good point about NOT calling a pro. Because while they would be much better able to make a diagnosis and COULD (maybe) fix what's wrong, there is probably little they could do that is WORTH doing other than shooting in some gas if that's what it is.
On the other hand, if it's a tiny leak that requires gassing it up a few times a year (or once every twenty) I could live with that.
So I guess that points to proceeding with the experiment.
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On 6/25/2016 12:25 PM, Chet Kincaid wrote:

Gassing it yourself may not be bad, but to pay a pro to come a few times a year is more than the cost of a new basic fridge.
After 20 years I'd buy a new one. Just did a few months back replacing a 22 year old unit.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Probably though there is a little bit of sentimental value as the unit was one my late mom selected a year or two after Dad passed on for no other reason (the prior Amana was and is still functional) than she wanted it.
Is it safe to presume that the stub line coming directly from the compressor dome (no other connections) represents low side?
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On Sat, 25 Jun 2016 10:28:26 -0500, Chet Kincaid

What is the temp balance between freezer and fridge. It there is a huge delta (45-50 degrees) it might not be moving enough air into the fridge side. Be sure those ducts are not iced up.
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> What is the temp balance between freezer and fridge. It there is a

-2? and 38? with the freezer stat on normal mid range position while the fridge damper stat is at coldest.
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On 2016-06-25 11:28 AM, Chet Kincaid wrote:

Make sure the freezer compartment vents are not blocked. i.e. too much food shoved against them, fridge will run forever and not achieve a thing.
--
Froz....

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Chet, Have you checked the door seals? What you describe could be caused by leaking seals. Get out a dollar bill and check all around the doors.
Dave M.
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On Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 6:58:12 PM UTC-4, David L. Martel wrote:

Another vote for door seals. No way refrigerant is low if you're maintaining the freezer at that temperature. Door seals on a unit that old are almost guaranteed to be leaking.
Replacement is neither cheap nor easy, by the way.
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TimR wrote:

I am giving this serious consideration. I do not see any gaps (other than those, on the fridge side) created by the tiny wires for a couple of temperature probes. The one I have on the freezer side is radio connected.
BUT, I am able to slide a paper around under the seal so there may be something to this.
So as soon as I won't need access for a while I am going to tape over the freezer side with plastic packaging tape. The fridge side I can probably only do three sides. (I've removed the probe wires.) Worth a shot.
Or is the fridge side more important on this? The thermostatic door that bleeds freezer air into the fridge does not operate with any pressure; I think it is suction into the freezer side that pulls air in. You don't feel any air at the vent with door open. So maybe if seals are poor it's drawing in outside air to the fridge side and dissipating from the freezer side.
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TimR wrote:

Here's the countervaling point, however. Bad door seals would make the machine work a lot harder. There should be lots of hot air coming off the condenser (which is fan-cooled). In fact the condenser is barely warm at all and the air coming off it barely any warmer than ambient air.
FWIW, the compressor dome is hot but not excessively. I can place my entire hand on it and hold it there for a dozen seconds before it becomes uncomfortable. (Real scientific, I know.)
That still doesn't prove low charge as there could be any number of things wrong such as a poor compressor, an internal clog, etc. None of which is worth repair on an older unit like this.
And even if the charge was low, there's the question of where it's leaking and how long will a recharge last.
Taping around the seals as much as I could and leaving it that way all day seemed to have little effect.
Anyway, that's where things stand.
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On Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 9:41:54 PM UTC-4, Chet Kincaid wrote:


e


I dunno then.
Door seals would leak a small amount of air, so the amount of heat rejected would be small. But I don't picture a compressor running "just a little." It can't really run slow, can it? And yet without enough charge it shoul dn't hold temperature at all, yet it does. A bad thermostat would result i n it getting too cold, unless a massive air leak. So, I admit defeat.
When I had my main refrigerator repaired (it needed a new transfer unit bet ween freezer and fridge section) the repair guy noticed the door seals were old. He taped them back together. He said the maintenance agreements nev er cover door seals, and it would cost about $200. He also said I could bu y the seal and try to put it in myself, but it was a pain in the butt even for experienced repair techs, it just doesn't want to fit into the little s lot.
I just replaced my small one (18 cu ft) in the basement. Holy crap, it was hard getting the old one out and up the stairs. The new one is much light er.
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I don't mean the compressor was running slow. I think the compressor is doing what it is paid to do but it's running nearly 24/7 to do it.
Air off the condenser used to be very warm; now you can barely tell it's warmer than ambient. If it was door seals there should be at least as much heat to pump out as normally plus the added load from the leaky seals.
It need not be low charge. From what I gather R134a machines can run at partial vacuum at the temps found in a freezer so if there was a leak on the low side, the system could be compromised by air getting pulled in. I could open up things and look around and see if there is any suspicious joints. Of course that would mean evacuation and charging if the break can be repaired at all.
Lots of possibilities. Few that would be worth pro repair. So I guess anything is worth a shot if the alternative is replacing it entirely.
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On Monday, June 27, 2016 at 2:18:24 PM UTC-4, Chet Kincaid wrote:

I agree with your analysis. I can see leaky door seals making it run more than usual, but it doesn't fit with it running 24/7 and the condenser being barely warm.
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wrote:

Mine are 37 years old and not leaking afaict but I will try a dollar bill. What should I do with the dollar bill?
About a foot of the seal is cracked opne on the side, but nothing has fallen out and when the door is shut, it all compresses and I don't think that crack means any air is getting out, or that it's conducting warmth in. Can I use a kll-o-watt meter on something this big.
Yeah, the univeral replacement is over 100 iirc. A lot for a simple piece of rubber and stuffing. Though I haven't checked very thoroughly.
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On Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:57:26 -0400, Micky

I'm not saying at all that this is the OP's probelm.
But repair clinic should count the number of hits for me, in stead of making me do it. There are 50!!! though some vary only by color, and 6 are not avaliable. . (I guess the law that they be white has been repealed. )
Still htey vary from 30 to 145, though most are 70 to 95, and the good ones are long and require special shpiping. I guess t hey are stiff and the cheap ones roll up.
I think I remember now that my own fridge doesn't have the oem part available. I'm glad I can get what I need for less than 100. Maybe i'll get almond color or pecan color or walnut and pretend I've remodeled my whole fridge.
BTW, on three occasions soemthing was stuck in the little fan, for weeks each time, and I thought that would make it run hot and wear out sooner, but it doens't seem to have happened.
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Do you guys still use dollar bills? Are they plastic like the Aussie ones? Ours are mostly paper, and the lowest note we have is 5 pounds (about 8 dollars), and they get all worn out as it is. Surely the dollar bills would get worn to nothing?
--
You know you've spent too much time on the computer when you spill milk and the first thing you think is, 'Edit, Undo.'

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_one-dollar_bill#Redesign_or_replacement_of_the_dollar_bill
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On Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 3:32:56 PM UTC-4, James Wilkinson wrote:

I don't think the orig poster got the dollar bill reference! Supposed to shut the refrigerator - or car - door on the bill, and attempt to pull the currency out from between the seals. How difficult it is to pull out will usually indicate how tight the seal is.
Also, I force myself to make sure nothing is less than one inch from the back wall of either the fridge or freeze compartments of the unit. In most units that is where the refrigeration comes from. Pack it all you want with food and stuff, just make sure nothing is against that back inside wall!
Finally, and some will argue me on this, I've seen many a free-standing(non built in) fridge or freezer delivery where the FRONT FEET were not adjusted for about a half to one inch(two- three cm) lean back, to assist doors shutting.
As a design note, I would eliminate the need for 'lean-back' of refrigerators and freezers simply by designing a hinge with an angle built into it that raises the doors as they are opened, and uses the weight of the doors to ride down the hinge to assist closing. Much like king-pin angle did on the front wheels of trucks and cars. The aforementioned feet could then just be used to reduce wobbling fridges. :)
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