Frosted evaporator coils; warm fridge


Montgomery Ward refrigerator, made by Maytag, Model NENS228GZA. I keep a thermometer in the fresh food side of the refrigerator and yesterday it had moved from a normal 40 degrees to 50 degrees. The freezer showed b/n 20 and 30 degrees. We hadn't been home much, so it wasn't a matter of opening the door too often. The ambient house temp was around 70 degrees with 55-60 percent humidity, which is unusual. I cannot rule out the door being partially open, but I did not notice it before I opened it late in the day. I started by vacuuming underneath the unit and around a fan that was located underneath the unit. Using an exploded diagram obtained from the internet, it looks like the condenser is not a set of coils, but something like a sheet rolled up into a box looking "thing." The fan I cleaned was blowing onto the condenser. I did not really clean the condenser, that seemed impossible since I was looking at the side of it from the back of the fridge. The inside fan located in the back of the freezer was running fine. There isn't a fan inside the fresh food section of the fridge. I removed the cover in the back of the freezer to reveal the evaporator coils. They were frosted over from top to bottom and, in my opinion, the layer of frost was fairly thick. I defrosted the coils using a hair dryer, after unplugging the fridge. I then plugged the unit back in, put some ice trays in the freezer, and put the thermometer back in the fresh food section. After an hour or so, there was frost building up on the evaporator coils again, I did nothing. That was around 10pm. This morning at around 7am the water in the ice trays are now ice and the thermometer shows b/n 20 and 30 degrees like before. The fresh food section thermometer shows just below 40 degrees, which is normal. The frost on the evaporator coils is again fairly thick, but not quite to the top of the coils yet. BTW, I did not reinstall the metal cover/panel in the freezer. I reinstalled only the plastic cover that, I guess, helps deflect air into the fresh food section.
I have never noticed when the compressor was on since I've been around this refrigerator. But it does sound like it is running all the time, but I am not sure of that. I can say the fan inside the freezer is always running when I open the freezer door since this problem started yesterday. I honestly don't remember if it was running every time I opened the freezer before.
So, my question is, is it normal for frost to build up on the evaporator coils so quickly? I was thinking such a quick buildup meant low freon levels. I read in other posts that it could be either a Defrost Thermostat or a Defrost Timer. I have located both on eBay for around $10 each. I was hoping that was going to be the problem, but seeing such a quick buildup of frost made me think that the problem may not be the defrost thermostat or timer. Since there is a panel covering the coils, I just don't know how much frost is normal.
The history of the refrigerator is this. We rent this house. The refrigerator was here when we moved in. We did not have fridge, so our landlord agreed to let us use it with the understanding that if anything happens to it we would be responsible. We've lived here five and a half years.
Thanks in advance for suggestions, opinions, etc. ATL
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ATL wrote:

I have had a similar problem with an ancient fridge that my mom insists on keeping. Every few years she forgets to close the bottom freezer door & the coils frost up (actually pretty much freeze up solid). It only takes ~24 hrs of the door ajar.
To fix it, I remove the freezer interior bottom panel & use hot water & a shop vac to remove the ice / frost. I button it back up & it works fine until she does it again.
In your situation I'm surprised it frosts up so quickly AFTER you defroted
frost on the evap coils means.......too much moisture in the unit (dry air cannot generate frost) or the defrost cycle is not working.
The fact that you get a really quick build up leads me to believe you have excess moisture in the system. & the problem may not be defrost cycle related.....get rid of the moisture & the problem will go away (?)
When you defrosted where did the water go? Is the defrost water drain line clear? Does the defrost water run out into a little pan under the unit? Sometimes the drain line can get clogged with mold growth.....see if you can flush the line with warm soapy water
As an alternative solution....if you live in (near) a major population center you can probably find a used unit on
www.craigslist.org/
really cheap...my kids are always getting (& disposing of) stuff on www.craigslist.org
let us know how it turns out
cheers Bob
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The first thing to do would be to clean the coils. I suspect that your coils are under the refrigerator. You probably remove a metal or plastic "cover" right under the door.
I think you will find a plastic tray that evaporates off the defrost water. Remove, clean, and set aside. You will find several layers of cooling coils that are probably jam packed with lint, hair, dust bunnies, etc. You can buy a special brush to clean the coils at an appliance repair store, but a toilet brush that has the bend in the bristles straightened out can work well. If you still overheat after cleaning off the coils, it is probably time to replace. It is seldom cost effective to replace compressors or add Freon.
Please let us know how it goes. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ DanG A live Singing Valentine quartet, a sophisticated and elegant way to say I LOVE YOU! snipped-for-privacy@okchorale.org (local) http://www.singingvalentines.com/ (national)

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The panel in the freezer covering the evaporator must be installed for the unit to work properly. This problem is a defrost heater that is not working . On a side by side unit the heater element is usually a coil inside a pair of glass tubes that are wired in series. One element has most likely burned out. There is also a defrost terminator ( small silver disk switch) clamped to the refrigerant line entering the evaporator that can cause problems. This switch is closed only below freezing temperatures. The timer can be manually rotated to initiate defrost. Hope this helps, Joe ATL wrote:

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BobK207...the water fell into the catch pan located directly under the coils, which are in an upright position in the back of the freezer. The water then drained down to the evaporator (?) pan under the fridge. So, the drain line is clear. How would I remove moisture from the system?
The fella at Earthlink...thanks for the info. I came home during lunch to check the fridge and I noticed the ice trays on the bottom had not completely froze. I wondered if the panel needed to be in place for it to work properly, but didn't know for sure. I will try to manually make the defrost timer initiate a defrost cycle tonight. Just wondering though, what is it that makes you think the heater itself or the switch is causing trouble? How would you know?
DanG...thanks to you too, but from looking at my diagram I would say the coils are the wrapped sheets, for lack of a better description. They would be very hard to get to without removing them from the unit. Thanks again, though. I appreciate all responses that offer genuine help.
Thanks again, ATL
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Sounds like moisture is coming from a leaky door gasket or the door is misaligned or something is blocking it.
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Here's an update...
I manually turned the defrost timer to initiate a defrost cycle. The compressor turned off as expected. An hour later the compressor had not come back on, i.e. the fridge was still in defrost mode. I did not notice any reduction in frost on the coils. Does this help to narrow problem possibilities? Can we say the defrost timer is bad? Or can it mean the heater element is bad or the defrost terminator or defrost thermostat is bad (not sure if terminator and thermostat are the same)?
I've already started looking at some used refrigerators, but I am posting this just in case someone can tell it's a simple repair that I can do.
Thanks again, ATL
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That may seem normal to you, but it isn't good. A freezer should be around 0.

My guess is low freon. Probably not worth fixing.
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