Location of defrost heater in fridge/freezer

I have an old side-by-side whose freezer is not getting cold enough. The coldest it gets is single digits, but most of the time it is in the 20's and even the 30's.
One of my guesses is that the defrost heater is always on. I don't know where the heater is.
There is a spot on the outside of the unit that is always distinctly warm to the touch. It is on the outside top of the freezer compartment near the door gasket. The side of the unit near the freezer door gasket is warm too. Can that be where the heater is?
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this old fridge is costing you a bundle to operate. plug it into a "kill a watt" and you will get an idea of its usage. i wonder if the gasket heater is trying to demoisturize the door constantly because it's control is bad. some have an "economy" switch inside to select it to be off. i wonder if a good 24 hours of defrosting with a 20" window fan blowing on it will help. i wonder if the coils on the floor or back are encased in dirt and need cleaning. see link for here's where i look for the best answers for appliances, i love the samurai genius for these questions, almost all are already answered at:
http://fixitnow.com /
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Thanks for your reply.
buffalobill wrote:

So you are saying that there is such a thing as a gasket heater and that the heat I feel is not from the defrost heater?

I took the panel off the back wall and looked at the evaporator. It was not iced over. I expected to find the defrost heater in there, but I didn't really know what to look for. I saw two wires going into the freezer floor. I found the defrost timer underneath and saw that its shaft is turning.

The condensor coils on the back are clean. They get warm but not hot. There is another coil under the drip pan that isn't as clean. Can I suppose that the one under the drip pan is also a condensor coil that also happens to boil off the melted frost?

Thanks, I will look at that.
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deluxe old big side by sides often had the 3 heaters you describe.
the shaft turning is good but the timer must advance thru its cycle of off and on incoordination with a sensor. if that frost sensor is not satisfied you may be in a continuous defrost mode.
pinpoint your make and model and look at your answers
http://fixitnow.com/wp/category/refrigerator-repair /
which will refer you for parts and model illustrations at http://www.repairclinic.com/0047_4.asp
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So you are saying that there is such a thing as a gasket heater and that the heat I feel is not from the defrost heater? CY: Yes!

I took the panel off the back wall and looked at the evaporator. It was not iced over. CY: Then you don't have a defrost problem.
I expected to find the defrost heater in there, but I didn't really know what to look for. I saw two wires going into the freezer floor. I found the defrost timer underneath and saw that its shaft is turning.

The condensor coils on the back are clean. They get warm but not hot. CY: While the refrig is running, the coils on the back should get too hot to touch (along the top of the coils) and room temp near the bottom. Sounds like your unit is low on freon.
There is another coil under the drip pan that isn't as clean. Can I suppose that the one under the drip pan is also a condensor coil that also happens to boil off the melted frost? CY: The drip pan is only for liquid water, but a coil through the condensate water helps evaporate the water out of the condensate pan.
CY: From what you've written, it's low on freon. There are a few refrigerator repairmen who are willing to juice up an old refrigerator. I am one of these. Since it's probably the old R-12 freon, the techie guy would probably have to recover the old freon and pump in some new R-409A or other refrigerant which is currently available. Side by sides run several hundred dollars to purchase outright. So, they are worth juicing up. It will probably take several phone calls to find a refrigerator guy willing to juice it up.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

Can you give a ballpark guess as to what it would cost?
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I typically get about $125 for a juice up. No clue what anyone else gets.
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Matt wrote:

Hi,
Make, model#?

The refrigerator would be a lot warmer if it was on all the time.

Defrost heater is embedded in the cooling/evaporator coils...inside the freezer.

Some fridges have electric heaters around the door opening to warm these area's up to prevent moisture. Some use a pass of the hot tubing instead of a heater.
http://www.applianceaid.com/yoderloop.html

http://www.applianceaid.com/frig_notcold.html
jeff. Appliance Repair Aid http://www.applianceaid.com /
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Appliance Repair Aid wrote:

Thanks, jeff.

Philco Ford No Frost 17 ("Pt. #78-3730-1") purchased ca. 1970. Please don't merely laugh or scoff. Objective information on energy efficiency is welcome.

Warmer than what? I haven't paid much attention to the fridge side. Mostly I've been watching the freezer. Yesterday I blocked off the vents between the two sides to keep the cold air in the freezer. It seems that that brought the freezer temps down somewhat (now mostly in the teens).
How common would it be for the defrost thermostat to cause the heater to stay on too much? The timer shows signs of working properly.

Is it always an electric heater? I expected an electric heater but didn't see one. How do I tell whether it's on?

Thanks, I see. I turned the switch from "High Humidity" to "Low Humidity", and now the warm spots are gone.

Should I deal with the freezer-not-cold problem first?

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The two are definitely related.
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Hi,
An oldie! :)

Electric defrost heater staying on all the time could cook the food inside....the heater would constantly defrost the coolign coils and likely little cooling would occur.

Fairly common....this would only occur during the defrost mode and not during the running/cooling modes. High spikes in the freezer temp during the defrost mode could very well be a faulty defrost thermostat. If the freezer was a min of 1/2 full of food, the temp doesn't increase very much at all during a defrost mode since the mass of the food helps to hold the cold. When we start to see higher and higher temp spikes in the freezer with the freezer a min of 1/2 full we would start to suspect the defrost thermostat and or defrost timer.

99% of the time it is an electric heater. Some very old refrigerators where a hot gas defrost, with no heater.

Find the heater and touch it...or use an amp meter to see if the heater is drawing current when it should be.

That is the mullion heater(s) around the door edges, mostly this is to help prevent sweating in the humid weather.

Sure. Inspect frost pattern on the cooling coils with the unit running. Check/clean hot condensor coils, etc.
jeff. Appliance Repair Aid http://www.applianceaid.com /
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Appliance Repair Aid wrote:

Thanks for not jeering.
It would give me some satisfaction to fix this box cheaply. But I'm guessing it will cost at least four times as much to run as a new 5 to 7 cubic foot chest freezer. Those use about 250kWh/year. Mainly I need a good freezer. We don't have much need for the refrigerator side.
Can I get an estimate of the power usage of this old box?
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G'day,

When I started doing serive in 1980 the average compressor in a refrigerator would draw approx 3 - 3.5 amps. Ones today draw 1 or less than 1 amp. That should mean the refrigerator will be using 2-3 times the amount of hydro than a new one would. Probaby $50-100 a year more in hydro.
jeff. Appliance Repair Aid http://www.applianceaid.com /
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Appliance Repair Aid wrote:

Does that comparison assume that the new and old units are the same size? The new freezer would be only 5 to 7 cubic feet vs. 17 cu. ft. for the old side-by-side. I am supposing that the new one would use less power than the old one due to being smaller. But I suppose a freezer would use more power per cubic foot than a fridge/freezer of the same size.

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Wonder how many appliance guys do juice ups any more?
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On side by sides, the defrost heater is typically inside the freezer. Behind the back wall. Down low. Often two heaters, one low and one center.
By the edge of the door is another heater which helps reduce condensation. Something else is the problem. Might be dirty coils, bad fan, low freon, or many other problems.
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