Why does the small kitchen in my very small household have 2 refrigerators? The story begins in 2002, when the fridge now blocking the view of a framed print was delivered. The 1985 fridge it replaced had the condenser tubing on the back, readily accessible for an annual cleaning. I was surprised to find that the tubing was hidden on the bottom of the then-new fridge. I was also surprised to find that the then-new user’s guide said
There is no need for routine condenser cleaning in normal home operating environments.
A few months later, I was not at all surprised to find that the guide’s assurance was bullshit.
Section 1: Noble Intentions
I have a good collection of brushes and crevice tools for my vacuum cleaner, but most of the condenser tubing was still uncleanable. Some people dare to empty a fridge, tip it over, unscrew any bottom cover, and vacuum the hidden tubing. I estimated the likelihood that such a saga would accomplish much for my extremely convoluted tubing to be less than the likelihood that I would crush a toe while fumbling with the heavy fridge. So I left the fridge upright and improvised filtration of much of the air being sucked past the tubing by a fan. I changed the filter monthly and was pleased that it intercepted much of the incoming dust. But not all of it.
When new, the 2002 fridge was fairly efficient. The rated energy consumption (514 kWh/yr) was decent (and much better than the 874 kWh/yr of the significantly smaller 1985 fridge it replaced). While the gradual buildup of dust on the condenser tubing implied a gradual decrease in efficiency, the fridge was still working. Old Yankees do not replace old stuff that does work well enough with new stuff that might (or might not!) work better.
Several things changed in 2015. I happened to put my hand on the top of the fridge, near the freezer door. It was uncomfortably warm, almost hot. The heater that prevents the door from freezing shut had become overenthusiastic. More energy wasted. Some newer fridges have LED lights to avoid unwanted heat. The electric company has a nice rebate offer: they will pick up a working old fridge for recycling and give me a little $ for it. I could get an up-to-date fridge with pristine condenser tubing, verify that it works, move into it at leisure, and only then have the 2002 fridge hauled away. I plan to stay in my house long enough that the 2002 fridge could not go the distance, but not long enough to need yet another fridge purchase after buying one in 2015. May as well do it with dignity now, when nothing much has hit the fan recently.
So I saddled myself with 2 problems: choosing a new 2015 fridge and temporarily squeezing it into my small kitchen along with the old 2002 fridge.
Section 2: The Agony of Choice
Comparing 2015 with 2002, I found that choosing a fridge is both easier and harder. Lots of pertinent info (and some misinfo) is online, and my current internet connection is fast enough to access it. On the other hand, there has been a luxuriant profusion of brands, configurations, and features. Had to wade thru all of that to find a top-freezer fridge of moderate size with half-width cantilever shelves, LED lighting, and no ice maker. Why no ice maker? My kitchen’s plumbing only supplies water to the sink and the dishwasher, and remodeling is not on the horizon. I need the space an ice maker would occupy for ice trays. That is no hardship for me, as I am old enough to remember rigid metal trays that stuck to my fingers when the water had frozen and had Rube Goldberg arrangements of louvers and levers for forming and releasing the ice cubes. The arrangements pinched my fingers and sent much of the ice flying across the room as little shards. So I am quite content to use modern 1-piece plastic trays that almost always release the cubes intact when gently twisted.
Yes, the big stores have websites with options for filtering searches. The behavior of those options reminded me of the disclaimer that sometimes appears when movie credits roll:
Any resemblance between the filtering specified by the user and the filtering actually performed is purely coincidental.
One day when my errands took me nearby anyway, I decided to look at fridges in an actual brick-and-mortar store. I found a phalanx of stainless steel behemoths with bottom freezers, French doors, thru-the-door controlled substance dispensers, and so on. What sustains the French door craze? Yes, some people need them because they have really weird kitchens with door-swing limitations. (Maybe there are also some people who can remember which side of the fridge has the mayonnaise jar and want to hi-5 themselves after opening only the appropriate door?) Anyway, there were a few token fridges with my basic configuration. They also had full-width shelves, each with too few height choices. Feh.
Back to the web. I eventually got past the behemoths and the cheapies. I eventually got past the ambiguities and contradictions in the specs posted on store websites. I settled on a fridge configured much like my old one but more efficient (rated at 471 kWh/yr). Neglecting to visit the manufacturer’s own website and confirm all the specs there (cue the horror movie music), I placed an order and scheduled delivery.
Section 3: We All Live in a Yellow Submarine
My camera’s white balance is flaky; the kitchen is not really that yellow. Being in it, however, is much like being in a submarine. Everything is shoved up against something, with barely enough room to move around. This is only temporary.
Does the title of this section sound familiar? In the 1960-s, I thought the popularity of The Beatles was only temporary.
Eager to have my own place after some dismal rental experiences, I knowingly bought a badly designed and badly built house in 1972. It was only temporary, a way to get off the rental treadmill for a few years while looking around for something better. I am still in that house.
My track record in predicting how long situations will last is not good, but hope springs eternal. (I did have enough foresight to ensure that I could still cook in my submarine kitchen.) This is only temporary. Can repeating a dubious mantra often enough make it true? Should we ask the pols who postulate that tax cuts stimulate enough economic growth to pay for themselves?
Delivery day! I showed the crew the odyssey required to get from the front door to a kitchen doorway that is wide enough, in my badly designed house. The new fridge agreed with my tape measure and settled into place w/o incident. I tipped the crew, admired the new fridge briefly, and settled down to a snack in the adjoining room.
BANG! CLANK! CRACKLE! BANG!
The sound character was like that of ice cracking when a fridge does its defrost routine after a heavy buildup. The sound volume implied that a hostile navy had located the yellow submarine and had good aim with depth charges. I ran into the kitchen in time to verify that the noise was coming from the new fridge. Then it stopped. The fridge was running quietly. Apart from a little muffled rattling now and then, it has been quiet ever since.
I know what happens when an appliance (or a car or a body part) misbehaves erratically and the worried owner consults a pro. I sympathize with the reluctance of pros to diagnose an unrepeatable symptom on the basis of a layman’s verbal description.
It’s working fine now. Call us if it acts up again. Goodbye.
So I resolved to extend the temporary squeezing of 2 fridges into 1 kitchen for a few more days, keep using the old fridge, and listen for nasty noises from the new one.
Section 4: The Ice Maker Cometh
Reasonably confident that the new fridge was OK, I turned it off and gave it time to warm up before playing with the shelves to approximate the arrangement in the old fridge.
I opened the freezer door and found — (cue the horror movie music, louder this time) — an ice maker! This hulking monster could supply enough ice to host a cocktail party for an army, but only if it had a water supply. Dry as the Namib Desert on a fogless day, the monster sullenly hogged much of the precious freezer space. The new fridge devotes a smaller fraction of its space to the freezer than the old fridge does, and I had recently bought ridiculously many pints of frozen yogurt because the market was discontinuing a flavor I liked and discounting the remaining inventory. I had to evict the monster despite the risk of quibbles about “tampering” if I ever needed warranty service.
The screws attaching the ice maker to the freezer wall were readily accessible. Then there was the electical connection. Like the connections in cars, it was a plug-socket arrangement, latched shut and secured in place by springy prongs that could be released by pressing gently with a small flat-bladed screwdriver in exactly the right place. After some looking and cautious probing that did no damage, I found the place and disconnected the monster. That left 4 metal contacts open in the socket, hoping to get connected again but willing to accept condensation and a chance to short out in revenge for being abandoned. So I covered the socket with duct tape and protected the tape with some bubble wrap and more duct tape.
The freezer of the old fridge still holds a few things that I have not been able to fit into the new one’s freezer. Otherwise, I did eventually move everything from old to new and no longer guess wrong about which fridge holds what. I should be able to adjust my freezer usage to the current reality and am otherwise pleased with the new fridge. Maybe the electric company’s rebate offer for the old fridge will still be in effect when I am finally ready to use it.
Section 5: Directions for Further Research 😉
During installation of improvised external air filtration for the 2015 refrigerator, examination of the hidden condenser tubing revealed a configuration differing from that of the 2002 refrigerator. It is hypothesized that the 2015 configuration will be more amenable to cleaning than the 2002 configuration, albeit still less amenable than was the 1985 configuration. This hypothesis will be tested when sufficient dust has accumulated.
A concluding haiku about refrigerators is not available at present. In the interest of timely publication, this post concludes with haiku pertinent to auxiliary considerations discussed in Sections 3 and 4, respectively.
Debts rise; incomes fall.
Hard times demand bold action:
tax cuts for the rich!
The crowning glory
of our civilization
is, of course, duct tape.