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Ask Angie: What can cause cold freezer but warm refrigerator?

Angieslist.comNovember 24, 2012 

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Angie Hicks

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Dear Angie: The freezer in my refrigerator is cold, but the bottom of the refrigerator is warm. If I unplug my refrigerator and plug it back in, the fan in the freezer comes on but then immediately goes back off. Any idea what the problem could be, how to fix it and how much it would cost? — Donna P., Atlanta

Answer: A number of factors could determine what the issue is, including the brand and configuration of the refrigerator and freezer (for example, a side-by-side, top freezer, bottom freezer, etc.).

However, I reached out to some highly rated appliance repair companies in your area, and they suggested a few common scenarios that could be causing your issue.

The first and most simple to repair would be a loose wire connection. That could be fixed easily for a minimal service charge (typically about $100).

Another possible problem is a bad evaporator fan motor, which circulates the air from the freezer to the refrigerator. The fan motor could be overheating shortly after it starts operating and thus, not circulating air.

Another issue could be with the condenser fan. If that motor stops working, it could be the result of a failure with the defrost system, allowing frost to build up, which could block air flow and prevent the fan from turning. If it's one of the fan issues, repair could cost $200 to $250.

The final likely scenario is a malfunction in the refrigerator's control (circuit) board. Depending on the issue, that repair could cost $100 to $400.

I recommend you find a reputable appliance repair company familiar with your make and model to offer a firm diagnosis. Though most companies will charge a minimum service charge to come to your home, some might offer a free evaluation. Their recommendation should help you decide whether you're better off repairing or replacing the refrigerator.

A good practice way to determine whether to repair or replace is to look at how old the refrigerator is and the cost of repair. If it's an older unit (10 years or more) and the cost of repair is half the cost to replace it, you'll probably be better off investing in a new, energy-efficient model.

If you decide to go ahead with a repair, ask the company that does the work to discount or waive any trip charge.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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