The refrigerator's compressor plays several key roles, including in the refrigeration cycle itself. One side of the compressor uses suction to pull refrigerant gas through to the other side, where it is pushed out. If you need to conduct refrigerator repairs or want to find the suction side of the compressor, all you need to do is conduct a simple visual inspection.
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Refrigerator Compressor Basics
A refrigerator's compressor is located at the rear of the appliance. Technically, it is both a motor and a pump, and it looks like a small, often dark-colored cylinder that it is connected to the condenser on one side. The condenser is a piece of copper pipe that is bent into a coil or a zigzag pattern.
The compressor is a vital part of the exhaust and refrigeration system on your appliance, working in tandem with the condenser, the evaporator and the expansion valve or capillary tube. Together, these parts help the refrigerator turn liquid refrigerant into a gas, and then back into a liquid once again. It is through this process that the refrigerator is able to stay cold and vent dangerous chemicals away from the appliance.
How a Refrigerator Suction Line Works
Essentially, the compressor is a pump that draws in cold refrigerant gas stored in the evaporator and left over from the appliance's last cooling cycle. This is why it is considered a refrigerator suction line: it is sucking in cold refrigerant gas.
The compressor, powered by its motor, works to heat up the gas before sending it to the condenser, which turns the gas into a liquid when its temperature is lowered. Finally, the expansion valve lowers the refrigerant's temperature and the pressure exerted on it. This allows about half of the refrigerant to evaporate. The evaporator turns the rest of the refrigerant into a gas, and this gas is used by the compressor to start the refrigeration cycle all over again.
Locating the Refrigerator Compressor
This basic understanding of how the refrigeration process works on your appliance will allow you to identify the suction side of the compressor. Refrigerant is sucked in via the evaporator and emitted from there to the condenser. By finding the condenser, you can trace the path yourself. The valve between the condenser and the compressor is the outgoing valve.
Once you know which valve is the outgoing valve, locate the other valve on the compressor. This is the suction valve, which should be attached to the evaporator. Although you could also identify the suction side of the compressor by finding the evaporator, the condenser may be a bit easier to locate because it is large and looks like a coiled or zigzag piece of copper pipe.
Important Safety Considerations
Before you attempt to find the suction side of your refrigerator's compressor, be sure the appliance is unplugged. Also, never try to move the refrigerator on your own. Not only is the appliance heavy and could cause injury, but it also has a tipping hazard. Make sure no children or pets are nearby before you begin looking for the compressor's suction side.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity.