A burning smell coming from your refrigerator is definitely cause for concern and should be dealt with immediately. This may indicate potential overheating in the electrical wiring of the appliance. Electrical fires kill 310 Americans every year and injure 1,100, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, and faulty appliances are a major cause. If you smell burning coming from your refrigerator when you open the door, take the necessary steps to protect your home and your family.
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Identifying the Problem
Open your refrigerator door and look for signs of overheating in the interior and exterior of the unit. You may notice smoke emanating from the wiring or lighting fixture. Part of the refrigerator may be noticeably hot or you may notice that foods in certain areas of the refrigerator have spoiled. When identifying the burning smell in your refrigerator, use caution and do not touch any electrical wiring that appears damaged or is smoking. This is a potentially dangerous situation that can result in electrocution.
A number of electrical problems can cause a burning smell in your refrigerator. One line of LG refrigerators recalled back in 2005 contained a design defect that caused the refrigerator light to remain illuminated after the door was closed; this resulted in overheating, melted plastic and a major fire hazard. You may have faulty wiring in your home that's causing the burning smell, or the refrigerator itself may have faulty wiring. This may be the case in older units especially.
What to Do
As soon as you notice a burning smell in your refrigerator, call the manufacturer immediately. Describe the problem in as much detail as possible, explaining where the unit feels hot, where the smoke is coming from and how long you've been noticing it. If the manufacturer is no longer in business or can't be located, call an electrician to come and look at the unit. To be on the safe side, unplug the refrigerator before leaving the house until you've identified the problem.
There are many ways to prevent a burning smell in your refrigerator and a potential house fire. Check your refrigerator, electrical wiring and outlet regularly. Replace any frayed extension cords or faulty wiring before the problem becomes serious. Don't overload electrical sockets or extension cords. Consider replacing older refrigerators that are on their last legs. The average refrigerator lasts 15 to 19 years, according to Digital Federal Credit Union.
Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.