The compressor is your refrigerator's workhorse; without this essential component -- which compresses refrigerant gas and passes it through your fridge's coils -- your appliance simply won't cool like it should. But before you call a repair service or order a replacement, make sure you cover your bases; replacing a compressor is a costly endeavor, and it might not be necessary.
Before You Repair
Buzzing, humming and warm operation are all symptoms of a blown compressor, but they may also result from a faulty overload or compressor relay, a far less expensive repair. Making this repair is as simple as accessing the plug-like relays, unplugging them and swapping them out for new ones. The process is closely akin to changing out fuses. At 2015 prices, a universal relay and overload kit costs about $10 to $50.
If popping in new overload and compressor relays doesn't restore your noisy refrigerator's cooling power, the compressor may be the culprit -- and it's a costly culprit, at that. While exact prices vary per brand and model, replacement compressors run from about $175 to $375, as of June 2015.
Moreover, replacing the compressor is not a DIY-friendly task; you'll need to call on a certified appliance repair person. Based on data from January 2015, the home-repair price aggregator Homewyse estimates that the average cost for refrigerator repair labor will run you about $136 to $179. HomeAdvisor's data reflects this estimate, reporting that American homeowner's paid an average of $109 to $203 per job for general appliance repairs in 2015.
To Repair or Replace?
Combining the cost of parts and labor, a bad compressor could ultimately cost you between $300 and $550 to fix. These figures approach, or sometimes exceed, the cost of many basic, top-freezer refrigerators. While compressor repair may be worthwhile for high-end models, replacing the entire appliance is often a more financially viable solution. Before making your choice, take a trip to your local appliance retailer and price out units that fit your space and budget. Be sure to inquire about annual operating costs; as the federal government continues to implement improved standards for appliance electricity usage -- which leads to fewer emissions and lower power bills -- a new refrigerator could save you money in the long run.