Repairing appliances in your home can save you a lot of money in labor costs. Most replacement parts to repair your appliances can be ordered online from merchants that sell the same line of appliances you own or directly from the manufacturer. This is a pretty easy process if you have the manufacturer, model and possibly a serial number that will match the date of the appliance just in case parts have been changed by the manufacturer on different years.
Refrigerators and also air conditioning systems are more difficult to work on then ovens, washer dryers or even a large appliance like your furnace because of the freon used for cooling.
Freon systems are made up of 3 basic parts: A compressor that compresses the Freon, An Evaporator and a Condenser.
Compressors have rubber seals that can leak overtime allowing the freon to escape and Evaporators and Condensers have welds and fittings that can also leak.
When inspecting your freon systems the first thing you want to do is attach a gauge or manifold to a fitting and check for pressure in the system. If you have no pressure then whether or not the compressor is running you have a leak in the system.
Some compressors have low freon cutoff switches. This protects the compressor from running when there is no freon in the system. Your freon Gas also contains an Oil Charge that lubricates the compressor as the freon passes through it.
If you have Low Pressure but some pressure present then you can add the appropriate grade of Freon to your system then plugin the appliance and see if the cutoff switch returns the system to working order.
If you have zero pressure in the system you can either have a total leak of freon or you could have a damaged part.
Refilling a Zero Pressure System
Unfortunately for most home owners it will be impossible to recharge your system yourself.
When your system has zero pressure or when you replace a part and open the system it will require that the air be vacuumed out of the lines and parts before new freon can be installed.
In addition to Freon you will also need to replace all or part of the Oil Charge that is in your system depending on which part was replaced. For lines you don’t normally need to replace the oil but for compressors you will. Knowing how much oil to replace can be difficult and takes a little training and a good manual.
You will need to rent a vacuum system to draw down the air in the system. This is more difficult then you can imagine. Since the EPA started regulating who can or can not work on Freon Systems the purchase of standard R-12 Freon and the tools to work with it are regulated.
If I can not Replace the Freon myself What Do I Do?
This is where it can be difficult. Since you will probably need to get a certified technician to replace the freon even though you can buy the parts and replace them yourself you are back at ZERO again and need to call a repairman to your home or business.
At $50 to $100 and I have seen $150 quoted as an hourly labor fee… and it was in a rural area not 5th avenue in NYC… you are going to get screwed on the service call cost.
The average time to evacuate, inspect and refill a refrigerator freon system is about 20 minutes and the cost in parts would be about $20 but expect to pay a good amount of money for the service call.
Before you make repairs yourself you should understand whether or not you will need a technician to refill your freon system.
At the same time you are pricing parts you should read the manufacturers directions which are usually available online buried deep in their online manuals for your appliance and you will probably be prompted with a notice that refilling of freon must be performed by a qualified technician.
At that point you need to contact a few appliance repair shops in your area and ask them how much a freon replacement service will cost you.
Add up all the numbers and make sure the total cost is below the amount you are willing to pay.
Servicing that is under warranty should never be performed by a home owner for the reasons above but if you have just passed your warranty period and the appliance is still in good general condition the cost of a refill and parts should be considered against buying a new unit.
If you can buy a comparable refrigerator for $700 and the cost of a compressor is $350 and the cost of a Service Call is $100 then you are putting more then half into an appliance that is past its warranty period.