man peering into the fridge at home

© PeopleImages - E+/Getty Images

You and your clients may need to consider the signs of a refrigerator that is about to explode when making your next appliance purchase.

Though refrigerator explosions are rare, recent cases have prompted consumer alerts, and they should no longer be “ignored disasters,” says Neil Everitt, former editor at air conditioning and refrigeration magazine ACR News. Refrigerator explosions occur spontaneously and sometimes with little warning.

In Palm Beach, Fla., a man was awakened to a kaboom in his kitchen after his 4-month-old fridge exploded, cracking the ceiling and walls and breaking a window in the master bedroom. In 2017, 72 residents in London were killed after a faulty refrigerator exploded.

A refrigerator can explode when the back gets too hot. The compressor’s coils can contract and trap built-up gas until it eventually bursts. Many refrigerators nowadays have a metal backing that includes heat shields to help prevent fires. But older or less expensive models may only have a plastic backing.

There are some signs to look for in a refrigerator that may not be working properly, especially when it comes to the noise it makes. A refrigerator with a working compressor tends to make a high-frequency humming noise. On the other hand, a refrigerator that makes a choppy sound or no noise at all may be a sign that its coils are clogged, says Wayne Archer, an appliance expert at Sears Home Services. “The easiest way to save your refrigerator is to clean the condenser coils,” he says.