why is my freezer hot

Why is my Freezer Hot on the Outside?

In Appliances by Jamie P.

If you notice that the outside of your freezer is warmer than usual, even hot, you might be a bit concerned. Knowing a little about how a freezer operates and why it might be hot can ease your concerns and help you decide how to handle it.

A freezer can get hot on the outside when the compressor is running for an extended period of time. The compressor pumps the liquid coolant through the coils, which helps regulate a low temperature inside the freezer. It is possible the freezer is having a difficult time remaining at a low temperature, causing the freezer to warm up on the outside. 

So, a general rise and fall in temperature on the outside of your freezer is known to be normal. However, if the temperature becomes consistently or excessively hot, it’s wise to look into any potential issues that need to be addressed.

Reasons Why My Freezer is Hot on the Outside

One of the most common causes of an unusually hot freezer exterior is when you load a lot of room-temperature food inside all at once. The freezer has to work hard for a long time to bring the inside temperature down and to freeze such items. Unless the contents are excessively hot, your freezer will be able to tolerate the extra heat, and eventually, the outside temperature will go back to normal once the freezer does not need to continue working hard.

Another common cause is the constant usage of the freezer; opening and closing the freezer door allows warm air in, requiring the compressor to run longer than usual. And of course, leaving the freezer open for too long will have the same effect. And on a hot day, these two factors will drastically increase the amount of run-time required to keep things cold inside.

When a freezer is being turned on for the first time or after disuse, the process of bringing the inside temperature down to freezing will likely heat things up on the outside. This is a common cause of concern, as excessive heat can be interpreted as a defective or faulty appliance.

A quick recap, the 3 possible reasons your freezer may feel hot on the outside are:

  • Adding a lot of room-temperature food at once, causes the freezer to work hard for a long time.
  • Constant use of opening and closing the freezer. Letting cool air out and warm air in causes the freezer to work hard.
  • Using the freezer after disuse or for the first time. It takes a lot of power to get the temperature down.

When Does An Overheating Freezer Need Repair?

Sometimes an overheating freezer requires maintenance or repair. The three most common causes are a dirty compressor coil, a malfunctioning compressor fan, and a damaged door seal.

Dust, lint, pet fur, and general grime are all inevitable in the house. Over time, this stuff builds up on the compressor coils, limiting their ability to dissipate heat. This, in turn, requires the compressor to run more frequently.

Most freezers have a fan that keeps the compressor and the compressor coils cool. If the fan is running poorly, or not all, the compressor will heat up quickly. The build-up of debris may be the cause of a slow-running fan. Or, it’s possible the fan simply needs replacement.

The rubber, magnetic seal that lines the inside of a freezer door is crucial for keeping cold air in and cold air out. This is the part of the freezer that also experiences the most amount of wear and tear. If this strip is demagnetized, then it won’t be able to create a proper seal. The strip may also crack, tear or lose adhesiveness, rendering it inefficient and in need of replacement.

Potential Fixes for a Hot Freezer?

Fortunately, the three main problems listed above are all easy to fix. The first and most important step to each process is unplugging the appliance to prevent electric shock.

To clean dirty coils, pull the appliance away from the way and find where they’re located. There’s usually a grille that will need to be removed in order to read the coils. Once you have access to the coils, use a refrigerator coil brush to scrub away the build-up. Then, use a damp cloth to catch any leftover debris.

The same goes for the compressor fan. First, locate the fan and remove its protective cover. If it looks like it’s clogged with grime, give it a good cleaning. Once free of debris, plug in the appliance and see how it runs. If the fan is still slow, or fails to spin at all, then it’s time to call a professional for a replacement.

Replacement seals are an easy fix. These can be purchased from the appliance manufacturer and installed yourself. If the problem with the seal is a weak magnetic lock, then be sure to go a little easier when shutting the door, as heavy slamming is the main cause.

Another factor that easily resolved is ensuring adequate ventilation. Make sure your appliance isn’t too close to a wall or in a tightly confined area. Giving the compressor room to breathe will always help no matter what the other circumstances are.

Lastly, there’s always the chance that there’s a faulty electrical component, especially in newer, more complex appliances. If all your efforts fail to keep the outside of your freezer at a moderate temperature, then call a technician to take a look.

Can my Freezer Catch Fire?

There are a few conditions that can lead to your freezer catching fire. The most common cause is an electrical malfunction. If your freezer is overheating on the outside and you can’t determine the cause, promptly addressing the issue is highly suggested.

Most manufacturers follow strict safety standards in order to prevent their appliances from fire risk. However, incidents do happen, so it’s a good idea to check your appliance brand for recalls or any reported fire-related accidents.

Final Thoughts

A freezer that’s hot on the outside is a common occurrence. Because the outside temperature fluctuates, a slightly warmer exterior may cause alarm. The important thing to look for is persistent, excessive heat. The pointers in this article should keep you covered in most circumstances. But, remember, if you’re unsure of the safety of your appliance, calling a professional is the wisest action to take.

About the Author

Jamie P.