Help! How Does A Refrigerator Work?

Have you ever wondered how the refrigerator works? How it manages to cool all the stuff stored inside?

Here is a look at the working principles of a fridge and its components. This is how a standard refrigerator works – in simple English.


The working of any fridge is a cyclic process that consists of changes in both the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant. Below are the different components of a domestic fridge and its functions.

  • Evaporator

Also known as the heat exchanger, the evaporator absorbs the heat inside the fridge but with the evaporating liquid refrigerant’s assistance. It also draws heat passing through it.

  • Compressor
Compressor fridge

This is a heavy metal object located at the back of your refrigerator, in the bottom area. The compressor is powered by an electric motor (it’s one of the main power consuming parts of the fridge) and works by compressing the refrigerant. This causes a rise in pressure and turns the temperature of the refrigerant gas.

  • Refrigerant

This gas flows through all the internal parts of your fridge. It’s simply the one that ensures the cooling effect.

  • Condenser

This is the thin coil of copper tubing at the back of your fridge. It usually condenses any vaporized refrigerant (by converting it into liquid form) and reduces its temperature.

  • Heat exchanging pipes
Heat exchanging pipes

Present on both the outside and the inside of your refrigerator, the heat exchanging pipe’s primary function is to carry the refrigerant from one part of your appliance to the other. Most of these coils can be found behind the compressor.

  • Expansion Valve/ Capillary
Expansion Valve Capillary

The expansion valve is the thin copper coil, and its function is to reduce pressure on the liquid refrigerant.

Process of How a Refrigerator Works While It’s Running

How a Refrigerator Works

First, the refrigerant gas is compressed, thereby increasing both the pressure and temperature.

The gas then passes via the heat-exchanging coils and cause a cooling effect.

Next, the refrigerant passes via the condenser and gets converted into liquid form since the temperatures keep reducing while the pressure is not affected. It then passes through the expansion valve, causing a decrease in the pressure of the refrigerant gas.

Then, the gas expands and evaporates, resulting in a sudden reduction of temperature.

During the evaporation period, the gas is usually present in the evaporator and absorbs the heat from the food inside your fridge, thereby cooling it.

The cooling effect is what prevents bacteria from infesting your food and keeps it fresh longer.

Finally, the refrigerant gas heats-up to its gaseous state, and the cycle repeats.

9 Steps of a fridge cycle

  1. The refrigeration cycle: A refrigerator works by using a refrigeration cycle to remove heat from the inside of the unit and transfer it to the outside. The cycle is powered by a compressor, which pumps refrigerant through a series of coils and valves.
  2. Insulation: Refrigerators use insulation, typically made of foam, to keep the cool air inside the unit and prevent warm air from entering.
  3. Thermostat: A thermostat controls the temperature inside the refrigerator by turning the compressor on and off as needed.
  4. Evaporator and condenser coils: The refrigerant is cooled and evaporated in the evaporator coils, which are located inside the refrigerator. The condenser coils, located outside the refrigerator, release the absorbed heat.
  5. Air circulation: Refrigerators use fans to circulate air inside the unit, ensuring that the temperature is consistent throughout.
  6. Energy efficiency: Modern refrigerators are designed to be energy efficient, using less power to keep food cool.
  7. Function of the compressor: The compressor is the heart of the refrigeration system, it compress the refrigerant, which increases the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant.
  8. The role of the expansion valve: The expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant and decreases the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant, allowing it to expand and absorb heat from the inside of the refrigerator.
  9. Maintenance and care: Refrigerators require regular maintenance to ensure they run efficiently and last as long as possible. This includes cleaning the coils, defrosting the freezer, and checking for leaks in the seal.


Regardless of the model or the manufacturer of your refrigerator, your refrigerator will always work on two basic principles:

  1. As the gas expands, the temperature lowers.
  2. Where 2 different surfaces with different temperatures get in contact, the colder surface warms up while the warm one cools.

Having all these in mind, to enjoy fresh and well-preserved food, you should invest in a refrigerator that was built using the highest quality materials available.

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