Does this sound familiar: there was a recent power outage, and after the electricity was restored, your fridge stopped working. If that sounds about right, you might be freaking out right now, and rightfully so. That is a lot of food decaying ever so slowly. You need to act quickly, but what do you do when a fridge doesn’t work after power is cut?
It can certainly be scary and nerve-wracking. But you do have options, some of which are obvious, others not so much. Let’s take a look at what could be the problem and how to solve it.
What You Do When a Fridge Isn’t Working After a Power Outage
There’s a long list of steps you should take to ensure everything is working as intended, which includes troubleshooting the fridge as well as the circuit breaker itself. It’s highly recommended you try everything listed below. You wouldn’t want to surprise yourself when the fridge finally kicks the bucket.
Power The Fridge On
This might sound obvious, but have you turned it on? Some refrigerators will not power back on automatically if there has been a power outage for the sake of safety. Locate the power button and use it.
Check The Circuit Breaker
When the power does finally come back on, and the fridge isn’t powering on, your first move is to check the circuit breaker. In fact, it’s always a good idea to check the circuit breaker is in tip-top shape after a power outage. Sometimes that instant surge of power can be too much for the circuit breaker to handle, and a few components break.
Locate your circuit breaker and flip the breaker that specifically controls the power to your fridge. It is okay if you cannot find it or do not know which one it is. If you aren’t sure, just flip the breaker for the main power. That will shut down everything in your house. Flip it back to power everything back on.
Examine The Electrical Outlet
Refrigerators use GFCI electrical outlets and during the power outage, it may have been tripped, which requires flipping the breaker to fix the issue or pressing the Reset button on the faceplate. However, if you already tried that and it still isn’t working, then you’ll have to examine the outlet itself and the power cable.
What you are looking for is any burning, melting, or damage on both the electrical outlet and the refrigerator itself. Flip the breaker for the GFCI electrical outlet—to prevent shocking yourself—and unplug the refrigerator. Are there any burn marks on the outlet or power cable? Has anything melted? If so, you should transfer your food to a cooler and keep the GFCI electrical outlet powered down.
As for the power cable, you also want to check for any exposed wires. If you noticed any amount of insulation has fallen from the power cable, you need to immediately disconnect the fridge, move your food to another cooling unit, and have a professional replace the power cable if possible. Exposed wires can lead to electricity literally arcing from the cable to nearby surfaces. That’s how electrical fires start.
Reset Fridge After Power Outage
Sometimes after a power outage, all you need to do to regain the use of your fridge is to reset it. This can be done by unplugging the fridge for about five minutes or by pressing and holding a series of buttons on the fridge’s control panel. It varies from model to model, but generally speaking, most models use a similar combination.
The Fridge Isn’t Cooling!
Don’t panic yet. If you hear the refrigerator running, chances are there is nothing to worry about. It needs at least 15 minutes before you feel any real difference on the inside of the fridge. Just make sure the temperature controls are set to 37 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer. The power outage might have reset the temperature settings.
If it’s been an hour and nothing has changed, you might be staring at a dead fridge or, best-case scenario, a component has failed. In fact, listen in for any noises. Your fridge can make a series of noises that may or may not indicate a problem.
Ice Isn’t Being Made
The ice maker isn’t necessarily the most important component, especially if everything is working, but if it isn’t, you need to troubleshoot it. There are all kinds of reasons your ice maker could have failed during the power outage and it’s a long and tedious process that should be looked after.
Inspect The Fridges Power Cord
Your power outage may have been triggered by electric damage in some cases. The fridge’s power cord or plug could’ve been shortened by an electrical issue. To inspect this, slide the fridge out and check the power cord to see if there has been an electric shorting. if the power cord has been damaged or shortened, you’ll need to replace it.
Inspect the Fridge For Visual Signs of Electrical Damage
There could be a component that causes the power outage and your fridge not to work after. You need to inspect the fridge for visual signs of electrical damage. You can look out for this such as burn marks around the electrical outlet or cord. If you can see electric damage, you’ll need to contact a technical as the fridge is too dangerous to work on by a non-expert when it has damaged electrical components.
Check Different Components
Check different components in the refrigerator to see if the entire electrical system has failed, or just parts, such as the compressor engine. For example, the refrigerator may not be turning on to compress and refrigerate, but other electrical devices on the refrigerator may be responding, such as the inside light, digital front faceplates, and fans located on the bottom of the refrigerator. These symptoms indicate that a particular component within the refrigerator has failed and requires repair from a qualified service technician.
You need to check if the entire electrical system of your fridge has failed or just specific parts. There are parts such as the compressor engine that could’ve failed which is causing the fridge not to work after the power outage. Your compressor engine may be failing which could cause your fridge not to turn on for example. There are other electrical devices on the fridge that could be responding such as the light in sight, the digital front faceplates, then fans at the bottom but if you notice that something isn’t working by itself such as your compressor, this means that there’s a problem with that component and your fridge will need to be repaired.
Remove any extension cords and plug the refrigerator directly into an outlet. The power outage could have damaged the extension cord if there was a surge before the power went out.
If your fridge is connected to an extension, remove it and plug the fridge directly into an outlet. The power outage could’ve damaged the extension cord if there was a huge surge or electricity before the power went out.
Check If The Main Control Board Failed
The function of the Main Control Board is to control other components of your fridge. If resetting your fridge didn’t do anything and you’ve figured out that the compressor isn’t working, you need to check if the control board is working properly.
If your fridge’s Main Control Board failed or was damaged, the main reason would be to wear and tear over years of using it. Another reason why the control board could fail is due to moisture and excessive heat being found inside. Another likely situation is that the main control board for your fridge is shorted out. It’s common for your fridge to receive a power surge after the power is restored from an outtake and this can spell bad news – even to anything that isn’t plugged in.
To fix this, you need to replace the main control board. Before you do so, you need to think about getting the correct replacement part first. You’ll need to look at your fridges manufacturing manual to see the model of your fridge so that you know which control board to get.
Once you have the correct main control board:
- Disconnect the power supply to the fridge. This’ll prevent you from being electrocuted.
- Using the manufacturer’s manual, locate the access panels you’ll need to remove to reach the existing Main Control Board. When you do this, take a picture of the board to use as a reference later.
- Remove any screws that hold the board in place. If there are wire harnesses, remove these also.
- Put in the new control board, and connect the wires using the picture for reference.
If the Control Board Inverter Failed
There’s another component in your fridge alongside the main control board called the control board inverter. This inverter acts similarly to the main control board but it’s only there to serve the compressor. It supplies power to the compressor when necessary and it coordinates its activities. If you’ve tried all of the previous troubleshooting steps yet the compressor isn’t switching turning on. There’s a good chance that the problem is with the Inverter Control Board.
Since the Inverter Board is similar to the Main Control Board however it’s job is to supply power to the compressor, because of this, it could fail for similar reasons like the control board does. It could’ve become faulty due to natural wear and tear after being used for many years or water and excess heat could have damaged it. But since your fridge won’t power on after a power outage, there’s a chance that the board was damaged by an electrical surge once the power came back on.
To fix this, you need to replace the control board inverter. Before you do so, you need to think about getting the correct replacement part first. You’ll need to look at your fridges manufacturing manual to see the model of your fridge so that you know which control board inverter to get.
- Disconnect the power supply to the fridge. This will prevent electrocution injuries that you might sustain.
- Locate the inverter control board at the back of your fridge before an access panel.
- Remove the screws that hold the panel in place, so you can gain access to the inverter control board. There are plenty of electrical connectors attached to the control board so you should take a photo for reference later.
- Disconnect the electrical connectors one at a time, and depress the tabs that hold the board in place.
- Put the new board in place. You should refer to the reference photo that you took earlier so that you know where everything goes.
Keeping Food Safe During a Power Outage
In the event that another power outage hits your home, it’s good to be informed on food safety during those dark times. You might have been through dozens of power outages, and every single one varied in length. Who knows when it will come back on so it’s best to be prepared when it does happen, and it will happen again. You should act immediately when it does.
Straight from FoodSafety.gov’s mouth, you should keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. Every time the freezer or fridge door is left open during a power outage, a little bit of the warm air on the outside transfers space with the cold air inside the fridge. The internal temperature gradually goes up anyways, but more so if you keep opening the door.
If you leave the doors closed, you can get up to four hours of consistent temperatures. The freezer, on the other hand, can hold its temperature for 24 hours when half-full and 48 hours with a nearly full freezer. That’s if the freezer is left alone.
For a bit of extra time, surround valuable food with ice packs—doesn’t matter if it’s gel or water-based. This will help the longevity of the food. However, after four hours without power, it’s time to start throwing away refrigerated food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk. It is no longer safe to eat at that point.
When your fridge isn’t working after a power outage, it’s best to stay calm and collected. What matters is how fast you react to the situation. You shouldn’t ever take chances when a power outage strikes. When it does, tape the fridge shut and keep others from using it. You never know when the power will come back on. Follow the steps to a T and stay focused. After the power comes back on, you’ll know what to do if the fridge doesn’t immediately kick on, too.