8 Creative Ways to Quiet a Noisy Refrigerator Compressor

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how to Quiet a Noisy Refrigerator Compressor

It might seem like a small nuisance to some, but I find a noisy refrigerator to be one of the most annoying things. It’s usually the compressor that gives off all this noise, so I decided to research some creative ways to quiet a noisy fridge.

In this article, I look at some creative ways to make your refrigerator quieter, but also some advice for troubleshooting this problem. After all, it’s worth you being sure that the fridge isn’t faulty before you start trying to soundproof it.

What’s making a noise in your refrigerator?

Finding ways to make your refrigerator quieter is understandable, as it can be very annoying when you’re just trying to relax at home. However, it’s worth trying to identify the source of the noise before trying to cover it up. After all, this noise might be an indication of something being loose or broken.

That said, fridges are generally noisy things anyway. There’s a lot going on inside them to keep them cold and insulated, particularly if you’ve got a combination fridge freezer. Plenty of the noises a refrigerator makes are completely normal, so identifying the cause before you begin is very useful.

The compressor is one of the most common sources of noise because it’s doing most of the work. It contains a motor and a pump and moves the coolant throughout the refrigerator, while also pushing hot air out the back as waste.

It generally makes whirring or buzzing sounds, and these are completely normal. If you’ve got a more modern energy-efficient refrigerator, its compressor is designed to work long and low, so don’t be surprised if it stays on for quite a while.

Other common sources of noise in a refrigerator include:

  • The ice maker (if it has one). This can make a wide range of fun and sometimes alarming noises, including gurgling, buzzing, clicking, and clattering. These are completely normal, and are just the ice being made.
  • The drip tray. This often makes gurgling and sizzling noises, along with dripping and hissing. Again, these are completely normal and are just the sounds of water being drained from the inside.
  • Refrigerator walls. The interior walls of the fridge compartment have to expand and contract as the temperature changes. This causes a range of clicking, cracking, popping, and creaking sounds, which are completely normal.
  • The compressor. The compressor itself can whirr, hiss, and drip, which are again completely normal. There are different liquids flowing inside the system, and these are going to make noise.

Here is another point of view on the sources of noise coming from a refrigerator:

Realistically, the only noises you need to be alarmed by when it comes to your refrigerator are very angry ones, but these often come with other warning signals. In fact, one of the most worrying signs for a fridge is it not making any noise!

That said, I completely understand that you might find these noises annoying, because I sure do. A noisy refrigerator generally isn’t too bad if you live in a big house, but can be very annoying if you live in a smaller property or apartment.

Before you start

Before taking any steps to soundproof your fridge, it’s definitely worth spending some time listening to the noises it makes. While you might be very familiar with them already, just confirm where they’re coming from and that they roughly match up to what I’ve described above.

If you’re not too sure whether the noises your refrigerator is making are normal, then I’d obviously recommend getting a professional to look at it. Increased noise can be a sign that parts are worn out or broken, meaning these (or the whole fridge) might need to be replaced.

Similarly, you should pay attention to what’s around the fridge, as this can have an effect on the amount of noise it’s making. For example, floor surface makes a difference, as a refrigerator on a tile floor will likely make less noise than one on a wooden floor.

However, the most likely source of noise is going to be the compressor. In the rest of this article I look at ways to combat the majority of noises a fridge makes, but I’ll be concentrating on the compressor. By this I essentially mean the back of the fridge, as this is what you’ll be working with.

Creative ways to quiet a noisy refrigerator

During my research, I found that there are 8 creative ways to make a noisy refrigerator quieter, which are:

  1. Level out the legs
  2. Put the fridge on a mat
  3. Soundproof behind the fridge
  4. Put the refrigerator in an alcove
  5. Build a shelving unit around the fridge
  6. Clean the condenser and fan
  7. Add soundproofing materials inside the fridge
  8. Buy a new quiet or less noisy fridge

Now that we’ve gone through some of the general noises a fridge makes, along with their sources, it should be much easier to explain how to make them quieter. Here are my top creative ways to do that.

1. Level out the legs

While this might not be doing anything for the compressor, it’s also one of the easiest problems to solve, so is a good place to start. A fridge being on an uneven or lower density floor can cause it to make much more noise than usual.

Much of this noise will be in the form of vibrations, which is why the floor surface makes such a big difference. These vibrations have a much harder time passing through something like tile, rather than wood. Therefore, it pays to do something about this problem.

The first step I’d take is to check the fridge’s legs. Almost all refrigerators have adjustable legs, allowing you to set them independently. This is a massive help for uneven surfaces, and could solve your problem almost instantly.

Similarly, over time, as a result of vibrations and general use, these legs might come loose or move around. So, even if you set them properly when you first installed the fridge, it’d be worth checking them again.

The easiest way to do this is to give your fridge a little rattle. If it moves, then you need to adjust the legs accordingly. It might help to get someone else involved here so that they can rattle the fridge while you watch the legs, or vice versa.

It might be tempting to get a spirit level measure out here, but I wouldn’t bother. Stable and even are two different things, and your refrigerator might be stable but wonky if it’s on a wonky floor. Just pay attention to the legs, and bear in mind that the fridge shouldn’t really have any wobble to it.

2. Put the fridge on a mat

If you’ve tried adjusting the legs and your fridge is still vibrating on the floor, then the next best thing to try is putting it on a mat. Obviously this needs to be something a bit more substantial than a normal rug, but luckily there are specific products available for this purpose.

In the world of soundproofing there’s a range of products called sound deadening mats, although these are usually designed for use in vehicle interiors to dampen the noise of engines. However, that’s more or less the problem we’re trying to solve here!

Some manufacturers of sound deadening mats, such as Hushmat or Dynamat (Amazon links), make products for use in the home. These are different from their vehicle products because they usually don’t include thermal insulation, as this isn’t something you need in this situation.

dynamat
Dynamat sound deadener can be used to quiet noisy refrigerators

They advise their products are for use with home appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines. I’ve found the mats are pretty useful for this job, and I’ve put one under every appliance in my house.

The mats are made of something called butyl rubber, which is a very dense material with little elasticity. This makes it great at absorbing sound waves and vibrations. The mats are generally less than an inch thick, but do a great job.

You can also use products like mass loaded vinyl, or the vehicle sound deadening mats will do the job fine if you can’t get hold of the household kind. Just be sure to measure the size of your fridge or the floor underneath it, and then cut the mat to size.

3. Soundproof behind the fridge

One of the biggest challenges with trying to make a fridge compressor quieter is that you’re very limited with what you can do. The rear of the refrigerator has the compression coils, through which the fluids pass to release excess heat energy.

However, this also means that they can’t be covered up. Doing so could cause the fridge to overheat, which will cause the compressor to overwork and break down. Obviously a broken refrigerator isn’t the purpose of this exercise, so it means you’ll have to be a bit more creative with your solutions.

So, rather than adding soundproofing to the back of the fridge, fix it to the wall instead. Providing the gap between the fridge and the wall isn’t too big, this should do almost the same job. However, some sound will probably still escape, because sound waves are very good at doing this.

For this method, I’d recommend using a combination of sound blocking and acoustic treatment solutions. This is because you’ll want to prevent as much sound as possible from escaping into the wall and into the air. Therefore, you need a combined approach.

Most of the noise produced by the compressor will be airborne sound, so you want to buy products that are going to trap the sound waves and prevent them from bouncing off the wall. Something like acoustic foam paneling will work fine, as will something like Rockwool acoustic cavity wall insulation.

Similarly, adding a sheet of mass loaded vinyl to the wall behind your fridge will stop any impact noises that might occur. Mass loaded vinyl is limp mass, and so doesn’t pass on vibrations caused by sound waves. Instead, it just blocks them.

  • Measure and cut a piece of MDF or wood the same size as your refrigerator, plus a few inches extra on every side.
  • Fix a sheet of mass loaded vinyl to this. Nails will do the job just fine, as will glue. Seal the edges with acoustic sealant just to be on the safe side.
  • Cover with a layer of acoustic foam, but be careful not to ruin its structure with glue. If the holes get blocked then it won’t do a very good job of trapping sound waves.
  • Attach this to the wall behind your fridge and then push it back into place. Hopefully you’ve noticed a significant reduction in airborne noise!

As I mentioned above, some noise will still be able to escape from behind the fridge, but there’s little you can do about this. However, building this soundproofing board should make a difference, particularly when you move to another room in the house. Ideally, any audible sounds should only be heard close to the fridge.

4. Put your refrigerator in an alcove

One of the best things you can do for blocking the noises coming from the back of your fridge is to move it into an alcove. Doing this basically means the sound waves are trapped in a smaller space and have less chance of bouncing around the room.

This also gives you a great chance to soundproof not just behind the fridge, but around the sides too. You’re not as limited on attaching things to the sides of a fridge, but I’d still focus on soundproofing the alcove instead. More than anything, this’ll make it easier to access the fridge if anything breaks down.

Again, construct a soundproof board like the one above, but build 2 more the same size as the sides. I’d recommend leaving a gap between 1 and 2 inches around the whole refrigerator, as this will allow air to still circulate, meaning it’s less likely to overheat.

However, I’d also recommend paying attention to your fridge for a day or so after installing it in its new location. One of the usual advantages of soundproofing is actually a big problem here: soundproofing generally also improves thermal insulation.

As I’ve covered above, a fridge needs air to flow around its coils in order to cool them. And a fridge surrounded by acoustic insulation or foam tiles is going to have a harder time losing waste heat energy, which could increase the chances of it breaking down.

This isn’t always going to be the case though, and if you’ve done it right you shouldn’t have a problem. Keep an eye on it though, and if things start getting too cold inside, or you can feel lots of excess heat around it, then pull it away from the wall. These are signs you might need to go back to the drawing board with your soundproofing solutions.

5. Build a shelving unit around the fridge

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have a spare alcove in their kitchen. There are other solutions available, such as building a shelving unit around the refrigerator. Obviously this will still require space, and for you to have some DIY knowledge.

The purpose of building a unit around the fridge is basically to just add more mass to the area in an attempt to absorb and block more of the noise. This solution can be surprisingly effective if done properly.

I’m not going to go in to how you should build a shelving unit, because that’ll mostly depend on the space you have available. However, you may like to watch the video below.

The key is to soundproof the space around the refrigerator in exactly the same way as I’ve suggested above, while still leaving some room around it for correct air flow. Essentially, all you’re doing is building an alcove that you can soundproof and store your fridge in.

However, another benefit of building a unit like this is that you can fill the cupboards with stuff, which just adds more mass to the structure. For this reason, heavy and dense objects are your best bet.

That said, I’d avoid things like pots, pans, and plates because all of these objects will rattle if your fridge causes the cupboards to vibrate. Rather than helping the issue, this’ll just make it worse!

6. Clean the condenser and fan

Another worthwhile option for making the condenser quieter is to try cleaning it, as it could just be old or dirty. This sort of thing can make quite a difference when you’re dealing with a reasonably delicate structure.

However, I wouldn’t recommend taking your refrigerator apart unless you’re confident you’ve got an idea what’s going on. The mechanics inside a fridge are pretty complicated, and you might mess with something critical.

Similarly, opening the back of your fridge could void the warranty on it, but then it’s fair to assume a fridge still under warranty shouldn’t be that dirty. Check your owner’s manual for more information before diving in, as they might even provide a service for this kind of thing.

Here is a short but helpful video for cleaning compressor coils.

Here are the basic steps to cleaning the condenser fan:

  1. First, turn off your fridge and unplug it from the wall.
  2. Remove the rear access panel, which should just be screwed in place.
  3. Before cleaning the fan, check for any debris or loose material in the area. This could be the cause of any noise, and is easy to solve.
  4. Run a vacuum cleaner over the fan and surrounding area. If you’ve got one, I’d recommend using a handvac, as these are less powerful.
  5. Check for any signs of damage on the fan blade, as this can cause it to spin incorrectly. You can buy these pretty cheap online and they’re not hard to replace.
  6. If all seems to be in order, give the area a clean down with a microfiber cloth. This should help pick up any last bits of loose material in the area.
  7. Put the access panel back in place and turn the fridge back on.

If you find that the condenser fan is worn out, then it’s likely the rest of the condenser is too. In fact, it being worn out is a common reason it gets louder, so you might be best to replace the whole unit. Again, it might be worth getting a professional out to do this.

The only issue with this is that condensers can be an expensive part to buy, and may even make the whole exercise unviable. After all, why would you buy a part for an old fridge that costs nearly the same as a whole new fridge? If this is the case, I’d recommend just making the upgrade.

That said, you can usually buy off-brand versions that fit most units, but installing these could again void your warranty. These are much cheaper, and are available online for less than $100.

Either way, if you feel confident enough then it’s definitely worth having a poke around inside the fridge to see if you can solve any of the problems with a bit of light cleaning. While this might not be the biggest cause of noise from your fridge, it is one of the easiest problems to solve.

7. Add soundproofing materials to the inside of your fridge

Realistically, I’d save this as your final attempt at making a fridge quieter. This is mainly because I don’t think it’s a brilliant idea to go adding stuff inside the fridge, both for space and hygiene reasons. Also, much of the noise will be coming from the back, so adding soundproofing inside might not help the issue.

If you feel that the majority of the annoying noises are coming from inside the fridge, then by all means try soundproofing it. You may even find that this is actually the most helpful thing you could’ve done.

The product I’d go with here is mass loaded vinyl again. Not only is this for the density and weight it adds, but also because it’s actually quite thin considering how heavy it is. Before adding anything inside the fridge however, turn it off and allow it to defrost. You want a dry, clean surface free from any obstructions.

  • Clean down the inside of the fridge and remove all shelves (and food).
  • Measure and cut 5 pieces of mass loaded vinyl to size for the back, sides, top, and bottom. Do bear in mind the space this’ll take up, as a quarter-inch thick material will take up over an inch of space here.
  • Fix the mass loaded vinyl to your fridge’s walls using glue. Make sure to leave holes for the drip tray and grooves for the shelves, along with anything else that should be in the fridge.
  • Replace everything and turn the refrigerator back on. The mass loaded vinyl may affect the fridge’s temperature, so monitor it with a thermometer and make any necessary adjustments.

If you do decide to go for this option, I’d probably recommend combining it will several others, simply because much of the noise will be coming from the back of the fridge. Even if you just fix a bit of mass loaded vinyl to the wall behind, this should make more of a difference.

8. Buy a new quiet or less noisy fridge

You might find during the course of trying to make your refrigerator quieter that there’s not much point in doing so. Some fridges, particularly older ones, are just loud. This is particularly true if the parts are getting worn out, and many aren’t financially viable to replace.

If you do look for a new fridge, pay attention to some factors that’ll influence how much noise it makes. These include:

  • Its energy efficiency. Energy efficient refrigerators have compressors that run long and low, but will often still be quieter than older fridges. However, if this noise drives you mad then avoid energy efficient ones.
  • Does it have a fan? Some compact fridges, and some normal sized ones too, don’t actually have fans as part of their cooling mechanism. This might not be readily available information when you’re looking, but a fridge without a fan will generally make less noise.
  • The fridge’s age. If you’re looking to upgrade then you’ll probably be looking for a brand new one, but this advice applies to secondhand ones too. The newer the fridge, the more efficient (and quieter) it’s likely to be.
  • User ratings. You’re not the first person to dislike noisy fridges, and it’s likely some people will talk about this in their review. Pay attention, most reviewers have strong opinions about this kind of issue.

Some final thoughts

There are no 2 ways about it: refrigerators are noisy things. However, as you can see, there are things you can try to make it quieter. As always, I’d recommend trying several so that you can attack the problem from all angles. Hopefully this will help you to relax a bit more at home!

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