Why does it seem like my refrigerator runs constantly?

When working properly, the thermostat turns the compressor on and off. Once the thermostat turns the compressor on, it will run until the temperature inside the refrigerator is lower than the setting of the thermostat.

Refrigerator Defrost Thermostat, Commonly used in refrigerators from Whirlpool, Kenmore, and others.
Refrigerator Defrost Thermostat, Commonly used in refrigerators from Whirlpool, Kenmore, and others.

Make sure that the refrigerator has enough air clearance on all sides. Refrigerators with a condenser coil grid on the back of them need room to radiate the heat away from the coils.

Verify that the door light switch is working properly. Push the switch with your finger to verify the light is turning off. If the light stays on, it will actually warm the interior of the refrigerator. Fix or replace the switch if it is faulty.

Modern refrigerators have larger freezer compartments and therefore run for longer periods of time. They also start and stop very frequently to maintain an even temperature. This is especially true if you have just put a lot of warm food in the refrigerator, or if it is very hot and humid. It can take several hours to get back to the cool temperature you have it set for after putting a large amount of food in it.

Refrigerator Compressor, includes electricals and is commonly used on Frigidaire, Tappan, Westinghouse, Gibson, and other brands as well. -$247.09
Refrigerator Compressor, includes electricals and is commonly used on Frigidaire, Tappan, Westinghouse, Gibson, and other brands as well.

If the compressor is not shutting off when the temperature inside the refrigerator is cold enough, you may have a bad thermostat. You may also have the temperature set too high in the refrigerator. Try adjusting the thermostat to a lower temperature. If this turns the compressor off, you had it set too high. With the help of a refrigerator thermometer, you can find a more ideal setting that will keep your food cold, but not so cold that the compressor is always running. If raising the temperature setting doesn’t help, it may be a problem with the thermostat and you will need to replace it.

If your thermostat is working properly, there’s a chance that you have low levels of refrigerant in the sealed system. If this is where the symptoms lead you, you need to contact a professional appliance repair person. Only an EPA certified technician can legally work on a sealed system. If you attempt to do work on this system, you will void the warranty.

Refrigerator Thermometer, Hang or stand this item inside of your refrigerator to monitor the temperature. - $15.59
Refrigerator Thermometer, Hang or stand this item inside of your refrigerator to monitor the temperature.

If this is a new refrigerator, it will run for a long time, almost constantly, before it gets cooled enough to stabilize the interior temperature. Allow up to 24 hours for it to stabilize. The refrigerator should be at least one half to two thirds full. This will help to maintain a stable temperature inside the unit. The cold items inside will help to keep an even temperature inside after the door has been opened and closed.

Some people prefer to keep a lot of stuff in the refrigerator as ballast, even jugs of water. This helps to maintain temperatures inside so that when the door gets opened and closed often, it doesn’t need to run as much to maintain the temperature inside.


12 thoughts on “Why does it seem like my refrigerator runs constantly?

  1. after i was changed my old thermostat my fredge still keep runing and cant stop even i was adjust it in lower position it not stop my fredge compressor how many hourse fredge need to stop that continuoes runing huh??? how many hourse that thermostat supposed stop my fredge compressor 24 hourse or 48 contiously hourse runing or that will be destroy my fredge fast answer requeted please!!!!!!help

    • Hi heart of car,

      The compressor on some larger refrigerators needs to kick on more in order to cool properly. Other issues affecting your compressor and how often it turns on include:
      • Dirty coils (which you can clean and improve the efficiency of your refrigerator.)
      • Door is being opened often (solution, try to limit the amount of times the door is opened and the period of time.)
      • There is a crack or leak in your refrigerator’s gasket (the seal around your door) Solution – fix or replace the gasket.
      • The addition of hot foods into your fridge.
      • The refrigerator is mostly empty (solution – put some empty water jugs in there to act as “ballasts” and to help keep the temperature in your fridge even.)
      If you believe you have a more serious problem with your refrigerator, please feel free to post your question on the Refrigerator Repair Message Board.


      Be sure to include the following information:
      Make – Who made your appliance.
      Model number – where to find the model number on your appliance
      Suspected age of appliance – Best guess for age is ok.
      Also include as much specific information as you can. How long has the refrigerator been running now? Any noises? Does your refrigerator cool properly? Is the freezer cold, but not the refrigerator? When did you notice this problem?

    • My fridge runns constantly and the freezer gets frozen and the refrigeration side gets gets frozen at the coil wall side although its set on the low temperature of the thermostat bur if fell the inside of the refrigerator it does not feel cold enough but the coil wall is frozen with ice show the schematic diagram of the coil with ice but rest of it inside is not cold and its been running for hours with out cutting off .plz help.

  2. I want you to put a thermometer like the ones showed above in your freezer – every hour quickly open and check temps – is is getting colder everytime or is the thermometer showing varying temps ? Do the same for refrigerator – if after hours of compressor run time your therm shows warm / unsafe temps (above 40F for refrig and ab ove 10F for freezer) despite compressor hours without door being opened or food added, then you may need to have your refrigerant charge checked – might be low. If temps are in the safe cold areas and go down very slowly you may have heat dissipation issues – if your condenser coils cannot radiate the heat and evacuate it (no airflow, tight space at the back, hot room temp) then your compressor will work hours on straight and decrease temps at an extreme slow pace because it can’t evacuate the heat properly. If your items keep getting colder and colder you probably have a faulty thermostat or control board assembly that does not shut down compressor. If your compressor is new I would not worry about it, probably thermostat or electronic control board need to be changed – on an old compressor you should act quick it will wear it out quicker – most compressors are good for 10 years, some can last more. There are times where a compressor will run much longer especially in the summer if your ambiant temp is high and you leave the fridge door open a long time or frequent open / closings – leaky gaskets also can be a problem It’s common in the summer for compressors to run hours on straight – adding new food items and hot pots, pans, etc, can make your compressor run continually – but normally it should stabilize and stop eventually.

  3. I won Whirlpool Refrigerator (Fusion Model). It works continuously. That is, comproser is running constantly without stopping. Milk in the milk tray found freezed though when i turned the adjustable knob to off position.
    Please help me in this regard.

  4. I have a Gibson refrigerator and the refrigerator section would not cool but the freezer section was fine. Here’s what the issue turned out to be – the freezer cools the refrigerator by sending cool air from the freezer into the refrigerator. It turns out, the opening that allows cold air from the freezer into the refrigerator was blocked with ice. I cleared the ice out of this passage and the problem was fixed.

    Now the long story: I searched a half-dozen help sites on the net and none of them described this fix. I finally called a local appliance repair shop and the guy there had me checking all kinds of stuff to try to figure out what it was. One of the things he had me do was pull the interior back wall out of the freezer to see if the ice on the coils was evenly distributed. To get to the back panel, I had to remove the faceplate that has the freezer temperature control on it. Upon removing that faceplate, I found the opening between the freezer and refrigerator was plugged with ice. I cleared the ice out, put everything back together and that fixed it.

  5. hi i have a problem with a hotpoint ice diamond larder fridge, we replaced the thermostate about 6 months ago and was warking fine untill now. the fridge is not staying cold enough but if i reset the reset button in the frige and have it at number 6 i get ice on the back and it got very cold again then it seem to go wet again at the back after a couple of hour as if it swithcing itself off it is about 7 years the fridge my husband think it the gaz gone in it so carnt funtion right i think differently can you help , thanks mrs moxon

  6. Don’t forget to CHECK the FREEZER FAN !

    I bought a brand new fridge and it was running continuously even after the first day… it appears that the freezer fan fall down on the condenser during transportation and no air was blowing into the fridge. Thus the temperature in the fridge was unable to reach the cutoff temperature. Put the fan back and everything worked OK after that.
    I guess the same thing will happen if the the fan dies.

  7. Is it advisable to buy home used refrigerators and also is it advisable to live your fridge to work more than three days non stop?

  8. I have a second fridge/freezer in our basement that we use for overflow. This comes in handy during the holidays especially. We really don;t keep but a few things in both the fridge and freezer for the most part though. Would it be best to shut it off and store it during this time to save on the motor and energy usage too and just start up during the holidays, etc? Is this hard on the fridge to store it and how should I do it? I would sincerely appreciate any help. Thank you.

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