A refrigerator is not fireproof and can catch on fire or be destroyed in a fire started elsewhere. However, it may burn slower than most appliances and could still be standing after a fire is extinguished.
While some movies may have you thinking the refrigerator is safe from fire, you couldn’t get any farther from the truth.
There’s more to learn about fridges and fires.
In this article, we’ll talk about more than just fridges when it comes to house fires. We’ll also look at what causes refrigerators to overheat and what steps you can take to prevent a refrigerator fire.
Let’s jump into it.
Can fridges overheat, and why is the outside of the fridge hot?
Yes, a refrigerator can overheat, but it’s normal for the outside of a fridge to be warm to the touch. Since a refrigerator is made up of coils, the ones inside are cold, and the ones outside are warm. If the outside, however, is hot to the touch, instead of warm, something is wrong.
Have you ever felt the side or back of your fridge?
You probably felt that it was warm and worried that maybe your fridge was overheating. The contents inside your fridge are fine, however.
To keep the inside of your fridge cold, the outside of the fridge has to do a lot of work. This creates heat and is usually pushed out of the exhaust vent at the bottom of your fridge.
This heat should not alarm you unless it actually hurts or is extremely hot to the touch. When this happens, it’s because your fridge is overheating. Usually, a little maintenance can go a long way in preventing a fire from the start because of your fridge.
If simple maintenance on your fridge doesn’t work, then it may be time to look at buying a new fridge.
Your fridge overheating is the main sign that a part is old or something in the fridge needs fixing. If left untreated, then you run into the problem of a fire start.
This is a problem because a lot of fridges have plastic backings. Some newer models have metal backings that are much better at keeping your fridge intact.
However, the plastic backings can catch on fire more easily and make your fridge burn faster, which can lead to the insulation catching on fire and toxic fumes being released into the air.
Are all fridges like this though? And, what about mini fridges?
— Beth Rousseau (@WFLABeth) March 20, 2019
Are all mini fridges flammable?
Mini-fridges are not flammable if the backing is made of metal. If the back of the fridge is made with plastic or anything other than metal, there is a risk of the backing melting and fire starting with insulation.
The main component that plays a role in a fridge catching on fire is one of two things—the coils, which builds up pressure from the gas inside them, or the backing of the fridge simply not being made of metal.
This is true for both mini and normal sized fridges.
Mini fridges will have more of a problem when there are objects underneath them. This is why it’s essential to keep it on a flat surface and clean both the back and underside of the fridge at least every other week.
It would be best if you keep your mini fridge off of the carpet as it restricts airflow. Overall, you shouldn’t have to worry as much about a mini-fridge as you do a normal fridge catching on fire.
That being said, not all fridges are made the same.
Whether they’re mini or not, you mainly want to look out for what the back is made out of. That will tell you if your fridge is likely to catch on fire.
If you have a metal backing, your fridge is very unlikely to catch on fire. Even with a metal backing, though, you do have the risk of your fridge overheating, and this can be a bit dangerous.
SAFETY TIP: Never block the interior or exterior ventilation openings of your fridge-freezer – this could cause it to overheat pic.twitter.com/7KrUTqCzwp
— Electrical Safety First (@ElecSafetyFirst) July 3, 2017
Is a hot fridge dangerous?
A warm fridge is not dangerous, but a hot fridge is. Not only do you have to worry about a fire starting, but it is also very possible that a refrigerator could explode due to the trapped gasses in the refrigerant system.
As mentioned above, a fridge has exhaust vents at its bottom that usually contain the fridge’s compressor. This is generally located at the back of the fridge, and it contains the motor and the pump.
These two things push the gas refrigerant through the compressed coils. These are the coils that make your fridge feel warm on the outside and cold on the inside.
However, when the fridge gets hot as the refrigerant moves, it causes the coils to contract. As you can imagine, that’s not exactly the best thing when it comes to moving gas and liquids.
When this happens, the gas gets trapped and causes pressure inside the coil due to improper ventilation, and this causes an explosion.
The explosion usually leads to a fire and so on.
You may think a little explosion isn’t bad but think about this. That explosion can cause cracks in your ceiling and break your windows on top of starting a fire!
Yes, your fridge being hot can be very dangerous. This can be avoided by keeping up with maintenance on your fridge.
Remember, while it’s not likely for your fridge to explode, there is a possibility, and while it’s not dangerous at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t be the most dangerous appliance in the case of a fire.
Need a home maintenance idea while you’re at home? Try vacuuming your refrigerator coils. The dust can cause the fridge to overheat and eventually stop working. On another note, what a cute fridge! pic.twitter.com/SodwmKKL2B
— Jeannie Stace (@StaceJeannie) May 30, 2020
Can a refrigerator cause a fire?
A refrigerator can cause a fire. However, when an appliance is the cause of a fire, it is only the refrigerator about 7% of the time. So refrigerator fires, while possible, are uncommon.
And anything that uses electricity is a possible fire hazard. However, it is not a common cause of house fires.
While you can’t simply turn off your fridge, you can take some steps to make sure your fridge is less likely to cause a fire.
Keep regular maintenance on your fridge and even consider getting a new one if you find anything that may be a problem with your fridge, better safe than sorry.
Your fridge can cause a fire by exploding, or it can add to a fire when the backing is caught on fire. Usually, a fire from a refrigerator isn’t due to human error, and if it is, it could have been prevented with maintenance.
Most of the time, though, these things happen out of the blue.
There have been cases of people getting a fridge, and it was only a year old before it exploded or caught on fire. However, it’s not normal for this to happen, and most people will never experience a fire caused by a refrigerator.
Here are some helpful tips to keep you and your family safe in case of a house fire.
- Keep all exits and escape routes clear for easy access.
- Make sure to test your fire alarms regularly.
- Regularly check your appliances for wear and tear, and make sure they are clean.
- Keep any appliance that can be unplugged after use unplugged, such as a toaster, mixer, blender, etc.
- If you suspect any problems with any appliance, immediately unplug and stop use.
- Keep an eye on manufacturers recalls
- Always have a fire escape route planned and practice it at least a few months out of the year. This will help your children and your pets in case of an emergency.
While you can’t unplug a fridge, there are plenty of other appliances you can unplug to keep your home safer.
Try to unplug your toaster after each use. You can even unplug your coffee maker or that blender you use in the morning.
But in a brand new house, you may not have many appliances yet.
I have a recent article that talks about small appliances you should own in your first house. Go through this list and if you have one, think about whether you can unplug it or not.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
•Regularly clean refrigerator coils
The coils are what your fridge uses to cool down, so if they are insulated, the fridge will have to work harder to get colder, or overheat. The best way to clean the coils is with a vacuum cleaner or coil brush. pic.twitter.com/2o6DqCmWTx
— everydayhousing (@everydayhousing) September 10, 2019
What appliances cause the most fires?
The most-common home appliances known to start fires include:
- Washing machine
But we’ll explore a few of these in greater detail below. It’s no secret that the appliances in our homes can cause fires.
Most house fires tend to start somewhere in the kitchen, usually due to old appliances or simply not paying attention to the appliance in use.
While the fridge is one appliance you should be wary of, a few other appliances should be on your list to keep an eye on. These appliances tend to cause the most fires in the kitchen.
Washing Machine – It’s easy to overlook the washing machine as a possible fire starter. After all, the only heat is the warm water from your hot water heater, and it’s . . . well, full of water! But washers are actually the #1 home appliance known to cause fires!
Fires are most likely going to be from faulty circuit boards or a worn or frayed power cord. Because these fires won’t originate in the drum inside the washer, the fire is likely to spread to the surrounding areas rather than moving towards a water source.
Dryer – The dryer seems more obvious than a washer. After all, it gets hot and may use either electricity or gas to heat up. And then there’s the lint trap and dryer vent, both of which can get clogged with flammable material.
So make sure and clean the lint tray after every use. Then clean your dryer vent once a year minimally. You’ll also know when it’s time to clean those vents when loads start taking much longer to dry than normal.
Stove – At the top of our list is the stovetop. This is pretty obvious with an open heat source that there may be issues with fires. Stovetops are the most dangerous when left unattended and still in use.
Dishwasher – The dishwasher is probably the last place one might think a fire would start. After all, it runs on water, but it can have faulty wires and parts like the fridge.
The primary source for fires to start with a dishwasher is when it’s on a heating cycle. This heating element gets wet, heats up, and cools down every time you use it. It’s recommended not to turn on your dishwasher when you leave the house.
Toaster – This appliance is commonly known for being a fire starter with its open heat source. However, with proper care, it’s unlikely that your toaster will catch on fire. For safety precautions, you should always unplug your toaster after every use.
Fridge – While evident from this article, it might not be the first appliance you think of when it comes to kitchen fires.
This appliance tends to start fires more so from lack of maintenance and old parts than it does from human error. While these may last for years on end, it’s good to get your fridge replaced if it’s fifteen years old. You should consider maintenance on it if it’s older than eight years.
While it may be easy to forget that our appliances need a little TLC, too, it’s essential to keep up with regular maintenance.
Think of it this way; you’re probably more willing to replace your old coffee pot than you are your fridge, right? But what if buying a new fridge meant you saved money because your entire house didn’t burn up in flames.
Putting the money into keeping your home and the people in it safe is better than having to pay for a funeral and a new home.
Do refrigerators burn in a fire?
Refrigerators can burn in a fire, but they burn much slower than other appliances and would require direct flames and high heat for an extended time before they would melt or fall apart.
So while the rest of the kitchen may be destroyed after a fire, the refrigerator is likely to still be standing relatively intact.
What happens to a fridge in a fire?
In a fire, a refrigerator, while relatively fire-resistant compared to other appliances, could start to melt or break down in high heat.
Once the components begin to melt, it is also possible that toxic gasses could be given off from the refrigerant used in the appliance.
But if the fire was caused by the refrigerator, the process would be greatly accelerated. The capacitor in the refrigerator, which stores electricity, is often the cause.
And while more modern refrigerators tend to be largely made of metal, older ones may still have a lot of plastic which is both flammable and can give off toxic gasses as it melts.
We went over the reason behind fires starting with a fridge, other appliances to look out for, and how you can prevent a fire or explosion from happening in your home.
It’s not often that you’ll hear about a fridge starting a house fire, but it can happen.
While your fridge might not be fireproof, there are ways to prevent your fridge from being the reason for a fire. Metal backings on your fridge can be a lifesaver, and keep up with the maintenance on your fridge can help it live a couple more years.
Remember to make an escape route in your home in case of a fire. This can be the difference between everyone getting out of the house or not.
Also, it might not occur to you, but if you have a brand new refrigerator, you can’t necessarily just load it up the moment you unbox it and plug it on!
Check out my recent article to dive deep into how long to wait, and whether you should load it full or just with a few things to start. Just click that link to read it on my site.
Stay safe, and enjoy cooking!