There’s no two ways about it, moving a fridge or fridge freezer is hard work, especially if you’re moving it yourself rather than using professional removers. Yet the simple act of laying the refrigerator on its side or back to move it could be causing critical and expensive damage.
Most manufacturers recommend you store and transport a refrigerator in an upright position rather than laying it down on its side. When you lie a fridge on its side, oil leaves the compressor, which can cause damage if the refrigerator is turned on before this is corrected. The risk is higher for older refrigerators because the oil will have more particles in that could cause damage.
So, why is it so bad to lie your refrigerator down? What do the manufacturers say about it? And what should you do if you absolutely must lie your fridge down? Read on to find out more!
What’s Wrong With Lying a Refrigerator on its Back or Side?
So why do manufacturers recommend that fridges remain upright? Well, it turns out there are quite a few reasons:
- When a refrigerator is laid down, oil that lives in the compressor can flow into the coolant lines and they can get clogged.
- Refrigerators rely on compressors to move refrigerant through the system. The oil in these compressors act as a lubricant, and are critical to ensure they work correctly right. If the compressor is turned on without enough oil inside it can seize up – just like a car engine that hasn’t had its oil topped up.
- A refrigerator laying on its back is at the greatest risk of damage because this area houses the most fragile parts. Move a refrigerator immediately if it is ever on its back – being on its side is almost always preferable.
- If oil gets into the parts of the compressor where the refrigerant should be, the compressor will attempt to compress it. This will likely break the compressor, because oil does not compress.
- Refrigerators are designed to transported standing upright. This means they are built to withstand any bumps that may occur during transportation while upright – but turning them on their side makes these bumps affect them on a different axis where they may not be as strong. Basically, they’re more likely to break!
- Over time, small bits of dust and dirt get into the oil (mainly through wear and tear of the compressor). For older refrigerators, there is a greater risk of the oil causing damage when it gets into the compressor line or cooling line.
What Do Fridge Manufacturers Say About Keeping a Refrigerator in an Upright Position?
Many refrigerator manufacturers provide little general information about whether you it is safe to move a fridge in any position other than upright.
The one company we could find with general information was GE Appliances, who state that it is best to keep the refrigerator upright to minimize damage to the sealed system. In particular, they say that French-door, bottom-freezer, built-in models, and compact models must always be stored and moved in an upright position. Top-freezer models can be laid down if absolutely necessary, in which case they should be laid down on the side opposite the hinges, and side-by-side models should be laid down on the freezer side (source: GE refrigerator moving instructions).
If your manufacturer does not provide specific written instructions and you are unsure, we suggest you either contact them or keep the fridge upright (better safe than sorry).
What Should I Do If I Have to Lie My Fridge Down?
If you do have to lie your fridge down, follow these guidelines:
- Most importantly, leave the refrigerator unplugged and standing for at least as long as it was lying down. This allows the oil to flow back out of the cooling lines to where it should be. So if you leave it lying down for more than a day, you’ll want to leave it standing up but turned off for a similar amount of time. We recommend even if it is on its side for just a few minutes, you leave it standing for at least two hours before starting it up.
- Check your manual, some manufacturers give guidance on how to lie your fridge down. Depending on how the compressor lines are situated, one side may be preferable to the other. The best way is so that the compressor tube is standing upright so that the compressor lines are going up. Consult your manual or ask your manufacturer if you are unsure.
- Never lie a refrigerator down on its back, not even for just a few minutes. Unless your user manual says otherwise, lying a fridge on its side is always preferable.
- If you can’t keep it stood upright, at least try to lie it so that the top end is higher than the bottom. This will prevent oil moving out of the compressor.
- Lay the refrigerator on its side gently and use a blanket covering (or something else soft) to cushion any bumps that may happen.
- Return the refrigerator to a standing position as soon as possible.
The Best Way to Move a Fridge in a Vertical Position
The safest method to move a fridge is to use a technique that enables it to remain upright. Lifting the fridge manually in this position is extremely difficult, so we recommend you use a hand truck to move it. If you’re transporting it any distance, the best way to do that is with a moving truck with a lift gate so that you don’t need to tilt the refrigerator on its side at all.
Before you move it, you should remove all the food and either remove or secure loose items such as the ice storage bucket, ice trays, glass shelves, and storage pans. Don’t forget to check it is unplugged from the wall outlet and keep the doors shut and properly secured and so they can’t swing open (you may wish to tie them shut).
How long can a refrigerator lay on its back?
Do not lie your refrigerator on its back for any length of time. The most fragile components, such as the compressor, are at the back, and putting weight on them could cause damage. Transport your refrigerator standing up if possible, or on its side if you have to.
What happens if you don’t let a fridge settle?
Letting a fridge settle allows any oil that has come out of the compressor to return to its correct position. Failure to do this could cause the cooling lines to clog or cause damage to the compressor (either through lack of oil, or oil in the wrong place).
How do you transport a refrigerator in a pickup truck?
Load the refrigerator upright using a dolly and place it upright against the cab wall. Use ratchet straps to anchor it securely and ensure it cannot move when driving. Do not lie the refrigerator down because this can damage it.