Chemical odor inside fridge


Old 02-14-04, 06:46 AM
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Question Chemical odor inside fridge

A couple of days ago I noticed a foul odor inside my refrigerator. Before anyone replies, yes, I did clean it out and this odor smells chemical in nature. Is it likely that the refrigerant is leaking inside the fridge (there are no visible leaks) in gas form since after it passes through the expansion valve, the refrigerant expands and evaporates to a gas? And, if this were to be the case, it is non-toxic?
Also, I smelled an odor similar to gas(methane) behind the fridge last night, so I unplugged it! LOL!
I have an electric Kenmore refrigerator/freezer. The food smells so bad that I bought a compact fridge until this one is fixed (or scrapped?) Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-14-04, 07:13 AM
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Hello: Decemberrain

The odor may not be from the refrigerator but rather from an area around it or beneath it. Since the odor smells like gas or methane, is there a raised floor beneath the refrigerator?

If so, inspect that area. If the house is on a concrete slab, is the odor noticeable in any other area nearby? If so, it may be a gas leak or methane. Especially if the neighborhood is built on or near a land fill or oil field.

If such is the case, the smell of sulfur may be the odor. In that case, contact the local city office, the local natural gas company, etc.

Such odors occur in many areas and parts of the country. There are both public and private agencies that deal with such matters and in public safety issues.

The condition may be or could be hazardous, if the odor is really methane. Whether it is naturally occuring or as a result of prior land usages.

Another possibility is a dead animal. Pest control companies can help deal with those issues.
Old 02-14-04, 11:40 AM
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Dear Sharp Advice,

Thanks for your prompt reply.

I believe I solved the methane problem. It was in the air outside the building and has dissipated. However, the chemical odor inside the fridge is still there. I did some research on how refrigerators work and my guess is that there is a gas leak inside the fridge as I previously posted (gas meaning refrigerant in a gaseous state after it passes through the expansion valve in the coils, loses the high pressure, and changes from a liquid to a gas. This is what causes the fridge to cool since the vaporization of the refrigerant causes it to become extremely cold. The gas is sucked up by the compressor and changed back to a liquid and the whole cycle repeats itself again. So I don't think I'm going to fix this one myself.

I also read that CFC-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane) is not toxic to humans. Interesting that it is a molecule containing a form of methane. I had to discard all unprotected food inside as the odor was so strong I would not take any chances.

Once again, thanks for the reply.
Old 02-14-04, 11:56 AM
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Actually, that CFC-12 I referred to is called R-12 (Refrigerant-12).
I'm not exactly sure which refrigerant is being used in the fridge that I have (R12, R22, and R134a) since I didn't buy it. It's at least 5 or 6 years old so I'd guess that it's R22. Right now, I'm trying to find out if these refrigerants have a specific odor to them since I read that freon is odorless and tasteless. I think the manufacturer puts an additive into the freon so it can be smelled if it should leak. I don't know if they are using R134a in refrigerators at this time. Still researching.....

Looks like as of 2001, newly manufactured refrigerators use R134a.

Last edited by Decemberrain; 02-14-04 at 02:03 PM.
Old 02-17-04, 08:09 AM
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The chemical odor inside the fridge turnned out to be wet insulation. This was told to me by a repairman sent by the landlord. Could have been caused by water or R134a. He was unsure of the nature of the leak which caused the insulation odor and was unable to repair it.
This odor permeated my food and I had to discard all of it. Since it wasn't repairable according to the technician, I am asking for a new fridge at this point.
Wish me luck.

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