How a Refrigerator Works



If you work up a sweat and then stand in front of a fan, your skin feels cooler instantly, because the moisture on your skin is evaporating. When a liquid evaporates, it absorbs heat, making you feel cooler. 


Refrigerators operate on the same basic principle: the absorption of heat from inside the refrigerator by evaporation. But your refrigerator doesn’t sweat, so what causes the cooling? It’s done by the evaporation of a substance called a refrigerant. 


Your refrigerator doesn’t have pores that release sweat, so the refrigerant must be carried throughout the refrigerator in a complete loop of tubes and coils, to be continuously reused. It also must be forced to evaporate and condense. This process is accomplished by creating suction and pressure.

The basic cooling components are as follows:

  • Refrigerant
  • Compressor
  • Condenser
  • Capillary tube
  • Evaporator

Here’s how the process works:

  1. The compressor acts as a sort of pump, drawing the refrigerant in gas form from the evaporator.  The compressor squeezes and heats this gas.

  2. The super-heated, pressurized refrigerant gas enters the condenser coil, located either under or behind the refrigerator. 

  3. As the refrigerant passes through the condenser, the heat it carries dissipates, causing the gas to cool and condense into a liquid. 

  4. The pressurized liquid refrigerant passes through a narrow tube called a capillary tube, which acts much like a nozzle on an aerosol can.  From the capillary tube, the refrigerant enters the evaporator as a vaporized gas—it evaporates and absorbs the heat inside the refrigerator.

  5.  The refrigerant is sucked back into the compressor, where the cycle begins again.