If you spend a lot of time in your kitchen, or your home has an open floor plan, you may have noticed that your refrigerator occasionally makes a loud popping noise. But should you be worried about that? Surely, that kind of knocking sound doesn’t signify anything good.
Well, you’ll be pleased to learn that there’s a perfectly sensible explanation for this occurrence. In fact, your fridge is capable of making a range of seemingly concerning sounds during normal operation. So before you go looking for outliers, you might want to familiarize yourself with the way your fridge works and the sounds it usually makes.
What Sounds Should You Expect to Hear From Your Fridge?
To understand the range of sounds a refrigerator can produce, you’ll have to know how it operates. As we go through explaining each step of the process, we’ll also note the type of noise the fridge might produce.
To begin with, we have the compressor, which is located at the bottom of the back side of the fridge. That part is the motorized heart of the fridge, as its main purpose is to pump refrigerant through the condenser coils. During regular operation, the compressor is responsible for the occasional vibrations coming from your fridge. People usually interpret those as buzzing or humming sounds.
However, in a functional fridge, you shouldn’t be hearing those sounds all the time. After all, the compressor only starts the cooling process when prompted by the internal thermometer of the fridge. So if those vibrations are consistent, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong with the compressor — or the thermometer.
In any case, the compressor reduces the temperature of the refrigerant and pushes it into the fridge under pressure, causing the liquid to turn into gas. As their name suggests, the condenser coils enable the reverse process to take place. By releasing the heat from the spent refrigerant into the air, the gas liquefies once again.
As the refrigerant changes between liquid and gas states, you may hear hissing and gurgling coming from the back of the fridge. Additionally, you’ll also hear the occasional whirring of the condenser and evaporator fans. But with all that being said, how do popping sounds fit into this symphony of fridge noises?
Is It Normal for a Fridge to Make Popping Sounds?
The snapping and popping sounds you might have heard coming from your refrigerator can be explained in several ways. Most of the time, the noise is a result of the thermal expansion inside the freezer compartment of the fridge. That’s especially common in models that have automatic defrosting features.
As the temperatures rise to prevent the frost from affecting the functionality of the evaporator coil and fan, the inner walls of the freezer may expand. Conversely, when the compressor kicks in to lower the temperature once again, the walls contract. The molecular changes the plastic and aluminum parts go through are probably behind the popping sound you’ve been hearing. Simply put, the pressure builds until there’s a release — and that’s where the noise comes from.
For what it’s worth, fridges usually make more of this kind of noise when you first set them up. As the materials become used to the temperature fluctuation, the popping sounds should subside. Alternatively, you could always get one of those old-fashioned fridge-and-freezer hybrids that require you to manually defrost the interior every once in a while.
In any case, thermal expansion isn’t the only possible explanation for the popping sound. Several other things might be causing the noise you’ve been hearing. Namely, the sound could be coming from the ice maker or even the water inlet valve that delivers water to it.
If you have an ice maker inside the freezer section, the device could be pretty loud while delivering the ice. In that case, you could just turn that feature off when you have enough ice. Alternatively, if the popping sound isn’t coming from inside the fridge, you could check the water inlet valve in the back of the appliance.
Can I Stop My Fridge From Making Loud Popping Sounds?
As we have established, most of the things that could be causing the popping noise you’re hearing are fairly benign. Generally, the sound seems to be a byproduct of the defrosting cycle. So if you wanted to eliminate it, you’d have to do so at the expense of that feature.
Similarly, if you discover that the popping sounds were coming from the ice maker and you wanted to get rid of them, you’d have to disable that feature. That should be easy enough as most freezers with that option have a simple off switch right on the ice maker box.
You just have to figure out if you can live without that convenience. Of course, disabling the built-in ice maker may not be that big of a sacrifice if you got a separate appliance that’s capable of producing ice quietly.
Other solutions may include ditching the fridge you have now or at least moving it to another room. If that’s not an option, you can try putting the whole thing in an insulated soundproof box. As long as you keep the coils exposed and well-ventilated, you won’t compromise the functionality of the fridge.
Still, it’s always better to deal with these things head-on. With that in mind, you could also try to make the fridge quieter by cleaning any of its moving parts.
A good scrub could resolve an issue that may cause continuous knocking or popping sounds. Namely, if you clean the condenser fan and the motor it’s attached to, you should be able to remove any obstructions that might get in the way of their standard function. But as we have established, those aren’t the only things that could be behind the noise you keep hearing.
Troubleshooting the Water Supply
Obviously, not all refrigerators need to be hooked up to a water line. But if yours has a built-in ice maker or even a water dispenser, it will need a steady supply of water to work with. If these kinds of appliances don’t have that, they’ll just struggle to deliver water that just isn’t there. Needless to say, that could produce a wide range of weird noises — most notably hissing or buzzing sounds.
So that’s why you’ll want to keep your fridge hooked up to a water line. Otherwise, you should at least disable the features that require water so they’re not running on empty. Of course, once you have a hose connected to the fridge, you might hear the occasional popping sound.
If the noise is coming from the back of the refrigerator, check the water inlet valve. Sometimes, they open more violently than usual, and you get that strange snapping sound. Even if it sounds like a backfiring car, don’t be alarmed. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, there’s no need to panic.
If the sound is recurring or accompanied by hissing and buzzing it may be a sign of a larger issue. Namely, the hard water from your pipes might have caused an accumulation of mineral deposits inside the valve. If that’s the case, you may even notice reduced performance of the water features. So the sounds would effectively be the result of a system that’s struggling to work without sufficient resources.
But don’t bother trying to flush the existing valve. Just get a new one — the old one would never be the same after you attempt cleaning it.
Remember — There’s No Shame in Calling in the Cavalry
Ultimately, if you can’t get to the bottom of the popping sound on your own and you become concerned for your safety, you should just call in the technician. After all, popping sounds could also be caused by faulty evaporator coils that are stuck in the cooling cycle. Needless to say, that’s not something you’ll be able to replace without proper training.
And hey, if you’re sick of having to put up with that kind of noise, you can always just get a quieter fridge. To avoid popping sounds specifically, you should stick to models that don’t have a defrosting feature. Alternatively, you could even opt out of having a freezer section. That should put an end to startling noises if nothing else.