Why Is the Water From My Fridge Not Cold?

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If the water from your refrigerator isn't cold, it doesn't mean the fridge is broken. It may have to do with where it stores the water.

You’re doling out glasses of water from the refrigerator door to your kids and their friends after an exhausting backyard kickball game. The one kid says their water is warm. What gives?

Your first instinct may be that your refrigerator’s water dispenser is broken. That’s probably not the case, says Bob Tuck, franchise owner of Mr. Appliance of Port Charlotte, Naples, Lee County and Asheville, North Carolina, a Neighborly company. The water temperature is more a function of the fridge design, not the dispenser.

Why Is My Refrigerator Water Sometimes Warm, Sometimes Cold?

Today’s refrigerators no longer store water in a reservoir at the bottom of the fridge near the crisper drawers. Instead, tubing runs through and around the fridge.

“Most new fridges have a coiled up section of tubing behind the crispers that’s zip-tied together and clamped to the back wall and then it’s just a constant flow of water,” Tuck says. “So what you have there is a transfer of heat through the tubing. So the reason we’re seeing a bigger concern with this today is because you have less water being stored at the same temperature as the fridge.”

Tuck says about 75 percent of his refrigerator service calls are for fridges with tubing instead of a storage reservoir. Often, he’ll measure the temperature of the tap water and the fridge water to show customers that technically, the water coming from the fridge is cooled by comparison.

But it’s never going to be bone-chilling cold. That’s because the tube in most models connected to the water source runs up the back of the fridge to the water filter, then down along the back to the coiled-up tubing that serves as a storage tank of sorts. From there, it travels up to the dispenser in the door. That exposes the water to the hotter parts of the refrigerator.

Because the water is constantly flowing through the tubes instead of sitting and chilling in a reservoir, your fridge dispenser water may never be as cold as you’d hoped. “Most people tolerate and accept it once they know it’s working properly,” Tuck says.

Here are some things you can do to ensure your refrigerator gives you the best glass of water possible.

  • Keep a small glass handy to fill with the first four ounces or so, then fill your drinking glass. Tuck says he’s seen customers use this trick to flush out the warmer water and get to the cooler water.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is full but not overcrowded. The fewer items in your fridge, the harder your fridge has to work to maintain a cool temperature (usually between 34 and 38 F on newer models). If your fridge looks barren, add some jugs of water to give it more mass.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes between water fill-ups. If you’ve just filled a big glass or pitcher, let the water in the coiled tubing cool off before going for a refill.

Why Is My Refrigerator Water is Always Warm?

If you own an older refrigerator, the water storage reservoir may be frozen. This requires a service call. A frozen reservoir usually becomes a cracked reservoir when the ice expands. Tuck says replacing a cracked reservoir usually starts at about $300.

If water is coming out warm from a newer fridge without a reservoir, Tuck says it could be one of two things: Either the coiled tubes don’t store enough water in the cold part of the fridge, or — and this is rare — the water dispenser was accidentally connected to the hot water supply. Fortunately, Tuck says, “I have never in my career seen a fridge not getting some level of cooler water into the glass.”

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Veronica Graham
Veronica Graham is a freelance writer in Arlington, Mass. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and SheKnows. She's covered health, politics, high school football and everything in between. Graham enjoys learning about the world through a variety of lenses as a reporter.