Can A Filter Cause a Refrigerator to Stop Cooling?

Can A Filter Cause a Refrigerator to Stop Cooling?

Having a refrigerator stop cooling can be a real problem. With limited time to diagnose and resolve the issue before the contents warm up to room temperature, it’s only natural to want a quick and easy answer to any possible cause of the problem. One of the causes you may consider is the water filter — but can a water filter cause a refrigerator to stop cooling?

A water filter will not cause a refrigerator to stop cooling. There are many possible causes of cooling problems in a refrigerator, but as the water filter does not interact with the cooling system, it should not have any impact on the cooling functionality of a refrigerator.

A slowly warming refrigerator can be a stressful situation to be in, and so if a water filter doesn’t typically cause a refrigerator to stop cooling, then what does? And can we be sure that the water filter definitely isn’t involved? Keep reading to discover more about these questions and much more.

Read my ultimate guide on refrigerator filters.

Why Does a Refrigerator Stop Cooling?

There are many possible causes of a refrigerator that has stopped cooling. In order to understand why this can happen, it’s worth taking a look at how the refrigerator normally functions so that we can see how this process might break down.

There are three main functional areas to consider:

  • The thermostat
  • The compressor
  • The condenser coils

The single point of control for a refrigerator is the thermostat. It allows the owner to set the temperature of the internal compartments of the refrigerator to a temperature of their choice. The FDA recommends that refrigerator temperatures be set to less than 40 degrees, although the choice might depend on the amount and types of food being added.

The thermostat, in turn, controls the main functional component of a refrigerator — the compressor. The compressor’s job is to control the pressure of a special substance called a refrigerant. A refrigerant is a special type of fluid which are well accustomed to heat transfer through the changing of its pressure levels.

The typical approach is:

  • The refrigerant at high pressure is good at radiating heat
  • The refrigerant at low pressure is good at absorbing heat

Based on the thermostat settings, the compressor will increase the pressure of the refrigerant — turning it into a hot liquid. This then passes through high surface area condenser coils in order to radiate as much heat away from the appliance as possible.

Once this is done, the pressure of the refrigerant is reduced, and it turns back into a gas to travel through the evaporator coils, which absorb heat inside the refrigerator to transport it outside. This process is repeated until the correct temperature is reached and then checked regularly to keep it that way.

With that in mind, what causes a refrigerator to stop cooling? There are a few common reasons:

  • Thermostat set incorrectly
  • The refrigerator is not connected to a power source
  • The condenser coils are dirty
  • The appliance is faulty

If either the thermostat is set incorrectly or the refrigerator is not connected to the power source, both problems are easy to rectify.

If the condenser coils are dirty, it can mean that they are not able to effectively radiate heat, and so the refrigerator can be unable to cool. If this is the case, the appliance should be powered off before giving them a thorough clean — being especially careful to remove any large pieces of dust that may have been collected over time.

If none of the above solves the issue, then, unfortunately, it may be a fault in the appliance, which could be anywhere from the thermostat to the condenser motor and likely require expert assistance.

How Can We Be Sure That a Water Filter Doesn’t Impact Cooling?

We can see from the description above of how the cooling system of a refrigerator works that the water filter does not have a role. This is because the water-cooling and ice-making features that many modern refrigerators offer do not assist with the cooling at all; they merely utilize the cooling in order to provide additional functionality to users.

You can test this in a working refrigerator by removing the filter temporarily. You will see that while the chilled water and ice-making features will no longer work without the connected water being able to travel into the refrigerator, the normal cooling functionality of the main cabinet will be unaffected.

One of the main reasons why water filters are sometimes considered is that some refrigerator owners may (over-cautiously) power down their refrigerator to replace the water filter; however, this is not required and can be resolved by reconnecting the unit.

Curious about your refrigerator filter and whether it expires? Read my article.

How Do You Know if Your Refrigerator Compressor Is Bad?

One other way of diagnosing an issue with a refrigerator not cooling is by assessing other symptoms you may be experiencing. One common internal fault is the compressor failing, and while replacing a compressor is not an easy job and will likely require a professional repair (or a complete replacement of the refrigerator), it may at least put your mind at ease to be able to diagnose it.

Three more obvious signs of compressor issues are:

  • Frequently cycling (turning on and off)
  • Loud noises
  • High electricity bills

When a compressor runs normally, it should turn on and off relatively infrequently. It takes a while to run a complete cycle of pushing around refrigerant and changing its pressure, and so one obvious sign of an issue is the audible click of the compressor starting or stopping in quick succession.

Another obvious sign is a loud noise when running the appliance. Refrigerators are designed to be relatively quiet when running and so while you should be able to hear a gentle humming sound as the compressor works, it should not be louder than that.

Finally, another giveaway of a compressor problem is an increase in electricity bills. Unfortunately, refrigerators are not the cheapest appliance to run, and so if a compressor is constantly switching on and off in a futile attempt to reduce the temperature of the main compartment, you may also see a rise in energy usage over that time period.


While water filters can certainly present issues in refrigerators from time to time, they are generally exclusively related to the water cooling and ice-making features. If you’re having issues with your refrigerator cooling, you can safely ignore your water filter and focus instead on checking the more likely culprits — the thermostat, power supply, and condenser.

Boch Richard

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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