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Fridge Is Saying It Needs New Fan Motor


Question: My Sears Coldspot frost-free refrigerator-freezer whistles, wheezes and hisses. Sometimes it sounds almost alive. What do these strange sounds indicate? Is the refrigerator about to break down?

Answer: Your refrigerator's strange noises are probably coming from the evaporator fan motor on the back wall of the freezer compartment. Usually before the evaporator's motor bearings give out, they will make chirping sounds. As the bearings continue to wear, the motor will produce strange noises similar to the ones you describe. Usually this means the fan motor is about due for replacement. A new fan motor kit can be purchased from any Sears parts store. Your local appliance center may also have a fan motor that would fit.


Q: What is the reason for the warning about using specific maximum wattage (such as 60-watt) bulbs in lamps and fixtures?

A: The reason is to minimize the chance of heat buildup and fire that can result from a higher wattage bulb in that fixture. Recessed and flush-mounted ceiling fixtures are especially at risk from this problem because there is no circulation around the fixture to cool the bulb. Some installations use a cover that traps heat from the bulb. Additionally, the bulb lies flat against the metal base, which in many cases is attached to acoustic tile.


Q: We live in a drought area and I'm concerned about the amount of water wasted while running the tap to get hot water in my bathroom. My water heater is at one end of my home and my bathroom is at the other end. In order to get hot water through the faucets, at least 80 feet of cold water has to come out of the hot-water line. Is it possible to continue the hot-water line past the bathroom and then return it into the water heater? Will this save a lot of water?

A: The hot-water system that you have, like those in most residential systems, is a noncirculating type. It is generally installed because it costs less for labor and materials than a circulating hot-water system. Even though the noncirculating system is very common, it does have the disadvantage you describe.

You can convert your system to a circulating hot-water system by installing a return loop on the distribution line which runs from the last faucet to the hot-water heater. If the elevation difference between the hot-water heater and the faucets is greater than 5 feet, then the hot-water circulation can usually be achieved by gravity, the so-called thermosiphon system. This works because hot water rises, forcing the cooler water down.

If there is a long horizontal run in the pipes or if there is less than a 5-foot height difference between the boiler and the faucet, the thermosiphon system won't work and you'll need a pump to circulate the hot water.

This system, often used in hospitals where instant hot water is required, has the advantage of making it available at all fixtures as soon as you turn on the tap. Continuous circulation between the hot-water storage tank and the faucet does the job.

A circulating system will also save some water. Assuming you have a three-quarter-inch diameter water pipe between the water heater and the tap, the 80-foot pipe will hold about 1.8 gallons of water. This would be wasted while waiting for the hot water to come through.

A circulating system can be energy-inefficient, however, because you have to heat the water, which then cools down in the pipe when you do not use it. Insulating the pipes very thoroughly can help minimize this heat loss.

To submit a question, write to Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019.

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