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Rear spacers Rear spacers


  • Failure mode Placement too near to a wall or other unit can lead to poor heat dissipation, compressor overload and poor cooling or failure.
  • Durability feature Addition of built-in spacers at the rear will ensure better ventilation and longer compressor life.
  • Cost

Good practices

  • Good practicesClear instructions on location and spacing
  • Good practices Built-in spacers at back of fridge
  • Good practices Fridge heat exchange radiator recessed / covered

Bad practices

  • Bad practicesNo clear instructions on location and spacing for effective ventilation
  • Bad practices No spacers or optional spacers provided

Key facts

  • Which? Consumer surveys indicate some of the most common faults relate to bad smells, mould and leaks. 
  • Around 1 in 3 of all fridges replaced in the UK each year failed to meet customer’s expectation for an 8 year product lifetime. 
  • Which? surveys show that the most common faults are build-up of ice, blocked drain and flooding in unit.

Icon key

  • Failure mode Failure mode
  • Durability features Durability features
  • Cost saving Cost saving
  • Low cost Low cost
  • Cost neutral Cost neutral
  • High cost High cost

Key Failure Modes

Early failure

  • The heat exchange radiator (a black panel of tubing at the back of the fridge) is vulnerable to damage when the product is moved which can cause a refrigerant gas leak.
  • When the unit has been placed too close to a wall or surrounding kitchen units, reducing air flow and preventing adequate cooling, the compressor will struggle to maintain the required temperature and may quickly fail.  

Later failure

  • Occasional high ambient temperature in a room or very frequent opening of the fridge-freezer can also cause the unit to struggle to maintain the necessary temperature and for the compressor to fail.
  • See the WRAP report on effective use of fridge freezers http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/impact-using-your-fridge-and-freezer-more-effectively

Specification for improved performance

The specification below provides the recommended improvements needed to improve product durability. They are ranked from bronze to gold based on the effectiveness of the change in improving durability, with bronze being the minimum and gold being the maximum.

Built-in spacers to ensure good ventilation

  • Spacers to be built-in/pre-fitted to the rear case of the machine (along the edges) to a) ensure the recommended spacing away from an adjacent wall/kitchen unit and b) protect the heat exchange radiator should the machine be lay flat without protective transit packaging.
  • These spacers should not restrict airflow to any significant degree (e.g. cross flow around the rear edges of the unit).
  • Models intended for built-in use to be specified/designed so as to allow adequate ventilation when enclosed within kitchen units.
  • Quality control procedures to be in place and documented for spacers and rear structure of machine including heat exchange radiator.

Spacer strength to support and protect the heat exchanger

  • Spacers, or back of fridge structure if the cooling area is recessed, to be able to withstand the static weight of the empty fridge freezer (laid on its back) without damage.

Recessed/covered heat exchange radiator/cooling panel

  • Where modern compressors and cooling circuits are used (e.g. linear compressor with brushless motors), the heat exchange radiator at the rear of the fridge can be recessed and covered with a steel plate.

Testing to demonstrate performance

Examine the rear structure of machine to look for spacers and to see if the heat exchange radiator looks well made and without any signs of weakness.

Ask for clear evidence of meeting the requirements listed above to be provided, e.g.:

  • technical specifications, drawings, photographs
  • test data, quality control data  

Cost implications

Improved reliability of components can reduce early returns and improve brand reputation which, in turn, can lower business costs and increase long-term sales.

To calculate overall cost savings for your business, use the WRAP cost/benefit analysis tool (currently in draft form and available on request).



Small plastic spacers, or larger strips, can be injection moulded into the fridge. These will reduce chance of damage to the heat exchanger and ensure increased airflow, putting less load on the compressor.

Inspection procedures
Simple inspection procedures will help to identify manufacturing faults and component issues, reduce failure rates and customer returns.

Low cost

Stronger spacer strips or recessed cooling radiator

For the heat exchange radiator to be effectively recessed in the back of the unit a significant change to the fridge freezer case or the addition of long strip mouldings either side is needed.

This change will help to reduce the occurrence of damage to the cooling circuit components. Modern units often have the recessed heat exchange radiator covered with a steel plate to achieve this.

High cost