How to transport a fridge safely + without damage

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Ian Davis explains how to transport a fridge, safely

How to transport a fridge you ask? Well, not all refrigerators are created equal – think double-door, bar, standard fridge/freezer combo’s, water/ice dispensers and enhanced eco features. However, when it comes to the question ‘How to transport a fridge’, they should all be treated equally i.e. with great care!

It matters not whether a fridge is two- or 20-years-old, there are some basic principles that apply, and it starts with what you can’t see.

“At the heart of every refrigerator is a compressor, and although somewhat of a tough piece of engineering, its operational effectiveness can be seriously or permanently damaged during handling or transportation,” explains Ian Davis.

“Today, the hermetically sealed compressor unit, located at the bottom of most refrigerators, combines the motor and compressor as one unit. The role of the device is to compress refrigerant fluid before sending it to the condenser coil at the back of the appliance, where it exchanges its heat with ambient air.

“When a compressor fails, the cost of replacement or repair can be expensive and such repair has, by law, to be undertaken by an accredited agent in terms of The Environmental Protection Agency Act, given that refrigerants can be dangerous to work with.”

How to transport a fridge: Protect the compressor!

“The motor/compressor is the main reason why a fridge needs to be stored, handled, used and transported in an upright position.”

In an ideal world, on the purchase of a new fridge, the original packaging should be put into storage but this introduces complications such as ensuring the carton remains free from exposure to elements that produce fungus.

“Unless you anticipate moving every two to three years, it’s unlikely that you either have the room or the foresight to hang onto, what is effective, a large otherwise unusable container.

“Collapsing the construction of such a board wrap carton can also be problematic during re-assembly sufficiently well enough to be as stable and protective as is required to protect a large, awkward or heavy fridge,” confirms Davis.

Most reputable brand manufacturers have quality control checks in place when transporting refrigerators to ensure the end product meets the desired protection quality standards during delivery, as well as in meeting insurance requirements, so the strength of the original packaging if preserved, can be reused.

If you wish to have fridge protected professionally but don’t have the original packaging, Davis advises that double-fluted (e.g. two single fluted boards) is preferable.

Single-walled cartons are those that generally collapse easily into flat packs, and will usually tear, puncture or break during transport of a fridge.

That is not to say however that you can’t use strips of cardboard on edges, fixed with masking tape, to ensure that should the fridge is bumped during removal, it is less likely to be scratched or damaged.

How to transport a fridge: Preparing the fridge for the move

Whether you are moving the fridge yourself or using a transport company, there are several responsibilities that the owner has, inclusive of ensuring a procedural checklist is followed by those doing the packaging and transport.

Follow these steps:

  • Unplug the fridge, wind up the cord and secure it to the rear of the appliance with masking tape.
  • Completely empty it of all foodstuffs, perishables, bottles, plastics and cartons.
  • Completely defrost the appliance at least 24 hours before the transporter arrives and ensure it is totally dry inside before being wrapped or packaged for transport. This includes the rubber seals located inside the fridge doors and the main body frame. If this step is skipped, moisture or dampness within the centre fold of the seals can manifest into fungus or mildew.
  • All fridge shelves should be removed if possible, and if frosted or clear glass, each one wrapped individually in a double wrap of plain white paper to prevent breakage or scratching. It is preferable to transport the shelves vertically next to each other for further protection and support. If the shelves cannot be removed, secure them with masking tape onto the securing points that they are resting or fixed upon.
  • If possible screw up the short support legs. In a team of two, one member needs to stand behind the fridge and by holding each side at the back, tilts it from the top slightly backwards. The other team member faces the front of the fridge holding it in place at the bottom. In this titled angle, identify where the screw-in legs have been supporting the front of the fridge and screw them upwards into the body.
  • One or two thick blankets (for smooth surfaces) or thick flat cardboard (for carpeted surfaces), followed by blankets on top, should be positioned beneath the feet before lowering the front of the fridge back into an upright position. Repeat this on the back side of the fridge.
  • If there is a chance of rain, and the fridge may be exposure during transportation, the plastic cover can be placed over the entire body and secured with tape.
How to transport a fridge: Equipment required 
  • Ideally a two- or four-wheeled trolley. A forklift would be a bonus. Alternatively, use the blanket/cardboard method mentioned above to slide the fridge across different surfaces.
  • Dependent on weight, at least two men but more if it so warrants and is feasible. Bear in mind that when moving the fridge from its current position to the vehicle for transportation, manoeuvrability must be considered especially as the appliance needs to be kept upright as much as possible. If steps are involved, safety is a prime consideration, not just for the fridge and the infrastructure surrounding it, but also the people who will need to lift it.
How to transport a fridge: Transport, the journey and arrival
  • The height of the deck floor of the vehicle configurations must be considered to determine the correct number of able people to lift the fridge. This generally requires one or two people in the vehicle as well as those lifting from the ground.
  • The best vehicles for the job are light delivery vans, pick-up’s (remove canopy if necessary), or rigid chassis vehicles with a covered furniture body.
  • Considerations for correct weight distribution are crucial if loading the fridge with other items. If the fridge is required immediately at the new destination, arrangements need to be made to load the fridge into an easily accessible position for access. A large/heavy well-protected fridge needs to be placed in the centre area of the vehicle and preferably over an axle to ensure the vehicle is weighted adequately, and that it is not a danger of moving once loaded. The rear axle area generally provides an ideal position to place a fridge.
  • Wrap-around webbing straps can be used to stabilise and secure the fridge to the vehicle.
  • The routeing should be pre-determined to ensure as smooth a journey as possible.
  • If travelling in wet weather, ensure the fridge is completely covered with plastic sheeting that has been secured to the fridge with tape.
  • On arrival at the destination, off-loading techniques should be the reverse of the loading and again the use of trolleys or blankets/cardboard will ensure any potential damage is minimal.
  • Older fridges should be left to stand for 30 minutes to ensure the oil inside the compressor settles properly, before switching it on. However, newer models use a liquid gas so can be plugged and switched on immediately.
How to transport a fridge: Mistakes to avoid

“Even the best laid plans can go awry.”

“A common mistake is forgetting to pack smaller items that have been dismantled and not taking notes or how to reassemble parts.

“Without being technical, every fridge comes with its own special peculiarities, it’s simply a matter of adjusting to the challenges and finding logical solutions.

“Walk the path through the home/office that the fridge will follow. Look at the floors, walls and infrastructure. Look at the height of the vehicle to be used and ensure you have enough manpower to lift the appliance onto it.

“While a fully operational, incident-free transport of a fridge may be the ideal, the health, safety and knowledge of those in trust to move it must also be a factor.”

Ian Davis

If there is a guru on transporting fridges in South Africa, then Ian Davis fulfils that role.

Although retired, he has been providing operational training for the Professional Mover’s Association (PMA) members and the furniture removal industry at large and is also known for his extensive corporate collaborations across southern Africa.

He, along with Ian Pettey, the current chairman of the PMA, was responsible for the development of the Packer, Porter, Loader (PPL) competition run by Stuttaford Van Lines, which continues to run successfully between host companies since its introduction in 1999.

Davis is also renowned for his work on improving, modifying and writing best practices in the moving industry, so when it comes to fridge transportation, his knowledge is not just well considered, but practical too.

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