Not a new fridge but a dropped hot leg!
This evening, cleaning up, wife says from the other room, "Honey, the lights just got really dim!" Hmmm. Go to basement, no breakers tripped. Kill main, turn on again, no change. Go down line, killing breakers on same leg as dim lights until I find the one for the fridge. Kill it, and the lights brighten up again. Tried several times, same response. Fridge is single-outlet circuit, #12 wire.
Well, now, the fridge is probably 20 years old or more, a $50 front-porch special, but it is large and works well. I figure the compressor has siezed, and that's why it won't start. Look at ads for fridges. $500 minimum, plus tax! Ouch!
Clear the stuff from top of fridge, pull out from wall, in preparation for some troubleshooting. Hmmm, best check incoming line voltage first. 95 volts?! How can that be? Maybe something's up with transformer. Killed the hot-water tank (the only active 240V load.) Now there's 0V on line and all lights on that leg are dead!
Current must have been coming *through* the water-heater element, in series, from the good hot leg, onto the bad hot leg, then to neutral. Worked OK as long as lights were the only load, but when the fridge tried to start who knows how low the voltage dropped (I didn't check it, didn't want to subject the compressor windings to any more excess heat.)
Pulled panel cover, verified 116V on one hot leg, 0V on the other. Went outside looking for the problem, easy to spot, one of the service drop wires had come loose from the transformer.
Called it in to NYSEG, made sure to tell them "no worries, leave it go for tomorrow if you want, there's no need to come out tonight"...lineman came about 40 minutes ago (couldn't have been an hour between calling it in and him showing up!), fixed it in 15 minutes or less. Either they were right nearby, or wanted to get it out of the way in case of more pressing things tomorrow.
Long story short--just because there's not 0V doesn't mean you have both hot legs! Thank goodness we were home, I wonder if the fridge compressor would have been toasted if it remained stalled; interesting to note that neither the internal overload on fridge nor the circuit breaker tripped.