Appliances: Installing An Icemaker
When we were kids, the only way to get ice to chill a beverage was to buy it by the block or fill ice trays and wait for them to freeze. The oldest ice trays that we can remember were made of aluminum and had a nifty insert with a retractable handle that would disperse the ice. It made the task of dispensing the ice for the evening meal kind of fun. Later, the aluminum trays were replaced with plastic trays. Gone was the retractable handle. All one had to do was twist the tray and the cubes came popping out. This remains the most popular “non-automated” means of producing ice.
Like many American families, our family purchased our first refrigerator with a built-in icemaker in the early 1970’s. Wow, no more trays to fill (and spill along the way). All one had to do was open the refrigerator door and pull out the ice bin. How did we ever live without an automatic icemaker?
Some years later, major appliance manufacturers began producing refrigerators with an ice and water dispenser built into the exterior of the door. Thus, all one needed to do was place the glass in the recess in the door and push the appropriate buttons for a glass of ice water – without ever having to open the door. This innovation was billed as both the ultimate in convenience AND energy efficiency since energy is lost every time the fridge door is opened.
While the “ice and water in the door” feature has grown in popularity, it is still somewhat of a novelty for many people. In contrast, the automatic icemaker has become standard equipment on most refrigerators.
Is there an automatic icemaker in your future? Think that you need to buy a new refrigerator to enjoy this convenience? Think again! Many modern refrigerators are factory built “icemaker ready.” This means that the unit contains an internal water supply and basic hookup needed for the addition of an icemaker sometime down the road.
One of the best resources to determine if your refrigerator is icemaker-ready is the owner’s manual. If you don’t have the manual, simply lift out the removable panel at the rear of the fridge and look for an internal water supply line. This usually consists of a clear or white plastic hose that runs from the underside of the refrigerator to a location immediately behind the upper part of the freezer. When in doubt, telephone the manufacturer or an appliance dealer or repairperson. Be prepared to supply the make and model. If the response is affirmative, save yourself another call and order the icemaker while on the line.
In addition to the icemaker, there is one other component you will need to produce ice – water. Although many modern homes have a water supply built-in to the wall behind the refrigerator, this is the exception and not the rule. Therefore, the challenge becomes tapping into the closest cold water line. Often is this under the kitchen sink. If you have a basement or crawl space, the location can be closer yet.
If the water source is under a sink, turn off the main water supply to the house and remove the existing cold water angle stop (valve) and replace it with an angle stop with two supplies – one for the cold water side of the faucet and the other for an icemaker water supply. If the fridge is located nearby, the supply line can run along the inside rear of cabinets. If not, run the line in the basement, crawlspace or attic (if no basement or crawlspace exist).
If a basement of crawlspace exists and there is a cold water pipe located below or near the refrigerator, use a saddle valve to tap into the water line. Turn off the main water supply and put the two pieces of the saddle valve on the pipe and tighten them until snug. Turn the valve handle until it punctures the pipe. Run a water supply line from the saddle valve to the internal water supply at the fridge. This will require drilling a hole in the floor behind the fridge. Check with your local building department to make sure that a saddle valve is acceptable.
Although the traditional means of running a water supply consists of copper or plastic, we suggest upgrading to a braided stainless steel “no burst” supply line. Plastic becomes brittle over time and can crack and leak. A coiled copper water supply behind the fridge becomes increasingly more brittle every time the refrigerator is moved in and out. Braided stainless steel water supply lines are now used routinely for toilet, sink and washing machine water supplies but have yet to make it on to the “icemaker scene.” During a recent visit to a building exposition, we discovered that this technology is now available for automatic dishwashers and icemaker supply lines. The modest additional cost is good insurance against a flooded kitchen floor.
With one end of the water supply line connected to the source, connect the other end to the internal water supply line at the refrigerator. Tighten the coupling nuts being careful not to over tighten. Install the icemaker in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions and turn on the water and check for leaks. You’ll have ice cubes before you know it.
And just when you thought you were “up with the Jones’,” the latest craze is a refrigerator with a built-in computer monitor on the door. You can send and receive e-mail, order groceries online and get the weather with your refrigerator. What will they think of next?
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