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Installing an icemaker

by Leon A. Frechette

Do you need ice in everything you drink? Are you always running down to your nearest grocery store for a bag or two of ice? Or are you like me (and this is a pet peeve of mine since I don't even use ice cubes) and you seem to be one who fills the trays! Why? Have you ever thought about installing an after-market automatic icemaker? You don't need to hire an appliance technician for this project. It is possible that you already have a refrigerator with a freezer set up to accept this little jewel. I have a unit that was manufactured in 1981, and I was surprised to learn that an icemaker is still available.

The cost of an icemaker can vary from $98 to $179, depending on where you purchase it, so you will want to shop around. An appliance service center in our town with a low overhead sold me a unit in the $98 price range. Don't forget you will also need a water line kit—the line, self-pierching saddle valve or saddle clamp (shut off valve), and miscellaneous parts you need to connect from the water supply line to the water valve located toward the bottom on the back of your refrigerator. Nothing is more discouraging than to get the icemaker in and then learn you don't have the kit because you thought it was in the icemaker box—and now it's after hours so you are unable to purchase one. Ouch!

You will also will need a partner or a soul mate who has patience—especially if you are an individual who knows everything, doesn't read instructions, or is just too tired to find the small parts hiding inside larger ones.

If you expect this project to be done within 20 minutes—forget it! This will take between 3 and 4 hours from start to finish. After installation, you will have to wait up to 24 hours to check the ice bin for those first ice cubes. Installing the icemaker is actually the easy part as long as you follow the instructions provided, but all the other little things will eat up a lot of time.

Before you even consider purchasing an icemaker, find out where your water supply is hiding. If you are above a crawlspace—great. If you are above a basement with exposed ceilings—great again. However, if your basement ceilings are covered, then you have a biiiiiiiiiiiiig problem! Now you need to locate the cold water line and this alone could take up to a half a day.

There are several ways to locate a waterline:

1. Start with the main shutoff valve;
2. Or start with a hot water tank;
3. Or start with an exterior faucet located somewhere in the same path where your refrigerator sits;
4. Or if you have a furnace room (in most cases, the ceiling is not finished), see if you have any water lines going through this area. Also note which direction the joists run.
5. Or if you have a bathroom close by—either above or below—but near the refrigerator area.

Follow any one of these starting points (or combination of them) to try to determine where you think the water lines are passing through the area where you can install a saddle valve. Don't worry about cutting into your basement ceiling and having to patch it—you will need access to this area once the valve is installed and they do make after-market access panels with removable doors.

One of the dilemmas you might face is when the water line is galvanized. Here you'll have to drill the pipe in order to install the saddle clamp. While the self-piercing saddle valve will work with copper pipe without drilling, it will not work with galvanized. While I've seen saddle clamps installed in every position I prefer to install the valve on the topside of the galvanized pipe. This way it minimizes the rust inside the pipe from getting into the line to the refrigerator. Drilling a hole on the topside of the water line can create quite a challenge for a normal drill, and if the pipe is too close to the underside of the subfloor—forget it.

In most cases, water lines are located in the center of the joist, which provides the room to drill a hole if you use an angle drill. It's not necessary to purchase this tool—just rent it at your local rental yard (unless you want a new tool to add to your collection). Before you start, there are two things that are a must: make sure the water supply is turned off, and strike a pilot hole using a center punch before you start drilling into the galvanized pipe. The saddle clamp is designed to pierce the copper pipe without drilling a hole. I recommend that your soul mate hold a bucket under the area where you'll be drilling. Take your time drilling into the pipe so the debris will fall into the bucket and don't be afraid to remove the bit a few times to remove the debris. Take your time going through the pipe—if you go too fast, the bit may catch on a burr of the hole and if you are not hanging onto the drill, it will twist out of your hand or—even worse—hurt your wrist!

On the backside of the refrigerator on the floor drill a 5/16" hole for the 1/4" water line. Drill a hole close the base moulding and in the center of the wall cavity. I prefer to use a poly line rather than copper because it's flexible. I also suggest that you leave enough line coming through the wall so you can coil it about three times and hang it on the wall using a pressure-sensitive-tape plastic hook. Leave enough line after that so you can pull the refrigerator out without putting any pressure on the line. Attach the line to the back of your refrigerator at least 3 inches above the water valve to prevent any pulling on the compression nut that could start leaks. And don't forget to hook the line up to the saddle clamp.

Before pushing the refrigerator back into its resting place, make sure the water is not leaking anywhere on the water valve and/or where it connects to the fill tube located near the top of the back of the refrigerator and at the saddle clamp. I also suggest checking it after 24 hours and again after 48 hours.

That's all there is to it. Now—relax in the knowledge that your ice bin is filling up automatically about every two hours. If you find ice cubes all over the freezer box, the ice tray is not filling up evenly with the water. This is a simple fix—check to see if your refrigerator is level. The adjustment is located in front of the refrigerator at the bottom under the toe kick panel. The only problem with this is if you've become spoiled by the door closing on its own—once you level the refrigerator, this will not happen any more. Of course, you can take advantage of the exercise provided by closing that door! Or you can blame the kids or your soul mate for not shutting the door . . .

Copyright © 2001 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.



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