Just the right time for an icemaker
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Wed., Aug. 3, 2011
Are you still struggling with ice cube trays in your home in these dog days of summer? Still running out for bags of ice when you have guests over? The solution may be sitting right in your kitchen waiting for your handy hands and DIY know-how.
If your refrigerator came equipped with an icemaker, and if you had the appliance installed, chances are you have been enjoying uniform ice cubes in ready supply right in your freezer. But if the appliance was rolled into your kitchen, and you hooked it up yourself, the icemaker may just be taking up space in your freezer, because you didn't connect it to the water supply.
Your refrigerator may be a scaled down model, and perhaps did not come equipped with an icemaker. Even so, you may still be able to install one. Check your owner's manual, and see if it says that there is an "ice maker option." If the appliance is icemaker-ready, there are several sources for the installation kit. Check with your supplier, the manufacturer or search the Internet for appliance parts. RepairClinic.com is one reliable source.
If you go to a hardware or building supplies store, the plumbing clerk is likely to take an ice maker installation kit off the rack without hesitation. It will include a saddle valve through which your water supply will flow, a few compression fittings and a length of tubing - most likely polyethylene plastic. Some local plumbing codes do not permit saddle valves. They clamp onto the water supply tube, and pierce the copper without the need to cut, solder or make threaded connection. You may find, however, that your refrigerator manufacturer suggests they not be used. The problem with the saddle valve is that it might not allow an adequate water supply to the icemaker. In addition to that, it is just a quick but light-duty solution.
Hand the kit back to the store clerk, and ask for a brass adapter that you can insert into the cold water line under your sink. The adapter has a 90-degree male fitting with a compression sleeve built into the female side of the fitting.
Polyethylene tubing is easy to work with, and it resists kinking and the leaks that may result. I prefer copper tubing. Just be sure to allow a generous amount of coiled tubing behind the refrigerator, so that it can be moved freely and without disturbing the water supply.
If you want to connect to a water supply somewhere other than under your kitchen sink, the task becomes slightly more complex. Chances are your domestic water pipes are one-half-inch copper pipe. Icemakers use soft copper tubing that is only one-quarter inch (O.D.). Get a brass fitting that reduces down to the smaller size, and can be soldered in-line with the one-half-inch pipe. It's a good idea to include a gate or ball valve, so you can shut off the water supply only to the icemaker without affecting other sinks, toilets, etc.
A compression fitting adapts the one-quarter-inch tubing to the one-half-inch pipe. These fittings are readily available at plumbing supply stores, hardware stores, or home centers. The alternative to compression fitting is a flare fitting. The former uses a little, snug-fitting sleeve that is compressed as the unit is screwed tight. The flare fitting requires that you use a special tool to widen the copper tubing that matches up to the fitting.
When a compression fitting is not aligned correctly, leaking is inevitable. But it may not be immediately visible. Check periodically for the first few hours after the installation.
Whichever material you choose, it's a good idea to purge the line before you connect it to the icemaker. The slightest amount of foreign matter might be enough to block the water flow or hamper the unit's operation. Point the open end of the tube into a bucket, and open the valve to let water flow forcefully for a couple of minutes.
Installing the water supply tubing and the connections, as well as activating the icemaker, is truly not a difficult project. The potential for danger comes from the fact that the components are left undisturbed for prolonged periods of time, until something falls behind the appliance or someone decides to move it for some reason. They might not even realize there is flexible plumbing back there until the water starts flowing.
Installation kits for icemakers are inexpensive. They cost just over $10 for one with polyethylene tubing, about twice that for copper. A brass adapter valve as an alternative to a saddle valve adds about $8. If you need to buy the icemaker unit, you are looking at something around $100 and higher.