Installing an ice-maker vs. replacing a fridge

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 15, 2013
- Contributed Photo

It has been quite a while since I moved my 20-cubic-foot Amana refrigerator into its spot in the kitchen, and all that while, I have been making ice the old-fashioned way. When necessary, I have run to the store for a bag of ice and dumped it into the bin just below the icemaker, which I never connected.

If you have done the same thing, or if you want to install an icemaker in your unit, here are a few thoughts that will help you.

First, run the water supply line from the water supply to the back of the refrigerator. The most likely source of water is under the sink, but you might find something closer. You can buy a kit ($10-$20), or piece together your own in the plumbing supply section. I have a coil of copper line that will suffice for my needs. But copper is becoming more expensive, so you might want to opt for plastic line instead. Drill any necessary holes large enough to move the supply through freely. Allow some slack, but fasten it to the back wall of the cabinets, keeping it out of harm’s way. Also leave a generous coil behind the fridge, as you will need that to move it forward for cleaning and service.

Close the valves under the sink (hot as well as cold) that feed the faucet. Tapping into the existing plumbing can be accomplished by a needle or saddle valve, which pokes a hole into the pipe. If you have flexible feeds going to the faucet, you need to tap into the line below them.

The fittings on your valve and refrigerator will determine what kind of adapters you need on each end of the line. If you buy a kit, it should already have all the combinations you might need.

If your refrigerator has no icemaker installed, a website such as might be able to tell you whether or not one can be installed. The price will likely be above $100, and you might not find that to be a practical addition to an older model.

If you connect your icemaker, and the ice doesn’t freeze well, be aware that the temperature in the freezer needs to be below 10 degrees F. The closer to zero, the better. Check the condenser coil behind or beneath the unit to be sure it is clean, and that the fan is working. Also check the evaporator coil for frost.

Since my refrigerator is pretty old, I decided to try to determine if implementing the icemaker unit was going to cost me anything beyond the water I freeze. Nothing I uncovered could help me get the answer I needed. The calculation requires actually finding the electric consumption by the icemaker unit in Watts, dividing that by 1,000, multiplying it by my electricity rate and then guess-timating the amount of time it actually runs. That last variable made this a pointless exercise to me.

Instead, I processed a wealth of information about saving energy and money by upgrading my refrigerator to something more energy-efficient. On a site headlined “Saving Electricity,” I found some data from “Mr. Electricity” that helped me to develop that model.

The savings generated by replacing my ancient 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the latest CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency) Tier 3 energy-saving model comes in at about $77 per year, making the payback 7.3 years. That is based on my current CL&P electricity rate. (“Mr. Electricity” said these results assume the icemaker is off.  With it on, the results could be double.) So I would not be starting to save money on my energy efficiency until I was into my eighth year of ownership. By comparison to those eye-popping numbers, I calculated that I could save four-and-half times as much in one year if I just passed by the 7-Eleven where I get my 12-ounce morning coffee.

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