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Dave Harnish
CEO: Gracie (RIP 3-16)
Dave's Repair Service
1911 Heath Hill Rd
New Albany, PA 18833
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Solving Your Refrigerator's (and Frost-free Freezer's)
Drain Problems - For Good!

Here's a little trick I used for over 30 years, and it saved countless return trips on refrigerator  jobs. 

One of the most common problems with frost-free refrigerators (and often with upright frost-free freezers) is drain freeze up. This is usually caused by the defrost drain clogging, then freezing. On older units, it can also happen when the insulation (usually open-cell Styrofoam) around the drain gets 'water-logged', as it often does over the years, causing ice to build up inside the drain.

The first symptom, at least in top-freezers, is usually water under the crisper drawers, on the floor of the refrigerator section. In side-by-sides and upright freezers it'll appear as a nifty slab of ice on the freezer floor, eventually running water out onto the kitchen floor.

Before I found this little trick, this was a frustrating problem with no lasting fix. 

After trying this a few times, I always kept a handful of copper 'drain heat exchangers' in the truck, and used a dozen or two most summers, when humidity is highest and defrost drains are handling the most water. 

These are quick and easy to make. Just cut a piece of #12 copper wire (strip from regular 12-2WG 'Romex' household wire) about 6 inches long and bend it around a 1/4 inch round rod. A screwdriver shaft works well for this, but any 1/4 inch dia. piece of metal will do. They look like this: 

Drain Heat Exchanger

Now when your refrig or freezer drain clogs and you find the trough under the evaporator full of ice, here's what you do. Clear the ice, open the drain (use hot water in your one gallon pressure sprayer and a wet-vac, and hang this little piece of copper on the defrost heater, so it extends down the drain. On most units, this is a black rod under the evaporator coil. Some use a radiant heater inside a glass tube, with which you can use this method, but you must carefully bend the hook on your copper wire to the diameter of the glass, being sure it puts no pressure on the glass. 

This heater is responsible for melting all that frost that we don't have to deal with since the advent of Frost-free units, and it glows a dull red during the defrost cycle, so there's plenty of excess heat for our purpose.

Anyway, since copper's such a good conductor of heat, some of the defrost heater's energy will transfer down the copper wire, into the drain, and keep it open. What I like to call 'stupidly simple', this uses no extra electricity and works extremely well!

One precaution: hang this piece of copper *loosely* over the defrost heater. Don't squeeze or crimp it on, or you risk causing a "hot spot", damaging the heater.

Note: I get a lot of questions as to whether this wire will melt the rubber drain grommet or plastic drain tubing. I've installed literally hundreds of these wires (wish I'd kept count!) and have never seen any damage caused to those areas.
Keep in mind that when the unit switches into defrost, the inside of the freezer is at or below zero. Most defrost cycles last 20 minutes max, with the heater shutting down before the cycle
ends, so the warmth that travels down this little copper wire isn't nearly intense enough to melt anything but ice.

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Related articles:
Handiest Tool Ever - The Mighty WetVac! - 17 Uses and Counting...

 

 


"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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