Solving Your Refrigerator's
(and Frost-free Freezer's)
Problems - For Good!
(This article originally appeared in the free email
newsletter I call The DRSNews. You ARE subscribed,
Here's a little trick I've used for 25+ years
now, and it's saved countless return trips on
One of the most common problems I see 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 around the
drain gets 'ice-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 that was hard to keep from recurring.
Now I keep a handful of copper 'drain heat exchangers'
in the truck, and use a dozen or two most summers, when
humidity is highest and these drains have to handle the
These are quick and easy to make. Just cut a piece of #12
copper wire (strip from regular 12-2WG 'Romex' household wiring
) 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
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 the wet-vac - you DO read the
DRSNews back issues, Don't You? Hmmm?), 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 very well!
One precaution: hang this piece of copper
*loosely* over the defrost heater. Don't squeeze or crimp it on, or
you risk damaging the heater.
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Many Thanks! - Dave
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