Solving Your Refrigerator's
(and Frost-free Freezer's)
Problems - For Good!
Here's a little trick I used for
over 30 years, and it saved countless return trips on
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
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
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.
Was this article helpful?
Please click the "donate" button on the left side of
this page to help me keep this information free!
Many Thanks! - Dave
This article may be reprinted and distributed freely only
in its entirety, including this message.
Tool Ever - The Mighty WetVac! - 17 Uses and Counting...