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Ice Makers – Installation

Connecting an icemaker is really not a tough job. You need some basic plumbing tools and supplies and a little bit of patience. It also helps to have an ample amount of coiled soft copper tubing behind or under the refrigerator. It is not uncommon for a good intentioned appliance repair person or a mover to create a minor flood when a refrigerator is moved and a short supply line pulls out of its fitting!

The Best of the Best

When connecting water supply lines, you have two options. You can make a permanent connection by using solder or you can create leak proof connections that can be taken apart at a later date. You can't easily take apart a soldered joint. The two most common connection methods that allow you to take them apart are compression and flare. The flare fitting is considered by the industry to be a more leakproof connection. But flare fittings are a little harder to create if you are the average homeowner. Why? Because to create a flared joint, you need a flaring tool that shapes the end of a soft copper tube so that it works inside a flare fitting.

Compression fittings are different. You do not need to flare the end of a pipe or tube. You simply cut it to length and slide it into the compression fitting. This is pretty simple. But, pull hard enough on the supply tube or copper line and it will pull out of the compression fitting. As you might expect, a leak will happen.

Which One?

I have installed many icemakers using compression fittings. They are safe as long as there is no pulling pressure or tension on the copper supply line. Compression fittings and connections are used every day to connect toilets and sink faucets to valves and water supply lines. They are great as long as you understand how to install them properly.

So How Do You Do it?

The trick to a leak proof compression connection is simple. First, make sure the tube or pipe is long enough to extend to the bottom of the compression fitting. Second, make sure that when you start to tighten the compression nut that the pipe or tube coming out of the fitting is straight. The brass ferrule that tightens around the pipe or tube must be seated perfectly around the pipe and it must be seated snuggly in the compression fitting. If it is at an angle, I guarantee you that you will have a leak. No matter how much you tighten the nut, the leak will not go away.

Flush the Line First

Anytime you are getting ready to connect an icemaker or even a faucet or toilet, always flush out the water supply line first. All sorts of debris like solder beads, flux, wood chips, pipe burrs, etc. can be in the line. They can really mess up the valves and faucet cartridges. It often takes two people to flush the line as you might have the valve in a remote location from the end of the pipe or tubing. I would let at least 3 or 4 gallons of water run.

Slow Leaks

Compression fittings are notorious slow leakers. You may think you have a tight joint but a drop of water can develop every 4 to 8 hours! I always place a paper towel or a newspaper under the connection and check it on an hourly or daily basis to make sure the joint is perfect.

If you have a slow leaker and are frustrated, you can place a large jelly pan under the leak with paper towels in it. The paper towels distribute the drip and it evaporates before the next drip. Be careful about this low quality solution! It can cause a potential mold problem! Trust me, I have found these Rube Goldberg devices on more than one occasion!

Related Column

Installing Automatic Ice Maker

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