The Permanent Cure for Repeatedly Freezing Condensate Drains in Whirlpool-Roper-Kitchenaid Top-Mount Refrigerators

by Samurai Appliance Repair Man on May 26, 2009

in Refrigerator Repair

The condensate drains in certain models of this refrigerator repeatedly freeze over, causing water to run inside the refrigerator during defrost. If you manually clear the ice and open the drain– which you shouldn’t ever have to do– the problem will just re-appear… unless you apply the Fixite Do kata that ol’ Samurai’s about to ‘splain to ya.

Here’s the inside scoop: As the compressor runs, humidity in the air inside the freezer condenses onto the surface of the evaporator. This frozen water on the evaporator is called condensate. The condensate will continue to build up on the evaporator over time, forming a white, fuzzy layer that periodically needs to be melted off during the automatic defrost cycle. During defrost, the compressor is turned off and a heater under the evaporator is fired up to melt the condensate off. As the condensate melts, it drips into the pan beneath the evaporator. Problem is that, in this particular design fluke, the defrost cycle ends and the compressor starts running again before all the water drains from the pan and, as a result, some of the water gets frozen. Next cycle, a little more gets frozen, and so on until the drain is blocked and the melted water starts backing up during defrost and running into the beer compartment below.

Pop Quiz:

What’s the heater beneath the evaporator called?

Did you answer, “I dunno and I don’t care, just get on with the friggin’ article?” Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not the right answer. The correct answer is “defrost heater.” Thank you, come again!

OK, enough high-level refrigerator quantum theory. Let’s get on with the fun stuff: The Fix! You can click the pics below for the larger view.

Freezer Anatomy and Frozen-Over  Condensate Drain PanFreezer Anatomy and Frozen-Over Condensate Drain Pan

Here you can see Le Probleme and get the layout of the essential freezer anatomy for this repair.

To solve this problem, we’re going to rig a way to get some of that heat from the defrost heater to the drain pan and drain hole. To do this, we’ll employ the heat transfer mode of conduction. We’ll use copper wire to conduct some of that heat from the heaters to the drain pan. Come see…

Installing the Condensate Drain Heating RigInstalling the Condensate Drain Heating Rig

12 ga. solid core wire is preferred because it’s slightly bigger and conducts heat more efficiently; but 14 ga., as shown here, is OK.

Make the drain heater by wrapping one end of the wire around the heater a few turns, as shown here. The other ends will be fanned out in the drip pan and run into the condensate drain hole two or three inches. Just watch out for the sharp fins on that evaporator; they’ll shred your hands like ground beef before you even knew what happened. OK, it’s not really that bad; I just wanted to talk like a crusty old timer. Would it kill you to humor an old man?


Closeup of the Condensate Drain Heating RigCloseup of the Condensate Drain Heating Rig


The Completed Condensate Drain ModificationThe Completed Condensate Drain Modification


Muy domos to Senior Apprentice Appliantologist TMR777 for the beautifully annotated photos of his fine craftsmanship.

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