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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

edeo August 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Thank you for this post. I’m hoping this will solve the annoying problem I’ve been having with water pooling at the bottom of the fridge. I would be willing to give some money for these instructions if water no longer appears in the fridge.

johnnyz November 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

This is incredible. I was just about to use this fix on my own when I found this. Thanks for validating my thoughts.

repair_gal November 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Thank you!!! I had finally decided to buy a new fridge and happened to tell the refrigerator salesman why. He assured me that there was nothing I could do to fix the problem, but something about what he said made me think twice and I went home with his card, a quote, but no fridge. I started looking on the internet and eventually found your EXCELLENT instructions (thanks for the great pics). The fridge is fixed, I saved a pile of money, and I will no longer trust someone who says “Little lady, I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about that….”

xnett December 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Thank You so much worked like a dream!!!!!!!!

ucruiser January 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Like the others, I was about to give up. Then a Google turned up this great advice and easy to follow pics. I used it on my Roper and all seems well so far. I will contribute to the beer fund. Thanks for the common sense fix – enjoy one on me

cindy9578 March 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom sensei. I almost paid another website for a “possible” solution, then, I was guided to you. Domo arigato.

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