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  1. #1
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    KitchenAid Fridge Defrost Drain Issue

    Hi,

    I have a KitchenAid KTRP20KDWH04 fridge, and over the period of every few months, the fridge part fills with water and the freezer also backs up with ice. We inherited this fridge with the purchase of our house, and have had this problem since we moved in.

    I've defrosted it manually a few times and made sure there aren't any obstructions that might prevent proper air flow and defrosting. I've also pulled the covers off, and made sure to defrost it fully.

    I've looked at the parts diagram for this model, and don't understand how the drain in the freezer works. I can see the drain after taking the covers off, but the hole doesn't appear to go anywhere. I can look with a flashlight and see what looks like the bottom of the hole, less than a half-inch deep. Water sits in this hole and won't drain through.

    I've tried inserting a stiff 1/4" tube from the bottom up, and it reaches some kind of block before coming through the top.

    I suspect it's on a curve in some way, but can't figure out whether it's curved, preventing my tube from going through, or it was even assembled incorrectly and never worked.

    Is anyone familiar with this model or a similar model, and knows how the drain works?

    Thanks,
    Dave

  2. #2
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    Dave:

    Dan O. is the appliance repair tech in here, and he'll be able to advise you better than I can. I suspect that the problem is that the drain hole in your evaporator pan is clogged up and needs to be cleared. It's a fairly common problem on frost free fridges. But, you're saying that water is collecting in the fresh food compartment of your fridge (presumably under the freezer compartment) and that could be because the water to overflowing the drain pan.

    Here's what happens to the melt water on my GE fridges. Different fridges are designed differently so your fridge may have the parts I'll be talking about built into the partition between the fresh food section and freezer.

    Just like your fridge, my GE fridges have a "drain pan" under their evaporator coils. When the defrost heater melts the frost off the evaporator coil, the melt water drips onto that drain pan. At the bottom of the drain pan will be a drain hole. The water drains into that drain hole and then flows through the partition between the fresh food section and the freezer to the back of the fridge. Once there, it drips out a drain hole in the roof of the fresh food section into a little cup (or funnel, kinda) high up on the back wall of the fresh food compartment. There is a tube connected to that cup or funnel that carries the melt water through the back wall of the fresh food compartment and then down to a receiving pan either above the warm compressor or around it where the melt water re-evaporates back into the air. If you use a mirror and flashlight, you should be able to see that tube between the back of the fridge and the black condenser coil at the back of your fridge.

    If there's a hole in the roof of the fresh food compartment that your defrost melt water is coming out of (the one that you pushed the stiff 1/4 inch tube into), then you're missing a part. That is, the part that's supposed to catch that water and direct it into the tube that carries it down the back of the fridge to the receiving pan above or around the compressor.

    If water is puddling up on your evaporator drain pan, it's probable that the evaporator pan drain is simply clogged up with food and stuff that falls through the openings meant for air flow, and gets washed down into that drain. This is a fairly common problem with frost free fridges. Appliance technicians will simply use a piece of wire to do that. Don't use a stiff wire; use wire that has thin strands of copper inside it for maximum flexibility so you can maneuver the wire so it turns horizontal and goes toward the drain hole in the roof of the fresh food compartment as soon as it goes through the evaporator pan drain hole. In fact, you might even consider putting that wire in a cordless drill and using it like a plumber's snake.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nestor View Post
    Dave:

    Dan O. is the appliance repair tech in here, and he'll be able to advise you better than I can. I suspect that the problem is that the drain hole in your evaporator pan is clogged up and needs to be cleared. It's a fairly common problem on frost free fridges. But, you're saying that water is collecting in the fresh food compartment of your fridge (presumably under the freezer compartment) and that could be because the water to overflowing the drain pan.
    No water is actually making it to the drain pan. There is either a clog along the way, or the defrost system isn't working properly.

    As I mentioned, I tried to insert a 1/4" tube both from the top down and the bottom up. Looking through the drain hole in the freezer, I can see that it's only a 1/2" or so deep, so the tube doesn't go very far.

    I think the drain pan in the freezer with the hole that appears to only be 1/2" deep must turn at an angle such that my tube doesn't follow down the hole.

    However, I've even tried using a flexible wire and that also doesn't go any further down the hole.

    As I also mentioned, I tried the tube from the bottom up, and it only goes to a certain point then stops with an obvious blockage.

    Thanks again,
    Dave

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by gossamer View Post
    No water is actually making it to the drain pan. There is either a clog along the way, or the defrost system isn't working properly.

    As I mentioned, I tried to insert a 1/4" tube both from the top down and the bottom up. Looking through the drain hole in the freezer, I can see that it's only a 1/2" or so deep, so the tube doesn't go very far.

    I think the drain pan in the freezer with the hole that appears to only be 1/2" deep must turn at an angle such that my tube doesn't follow down the hole.

    However, I've even tried using a flexible wire and that also doesn't go any further down the hole.

    As I also mentioned, I tried the tube from the bottom up, and it only goes to a certain point then stops with an obvious blockage.

    Thanks again,
    Dave
    I think I fixed the problem. Turns out it was an ice blockage in the drain hole after all.

    I poured some hot water down the hole, soaked it up, and repeated a half-dozen times until it started to flow.

    I also then implemented a recommendation made to wrap a 12 gauge wire around the defrost wire and stick it in the drain hole to prevent it from freezing again in the future.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  5. #5
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    Well. If your defrost isn't working properly, the usual problem is a bad defrost heater. But, it could also be the defrost timer sticking in run mode or the defrost thermostat screwing up. Until Dan O. posts his thoughts, I thought I'd explain how the defrost cycle on a typical frost free fridge works. (as you can tell, I'm not super busy right now)

    Here's a typical wiring diagram for a frost free fridge:

    http://www.applianceaid.com/images/s...andiagram2.jpg

    The defrost timer is the "brains" of a frost free fridge. Basically, every 10 to 20 hours that the compressor operates, the defrost timer will put the fridge into defrost mode. When that happens, the defrost timer DIVERTS power from the fridge compressor and evaporator fan to the defrost circuit. The defrost circuit consist of the defrost timer, the defrost heater and the defrost thermostat.

    That is, when the fridge goes into defrost mode, BOTH the compressor and evaporator fan (which is what blows air over the evaporator coil and causes a breeze in the freezer compartment) shut off simultaneously. At the end of the defrost cycle, BOTH the compressor and evaporator fan will come on simultaneously as well. So, if you can hear (and feel the breeze in the freezer compartment) of the evporator fan running, then the compressor SHOULD be on. If not, there's something wrong with the compressor motor. Also, if the compressor is running, then you should be able to hear (and feel) the evaporator fan running as well. If the compressor is running, but you can't hear or feel the evaporator fan, then there's something wrong with the evaporator fan. That's Frost Free Fridge Problem Diagnosis 101.

    Now, every 10 to 20 hours, the defrost timer will divert power from the compressor and evaporator fan to the defrost circuit for 15 to 30 minutes or so, which is connection 3-2 in the defrost timer on the diagram. When that happens, the defrost heater gets red hot and melts the frost off the evaporator coils. As long as there's frost on the evaporator coils to absorb that heat, it won't get hot in the vicinity of the evaporator coil. It's when all the frost is melted off the evaporator that continued heating will cause a temperature rise that could damage the plastic and styrofoam parts in that area of the fridge. So, the job of the defrost thermostat is to sense a temperature above about 50 degrees F and open the circuit, thereby shutting off power to the defrost heater.

    During the defrost cycle, the frost on the evaporator coils melts and drips off the evaporator coil onto the evaporator pan where it drains into that hole you can see under the evaporator coil.

    (Here's where I fly off on a tangent: You can tell the health of the Freon charge in your fridge by the way frost forms on the evaporator coils. You want to see the frost form uniformly over the entire evaporator coil. If the freon charge is weak, you might only see frost forming over the first half of the evaporator coil. If the freon charge is really low, you might only get a frost "snowball" forming at the upstream end of the evaporator coil. And, here's where I come back to reality...)

    Once the defrost thermostat breaks the circuit to the defrost heater, the fridge just sits there in a coma until the defrost timer finishes it's 15 to 30 minute defrost cycle. Then, the defrost timer diverts power back to the compressor and evaporator fan, and the fridge springs back to life. Once the freezer compartment cools down to about 30 degrees F, the defrost thermostat closes again so the defrost heater will work during the next defrost cycle.

    If you locate the defrost timer on your fridge, you should be able to see a small shaft in it. This is the shaft that the transmission turns to advance the defrost timer from operating mode to defrost mode and back to operating mode. The end of that shaft will be designed so that it can only be turned in one direction. That's because you can wreck the defrost timer by turning that shaft backwards. And, by turning that shaft (with a screw driver) you can manually advance the defrost timer into defrost mode, or out of defrost mode into operating mode.

    If your fridge isn't defrosting properly, there's a real good chance that the defrost heater is busted, and not heating up. It could also be a defrost timer that's sticking in operate mode, so that the fridge isn't defrosting as often as it should. And, it's very possible that the defrost thermostat isn't closing the circuit to the defrost timer when the freezer temperature falls below 30 deg. F. The only expensive part here is the defrost heater, which will run about $50. Your defrost timer will typically cost $20 or $10 if you can buy it on sale. A defrost thermostat will run $25 or $12.50 on sale.

    So, your best bet might be a shotgun approach... to replace all three parts so that the fridge SHOULD defrost properly.

  6. #6
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    I think I fixed the problem. Turns out it was an ice blockage in the drain hole after all.
    Uh Oh.

    That might mean that the drain pan inside the partition between the fresh food compartment roof and the freezer floor is water logged. If it is, the only fix is to replace that part, and that means taking that partition completely apart (a very big job).

  7. #7
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    Dave:

    The problem you're describing is actually fairly common on the kind of frost free fridge I have (which is a 12 cubic foot GE "apartment size") fridge.

    If the water that flows into the evporator drain hole is re-freezing, the problem could very well be that the expanded polystyrene parts in the partition between the fresh food section and the freezer is water logged.

    You see, there are two kinds of polystyrene; expanded and extruded. Expanded polystyrene is the stuff that looks like it's made of white "beads". The blue "RoofMate" insulation made by Dow or the pink counter part made by Owens Corning are examples of extruded polystyrene. A major difference between these two is the amount of blowing gas used in their manufacture. Extruded polystyrene uses less blowing gas, and so the bubbles inside extruded polystyrene don't intersect one another, and so extruded polystyrene is impermeable to both air and water. Expanded polystyrene uses much more blowing gas in it's manufacture, and so the bubbles in expanded polystyrene can interconnect, making the foam somewhat permeable to both air and water.

    Normally, the amount of water that gets absorbed into expanded polystyrene is small and doesn't cause a problem. However, if the expanded polystyrene you have in your fridge is more permeable than normal, it will absorb a lot more water than normal.

    The problem that can happen when the expanded polystyrene parts in that partition between fridge and freezer get water logged is that you essentially have a big block of ice under the evaporator drain pan. When water drips into the evaporator pan drain hole, that water re-freezes when it drips onto that now ice filled expanded polystyrene. And, it's that refreezing of the melt water that clogs up the evaporator pan drain hole.

    Unfortunately, the only fix for a water logged "evaporator housing" as that part is called in my fridges, is to replace the evaporator housing, and that means taking that partition between the fridge section and the freezer section completely apart.

    I did that job on one fridge I had years ago, and I think that if I had to do it again, I'd probably just buy a new fridge.

    Dan O. would probably know whether water logged evaporator housings are a known problem on your model of fridge. All you can do for now is defrost the fridge well and hope the problem doesn't return. If it does, you might be looking at having to replace that part under your evaporator pan drain hole.

  8. #8
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    Sorry for the late reply, I just returned from holidays.

    I tried the tube from the bottom up, and it only goes to a certain point then stops with an obvious blockage.
    There is usually an "S" bend in the drain system that acts like the "P" trap of a sink drain. You may not be able to force a wire through it and it shouldn't be forced as damage to the trap may be very difficult to repair.

    If the drain is frozen closed, water may not be draining through it fast enough. After a defrost water can pool around the drain hole in the freezer and freeze closed when the fridge starts operating again.

    Once *thoroughly* defrosted (usually by unplugging the appliance for 24-48 hours *with the doors open*) pressurized air or pressurized water can sometimes be used from the bottom to blow any obstructions back into the freezer compartment to be removed. Hot water can sometimes be used from the top to thaw any ice but might not correct partial obstructions in the drain system that could cause the slow draining in the first place.

    I also then implemented a recommendation made to wrap a 12 gauge wire around the defrost wire and stick it in the drain hole to prevent it from freezing again in the future.
    While that could help prevent freezing in the future, making sure the drain is as clear as possible from top to bottom should be done first.

    JMO


    Dan O.
    Appliance411.com
    The Appliance Information Site

    =D~~~~~~

    .
    Last edited by Dan O.; 06-20-2012 at 02:36 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nestor View Post
    Dave:

    The problem you're describing is actually fairly common on the kind of frost free fridge I have (which is a 12 cubic foot GE "apartment size") fridge.

    If the water that flows into the evporator drain hole is re-freezing, the problem could very well be that the expanded polystyrene parts in the partition between the fresh food section and the freezer is water logged.
    Thanks so much for all your help. I'm really hoping that isn't the issue, or we would just end up getting a new fridge.

    For the time being, I wrapped a few turns of some 12gauge wire around the defrost wire, then extended the end to sit in the drain pan and end in the actual drain hole. The thinking here is that when it goes into defrost mode, it will heat up the wire and melt any ice that happens to have frozen in the hole.

    Hopefully this won't make things worse.

    Is it possible this is a poorly designed fridge and KitchenAid screwed up, or is it more likely the polystryene in the partition has been compromised with ice?

    Thanks again,
    Dave

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan O. View Post
    Sorry for the late reply, I just returned from holidays.
    No problem, thanks for offering your assistance. I hear you're "the man" around here :-)

    There is usually an "S" bend in the drain system that acts like the "P" trap of a sink drain. You may not be able to force a wire through it and it shouldn't be forced as damage to the trap may be very difficult to repair.
    I'm not sure of the timing of your response, but I believe I posted that it turned out it was just an ice blockage. I was very surprised to see just how difficult it was to get it to fully defrost, and the amount of time it took with this fridge.

    Once *thoroughly* defrosted (usually by unplugging the appliance for 24-48 hours *with the doors open*) pressurized air or pressurized water can sometimes be used from the bottom to blow any obstructions back into the freezer compartment to be removed. Hot water can sometimes be used from the top to thaw any ice but might not correct partial obstructions in the drain system that could cause the slow draining in the first place.
    I dumped quite a bit of very hot water down until it was flowing easily to the drain pan. I'm pretty sure I got it all.

    I recall having a fridge many years ago that we let sit for a few days without being plugged in. After that time, even after plugging in and allowing it to get cold, it had an awful smell that would never go away. We ended up having to toss the fridge because of that.

    While it's our downstairs secondary fridge, I'd also have a hard time leaving the fridge unplugged for such an extended period because there's noplace else to put the food :-)

    Thanks again,
    Dave

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