Refrigerator Leaking Water

It is actually a very common problem to have water dripping from a freezer located on the top of the refrigerator into the fresh food section on the shelving. Assuming that your refrigerator door gaskets are not damaged in anyway, then most likely the water is coming from a restricted evaporator drain line. On air conditioners this water is called condensate water. However most appliance service technicians refer to this water as the evaporator drain water.

Before we talk about how to correct this water from dripping into the fresh food section, let's talk about where this water comes from. Every time a refrigerator door is opened warm humid air rushes inside. After the door is closed this humid air must be removed for proper refrigeration. 100 percent of the air on most refrigerators is passed through one evaporator located in the freezer. Since the temperature of this tubing on the evaporator is well below freezing, as the air passes through it the moisture in the air freezes in the form of frost. If this frost is not removed with the defrost system, eventually it will block the evaporator air flow and you will wind up with a refrigerator that is not cooling properly.

Most of the time a refrigerator will go into defrost 2 times a day. This actually depends on the number of door openings because it is only necessary to defrost the evaporator if there is frost buildup on it. Energy saving refrigerators use a thermistor to check the temperature and frost buildup of the evaporator. If you are on vacation and the refrigerator doors are not being opened and closed, it is not necessary to activate the defrost heater as often.

Regardless of what controls the defrost heater, an electronic control or an old fashion timer the defrost heater comes on and believe it or not usually gets red hot to quickly melt this frost off of the evaporator.

When hot humid air enters the refrigerator it quickly goes from a gas to a solid in the form of frost on the evaporator. When the heater comes on it quickly melts the frost from a solid to a liquid. In other words it goes from frost to water. On a normally functioning refrigerator this evaporator drain water will flow down tubing to be evaporated in the drip pan located in the machine compartment at the bottom of the refrigerator near the compressor. In fact some drip pans are actually mounted to the top of the compressor. This serves two purposes, to eliminate the evaporator drain water and to help lower the temperature of the compressor. When the drain line is restricted the water runs out of the evaporator pan located under the evaporator and down into the refrigerator fresh food section.

You must be very careful when working around the evaporator in a freezer. The tubing is very fragile and any aggressive maneuvers could cause a loss of refrigerant. Actually if at all possible, it is best for an inexperienced person to remove everything from the refrigerator and let it thaw out for 24 hours before beginning this job. This will facilitate access to the evaporator drain where the tube is located so it can be cleaned and significantly reduce the possibility of damaging the evaporator tubing and ruining the refrigerator. Appliance service technicians don't have this luxury of course so they have learned how to gain access to the evaporator without damaging it.

In most cases you will have to remove the icemaker to access the screws holding the cover in front of the evaporator located in the back of the freezer. The cover is usually on the complete back wall of the freezer. Once removed you can gain access to the drip pan located underneath the evaporator. First you must remove any debris. Over the years I have seen everything from bread wrappers to toothpicks located in the evaporator drain area blocking the water flow.

A lot of times drain restrictions are caused by people who keep bread in the freezer and only want one or two slices of the time. When they removed the bread from the freezer crumbs will fall down and get sucked in the back by the evaporator fan. And since this debris is too heavy to get pushed through the evaporator it falls down to the evaporator drain and causes a restriction

Appliance service technicians use a shot of compressed air to blow the drain free. I personally carried a commercial style inexpensive refillable catsup container that I could fill with warm water. It is a great tool to easily position it to a point to flush out the drain. I'm speaking of the refillable type container that you find on the table in diners and restaurants without printing on them. Once you are certain that the drain is clear and verify that the water is running from the freezer into the drain pan located at the bottom of the refrigerator, you can reassemble the freezer.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have seen a situation where people ignore water dripping from their freezer. They consider it nothing more than a nuisance. But I assure you it is much more than that.

And that's because once the evaporator drain is restricted, the refrigerator continues to defrost adding more and more water to the evaporator drain pan area. Once the water starts to overflow and run down into the refrigerator section, it passes around a styrofoam block that is used for insulation and air flow control. Believe it or not after time that styrofoam block will become saturated with water and freeze. When that happens it shrinks and now you have a major problem with airflow. The air that would normally pass between the bottom of the freezer and the top of the styrofoam block is now redirected and it starts to snow in the freezer. This is a major job and can usually not be done by a novice or appliance service technician. The bottom line is, if you have water dripping into your refrigerator from the freezer, it is best to correct it right away.