Every modern kitchen now contains a refrigerator. It has become a necessity for storing foods that need to be kept at cold temperatures. Perhaps you are moving to a new house and require a new refrigerator, or you may have redecorated and decided it’s time for an upgrade… Whatever the reason, you are spoilt for choice. There are many varieties of refrigerators, some that include freezers, as well as automatic ice and water dispensers.
Often referred to as American style fridge freezers, fridges with ice and water dispensers cannot simply be plugged in so that they work. They must also be connected to the water line to allow for a fresh supply of clean water. If you are considering upgrading to an American style fridge freezer there are many benefits to them over traditional fridges.
Firstly, you will have access to ice and chilled water on demand – a must for hot climates or if you entertain many guests. Some models also have included filtration systems, making the water taste so much better than your standard tap water.
An American style fridge freezer also offers some more environmental benefits. To access cool water, you will not need to open the fridge door letting out the cool air. This will save on running costs as the fridge does not have to work harder to replace to cool air that has escaped.
A water dispenser will also save on the amount of water used. When running a tap for cool water you have to leave it running for a few seconds to draw the cold water out, a dispenser offers cold water immediately which saves on the amount of water used.
Whether you have moved house and need to plumb in the original fridge freezer that you bought with you, or if you are upgrading an old model to a bigger, more advanced model, we have created this guide to help you with every step along the way.
This guide covers everything you need to know, from important points to consider when shopping for a new refrigerator, how to remove and dispose of an old fridge freezer, to a step-by-step guide on how to safely plumb in an American style fridge.
You will have everything you need to know before installing a refrigerator yourself and should not need to call in professional help. However, always remember that if there are any parts of the installation process that you are unsure of you can always call a local plumber for help and advice.
- Things to Consider When Shopping For a New Refrigerator
- Where to Place Your New Refrigerator
- Should You Hire a Professional?
- Safety Tips Before You Get Started
- Important Things to Remember Before You Start
- Safely Unpacking and Moving a Refrigerator
- How Does a Refrigerator Work?
- How to Dispose of an Old Refrigerator
- What Tools Will You Need?
- How to Plumb in a Refrigerator
Things to Consider When Shopping For a New Refrigerator
When shopping for a new fridge freezer there are many characteristics and features to choose from, with an unlimited choice from several manufacturers and retailers. The price of a new refrigerator depends upon the size of the unit, the finish you choose, and any extra features it might have. On average, there are around seven types of the refrigerator to choose from.
- A compact or beverage refrigerator. This is a small unit designed to fit into tight spaces, however, it cannot hold a large number of items and on average uses the same amount (or more) electricity as a full-sized refrigerator.
- A fridge with a top freezer unit. This type of refrigerator is widely available and can be found in many homes. It could pose a problem if you are unable to reach the freezer compartment at the top.
- A freezer-less refrigerator. This type of fridge usually provides more room inside, but you will need additional space to install a freezer alongside it.
- A side-by-side refrigerator. This refrigerator provides easy accessibility to both the fridge and the freezer, but they offer less space in both the fridge and the freezer than other models.
- A bottom freezer model offers ample space in both the freezer and the refrigerator.
- The French door style of freezer provides even more space and easier access to both the freezer and the refrigerator.
- A counter-depth or in-built freezer ties in seamlessly with the design of your kitchen and can be hidden behind the kitchen counters.
When selecting your new refrigerator style, you will need to consider how much space you have available in the kitchen, how much storage space you need with the fridge and your budget.
When installing a refrigerator you will need to allow for at least two inches of space around the back, the sides and the top of the refrigerator so that there is adequate airflow. Airflow is essential in keeping a refrigerator running efficiently without overheating.
Where to Place Your Refrigerator
The fridge is one of the most essential (and sometimes the largest) appliances within a kitchen so finding the right location for it is important. When choosing the best spot for your refrigerator there are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, the unit should be kept out of direct sunlight as the extra heat could cause it to overheat in the summer and underperform. It should also be kept away from the oven and the microwave as these appliances also produce heat which could affect the refrigerator.
As most refrigerator units tend to take up a lot of space, you will also need to consider how much room it needs and how easy to access it will be. Some people also prefer to fit storage shelves around the fridge to make up for the loss of space in the kitchen. Alternatively, some kitchens are designed to have an inbuilt fridge, often nestled in a nook or corner and tailored to match the rest of the décor.
In some cases, the refrigerator cannot fit into the kitchen. If this is the case in your household you will need to look at alternatives such as utility rooms or outdoor buildings with enough storage space and adequate cover. If you are storing your fridge in an outbuilding or garage it will also need to have a working power supply and a water supply that can be used to the fridge freezer too.
Should you Hire a Professional?
If you are worried that plumbing in your refrigerator is too difficult and decide to find a contractor to help you instead, various elements can affect the price of this. Firstly, you will need to find a trustworthy plumber to install a water line for the ice maker and water filtration system – this could cost you around £50 per hour.
Secondly, you may also need to enlist the help of a carpenter to install the cabinets or a wall around the fridge so that it ties in with the rest of your kitchen. Finally, if you are thinking of moving the location of the refrigerator to a space that is not fitted with an electrical socket then you will also need to find an electrician to help you. All of this can add up to quite a costly project once all the costs are added up.
When using a contractor to perform this kind of work you will also need to invest time in researching and reading reviews. There are many contractors out there and it can be hard to find the right person for the job.
By learning how to plumb in a refrigerator yourself you can save a considerable sum of money and give yourself the satisfaction of having completed a DIY project yourself. Remember, you can always ask a professional for advice or to check your work over once you have finished too!
General Safety Guidance
When preparing to undertake a DIY project, ensure that you are not wearing loose-fitting clothing or jewellery that can easily get tangled and caught. You should also keep a clear workspace with tools kept out of the reach of children and pets.
If you are working with chemicals, you should also ensure that the room you are working in is well ventilated.
Tools and Equipment
It is essential that you use the right tools and equipment for your DIY task, and that you use them safely. For any tools required you should learn how to operate them safely before you begin working with them. If any of the tools need repairs or maintenance work, you should make sure that they are turned off and unplugged before you change any of the parts or take the tools apart.
Keeping your tools properly maintained is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe. Any blades should be kept sharp (a dull blade is far more dangerous than a sharp blade) and when using them always remember to cut away from your body.
When using ladders there are a couple of safety points to keep in mind. Firstly, always keep the ladders on a flat, level surface and if you are using A-frame ladders check that they are locked in the open position before you use them. When using a leaning ladder, for safety you must allow for one foot spread at the base for every 4ft of height. Also, remember to never use aluminium ladders near electrical wires.
When working on a DIY project at home you should ensure that you have a fully stocked First Aid kit to hand and if possible have somebody that you trust to help you in case of an emergency or accident.
Safety Tips for Plumbing Work
If you are working on a DIY project that involves plumbing work, it is important that the work is finished to a professional standard and that it could pass inspection by a qualified plumber. If you are unsure about any elements of your DIY plumbing work, you should always ask a professional for advice.
Before starting a job that requires plumbing work you should turn off the water supply by using the appliance isolator valve or stopcock – if this doesn’t work then you will need to shut off the main water supply to the house. Also, remember to drain appliances of excess water once the water supply has been turned off.
Additionally, if the job involves electrical work as well then you should keep a chemical fire extinguisher readily available (never use a water extinguisher near electrics), and be certain that the power is switched off if you need to make any changes to the electrics.
Important Things to Remember Before You Start
The most important thing to think about when installing a new refrigerator is where the water will come from. Check to see whether you have a water line nearby by looking for a sink or water tap – bear in mind that it will need to be a cold water line so that you are not feeding the fridge with hot water that it will then have to cool down. The water taps or sinks will have a water line installed that you can use for your fridge freezer with a bit of extra plumbing work. Once you have identified a water tap or sink to use, you will then need to consider the distance between the tap and the fridge to minimise the amount of pipework that you will need to install.
Also, when working on installing or removing refrigerators from your home remember that the units are often extremely heavy. You might want to enlist the help of a friend, family member, or neighbour to help you move the refrigerator in and out of place.
Safely Unpacking and Moving a Refrigerator
When your new refrigerator is delivered it is easier to unpack it outside the house. The unit will arrive in a large cardboard box that is difficult to deal with if unpacked inside the kitchen. However, do not throw away the packaging straight away in case you need to return the refrigerator at a later date.
Before you move the refrigerator inside, carefully remove and set aside all of the shelves, drawers and other parts. This will stop them from getting damaged while you are moving and installing the appliance. However, leave the plastic covering on your fridge doors to protect them from damage while being moved.
You should also check that it has been delivered with all of the right fixtures and fittings before you start to install it.
Moving a Refrigerator
When moving a refrigerator, the safest way is to use a dolly or hand truck, tilted on one side to balance the weight of the unit. Never lie the refrigerator on its side or turn it upside down as it can damage the cooling unit inside.
If the refrigerator is especially large and difficult to move, you can also take off its doors – this will come in handy if you have narrow doors that you need to navigate through. To take off the fridge’s doors you will need to undo the bolts at the top and bottom (please refer to the user’s manual if you are unsure about how to do this). In some cases, the style of the fridge might require you to remove other parts and features first such as the water line – so always double-check the manual first.
Before you put the fridge in place you should also balance the feet so that it is stable and make sure that it is sitting on a level surface. Once you have placed the refrigerator in its new space, you can then reattach the doors ready to install the water supply. Before plugging the fridge into an electrical outlet, let it sit for an hour first and keep in mind that it will need around six hours before it starts working properly.
How Does a Refrigerator Work?
Understanding how a refrigerator works will help you to properly maintain your appliance and diagnose any problems with it. Modern refrigerators have come a long way since they were first invented as an ice-cooled box and now involve a lot of different components.
There are five key components of a modern refrigerator: fluid refrigerant, a compressor to control the flow of the refrigerant, condenser coils (found on the outside of the fridge), evaporator coils (located on the inside of the fridge) and an expansion device.
The compressor effectively constricts the refrigerant vapour which raises its pressure and pushes it into the condenser coils on the outside of the unit. Then, when the hot gas in the coils meets the cooler air temperature in the kitchen it is turned into a liquid.
The refrigerant vapour, now in liquid form, cools down as it flows into the coils inside the fridge and freezer. It also works to absorb the heat from inside the fridge and freeze to cool down the air inside.
Finally, the refrigerant evaporates into a gas which flows into the compressor where it begins its journey all over again. The refrigerant completes this cycle, again and again, cycling from liquid to gas and back again, working to keep the inside of the fridge and freezer as cool as possible.
Whilst modern refrigerators haven’t changed much in around 100 years, scientists are currently working on new ways for them to operate. Some of the new ideas include using magnets and the magnetocaloric effect whereby certain metals change temperature when they move in a magnetic field. This is currently used in low-temperature refrigerators within labs, but engineers are working on ways that it could be used in home appliances.
Another possibility for powering refrigerators is by using thermoacoustic sound waves contained inside a tube. This will work to move heat through the compression and expansion of gas.
How to Dispose of an Old Refrigerator
If you have an old refrigerator still in place in the kitchen you will need to dispose of it before you can start installing your new one. Every year it is estimated that 3 million fridges are disposed of in the UK and many of the substances contained within those fridges are harmful to the environment if not correctly disposed of. Getting rid of a fridge responsibly will protect the environment without causing you too much hassle.
Three main pieces of legislation cover the correct disposal of the fridge:
- Duty of care: The Waste (Household Waste) Duty of Care (England & Wales) Regulations 2005 stipulate that all householders getting rid of waste have a duty of care to ensure that it is disposed of properly. This means taking it to a licensed waste facility or ensuring that any third party used to remove the waste is registered with the Environment Agency.
- Removal of ODS (Ozone Depleting Substances): the EC Regulation 2037/2000 states that all refrigerators that contain ODS (such as CFCs and HCFCs) must have them removed by a licensed professional before the appliance can be scrapped.
- Recycling: The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations (WEEE Regs) outline the responsibility of manufacturers, retailers, distributors, local authorities and waste management companies to reuse, recycle and recover fridge units wherever possible.
There are various routes you can use to help you dispose of your old appliance.
- Hire a professional to remove the freon from the fridge. Freon is a refrigerant used within your refrigerator to help keep it cold and it must be removed from the unit before it can be thrown away. A greenhouse gas, freon can damage the ozone layer if it is released into the air and venting it yourself could lead to a hefty fine. Only a professional with the right certifications is approved to remove the compressed freon, store it, and dispose of it safely.
- Schedule a pickup with your local household waste recycling centre. Call your local tip or council to arrange collection of your old fridge. You won’t be able to just leave it outside your house; you must call the right authorities beforehand to arrange disposal.
- Take the fridge to a household waste facility yourself. If you can transport the fridge yourself, you can take it to a household waste and recycling centre. However, not all waste centres will accept refrigerator units so it is best to call ahead before you make the journey.
- Recycle the refrigerator. If your fridge is still in working order you could sell it or gift it to somebody else. List the fridge online or in local ads – platforms such as Facebook Marketplace or eBay are great for selling household appliances. You will need to state if you can deliver the fridge to the buyer or if they will need to collect it themselves. You may also want to keep it plugged in so the buyer can see it still works and is in good condition.
- Ask the retailer. In some cases, the retailer that sold you your new refrigerator may offer a recycling scheme and will collect and dispose of your old unit. There is usually a cost for this, but it is usually between £15-£30.
What Happens When a Fridge is Recycled?
If you do not decide to sell your old fridge on, it will eventually be recycled from one of the other routes that you have taken. First, the fridge will be sent to a dedicated refrigeration recycling plant where over 95% of the appliance can be recycled once the harmful substances have been removed.
The first thing to happen is the separation of the compressor from the fridge and the removal of oils and gases. The CFC gases will then be removed from the oil using an ultrasonic process. Following this, the fridges are shredded in an enclosed nitrogen atmosphere so that any CFC gases being held in the insulating foam can be released safely.
One the shredded fridge materials have been separated from the CFC and nitrogen gases, the insulating foam powder is separated using a sieve and collected so that it can be disposed of. The ferrous metal is also separated by an overhead magnet and non-ferrous metal is separated from the plastics after which it will be recycled.
Finally, the CFCs and nitrogen gasses that were collected will be separated from each other by cooling to -160 centigrade. This enables the CFCs to liquefy after which they are destroyed by high-temperature incineration.
What Tools Will You Need?
Installing a refrigerator is not a difficult job and does not require too many specialist tools or equipment. Everything you need to install your fridge should either be supplied when you buy it or can be found in your local DIY and hardware store. To install a water supply line to your fridge you will need the following tools.
- A t-shaped valve– these fittings can be installed anywhere there is an existing shut-off valve and is the easiest route to follow.
- A flex water supply tube (this should be braided so that it lasts longer)
- A pair of channel-type pliers or adjustable wrenches
How to Plumb in a Refrigerator
- The first step is to turn off the water supply by switching off the valve that supplies water to the sink.
- Next, look under the sink to see where it is connected to the waterline and add the t-shaped valve. This valve will separate the water line into two different connections so one can feed the sink and one can be used for the fridge freezer.
- If you notice that the water tap is connected directly to the waterline, you will have to first remove the tap and then connect the t-shaped valve over it. You can do this by connecting one end of the valve to the waterline and the other end to the sink or the tap.
- Once you have connected the t-shape valve to both the waterline and the sink or water tap you will notice that there is a hole left in the centre where you can connect the piping for the fridge. Secure the pipe using an O ring and then connect the braided water supply tube to the valve.
- If the water line goes under the sink you might also need to drill a hole in the cabinet so that it can pass through to the sink.
- Finally, to connect the pipe to the refrigerator you will need to push the other end of the pipe onto the connection at the back of the freezer and again secure it with an O ring. For extra security, you might also want to use some tape to secure everything in place before you push the fridge into position.
- Once you have connected the refrigerator to the water supply line its time to test that everything works. Switch the water supply back on and give it some time to let the water start flowing into the fridge and its inbuilt water tank. When the water dispenser is ready, turn it on and flush around 8-10 glasses of water through it. Whilst you are doing this check all the pipework to make sure there are no leaks.
On average it should only take you around an hour to plumb in a fridge and test for leaks or any other defects. This guide is a quick how-to on installing fridge freezers that need access to a water line, but please remember that any mistake could cause a problem that damages your kitchen, your appliance or both. It is recommended to thoroughly read the appliance manual before you start to install your fridge and to refer to a plumbing professional if there are any elements that you are unsure of.