How Does a Refrigerator Ice Maker Work?

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The Ice Storm

  • Nothing can compare to a cool glass of your favorite beverage on a hot summer day. Sometimes the refrigerator alone is just not enough to bring that liquid temperature to the point where it is most appealing. This is why we turn to the magic of ice. In days past (and, for many people, in the present), this meant cracking open the ice trays in the freezer and pulling out the cubes. Today, however, many refrigerators come with a built-in ice maker, eliminating the need to do any of this manually. You simply press your glass against the lever, and wait for your ice to come. But how much thought have you given to how this process works?

Get Your Motor Running

  • Refrigerator ice makers are powered by an electrical motor, which runs off the same power source as the refrigerator/freezer itself. The ice maker is also connected to the water supply, which provides the maker with the water it needs to produce the finished product. Both of these lines run through the back of the refrigerator, hidden from sight to create a more pleasing aesthetic. Once everything is in place, and powered correctly, the ice maker can begin to work its magic.

Making the Ice

  • Inside your ice maker is a plastic mold, not much different from the ice trays you are probably familiar with. Instead of manually filling this mold, however, the ice maker is set up to do it on its own. Working from a timer, it opens a valve that allows a certain amount of water to come in through the plumbing and fill the mold. It then lets the water sit there until it is frozen naturally by the freezer's temperature. The ice maker monitors the temperature of the water, thus being able to tell when the water is sufficiently frozen. The ice maker sends a signal to cut off the cooling element and the freezing process concludes.

Getting the Ice to Your Glass

  • This is where things really get interesting. After the ice is formed, the ice maker actually employs a heating element. Why, you ask? Well, this allows the ice to break free of the mold, where it is then shipped via ejector blades to a collection bin. If you've ever opened your freezer, you have certainly seen this bin, filled with ice cubes. At that point, it's just a matter of pressing the lever on the front of the refrigerator, and ice comes cascading down a hatch and into your glass.

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