It's hard to beat the convenience of filling your glass with ice from a station in your refrigerator door. Even less high-tech refrigerators feature built-in ice makers in the freezer compartment, even if they aren't accessible from the door. But refrigerators with ice makers are considered twice as likely to fail as refrigerators without. If you've got a built-in ice maker, what can you do to prolong its life? Here are three things you must do to keep your fridge and ice maker in tip-top shape:
Shut It Down
Even the simplest ice maker components can get extra stressed when they're always in use. To keep your ice maker lasting longer -- and keep your ice more fresh -- it's a good idea to empty all the ice and turn the machine off when its not in use. This could be when you're on vacation, when you're not using ice much (such as in the winter months) or just for a scheduled break every couple of months.
While you're taking your ice maker offline, take the time to do a quick visual inspection and cleaning. Check to see that visible water lines are free of mold and debris, and that any filters on the line for the ice maker are replaced or cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer.
It can also be a good time to wipe down the ice maker and thoroughly clean the bin where the finished ice is kept. In many machines, the ice maker creates more ice than your household can go through, leaving older blocks of ice on the bottom of the storage bin. These can develop a funny taste over time; the bin itself can accumulate debris.
Filter It Out
Does your household have problems with its water? If you have a lot of sediment and debris in your line, take appropriate action. Install a water filter for your entire house to help all your appliances that use water -- including your dishwasher and clothes washer. On the ice maker, the water inlet valve can easily get clogged if you don't have such a filter.
Some homes suffer from hard water, or water with lots of minerals in it. This can be stressful on the ice maker as well as other appliances. Water softeners can strip out the problem components before they reach your appliances, allowing them to run more efficiently.
Clean the Coils
You can't neglect the overall health of your refrigerator, especially when you've got that ice maker putting an extra strain on the appliance. The condenser, which keeps the refrigerator cool by releasing heat, consists of many coils that can become clogged with dirt, debris and pet hair. This reduces the efficiency of the entire fridge, including your ice maker.
Clean the condenser on a regular basis by unplugging the refrigerator and vacuuming the coils with the brush attachment from your shop vac. You can also purchase a brush specially made for cleaning condenser coils, so you can get into all the crevices. Try to do this every 90 days for maximum efficiency.
If you can't -- or don't want to -- inspect, clean and replace filters for your refrigerator, call your local appliance repair store. Many repair facilities offer maintenance contracts where they will visit on a regular basis and do routine cleaning and inspection. This can prevent small issues from becoming larger ones and can significantly extend the life of your refrigerator or other appliance.