It started with a sheet of ice on the floor of your refrigerator’s freezer that you possibly did not notice right away. Shortly thereafter, water began leaking onto your kitchen floor under your freezer. Perhaps you looked to the Internet for answers, or called up the manufacturer for help. If so, maybe you learned that the issue was a clogged drain hole in your freezer floor. Perhaps you were able to get a temporary fix by defrosting the drain hole and clearing it out. Unfortunately, that fix did not address the defective design of the freezer and within a few weeks, you once again had a mini Rockefeller Center in your freezer. You are not alone. Hundreds of consumers have complained about this issue.
What Is Happening?
Every few hours, a freezer automatically goes into “defrost” mode. The purpose of this mode is not to defrost your entire freezer (if operating properly, your freezer remains cold enough to safely store your frozen foods). Instead, it helps remove frost and ice build-up from the condenser, and theoretically, keeps your freezer and refrigerator operating correctly and efficiently. If all is functioning properly, when the freezer goes into defrost mode, the frost from the condenser melts and drips to the bottom of your freezer. It then passes through a valve and through a drain and collects in a pan on the floor outside of and under your refrigerator. If all goes according to plan, the water in that pan naturally evaporates. Unfortunately, this is not happening for many with these refrigerators.
When the drain or the valve clog, the water collected during the defrost cycle is unable to drain properly. When the water from the defrost cycle does not drain properly or quickly enough, it re-freezes, starting at the drain and quickly spreads throughout the bottom of your freezer. The drain can clog from any variety of things found in your freezer—from crumbs, ice, or a pea to even debris from the manufacturing or packaging process. This problem is not uncommon and many have experienced collecting ice and even damage to their floors due to leaking water outside of the freezer.
Why Is it Happening?
Repairmen have speculated that part of the reason these units are prone to clogging is that the type of valve used in the drain unit. Many models of KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Maytag refrigerators utilize a type of valve called a duck bill check valve. It looks like the image to the left. Some have speculated that the narrow opening allows food, debris, and ice to become trapped more easily. Some have attempted to self-help fix this issue by cutting off the part of the valve that resembles the duck bill i.e. where the opening is small, opening it up and creating a wider pathway for debris to fall through while draining. However, this can create other issues, among other reasons, as it allows warm air to more easily enter your freezer through the drain and causes your freezer to work harder to stay cool.
What Do the Manufacturers Have to Say About This?
KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Maytag issued a joint technical service bulletin (or TSB) to its repair-persons in 2013. That TSB called for installation of a re-designed valve to replace the factory-installed duck bill valve in freezers experiencing this defect. However, the manufacturers did not issue a recall of the potentially defective refrigerators and based on consumer complaints, do not pay for repairs. While there is a “fix,” many of consumers have been required to pay out of pocket for either parts, costly labor, or both. The TSB relates to hundreds of models of these refrigerators, but the information was not shared with consumers who experience these issues.
If you have experienced this issue with your KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Amana, Jenn-Air, or Maytag refrigerator, contact Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel LLP to any potential claims you may have.