What’s up guys, and welcome back. In this article/video, I would like to go thru all the steps on properly connecting a water line to your refrigerator to feed an ice-maker or simply a drinking water supply.
Ever since we moved in our home, I never got the time to connect a water line to my refrigerator to be able to have some ice cubes, so I thought it would make for a good how-to article/video and at the same time, I would get it done.
There are many ways where an installation like this could go wrong and that’s why I’ll make this video as thorough as possible so that you feel confident in doing it yourself and you know that it won’t leak after the install is finished. I’ll also show you multiple ways of getting it done and why some methods are better than others.
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Step 1: Materials
1/4" PE-RT Pipe (50ft): https://amzn.to/2IBzo83
1/2" x 1/4" Sharkbite Tee: https://amzn.to/2IBzo83
1/4" Brass sleeves and nylon insert: https://amzn.to/2IBzo83
To start off, I’d like to go thru all the tools and materials needed to complete the job.
As for materials, you’ll be needing some ¼” plastic tubing(PE-RT). I don’t recommend using copper for this application as yes it may be a more durable solution but it could corrode in the long run and easily be pinch or kinked while pushing the refrigerator back in place and for what we are doing here, plastic works fine. Another good alternative would be to use a braided stainless steel line, but they are double the price.
Whenever installing plastic pipe with compression fittings such as these, you always want to use plastic ferrules. The ferrule, AKA sleeve or olive, is the part the compresses on to the pipe which makes for a leak free joint. If you use a brass ferrule, you run the chance of it cutting thru the pipe and causing the fitting to leak, this is where most DIYers make a mistake that could potentially lead to a disaster.
Another thing to keep in mind is using a brass sleeve inside the pipe. If you don’t insert one before tightening, the pipe will collapse onto itself and could also cause water damage due to it not being installed correctly. The sleeve acts as a reinforcement to make sure the pipe isn’t squashed during the tightening process.
If you don’t feel comfortable using compression fittings, there’s a much more user-friendly alternative that’s available and it’s called a push-fitting. These push fittings are easy to use and do the job just fine, but if you’re looking for a more durable option I suggest using compression fittings.
To be able to connect the line from the refrigerator to your closest cold water supply line, you’ll either need a push fitting, or a dedicated Tee with a sweat on valve (1/2" male sweat shut-off valve). I’ll be showing both ways to install one as you may not be familiar with sweating copper pipe. However, if you feel like trying it out, I do suggest watching this video right here as it gives easy step-by-step instructions on how to properly solder a copper pipe. In any case, don’t ever use THIS type of valve. The last valves you see are called saddle valves and use a clamp type system that clamp’s onto a pipe with 2 screws and uses a small needle to puncture it, giving water to whatever it’s connected to. However, these have a tendency to leak from the rubber joint after a while and are an accident waiting to happen, so I suggest you stay away from them even if they are tempting.
Step 2: Tools
Now onto the tools. You’ll be needing 2 adjustable wrenches to tighten the couplings, a sharp utility knife to cut the pipe to the desired length, a small pipe cutter and drill with a small drill bit. If you’re working on copper and you decided to use a push fitting, you’ll need to deburr the inside and outside of the pipe after it’s cut. So you’ll need these 2 dedicated tools or just a file and a utility knife to get it done. If you’re working on CPVC or PEX, this step isn’t mandatory but I do it even though. I’ll show how to do this later in the article. If you decide to solder it instead, I suggest getting an all-in-one soldering kit like this as they are a lot cheaper and give the same results.
And lastly, if you have a sheet of hard cardboard like this, it’ll be useful to place it in front of the refrigerator as you are moving it to protect the floor of any scratches or wheel marks, so with all of that said, let’s get started!
Soldering kit: https://bit.ly/2G3K9Nw
Pencil reamer: https://bit.ly/2G3K9Nw
Pipe cutter: https://bit.ly/2G3K9Nw
Utility knife: https://bit.ly/2G3K9Nw
Adjustable wrenches: https://bit.ly/2G3K9Nw
Step 3: Choose a Cold Water Source
Ok, so the first thing you wanna do is to determine where you’ll be getting your water from. If your basement doesn’t have a closed ceiling, you might be lucky and have a pipe nearby to tap into like me, I have a ½” water line right below my fridge so it’ll make for an easy install. If you don’t have this kind of setup, you might wanna use another route such as running it thru your cabinets and connecting to your sink’s cold water line. If this is the case, you might not need to shut off the main water valve to the house to install your tap. Most under counter setups have shutoff valves for the sink which should be located here, I have a different setup so this won’t work for me, but, if you do have a valve, you could shut it off and make your connection right over it just like this.
But since I’m tapping into the line in my basement, let’s shut off the main water valve and drip the system out by the lowest point in the house and the lowest point in my house is my exterior hydrant. While that’s emptying, let’s go back upstairs and pull the fridge out. If you have your hard cardboard, now’s a good time to use it.
Step 4: Fishing the Pipe
As soon as you pull out the fridge you’ll see a plastic water line dangling from the back of your fridge, this what we’ll be connecting too and you wanna make sure you did this step prior to purchasing all your fittings just to make sure everything is the right size, mine is ¼” OD piping which is typical for most refrigerators.
Like I mentioned before, if tapping in the basement isn’t an option for you, you could drill thru the back of your cabinet’s making sure it clears any drawers and feed into your sink’s cold water just like this. I’m feeding from downstairs so I’ll need to drill a hole thru my floor. Whenever drilling thru a floor, make absolutely sure the path is clear and that no electrical wires, pipes or vents are in the way or you could damage them and end up needing to called a contractor to get it fixed. Once you’re sure that it’s safe and that there’s nothing in the way, proceed to making the hole. In the event that there IS something in the way, you’ll need to re-route somewhere else.
Now, you could fish the plastic pipe you bought into the hole, my connection is only about a foot away downstairs so I don’t need much to start off with.
Step 5: Making the Connection (water Source)
I’ll first show you how to tap into the cold line using the Sharkbite push fitting, then I’ll remove it and solder on a tee with a valve so you could better make a decision on which to use according to your skill level.
So now that your water line is empty, start off by marking your pipe where it needs to be cut, and cut it using the pipe cutter. Installing a push fitting like this is super easy but there are some steps to follow in order to make a proper connection. Sharkbites require that the outside of the pipe is deburred before insertion. You could either use your Sharkbite deburring tool or just a flat file. The outside burr, if not filed down, could damage the o-ring inside the fitting and cause it to leak seeing it’s sharp. At this stage, I always like deburring the inside of the pipe as well to prevent turbulence and restriction. Something else to keep in mind is marking the proper insertion depth to make sure it goes in all the way. You could use your Sharkbite deburring tool which also serves as a depth gauge or you could use this chart and mark it manually. Once it’s marked, insert the first side and then the second, it should align perfectly with the mark you made and the connection is done. The reason why you need to make absolutely sure that the pipe is fully penetrated is that if it isn’t, it’ll catch on the teeth but won’t go past the o-ring which will most probably cause it to leak. If you are working with PEX, make sure your fitting has a pipe stiffener in it, it does exactly the same thing as the brass sleeves when using compression fittings and not all push fittings have them. These aren’t required on copper or CPVC but could be left on at your discretion.
You could install your ¼” plastic tube that goes to the refrigerator at this point, but I’m gonna be showing you how to solder on a T with a valve so you have both methods to choose from.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, if you aren’t familiar with soldering, I have an easy to follow step by step video on how to correctly solder a copper joint so I’ll leave a link in the description box below for you to watch it and this card here as well.
So same as before, cut the pipe to length and deburr the inside. This time you’ll need to clean both pipe ends with a scotch pad or emery cloth and flux them using a water-soluble flux. I am using this little gadget right here called the Fluxuator to apply my flux, which is Copaflux and is lead-free and water-soluble which are 2 important things to make sure of when choosing your flux. Whenever you solder, do make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby in the event something catches on fire. Once everything is fluxed, assemble your ½” compression valve onto your T and start to heat it at the bottom. You wanna use a lead-free solder when working on potable lines or they’ll get contaminated and you’ll literally be drinking lead if you choose the wrong one. Test the fitting every now and then to see if it’ll suck in the solder. Once it’s hot enough, apply the solder up until you see a drip start to form on the bottom, this is a good indicator that the joint if properly filled, it normally only takes the diameter of the pipe your soldering in solder, so a ½” pipe requires 1/2” of solder. Good! Now that everything is soldered up, wait a few minutes for everything to cool down and use a rag to clean the excess flux before proceeding. A quick note here is never connect the plastic pipe and then solder, you could only imagine what the results would be.
With everything cooled down, let’s connect the plastic pipe. Just as before, make sure the pipe end is cut square and free of any scratches or debris, slip on the retainer nut, plastic ferrule, and the brass sleeve and tighten it using your adjustable wrench. Remember to orientate the ferrule in the right direction, tapered side towards the fitting like you see here. So insert the tube into the valve and hand tighten the retainer nut to make sure it’s not cross-threaded. Then your adjustable wrench and start tightening, you’ll feel when it gets tight enough and that’s pretty much how it needs to be if it leaks afterward, just give it an extra ¼ turn and it should do the trick.
Step 6: Making the Connection (refrigerator)
We’ll be testing these connections out later once everything is done, so let’s go back upstairs for now.
You’ll only be needing approximately 5 to 6 feet of loose piping to be able to pull the fridge in and out for an occasional cleaning. To cut it, use your utility knife and cut any excess off as square as possible just like this.
For the connections, the same basic techniques apply for this part and they could be connected together in 2 different ways like before using either a push or compression coupling. The push coupling is pretty straight forward and installs the same way as the T I just showed downstairs, just make sure both ends are fully inserted before attempting to turn the water on. These smaller versions of push fittings don’t require a pipe stiffener as the bigger size ones do for plastic pipes.
If you decided to go with the compression coupling, make sure both pipe ends are cut straight, slip on the retainer nut, ferrule, brass sleeve and tighten everything together. It might happen that the brass sleeve’s fit is too tight, if that’s the case, dunk the pipe in some hot tap water for a few minutes and try again, it should go it a lot easier. And finally, to make sure your joints are good, give them a nice tug, if they don’t come apart, you most likely did a good job.
Step 7: Testing
With the refrigerator out of its hole, go ahead and proceed to testing. Slowly open up the shutoff valve if you used the “under counter” method to connect it, or in my case, the main water valve and verify to make sure there aren’t any leaks on the main water line. Then open up the valve for the fridge connection and do the same thing. Inspect all the connections you made to make sure there aren’t any small leaks.
Once you’re satisfied, slowly push the fridge back into its place and wait a few hours to check if any ice cubes were made, and yes it works perfectly! Time for a nice refreshing drink after all that work.
And that completes the installation of a water line to your fridge.
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