DEAR MIKE: I bought a new refrigerator that has an ice maker ready to go. I was thinking how nice it would be not to have to fill the trays to make ice. When I have a party, I won't have to spend the previous two days making ice. There is a valve at the bottom of the wall, so how do I hook up the ice maker? -- Evan A.
DEAR EVAN: I'm glad to see that something as simple as an ice maker can give someone such pleasure. An automatic ice maker is certainly one of those things that people take for granted.
The most typical setup you will find is a small valve built into the wall. You connect a water line from the valve to the nipple on the back of the freezer and the ice spits out. It's like magic.
In homes without this valve, you will need to tap into the water supply and bring it to the location of the refrigerator. You can buy an ice maker kit, or you can buy the parts by themselves.
While you are thinking about all of this, you can also consider whether or not to install an in-line ice maker filter. There are lots of different products out there, but they all install in the same manner.
For houses without the valve at the refrigerator's location, you can either replace the valve that supplies the kitchen faucet's cold water, or you can install a saddle valve. A saddle valve is a gizmo that clamps around a pipe and pierces it to supply water to wherever it is that you need it to go. I personally don't like these valves, but I know others that just love them.
To tap into the kitchen faucet's cold water, buy a new valve with two nipples and simply attach the ice maker's tube to the second nipple.
Regardless of which method you choose, you will likely need to run the ice maker's water tube through some cabinetry.
If you look under the sink, you will see how the dishwasher's drain hose runs through a hole in the side of the cabinet. You will do this with the ice maker tube, except with a much smaller hole.
Use a drill with a bit or a small hole saw and punch a hole through the side of the cabinet as far down and as far back as possible. Run the tube through the hole until you get it to the fridge. By the way, turn the valve off or you will get to soak up lots of water.
You can use plastic or copper tubing, however plastic is cheaper and it's easier to work with. At this point, it's a matter of connecting the tube to the freezer and the valve.
Slip a brass nut on the tube, then a ferrule. If you are using plastic tubing, stick a brass insert into the end of the tubing. Wrap the threads with Teflon tape and screw it together. The nut will compress the ferrule and stop any leaking. Don't crunch down too hard on the nut. Simply turn it until the leaking stops.
Repeat this for the freezer, then turn the water back on.
If you decide to install an in-line filter, you can buy a kit which includes the filter cartridge and hoses. The hoses screw on to both the valve and the freezer nipple, and the filter snaps into place through fittings in the hoses. When you install the filter, make sure you follow the arrows on the filter so that the water flows in the right direction.
Connect the filter cartridge to the valve side first and then hold it over a bucket and turn the water on. The manufacturer will suggest flushing the cartridge out for five to 15 minutes. This step is important because it will flush out fine particles of carbon. Don't bypass this step unless you want black specs in your ice.
Connect the other side of the filter and turn the water back on. Inside the freezer, the ice maker will have a metal arm (about the thickness of a coat hangar). Push this arm down to start the process of making ice. It will take a few hours for the unit to drop its first cubes, but after that you can start sending out the party invites.