How Refrigerator Makes Ice and How Freezer Works

Refrigerators with built-in ice makers have been around for many years. All you need to do is push a button, and you have ice in your glass. Have you ever been curious to know the process involved before you get that ice? 

First, if you are into history, then you’d know that the first icemaker came to life in the 1850s. This was, however, designed for commercial use. 

Ice-making refrigerators were first sold in the 1950s. There have been several advancements ever since, but the general operation remains the same. 

How Does a Refrigerator Make Ice?

An icemaker is fitted with a water valve, a motor, and a heating element. It is worth noting that the ice-making process is controlled with a series of switches and a simple electrical circuit.

The process commences immediately when a timer switch is activated. It, in turn, sends an electric signal to the solenoid water valve. This will allow water to flow and fill the ice mold within a given time (usually about seven seconds).

The water is then left to freeze, and the thermostat will determine when ice has been formed. Once this happens, the heating element is activated to soften the ice cubes’ edges. 

This is crucial as it improves the efficiency of the next step.

The motor is responsible for the final step, which is basically storage. It spins a shaft fitted with small arms that continuously scoop the ice cubes from the tray and drops them in the storage bin. 

The shaft will regulate the process by raising a shut-off arm. How does this happen? 

Once the ice cubes have reached their desired destination, the arm drops to its lowest position. 

At this point, the arm will activate another switch for activating the water valve, and the cycle repeats. However, the shaft won’t reach its lowest position if there are ice stuck along the way. 

As such, the water valve will not be activated, indicating the end of the process. This cycle could take about an hour or two, depending on your refrigerator

How Does a Freezer Work?

We’ve seen the operation of the ice maker in your fridge. What about a freezer? Well, the whole process revolves around compression, condensation, and evaporation.

Physics states that an evaporating fluid absorbs heat, while a condensing one releases heat to the environment. As such, to freeze an item, the heat needs to be absorbed out of it. 

So, what is used to absorb the heat? 

A refrigerant gas such as R-134a or R-22 is contained in steel or copper pipes installed in the freezer. These gases have been designed and tested in the lab to fit the operation of a freezer.

The process starts with the compressor, which compresses the refrigerant gas at high pressure. It is then passed through the coils hence condensing it to liquid. When it reaches room temperature, it is then sent to a low-pressure section called the evaporator 

Since it is no longer under high pressure, the refrigerant gas evaporates. In the process, it absorbs heat from the surrounding environment – which includes your items. 


Refrigerators are common in most kitchens today. It is important to understand how these appliances work to help you solve certain faults without consulting a professional. 

An ice maker has three main features; water valve, motor, and heating motor. Freezers, on the other hand, revolves around evaporation, compression, and condensation.

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