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When Should I Change My Refrigerator Water Filter?

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The modern refrigerator is a marvelous convenience that requires very little in the way of maintenance – but one small task that you should keep up with is periodically changing the filter that filtrates the water that flows into your ice maker and water dispenser.

Fortunately, this is an easy bit of scheduling. Almost all refrigerator manufacturers suggest replacing the water filter every six months, or more often if you use your water features heavily or there are warning signs that the filter has outlived its usefulness. Some manufacturers helpfully include a filter indicator light on the refrigerator control panel that alerts you to the need for a filter change, or provide a “Water Filter Replacement Calendar” posted inside the refrigerator.

Water filters are based on the simple principle of running water through carbon that traps contaminants – chemicals, metals, and microbes – before they can get to you.

But a given amount of carbon can only trap so much. After a while, the carbon will be so saturated with contaminants that they may leak back into the water flowing through the filter. Mold and bacteria could actually start growing inside the filter. The filter will ultimately stop making your water cleaner and start making it dirtier – obviously a very undesirable result!

The build-up of contaminants will also impede the flow of water, one of the signals that tell you it’s time for a filter change:

  • The water dispenser is trickling
  • The ice maker isn’t making much ice
  • The ice is cloudy (from impurities the filter is no longer doing a good job of preventing)
  • The water or ice doesn’t smell quite right
  • The water or ice doesn’t taste quite right

Obviously, if you noticed any of those problems, you would probably replace the filter pretty quickly. But contaminants could be getting through without providing any of these cues, because their presence is sometimes subtle. It is better to stick to a replacement schedule and head off problems before they occur.

The actual replacement of the filter is a snap once you have the right part – it is very efficient to keep an extra filter on hand. The positioning of the filter varies widely among manufacturers and models – some even “hide” the filter compartment in the refrigerator’s toe grille, although more often it is visible in the upper part of the refrigerator interior. If there is any confusion on this point talk to one of our live chat representatives.