A majority of refrigerators have a water filter connected to the ice maker and water dispenser. If the dispenser is used regularly, filters should be replaced at least every six months. Replacement filters can be purchased through the refrigerator manufacturer as well as in most home improvement stores. In some cases, refrigerators can be used without a filter. How your refrigerator will function without a filter will depend on its type and whether or not it has a bypass plug.
Operating Without a Filter
Whether or not the refrigerator will function without a filter depends upon its specifics. If the refrigerator does not have a bypass plug and the filter housing can be closed with the filter cap, a filter is not needed. If the refrigerator has a bypass plug, it must be properly installed for the water and ice dispensers to work without a filter. Check your refrigerator user manual for specific information about your model and its use without a filter.
Bypass Plug Models
Refrigerators that use a water filter often include a built-in bypass plug, allowing you to operate the refrigerator without a filter if needed. In these models, the bypass plug is usually installed in the refrigerator compartment.
To use the bypass plug, turn your filter counterclockwise until the filter slides out. Then, you can insert the filter bypass plug into the filter housing, twisting it clockwise to secure. The water and ice will dispense without filtration once the bypass plug is successfully installed.
Non-Bypass Plug Models
Other refrigerators allow the water system to operate without a filter or a bypass plug. In these models, the filter is usually located in the base grille.
Either way, most refrigerators include a water filter. Once you remove this filter, pull the cap off of its end and install it onto the filter opening in the base grille. Tighten it by turning it counterclockwise. Now, water and ice will dispense normally but will not be filtered.
About Water Filters
Refrigerators' water and ice dispensers tend to work best with a filter installed, which allows them to consistently deliver high quality water. Refrigerator filters remove minerals, debris and other impurities from the water before dispensing it or turning it into ice. When left unfiltered, foreign substances are not removed from the water and its taste and quality could be affected.
Activated Carbon filters are great for removing large foreign objects, like dirt particles, from your water through absorption. Smaller particles, however, can be missed by carbon filters.
To combat this, many concerned homeowners choose reverse osmosis filters, which can remove a wide variety of potentially dangerous and foul-tasting contaminants from your drinking water. According to experts at The Home Depot, this popular filtration method removes up to 99 percent of contaminants.
If you are unsure of the quality or microbiological content of the water, a filter is recommended, regardless of whether the refrigerator will dispense water and ice without one. Make sure to maintain your water filtration system and change filters at the recommended times to ensure they are in working order.
Some homeowners choose to install a water filtration system in their entire house, rather than just their fridge. In this case, running a refrigerator without a filter is a common route.
When deciding whether or not to use your refrigerator's filter, cost must also be considered. Filters need consistent replacement. If cost is an issue and you live in an area with excellent drinking water quality, a filter may not be necessary.
Meredith Jameson writes early childhood parenting and family health articles for various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from San Francisco State University.