How Does a Refrigerator Water Dispenser Work?

Many side-by-side refrigerators have a water- and ice-dispensing feature located on the front of the freezer section. There will typically be an indention with a small water and ice collection tray at the bottom for overflow and small spills. The unit will feature two glass-sized paddle controls with one for ice and the other for water. Many units will have selector switches for selecting water and a variety of ice types. To dispense water, simply insert the glass into the opening and depress the paddle control with the glass itself. A small valve will be opened, allowing the water to flow into the glass. When the desired amount is received, simply release the lever.

As a Feature on the Refrigerator

The Inner Workings

Water is dispensed by means of a depressing a small paddle-shaped piece of plastic. This is actually a lever which in turn activates a small switch in the door of the refrigerator. This switch turns on a small valve which is actually located at the rear or back of the refrigerator. Connected to the valve are tubes which connect to a water supply from the floor or wall and, at the opposite end, to the refrigerator itself. Water flows through this tubing through the control valve and then into the refrigerator itself. It is held in a small container where it is cooled and waits to be dispensed. As the water is dispensed, more water flows into the container, thus providing a constant and ready amount of water.


Many refrigerators will have an additional feature installed into the water line. Filters may be mounted inside or outside the refrigerator depending on the make and model. The water flows into the filter which will contain a charcoal or other filtering material through which the water will travel. This process removes harmful chemicals and microbes which may affect taste or prove to be harmful. Filters are typically designed to last for a predetermined length of time and must be changed periodically.

Tara Dooley

Tara Dooley has written for various websites since 2008. She has worked as an accountant, after-school director and retail manager in various locations. Dooley holds a Bachelor of Science in business management and finance.