Frosted refigerator problem probably an easy fix

The Associated Press
Friday November 10, 2000



Q: Our 1973 automatic frostless refrigerator-freezer forms ice in the bottom. What do you suppose is wrong? 

A: First, check that the ice does, in fact, melt when your unit is in its automatic-defrost cycle. Open the door and see if water runs down the tube at the back. 

Then inspect to be sure that the water passages from the freezer section are clear. Remove any food or packaging material that may be obstructing the water passages. 

Remove the cover over the defroster mechanism and check for a blocked hose.  

You can run a flexible wire carefully into the tube to help remove any obstructions.  

While the cover is opened, check the defrost-unit action by advancing the defrost timer. Rotate the dial clockwise. 

The fact that your refrigerator runs frequently could indicate that fan, coils, and compressor need cleaning.  

You may also have a low Freon level. Check this and add Freon if the level is too low. 

Q: I recently purchased a home with Z-Brick on one of the kitchen walls. I’d like to remove the Z-Brick, and wallpaper the entire kitchen. Can you recommend a product that is fast, easy and safe for removing Z-Brick? 

A: For those of you who are not familiar with it, Z-Brick is a molded ceramic type material measuring about three-eighths of an inch thick. It’s applied with a mastic to an interior wall, giving it the appearance of a real brick wall. 

Removing the Z-Brick without damaging the surface behind it is virtually impossible.  

Knocking the Z-Brick off the wall with a hammer is somewhat hazardous because pieces of Z-Brick will fly all over. 

The fastest, most economical way to remove the Z-Brick is the most radical.  

That is, take the wallboard with the Z-Brick on it off the wall, ripping it back to the studs, then re-cover the wall with new gypsum board.  

This sounds harder and more radical than it is. 

Be careful not to damage any wires that might be in the wall cavity. Also, be sure to wear eye protection and a respirator or dust mask during the job. 

Although removing the Z-Brick is somewhat messy, the job should go relatively fast. Since there is only one wall with Z-Brick, cover the wall and remove the mess all within a half day’s work. 

Any other removal method will not give the wall the smooth surface necessary for wallpapering. 

Q: What is the reason for the warning about using specific maximum wattage (such as 60-watt) bulbs in lamps and fixtures? 

A: The reason for such warnings is to minimize the chance of heat buildup and fire that can result if you use a higher wattage bulb in that fixture.  

Recessed and flush-mounted ceiling light fixtures are especially at risk from this problem because there is no circulation around the fixture to cool the bulb.  

Some installations use a cover that traps heat from the bulb.  

Additionally, the bulb itself lies flat against the metal base, which in many cases is attached directly to acoustic tile. 

Q: I am building a new home and was told that my septic system needs to use a seepage pit rather than a leaching field. Can you explain what a seepage pit is and why it’s necessary? 

A: A seepage pit is used instead of a leaching field in residential sewage disposal when the lot the house is located on is too steeply sloped to allow building a field. The pit allows effluent to percolate into the ground the way a leaching field does, but it takes up less surface area. Sewage leaving a house settles in a septic tank before it flows into the pit. 

The pit’s bottom should be filled with 6 to 12 inches of coarse gravel, and the space between the pit liner and the surrounding soil with 3 to 6 inches of coarse gravel. The specific amount of gravel depends on local codes. 

Q: My TV and VCR are plugged into an outlet that my kids can reach. Although it has a childproof cover, would I gain additional protection from a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet?  

Are there disadvantages, other than cost, of having a GFCI breaker in the panel box versus one in an outlet? 

A: A GFCI outlet receptacle certainly provides additional protection against a shock hazard. To do this, the circuit in a GFCI monitors the current in the “hot” and “neutral” lines.  

Under normal conditions, these two currents are always equal. If the circuit detects a difference between them as little as 5 milliamps, it interrupts the power in as little as 1-40th of a second. However, childproof covers on an outlet are effective, and it shouldn’t be necessary to install a GFCI outlet. 

A GFCI receptacle has one advantage over a GFCI installed in a circuit breaker.  

The GFCI circuit breaker monitors the branch circuit.  

With it, there is a greater chance of nuisance tripping caused by a buildup of leaking currents due to deteriorated or damaged sections of insulation, multiple splices and moisture accumulation. When a GFCI breaker trips, the entire branch circuit goes out. Whereas when a GFCI receptacle trips, it de-energizes just itself, or the rest of the branch that follows it, depending on how the electrician has it installed. 

Q: How do you drill in bathroom wall tiles? I would like to put rails in the shower area. 

A: One method is to place a finish nail on the title, and tap it with a hammer to score the glazing. Bore on the scored mark with a masonry bit. 

The second method is to simply buy a carbide- or diamond-tipped drill to bore the hole. Using these bits eliminates the need to score the glazing.  

The diamond-tipped drill is more expensive but preferable to the carbide-tipped bit. 

Both bits are available at hardware stores and industrial suppliers.  

Use a variable-speed drill when using these bits so that you can drill at a slow speed. 

To submit a question, write to Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The most interesting questions will be answered in a future column. 

To submit a question, write to Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The most interesting questions will be answered in a future column.