Can I Use My Refrigerator Without the Water Filter?

Matthew Mountain
by Matthew Mountain

Modern refrigerators have a lot of cool features, and one of the most popular ones is a water dispenser. These days, most refrigerators have access to clean, freshwater because of water dispensers, and ice makers often complement these systems.

Since refrigerators can now dispense water, such means that water filters must be included, right? In other words: Can a refrigerator run without a water filter? Are water filters really all that important?

These are the questions that’ll be answered in the following sections of this article.

Yes, a refrigerator can be used while the water filter is removed, but running a system this way is not recommended. If you consume water that hasn’t been filtered, you could make yourself sick. Also, operating a system without a filter, or with a bypass plug instead, shouldn’t be done over the long term, as this will damage the refrigerator.

Does a Refrigerator Run Without a Water Filter?

There are some instances when a refrigerator can work without a water filter, and these instances will be discussed in detail below. We’ll also discuss why water filters are important in refrigerators and when it’s appropriate to remove these components.

When Refrigerators Run Without Water Filters

If you’ve taken a trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s recently to look at refrigerators, you’ve likely seen that almost all of the refrigerators being manufactured today have water dispensers and ice makers included. Look online and you’ll see a similar story.

Because these refrigerators have these components now, there is a need for water filters as well. When a refrigerator includes a water filter, one doesn’t have to worry about the impurities that exist in water before it’s filtered.

For this reason, among others, it’s clear to see why water filters should be used in refrigerators. But there are instances when running a refrigerator without a filter may be necessary.

When a filter is absent from a refrigerator, the water coming out of the dispenser or ice maker is coming straight from your home’s water supply. If you don’t want to use a filter, you can invest in what’s called a “bypass plug”. This will allow you to skip the filtration step.

Keep in mind that only some kinds of refrigerators allow for this component. In general, however, one should not be cavalier about removing their water filter, as water that’s unfiltered may taste bad and also be dangerous if consumed.

A Refrigerator Bypass Plug: What Is It?

As was briefly mentioned earlier, some refrigerators will only run filterless if there is a bypass plug installed. A bypass plug stands in for a water filter, as it’s inserted where the filter housing is.

A bypass plug will block water from entering the area where the filter would be. If a bypass plug is not present, and the system is filterless, the water will not run when called for.

There are, however, some systems that don’t need a bypass plug to run without a water filter. With such systems, the water filters can’t be removed, so bypassing them works a little differently. For example, some of these systems employ caps to ensure their water filters are bypassed.

Is Changing a Refrigerator’s Water Filter Necessary?

If your refrigerator includes a water filter, you should use the system as it was designed and avoid using a bypass plug. Using the system as it was designed will not only be good for your health but will ensure that your refrigerator’s water system lasts for a long time too.

If you plan on relying on your refrigerator’s water system until the refrigerator stops working, then you should understand that you will have to replace the water filter occasionally. If you start to notice bad-tasting water or ice, you may be dealing with a filter that’s on its last legs. Sometimes, a filter can get clogged too, and in this instance, ice doesn’t get made.

In short, you’ll have to replace your water filter eventually, and doing so isn’t always a simple task. The difficulty of this job largely depends on what kind of refrigerator you have. Most manufacturers say their water filters should be removed and replaced every six months, but you may need to replace your filter more frequently if you use the water and ice dispensers a lot.

How to Remove a Refrigerator’s Water Filter

Don’t worry, as replacing the refrigerator’s water filter won’t necessitate replacing either of the dispensers. And if you want to know how to replace a filter, these basic steps should help you.

But again, it’s best to consult your system’s manual or get in touch with the manufacturer to know what the proper water-filter-removal procedure is for your system.

  • Locate the water filter housing. Use the system’s manual to find this.
  • Twist the filter counterclockwise until it’s possible to remove it. On some models, there’s a button one needs to press to release the filter.
  • Install the new filter. Turn it clockwise or push it into place if you’re dealing with a button-release system.

Replacing Refrigerator Water Filters Can Get Expensive

If you have a refrigerator for several years, and you have to replace the system’s water filter at least twice a year, eventually these frequent replacements will become expensive. Replacement may also be unnecessary if you have a reverse osmosis system or some other kind of carbon water filter employed on another tap.

If you have a whole-home water filtration system, you should never worry about any of the water coming into your home being contaminated. A lot of owners of reverse osmosis systems say they don’t change their refrigerator water filters every six months, and even more of these owners say they don’t even do a water filter replacement yearly.

This should speak to the power of these more elaborate filtration systems, but one must consider too that these systems are expensive and often requiring maintenance of their own.

If you live in an area that has good-quality water, you may not need to rely on the water filter in a fridge so much.

Weighing Water Filtration Against the Cost of Frequent Filter Replacement

In the end, you should measure the cost of filter replacement against the importance of drinking clean water out of your refrigerator. If you have a water cooler and you get pure water delivered to your home for this, you can rely solely on this system for drinking water while using your refrigerator only for ice making.

Related Questions

Should I get a professional to replace my water filter for me?

It’s certainly never bad to get an expert’s help if you can afford it. A refrigerator expert will know how to take your filter out properly, and they will know which filter to replace it with. Then when the filter comes, they can install it and know immediately whether or not it works.

Why does the water coming out of the refrigerator taste metallic?

Water can sometimes taste metallic, and if this happens you should look at your filter first to see if it needs to be replaced. Another sign which indicates replacement is necessary is when the water is tasting or smelling bad. Most parts of the United States have hard water, so you should consider this before buying a refrigerator that has a water filter.

Final Note

While it’s possible to run a refrigerator without its water filter attached, running a refrigerator in this way is not recommended for a variety of reasons. The two main ones are (1) that running the refrigerator without a water filter can lead to consumption of contaminated water and (2) that running the system in this way can damage it over time.

Even if a bypass plug is inserted, it’s still not good to rely on this, as a refrigerator that’s water-enabled has to be able to function as it was designed to. It’s still possible to get a refrigerator that doesn’t include a water system. So if you’re intent on not using a water filter, perhaps it’s best to just use one of these refrigerators.

Matthew Mountain
Matthew Mountain

Matt loves everything DIY. He has been learning and practicing different trades since he was a kid, and he's often the first one called when a friend or family member needs a helping hand at home. Matt loves to work with wood and stone, and landscaping is by far his most favorite pastime.

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