Question about GE GSS20IEP Side by Side Refrigerator

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Red glow (from defrost heater?) at bottom of rear panel in freezer

I saw a red glow at the bottom rear panel of freezer portion of GE side by side refrigerator. It was the sound of the water dripping and hitting the heat coil? that drew my attention..then I saw the red glow and felt the heat. Not knowing anything, I unplugged the refrigerator and removed all contents. Now what? Is this actually part of the auto defrost cycle that I just happened to witness for the first time, or is this an issue? 12 year old GE TPH21PR Profile if I read the number correctly.

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  • mekjdk Aug 18, 2008

    Same thing tonight - not sure how old our refrigerator is but saw a red glowing light in the bottom of our freezer of our GE side by side...what is it???

  • Papjm7 Jan 08, 2009

    I opened my freezer and heard a sizzling sound in the back so I looked in the back and saw a red glowing light in the back by the rear panels. Is this normal and is it ok to leave it pluged in?


1 Answer

This is from the GE Appliance "Knowledge Database" Web site:

Refrigerator - Explanation Of Red Glow

In a no frost refrigerator, the defrost timer activates defrost heaters in the evaporator section (rear of freezer) which heat up and melt the frost off the evaporator coils. This process lasts for approximately 25-45 minutes and usually happens up to twice a day.

During this time, there will be no running sounds, no fan noise, and you may hear water dripping or sizzling as it hits the heaters. On side by side models, you may even be able to see an orange glow at the bottom of the freezer.

This is normal.

Posted on Sep 10, 2008

  • 3 more comments 
  • gina_brogan
    gina_brogan Jan 24, 2012

    Thanks so much for posting this... You solved our

  • gina_brogan
    gina_brogan Jan 24, 2012

    Thanks so much for posting this... You solved our

  • Christine Sep 13, 2012

    We smelt a burning smell and went in the freezer to investigate. There was a red glow in the bottome and water dripping.After reading this i have learned that this is the defrost process happening. But my question is....what is the burning smell?

  • court Jul 08, 2013

    ty!! i was worried my freeer was going to catch on fire lol. ty for the helpful info

  • serinastewar Apr 22, 2014

    after the defroft (red glow in bottom of fridge and water that has been leaking on and off for almost a year this time as said i seen the red glow and smelled the burning did not unplugg my fridge but in is warm now actually was getting hot so unplugged it today ..Should i just buy a new one or have someone out does anyone know ?Don't want to pay someone to tell me it's poched then buy another one.thanks.


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2 Answers

Freezer working fine. Have water dripping into fridge and can't get temperature below 50 degrees.


Sounds like you have a defrost problem since the freezer side is working okay . It probably is not blowing cold air into the refrigerator side , so to check the defrost circuit , unplug the refrigerator and inside the refrigerator section at the top about 2" in from each side in the back , there are "D" slots to put a finger in , and pull downward and forward , to remove the control panel cover . Once removed , there is a 1/4" screw on each side holding the adjustment indicator panel on , 1 phillips screw behind both light bulbs , and 1 screw holding the complete panel to the rear wall . After removing these 5 screws , at the top right corner , with about 6-8 wires going to it , is the adaptive defrost board . Sometimes you can see the electronic board and on newer refrigerator's , a white box will be seen. Inside this box , is the adaptive defrost control . Disconnect the plug going to the board and on the right side of the PLUG , the far right wire is yellow , then another color , then white . Using a small insulated wire with both ends stripped , insert one end into the yellow wire hole and the other into the white wire hole . This will bypass the adaptive board and send power directly through the defrost bimetal ( thermostat ) AND heater to check if they are good .Plug the refrigerator back in . Now , wait about 3-5 min and look for a red glow at the bottom of the inside freezer panel , which will be the defrost heater or listen for sizzling which will be the frost melting and dripping onto the heater .If NO red glow , watch for a spark while removing the jumper wire you installed , from the plug . If a spark IS seen , then the heater was on and the heater AND bimetal are good . If you see the red glow , hear the sizzling , or see the spark , then the adaptive defrost board should be replaced . If no glow , sizzling or spark , then unplug the refrigerator and reinstall the refrigerator control section .
Remove the food in the freezer section enough so that the 2 screws holding the lower freezer panel on and the freezer panel , can be removed . Remove the panel . If the heater (black element at the bottom of the coils ) wires are visible , trace then to the top of the coils and disconnect . Use an ohm meter to determine if the element is good . If the element IS good , at the top of the coils , is a 1" cylinder with 2 wires , clipped onto the coils . This is the defrost thermostat ( bimetal ) . Replace this part if the element shows good . If the element shows bad , replace the element . NOTE 1 : sometimes the element and the bimetal come wired together and the replacement part comes with a new heater and bimetal already wired together . This would be the adviseable replacement part . However , each part can still be replaced individually . NOTE 2 : If looking at the bimetal and the top plastic " cap " looks cockeyed , replace the bimetal as moisture has gotten inside and disturbed its designed function .

Hoping this will help in solving the problem....

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1 Answer

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The red glow you see is simply the defrost heater doing its job. When the refrigerator defrost control senses it is time to defrost the evaporator, it turns on a heater that in the dark, can glow brightly. This is perfectly normal.

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We have a TFX25JR side-by-side with ice maker and water dispenser; had water leaking on floor on freezer side of bottom left corner. Comes under tray, cleaned the coils and seemed to work, but 2 weeks...

Your evaporator coils frost up in normal use and every eight hours or so the entire unit shuts down and the defrost heater comes on to melt the frost. This cycle last about 20 minutes. The melted frost drips into a drain pan and through a drain tube to the drain tray under the freezer/refrigerator where it's evaporated by the condenser fan.

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Sounds llik a defrost heater is open if you
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