Unauthorized Charcoal: GE fridges won't dispense ice or water unless your filter authenticates as an official ($55!) component

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/23/proprietary-carbon.html


Doesn’t his kind of filter have to be replaced regularly?
Would it work even after the filter expire?

All I can see is that people will just keep the old filter, if the fridge wasn’t configured to brick itself after the expected replacement date (hey GE, there is still more money to be made), and get more potential health problems because of a company’s greed.


Yes, my fridge is every 6 months. I buy generic ones online. I wonder how hard it would be to remove the RFID from the old filter and slap it on the new generic one. Not that anyone here would violate the terms of service and whatnot like that.


Probably not that hard. This is what people did with the Keurig pods, going so far as to tape the chip onto the reader.


The twist is that GE is about to go bankrupt, meaning it’s an open question whether paying them $55 now is going to turn into paying $150 to some third party who bought the license, or trawling eBay for vintage new-in-box fridge filters.


I have a new GE fridge and I just replaced the filter with an off-brand replacement that was much much cheaper.


I saw those $55 filters in the store when I bought my fridge, and I was entirely prepared to install the bypass plug when the one that came with the fridge got old and slow, but was pleasantly surprised to discover the sanely priced alternative on Amazon. I have no idea if it filters as well as the official part, but I’d be shocked if it is more than a couple of percentage points different (carbon filter technology is very old, well understood, and cheap) and I think filtering tap water is a bit of a waste of time. It makes the missus happy though.

Reading the Twitter thread it seems that I dodged a bullet by buying the non-Internet of Garbage fridge. Mine doesn’t have enough smarts to make my life a hassle.


Would this workaround work for you?


My GE refrigerator appears to memorize the RFIDs and won’t let you reuse an old cartridge. I’ve heard online that you can use the RFID that came off of the plug that shipped with the refrigerator, but I threw that out a long while ago.

When I purchased the fridge I didn’t realize this would be a thing I’ve learned two lessons 1) I will not purchase from GE again 2) ask about these shenanigans up front

(tangentially related: I am also actively avoiding WIFI enabled appliances, I can’t imagine they have the necessary investment in security to justify the risk and non-existent value of being included)


Ge is a pain to deal with. Nothing but hoops to jump through, authorizations to wait on, re-authorizations, no one stocks parts because they were trying to keep overhead down. Just a mess.


Some RFID chip setups have an internal counter that will disable the device after a certain number of “uses” - preventing the owner from reusing old cartridges. Usually that’s programmed into an EPROM chip on the mainboard.

Just another way for manufacturers to squeeze reoccurring revenue out of their customers whether they want it or not.


You can order a replacement bypass plug for free from GE:


The great thing is that the RFID chip on the bypass plug can’t expire.


After a couple of years, the ice maker is going to stop dispensing ice no matter what in any case, so don’t worry about it too much.


I ordered the bypass plug from GE (the send it out for free) and just peeled the RFID sticker off of it and taped it to the fridge where it can be read. Then I buy cheap 3rd party (non-rfid) filters and use them. When I dispense water, the fridge says “Not Filtered” but I know it is. I never have to mess with that sticker again.


My neighbor dug the chip out’a the old filter and tapped it to the new cheaper online filter, all is good as it should.


Looks like having a RFID read/writer is fast becomeing a ‘must have’ tool for the 21st centruy.

Even works with light sabers.


GE fridges now aren’t actually “GE” anymore. GE spun off their appliance division and its now owned by the Chinese manufacturer Haier: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE_Appliances


And the several hundred dollar price tag plus installation could buy you ALOT of bag ice. You could even dump it in the ice auger and have the cubes come out the dispenser.

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I had the same experience with my GE Fridge: couldn’t re-use an old RFID, couldn’t use a cheap non-GE filter, and I don’t remember turning up any solution on line like using the plug.

Instead I learned the same two things you did - never to buy another thing from GE, and to always ask about proprietary handcuffs that will balloon the costs of anything more complicated than a can opener.


I don’t know why I’m surprised. Usually at this point in the corporate life cycle, the original brand is running a company whose main asset is the contract to provide uniforms for the janitors that clean the buildings it sold to a spin-off that is long-term leasing them to the third company that still makes the original product, except it’s part of a multinational conglomerate that also makes girdles, ukulele strings, and the nosecone for the Space Shuttle.


More and more product categories are becoming worse, not better, with new technology. It’s going to keep eBay in business.