Potential disadvantages of a GE self-defrosting refrigerator include leaks from the drain tray, the need for a safety device due to the heater, increased complexity and the potential for more freezer-burned foods. Its primary advantage, however, is that it eliminates the task of defrosting.
The self-defrost cycle runs every eight to 12 hours on GE refrigerators. The water from the melted frost drains through an opening in the bottom of the unit to a drain pan. A fan blows over the water to evaporate it between defrost cycles. If the air is humid, the water does not always evaporate completely and allows mold and odors to form. If too much water remains in the pan from one cycle, the next one may cause it to overflow.
Adding the heater to the freezer for the defrost cycle involves more electronic circuitry. The manufacturer must ensure the unit does not overheat and thaw the food. The additional complexity results in higher initial investment and higher operating costs. However, if the heater does not provide enough heat, all the frost buildup does not melt during the cycle. This increases the chance the unit requires a manual defrost.
The constant warming and refreezing does not cause food to thaw. However, it has the potential to increase freezer burn when foods are stored long term in the frost-free freezer.