Outfit your fridge with FirstBuild's smart water pitcher (hands-on)

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GE and Local Motors announced a partnership back in April for FirstBuild, a Louisville, Ky.-based microfactory. FirstBuild is geared toward appliance innovations; particularly, maker-style mods that take standard products and turn them into something a bit more custom. FirstBuild recently opened its doors and this Smart Pitcher is among its inaugural products, with a retail release slated for later this year.

The FirstBuild Smart Pitcher seeks to solve a simple daily annoyance -- constantly re-filling your water pitcher. Deeming this a needless redundancy, FirstBuild took a standard pitcher and an existing GE top-freezer fridge (model number GTH18GC) and gave both a couple of key tweaks so that you never have to fill your pitcher again.

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Pitcher and water dispenser components. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Two main components contribute to the functionality of FirstBuild's Smart Pitcher. Each pitcher is outfitted with two magnets, one on the side and one in the middle. In addition, each GE refrigerator gets an in-cavity water dispenser equipped with two reed switches to match the corresponding magnets. When the pitcher's side magnet comes in contact with the dispenser's side reed switch, the dispenser senses the pitcher and begins to fill it with water.

As the pitcher fills, the middle magnet is buoyed by the water and floats up to meet the dispenser's middle reed switch. This connection triggers the dispenser to automatically turn off the water when it reaches a max fill level. If you're used to filling your pitcher with tap water, letting it filter, and then putting it back in your fridge to chill, FirstBuild's Smart Pitcher simply simplifies the process -- and with absolutely no effort on your part (except maybe for the initial install).

FirstBuild will have two Smart Pitcher purchasing options. It will offer a kit for retrofitting a GE GTH18GC refrigerator with the built-in water dispenser. The installation requires drilling a single hole, and while FirstBuild has promised to provide detailed instructions, but this option is definitely geared toward DIY enthusiasts. It will also sell the same refrigerator models complete with pre-installed water dispensers.

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The Smart Pitcher in action. Colin West McDonald/CNET

FirstBuild doesn't have pricing information for its kits or its Smart Pitcher-ready fridges yet, but it does plan to debut them for sale on FirstBuild's website sometime this year (on-site sales are also in the works). Since microfactories think in terms of small-batch production, the Smart Pitcher, along with FirstBuild's other 3D-printed appliances, might only be available in very limited quantities.

You're also out of luck if you either don't have or don't want this particular refrigerator, however, particularly successful products will have the chance to move to larger facilities for mass production -- and from there, possibly to more GE fridges.

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FirstBuild Smart Pitcher

Part Number: CNETFirstBuild Smart Pitcher
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