Saddle valves can actually be installed without any special tools. They work by using a clamp to put a hole in a water intake pipe and are generally used where a low volume stream is needed. Problems with saddle valves include a tendency to leak, causing property damage, bacterial contamination in waterlines, and chemical seepage into the water.
According to naturalhandyman.com, "The invention of the saddle valve made installation of these appliances (i.e. icemakers) a snap. No longer did a person need ace plumbing skills to hook up the water supply to the refrigerator's ice maker." The ease of use may be why installers use saddle valves when installing refrigerators.
However, according to some do-it-yourself guides, saddle valves are known for problems. One appliance expert at an appliance help site noted that self-piercing saddle valves should not be used for ice makers because the valves do not allow enough volume for the water valve to close properly. He notes that every self-piercing saddle valve will fail so they should not be used in the first place.
Some states have adopted plumbing codes that prohibit the use of saddle valves in plumbing. Instead, a tee and globe, gate, or ball valve is used. Companies that offer do-it-yourself icemaker kits recommend checking in your area to determine whether or not saddle valves are permitted. Saddle valves commonly have leakage problems that can cause damage to consumers' homes if not discovered in time.
A lawsuit has been filed against Sears in Illinois seeking recovery of installation fees. The lawsuit alleges that Sears using unlicensed plumbers to install the refrigerators and is also requesting the courts to order Sears to discontinue this practice.