Everything You Need To Know To Choose the Best Ice Machine

Reading Time: 5 minutes Ice Machines 101

Best Ice Machine

Looking for the best ice machine for your business? Choosing one is not as easy as it sounds. There are plenty of factors you’ll need to consider, like:

  • Choosing the right sized ice machine
  • Picking the right ice cube shapes for your business
  • Making sure you have enough space
  • Providing the right drainage
  • Having the correct electrical setup
  • Selecting the right condenser
  • Maintaining proper service

Let’s look at some ways to help you choose the best ice maker for your business.

Choosing the Right Sized Ice Machine

Sizing the best ice machine for your particular business is one of the most difficult choices you’ll have to make. It sounds easy, but many business owners make the mistake of sizing their machine too small because they are not considering all the places the use ice.

Each industry uses ice in different quantities. The amount of ice a gas station sues in each drink they serve is different than that of a restaurant or bar. We’ve provided a helpful ice machine estimator to help calculate your particular industry’s ice needs.

Once you’ve considered the average amount of ice you need for drinks, you then have to consider how those amounts grow on busy days. Do you do more business on a weekend or holiday? If you do, you’re definitely not going to want to run out of ice on those days. Extra ice costs a lot when you purchase it retail. Ice delivery costs between $1-$3 per 10 lbs and can take hours to arrive.

You also have to consider the places you use ice beyond drinks.

Bars use ice to cool bottles and cans of beer. Kitchens use ice for food prep. Therapy clinics use ice to reduce swelling. If you operate one of these types of businesses, make sure you account for the extra ice you use.

Picking the Right Ice Cube Shapes for Your Business

Choosing the best ice machine means choosing an ice shape that not only looks good but improves your business as well.

The shape of an ice cube is not just so customers can admire them. There are different types of ice machines that create ice cubes that address individual business needs. For example, a crescent ice machine makes rounded cubes that reduce splashing on the pour. This design helps to save money in lost product.

If you run a Chicago healthcare clinic, you might want to consider a commercial nugget ice machine that makes soft, chewable ice to hydrate patients who have a hard time swallowing liquid.

There are many more ice shapes to choose from.

Making Sure You Have Enough Space

Air cooled ice machines (the most common model on the market) need space for ventilation. These models release hot air as the machine produces ice.

These models need enough ventilation for hot air to escape. If you surround the ice maker, the hot air can re-enter your unit and overheat the system.

As ice machines overheat, their ice production rate drops. If they stay in that condition, you’ll likely see serious issues that will require expensive repairs to fix.

When installing an air cooled ice maker, make sure it’s in a large enough room for heat to escape. You want at least a foot of space on all sides of the machine. That includes the top of the machine.

Also, store boxes near or on top of the ice machine as that will cause hot air to hover around the machine and reenter the unit.

Providing the Right Drainage

Ice machines need to get rid of extra water from melted ice. For that, an ice machine requires proper drainage to flush that water away.

Ice machines with a bin or stand-up dispenser need a floor drain to flush water away.

Countertop office ice maker and dispenser may use a wall drain from a nearby sink.

Whatever drainage setup you use, you’ll need an air gap to ensure water doesn’t run back up the drainage tube and into your ice supply.

Chicago-based businesses require an air gap on all ice machine installations. Health inspectors will write you up for a health violation if you install your ice machine without one.

Having the Correct Electrical Setup

Depending on the model ice maker, you’ll need either a 110v outlet or a 220v outlet to run it.

Typically, smaller ice machines that produce below 800 lbs of ice require 110v outlet. While large ice makers generally need a 220v outlet.

110v outlets are common in almost all US households. They have two parallel slots and a small round hole towards the bottom.

Keep in mind, many 110v have a GFCI breaker (the kind with “test” and “reset” buttons). These types of 110v outlets can cause ice machines to shut down when the compressor kicks on. Hoshizaki (one of the largest producers of commercial ice makers) suggests never installing an ice machine on one of these outlets.

220v outlets are typical in laundry rooms, but they come in many different setups. Each setup must have a dedicated neutral. If you do not have a 220v setup, you’ll need to call an electrician to install one.

Choosing the Best Ice Machine Condenser

Air cooled ice machines  are the most common machines you’ll find because they are cost-effective and simple in design. They consist of a fan that cools condenser coils as they absorb heat from hot refrigerant.

Water cooled ice machines use water to cool condenser coils rather than a fan. Keep in mind, these types of ice machines can use more water and increase your utility bill.

Finally, remote condensers place the heat-producing elements away from the ice-making machine. The refrigerant travels through a line set to the condensing unit which is commonly installed outside the business or in a large room with plenty of ventilation.

The downside to remote units is that they often run through walls or ceilings. Setting up your business can be expensive but they often pay for themselves in the long run.

Buy or Lease

Depending on your situation, it may be a better option to buy or go with an Ice machine lease.

Buying an ice machine means it’s yours, but there are a bunch of hidden costs you’ll have to pay to keep it running and clean.

A dirty ice machine will result in health inspector violations if you get caught with mold or slime in your ice bin. Without routine maintenance, an ice machine will break down faster and require expensive repairs.  It’s recommended you get two cleanings and maintenance visits a year.

With an ice machine lease, you save money on the price of the ice machine at the point of purchase. Additionally, leasing companies commonly take care of cleaning and maintenance, as well.

Best yet, if the ice machine breaks down, the leasing company will generally take care of repairs for little to no additional cost beyond your monthly charge. If they can’t fix the machine, the leasing company will often just replace it, saving you money on a brand-new ice machine.

The best part of a lease is it allows you to focus more time in your business because you won’t have to worry about surprise costs or repairs.

At Automatic Icemakers, we keep track of when your ice machine’s maintenance and cleaning are due, so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for a commercial ice machine for sale or lease, we have a large selection. We also include commercial ice machine repair, cleaning, and maintenance.

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