Want to Prevent a Broken Ice Maker? Keep Your Condenser Clean!

Reading Time: 4 minutes Ice Machine Care, Ice Machines 101

An ice machine is composed of a series of vital parts that work together to keep your unit producing plenty of ice for your customers. The three main parts are the compressor, evaporator, and condenser. When one of these parts isn’t working to the best of its ability, it will force the other two to work overtime. If you want to prevent a broken ice maker, you must make sure they’re all working.  

The condenser is one of the more delicate parts within an ice maker. It’s susceptible to all manner of grease and dust which can severely affect your ice maker if it’s not clean.  

In this article, we’ll discuss what a condenser does and how to keep it clean.  

The Job of a Condenser

The condenser is one of the most important parts of an ice maker’s refrigeration system. Its job is to cool down and convert superheated refrigerant vapor delivered from the compressor to a high-pressure liquid. The evaporator uses this liquid to freeze water into ice.  

When a condenser gets dirty, it has a harder time cooling that refrigerant, which causes other components, like the compressor, to overwork and wear out. Over time, this will lead to costly repairs.  

How Does a Condenser get Dirty? 

A condenser cools refrigerant by drawing out heat and releasing it out of the ice maker. Either an air-cooled or water-cooled system assists the cooling process.  

Both air-cooled and water-cooled systems are susceptible to different types of dirt or mineral deposits that cling to your condenser and hinder its ability to cool down refrigerant.  

In air-cooled systems, a fan sucks air from the environment and blows it across the condenser.  Unfortunately, air from the environment is full of dirt and other particles.  

Water-cooled systems run water over condensers to help them cool refrigerant. Depending on your location, water can be full of minerals that also latch onto condenser coils.  

In either system, those dirt and mineral deposits will surround the condenser and create an insulated cover, severely limiting its ability to draw heat out of refrigerant.  

Common particles found in the air or water include:  

  • Grease from grills, fryers, and stovetops 
  • Dust that gets kicked around in factories 
  • Yeast from baking loaves of bread or opening beers 
  • Scale deposited by hard water 

How Does a Dirty Condenser Affect an Ice Maker? 

When a condenser gets dirty, it’s not just the condenser that’s affected. When a condenser works harder, the whole system begins to work overtime. As time passes, an overworked system begins to break down.  

To describe how a system slowdown happens, before the evaporator can use the refrigerant to freeze a batch of ice, it must be in a liquid form. When the condenser takes too long to make this conversion from a gas to a liquid, the whole refrigeration system backs up, waiting for the condenser to finish the job.  

Other components, like the compressor, continue to work to move refrigerant through the system. For instance, the compressor, tasked with pressurizing the refrigerant, ends up over-pressurizing the refrigerant to the point where it has a difficult time absorbing and releasing heat. In this state, the refrigerant takes longer to change states from a liquid to a gas, resulting in slower ice production.  

Not only will your ice maker produce less ice when overworked, but it will also use more energy, resulting in increased utility bills!  

Can a Dirty Condenser Hurt My Unit? 

Absolutely! Maintaining a clean condenser is just like replacing your air conditioning filters or changing the oil in your car. Your AC or vehicle may run in that state for a while, but eventually, something will break down.  

Damaged compressor windings are just one type of issue you can face if you don’t clean your condenser. These are a bundle of wires held tightly together in the shape of a coil. These wires create an electromagnetic field tasked with moving the compressor’s pistons. As electricity passes through the coils, they begin to vibrate, which causes friction. When the compressor works more due to a dirty condenser, you’ll find that these windings wear out much faster than they should.  

A compressor’s pistons also will break down if they are forced to run for too long. If the pistons on your compressor wear out, it’ll leave you with a broken ice maker. Repairs to fix or replace a broken compressor can run into the thousands.  

Finally, condensers themselves can break down when too dirty, resulting in a broken ice maker. When this happens, a technician will have to cut the condenser out of the unit. A broken condenser is another expensive repair that can sometimes cost more than the price of a new machine.  

How Can I Keep My Condenser Clean? 

Cleaning a condenser is more of a task than spraying it with soap and water. You’ll need specific tools, CO2 tanks, specific cleaners, and knowledge on how to disassemble an ice maker to get to the condenser coils without damaging other parts of the machine. It’s best if you get a professional to do a thorough cleaning of your ice maker.  

Condensers should get a professional cleaning about twice a year, more if they’re in a challenging environment with plenty of dust and grease mixed with the air.  

A clean condenser is vital to a well-performing ice machine and will save you on costly repairs when professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Our skilled technicians at Automatic Icemakers have years of experience cleaning and maintaining condensers, compressors, and every other component that keeps your ice maker running.  

Our ice maker leases come with biannual cleanings and preventive maintenance. Let us take care of your ice machine so you can sleep soundly knowing your customers and employees will always have a reliable source of ice!  

Call us at 773-975-2005 to get a quote today! 

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