The Common Types of Ice Machine Drain Setups

Reading Time: 7 minutes Ice Machines 101

Ice Machine Drain

Commercial ice equipment uses water, and after producing a batch of ice, some of that water needs to be drained away from your ice machine. Most Chicago businesses have a drainage setup somewhere in the building for sinks, toilets, and other appliances. Ice machines are no different. Depending on your model, ice makers can have anywhere from one to four drains. Your machine will certainly have an ice machine drain, but there are also ice bin drains, condensate drains, drip trays, and more.

If your Chicago business can’t provide an adequate ice machine drain setup, it will be impossible to maintain its performance. Throughout the ice-making process, your ice machine will release water. The drainage system within your business needs to accommodate the maximum amount of water your ice machine releases.

Automatic Icemakers has been installing and servicing ice machines in the Chicago area since 1961. We work with businesses every day to guarantee our ice machines have proper drainage to keep them running. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the different types of drainage setups common in Chicago businesses – and how you can use them with your commercial ice machine.

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Ice Machine Floor Drains

While there are many types of drainage setups, floor drains are preferred for draining ice machines. Floor drains are ideal because they can typically handle higher volumes of water common with high-volume ice machines.

Floor drains are simple is design. They consist of an opening (called an access point) which is built directly into the floor. When water enters a floor drain, it continues into a business’s sewer line or another area (outdoors is common). Floor drains come in different shapes and sizes. Some are round, square, sunken (like a Floor Sink), or elevated (like a Mop Sink).

All ice machine drain setups require a few inches of space (called an air gap) between the ice machine drain termination point and the business’s drain access point. Air gaps prevent water from the Chicago sewage system from backing up into your ice maker or bin – just in case there is a problem with the floor drain.

According to the Illinois plumbing code, an air gap must be twice the diameter of the fixture drain or drainage pipe served, but never less than one inch.

Standpipe Drain

A standpipe drain is a pipe that extends out of a wall or floor. Standpipes can differ in size, from 4 inches high or longer. Water from your ice maker drain enters the access point of the standpipe and into your business’s drainage system.

If your Chicago business needs an ice machine that you plan on draining into a standpipe, the pipe needs to be large enough to handle the volume of water your ice machine drain releases.

If the standpipe is too small a diameter of is too short, water can overflow the standpipe and cause damage to your Chicago business.

It’s important to point out that most ice bin drains measure about 5-6 inches off the ground. If the standpipe is too tall, you’ll need to raise the machine higher off the ground or add a drain pump (more on that later). There are instances where you might be able to shorten the standpipe, effectively making it a floor drain.

If you plan on making any alterations to your standpipe drain, make sure to call a qualified plumber. They can make the right adjustments to a standpipe, to accommodate the amount of water your ice maker drain releases.

Finally, if the standpipe extends from your sewage line, you’ll likely need to fit it with a P-trap to comply with Chicago health code. A P-trap is a curved pipe (in the shape of the letter P) that prevents gas from the Chicago sewage system from exiting your drain access point.

Like a floor drain, standpipes require an air gap to meet Chicago health code.

Wall Drains

Wall drains are vertical drains that run through you (you guessed it) your business’s wall.

As the ice machine releases water into the wall drain where water is deposited either outside or to your business’s drainage system. Just like standpipes, wall drains connected to a sewage line will need a P-trap.

These setups also require an air gap between the ice machine’s drain and the wall drain’s access point.

These setups are popular with commercial ice dispensers, where the ice machine’s drain runs through the countertop and into a wall drain underneath the counter. These drains can be created from an existing sink drain in most locations.

Transfer Drains

Most ice machine drains are “gravity-fed” drains, which use gravity to assist in draining. An ice machine drain or bin drain requires 1/4″ of drop for every 1 foot of drain line. Transfer drains accept water from your ice machine or storage bin and allow it to flow to an access point further away. A transfer drain can be used with floor drains, standpipes, or wall drains that are a few feet away from the ice machine.

Keep in mind, transfer drains need to slope downward towards the access point to move water in that direction. They require at least a 1/8 inch drop per foot of piping. The steeper the slope the faster water can move through the piping.

Using a Drain Pump with Your Ice Machine Drain

If a drainage access point can’t accommodate the ice machine (due to the placement of the machine, location of the access point, etc) a drain pump is one solution. There are two types of drain pumps some Chicago businesses use with commercial ice machines:

Commercial Drain Pumps

Commercial drain pumps move water from your ice machine to an access point. These pumps are the best option if you can’t elevate your ice machine high enough to use a gravity-fed drain line.

If your access point is located high up, a commercial drain pump can move the water from your ice machine up to the access point.

Commercial drain pumps have reservoirs that store the water from the ice machine until the pump activates. For this reason, you need to make sure the commercial drain pump can handle the amount of water your ice machine expels.

One challenge with using these pumps is that range about 10-14 inches off the ground while an ice machine drain has only 6 inches of clearance. If you plan on using a commercial drain pump, you may need to raise the ice machine higher.

When choosing a commercial drain pump, there are three things you need to look for:

  • The pumping capacity in gallons per minute
  • The size of the pump’s reservoir (can it hold the amount of water your ice machine expels?)
  • The strength of the pump (how much water can the pump move upslope?)

Condensate Pumps

Condensate pumps are designed with air conditioning units in mind. These pumps flush away the condensation that typically drips off the AC unit.

Some creative Chicago business owners have successfully used them for ice bin drains because the ice melt rate is similar to that of air conditioning condensation.

One important thing to note is that condensate pumps cannot handle the volume of water that comes out of condenser drains, reservoir drains, etc. These areas of the ice machine produce far too much water than a condensate pump can handle. Attaching one of these pumps to these areas will result in overflow, resulting in floor damage to your Chicago business.

Condensate pumps also typically fail over time. If you plan on using a condensate pump, you replace the pump every year.

Overall, drain pumps should only be used as a last resort.

Choose the Right Ice Machine Drain Type for Your Needs

There are many different ice machine drain setups a Chicago business can use for their ice machine. Whichever you choose, make sure the ice machine is installed safely to your drainage setup. All commercial ice machines should include air gaps and proper connections required by the state of Illinois.

At Automatic Icemakers, our team of Ice Machine Experts is experienced installing the best commercial ice maker machine brands. Ice machines will last longer and result in a much more energy-efficient ice maker. We also specialize in ice machine service in Chicago and commercial ice maker repair if the machine backs up or leaks.

Want more information on ice machine installation? See our Pre-Installation Checklist.

Our team is available to help you get started today!

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