Ice requires cold temperatures to form, so you probably wouldn’t think that lower temperatures could cause significant commercial ice maker problems – but they can. Extended harvest times, freeze-ups, and cracked water lines are just some of the issues you’ll encounter if the temperature drops too far down.
Here is a description of the most common ice maker problems you’ll face in the winter – and what you can do to fix them.
Extended Harvest Times
Some ice machines (specifically Hoshizaki ice makers) use gas to help release ice cubes off the evaporator plate and into your ice bin. A component called a thermistor measures the heat coming off the evaporator plate. When the temperature reaches 48 degrees, the machine starts a defrost timer set for factory settings.
When the ambient air, incoming water, or a combination of both is below 45 degrees, it takes longer for the evaporator to reach 48 degrees. As a result, the defrost timer takes longer to start, and harvest cycles take longer – which means less ice. Eventually, the commercial ice machine will shut down into a safe mode and produce no ice at all unless the machine is turned back on, and the temperature rises.
The best way to avoid this ice maker is to install the ice machine in a temperature-controlled room and set the thermostat to around 70-75 degrees. This will keep your surrounding air temperature at optimal levels.
If the incoming water is too cold, you can help keep the temperature above 45 degrees by insulating your water pipes. If that doesn’t work, you should call a plumber to help you find the best solution.
Frozen Components and Water Lines
You want your ice machine to produce plenty of ice, but you’ll want to keep that ice in your bin. There are a lot of vital components in your ice machine that use water, and you don’t want that water freezing before it reaches the evaporator. Some of these components include:
- Water inlet valves
- Float switches
- Evaporator plates
- Water Pumps
Just to name a few.
When low air temperatures freeze the water, the components freeze up as well. When ice machine components freeze over, they can cause a host of different ice maker problems. Most of these problems will require a qualified ice machine technician to fix.
Again, the best way to prevent ice machine components from freezing over is to install the machine is in a temperature-controlled room. Keeping the temperature between 70-75 degrees will ensure that the ice machine’s components stay within the spec temperature.
Although they’re not part of your ice machine, frozen water lines can also cause ice machine problems.
When water freezes, it also expands, bursting through water lines and preventing water from entering your ice machine. When this happens, your machine may encounter broken components, freeze-ups, or your ice machine can shut down into a safe mode and stop producing ice altogether. You’ll need to pay a plumber to come out and install new pipes if they end up cracking.
Again, insulating your water pipes is the easiest way to avoid a frozen water line. A plumber familiar with your area will know the best way to protect your water pipes.
Bin Switch Failures
When the surrounding air temperature gets too low, it can cause thermostatic bin controls (the device that shut your ice machine off when the ice bin is full) to fail.
Thermostatic bin controls use temperature to measure the amount of ice that is in your bin. These controls suspend a small bulb with a refrigerant charge into your ice bin. When ice reaches the bulb, it drops the temperature of the refrigerant and sends a signal to the ice machine to shut down.
If the surrounding air temperature drops below 50 degrees, the thermostatic bulb won’t read the temperature accurately. When this happens, the industrial ice maker machine won’t turn on and stop producing ice.
The best way to keep your thermostatic bin control working is to install your ice machine in a temperature-controlled room and keep the temperature at 70-75 degrees.
Don’t Let Cold Weather Freeze your Ice Supply
Ice machines are more delicate than they look. They’re designed to operate indoors under strict temperature requirements. If you know you’re in for a cold winter in Chicago, you can prepare your restaurant or bar ice machine so you can maintain a steady ice production rate and avoid damages.
If you need help preparing your ice machine for the winter months, our experienced ice machine technicians can help. We perform thorough preventive maintenance to help keep your ice machine running year-round we also include commercial ice maker repair in our all-inclusive ice equipment subscription program. Contact us today!