There’s no way around it; choosing the best ice machine for your business is a challenging task. Many factors go into determining the right ice machine that works for you. These decisions include:
- 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
If you’re having a difficult time choosing the best ice machine that works for you, we can help.
Choosing the Right Sized Ice Machine
Probably the trickiest thing to determine is how to choose the right amount of ice for your business.
Depending on your industry, ice can be used in a lot of different places that have nothing to do with drinks. So how can you account and estimate for all the ice your business needs?
First, since drinks are usually the primary area you’ll be using ice, you need to estimate how much you’ll need within your industry.
We’ve provided a helpful ice machine estimator to help calculate your industries ice needs. When choosing an amount, base it off your busiest AND HOTTEST day.
By thinking of your busiest day, such as a busy weekend or holiday, you’ll be best prepared during a rush in business.
Heat lowers ice machine production rate because it must work harder to produce a batch of ice. If you live an area with particularly hot summers, like Arizona or Nevada, you’ll need an ice machine with a little more output to make up for the drop in production.
Next, you need to consider where you’ll be using ice beyond what you need for drinks. If you have a bar well, how much ice is required to refill that area? Does the kitchen need ice for food prep? Do you run a medical center and use ice to reduce swelling?
Many of these questions can be answered by asking your staff and having a clear understanding of your business needs.
Running out of ice can cost you a lot in replacement ice from an ice delivery service. Ice delivery costs between $1-$3 per 10 lbs and can take hours to arrive.
Picking the Right Ice Cube Shapes for Your Business
If you want to choose the best ice machine, you need to know what shape of ice cube you need as well.
Ice cubes come in all types of shapes, and they’re not just for aesthetic purposes.
Ice cubes shapes are designed to assist with certain industries. For instance, cubelet ice is soft and chewable so young children and hospital patients can chew on the ice without damaging their teeth.
Flake Ice is moldable and great for seafood bars and food presentations.
There are plenty more ice shapes to choose from, consider the different types, and pick the best one for your business.
Making Sure You Have Enough Space
Even the best ice machine needs the right amount of space to operate.
If you choose an air-cooled machine (by far the most common model businesses choose), you’ll also need enough space for ventilation.
Air-cooled ice machines generate heat as they run, so they emit that heat out of vents located on the unit. Air-cooled ice maker installation requires enough ventilation and air flow to escape, or else it can re-enter your ice machine and cause a microclimate, where the internal temperature of your machine is much higher than the room temperature.
An overly hot ice machine will have a lower ice production rate and could cause serious issues if the problem persists.
You want to install your ice machine in a large room with plenty of ventilation and air flow. Ideally, you want only one wall within a foot and a half from the ice machine (preferably a side that doesn’t have venting). The goal is not to box the ice machine in, causing hot air to hover around the machine and possibly reenter the unit.
Providing the Right Drainage
Every ice machine needs water to make ice, and that means ice machine installation needs proper drainage.
If you have a modular or self-contained ice machine installed on a bin or dispenser, you’ll need a floor drain for excess water to run.
Countertop ice machines and dispensers often run their excess water into the same drain used by a nearby sink, by using a wye fitting, reducer coupling, and either a 4-6″ Bell Fitting (depending on machine model).
In each setup, you’ll need an air gap, to ensure water doesn’t run back up the drainage tube and back into your ice machine.
Almost all municipalities require an air gap with ice machine installations. If a health inspector finds that you installed your ice machine without one, you’ll likely receive a violation.
Having the Correct Electrical Setup
Depending on the model of the ice machine, you’ll need either a 115v outlet or a 220v outlet.
Typically, smaller machines require 115v, and larger commercial ice machines require 220v.
It’s easy to identify which kind of outlet you have. 115v receptacles look like your standard wall outlet with two parallel slots and a small round opening towards the bottom.
220v outlets look like the type commonly used with washing and drying machines. They come in a few different setups, but all require a dedicated neutral. There’s a good chance you’ll need to call an electrician to install an outlet that matches your ice machine needs.
Finally, GFCI outlets (the kind with “test” and “reset” buttons) can cause ice machines to shut down and cause damage to the machine. Hoshizaki advises using outlets that do not have a GFCI breaker attached.
Choosing the Right Condenser
While air-cooled machines, which use a fan to cool condenser coils, are the most popular type of ice machines for most businesses, there are options.
Water-cooled ice machines use water to cool condenser coils and are less affected by the temperature of the air around the unit. These machines are sometimes the only option for businesses with limited space or low ventilation.
Remote condensers have their condenser unit installed separately from the ice machine. The refrigerant travels through a line set to the condensing unit which is commonly installed outside or in a large area indoors with plenty of ventilation.
While water-cooled and remote units may seem to be a better option all around, they can end up being more expensive in certain situations.
If you live in an area where the outside water naturally runs 85 degrees or above, the machine will have to use more water to cool the condenser. This can cause water-cooled systems to waste gallons of water a day to operate, which can raise your water utility bill considerably.
Remote units often require a contractor to cut through walls and ceilings. The initial setup will be more expensive but often pay for themselves in the long run – that is if you don’t mind cutting into your wall or ceiling.
Buy or Lease
The final thing to consider is whether you should buy or lease an ice machine.
While buying an ice machine gives you more freedom to do what you want, your costs don’t end with the price of the unit.
Ice machines require routine cleaning and maintenance to stay within city health guidelines and remain in working order – and buying an ice machine means you’re responsible for paying for these services.
Leasing an ice machine (or choosing an all-inclusive ice machine subscription from Easy Ice) is a far better option from a business standpoint. You save money on the initial price of the unit, and many leasing companies will take care of the cleaning and maintenance for you.
If there is an issue with the ice machine, a leasing company will send out a technician to repair the machine generally at little or no cost to you.
In the event they can’t fix the ice machine, your leasing company will often just replace the unit – a much better option than going out and buying a brand-new ice machine.
Most of all, you buy peace of mind when you lease an ice machine. Rather than take time out of your busy schedule to take care of your ice machine issues, you can focus and invest more in improving your business.