7 Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Ice Machine for Your Business

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Choosing Best Ice Machine Easy Ice

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. Here are what Easy Ice considers to be seven of the most important tips when it comes to choosing the right commercial ice machine for your business.

  1. Choose the right sized ice machine
  2. Pick the right ice type for your business
  3. Make sure you have enough space
  4. Provide the right drainage
  5. Have the correct electrical setup
  6. Select the right condenser
  7. Maintain proper service

If you’re having a difficult time choosing the best ice machine that works for you, we can help.

1. Choosing the Right Sized Commercial Ice Maker

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?

3 ice cubes

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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.

Countertop Ice Makers and Larger Ice Machines

If you only have modest needs for ice cubes, you might consider using modular ice machines. These are smaller and can be countertop or undercounter ice machines, and they’ll produce enough ice for the average bar or restaurant. These modular ice machines combine a low purchase price, great form factor, and convenience.

small, undercounter ice machine

3 ice cubes

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However, be sure to think ahead and consider if the ice makers you’re looking at can provide the ice output you need. Consider if you can make and store enough ice ahead of time consistently, or if it’s better to look into larger and more high-performing commercial ice makers.

2. Picking the Right Ice Cube Shapes for Your Business

If you want to choose the best commercial ice machine, you need to know what shape of ice cube you need as well. Nugget ice, cubed ice, flaked ice, and round ice all have unique effects on the look and experience of each drink. Choosing the right ice types for your business can turn into a key advantage against competitors that only offer a single ice type.

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, many commercial ice chip maker models produce cubelet ice (AKA nugget ice or flake ice), which 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.

top view of person scooping flake ice into cup

There are plenty more ice types to choose from, consider the different types, and pick the best one for your business.

3. 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.

4. 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″ or 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.

5. 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.

GFCI outlet next to junction box for comparison

Standard GFCI outlet (left) vs. junction box for hardwiring (right)

6. Choosing the Right Condenser: Water-Cooled Ice Machines vs Air-Cooled Ice Makers

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.

7. Buy or Rent?

The final thing to consider is whether you should buy or rent/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 a new or used ice cube machine means you’re responsible for paying for these services.

Leasing an ice machine (or choosing an all-inclusive managed ice machine rental 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’s 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 making machine issues, you can focus and invest more in improving your business.

Call the Ice Experts

The best commercial ice machine is the one that suits your needs, whether it’s a modular ice machine or one of the best water-cooled ice machines available. When it comes to the right model of commercial ice machine, choosing comes entirely down to your needs and preferences. Keep your ice dispenser running and your ice supply running strong with help from the Ice Experts. Get started today by calling 855-550-7792, requesting a quote, or leaning more at easyice.com/our-subscription/.

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