Commercial Ice Machine Guide

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Commercial Ice Machines Easy Ice

We’ve developed this handy guide to answer all of your questions!

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With an Easy Ice subscription, you can ensure your staff always has ice available throughout the day.

How Much Does an Ice Machine Cost?

A commercial ice machine can run anywhere between $1,500 for 50 to 80-lb self-contained ice machine to well over $10,000 for a high-volume ice machine with a high-capacity bin. A water-cooled ice machine generally costs a few hundred dollars more. This is initially why many business owners choose to rent rather than buy an ice machine. Furthermore, the price of a commercial ice maker doesn’t stop there.

Ice machines are very similar to automobiles in that they require regular maintenance to continue to run. Just like how your car needs oil changes and filter replacements, an ice machine requires preventive maintenance, cleaning, and routine repairs.

So overall, how much does it cost to run an ice machine? Well, over the life of an ice machine, maintenance, cleaning, and repair costs can easily exceed the amount of the unit.

  • The average preventive maintenance visit runs $425
  • An additional service call costs around $375
  • Hot gas valve, expansion valve, or water valve replacement run about $600
  • A compressor repair can cost up to $2000
  • Evaporator repairs can run up to $3000

Ignoring these maintenance events can lead to a multitude of problems, including:

  • Lowering the overall lifespan of the ice machine
  • Ice machines producing far less ice
  • Expensive repairs that could have been fixed at a smaller price
  • Health code violations due to mold and slime in the ice machine
  • Damage to the unit by mineral deposits that have clogged vital part

We designed our ice machine subscription program to address these needs. With an Easy Ice subscription, you get a top of the line Hoshizaki or Manitowoc ice machine – plus we cover all your preventive maintenance, cleaning, and repairs, so you never miss a day!

How Do I Choose the Right Type of Machine for My Business?

There are all types of ice makers on the market that are designed to meet specific business needs. Whether you run a restaurant, hotel, clinic, or manufacturing plant, there is likely an ice machine that is perfect for you. Below are some of the commercial ice machine types and what they do:

Modular Ice Machines: Modular ice machines produce between 250 – 3000 lbs of ice a day. They commonly measure either 22”, 30”, or 48” wide and require an ice storage bin or dispenser to collect the ice

Stackable Ice Machines: Stackable units are a modular-style ice machine that you can install on top of one another. You can install 2-3 units to effectively double or triple the amount of ice you can produce, without sacrificing space.

Undercounter Ice Machines: Under counter ice machine measure below 40” high to fit underneath counters and bar tops. They produce between 50-350 lbs of ice a day. They’re discreet and easily accessible. These units often come with storage built-in.

Dispensers: For self-serve usage in hotels, hospitals, or offices. Ice dispensers often require a modular unit, but some are self-contained as well. Production is based on the installed modular unit but depending on the type of dispenser it can produce between 400 – 800 lbs a day. Some dispensers also dispense water as well.

Countertop Ice Makers: These machines are designed to fit on top of a counter for self-serve use. These units can be self-contained or require installation of a modular ice machine. Depending on the modular ice machine, they can produce between 300 – 600 lbs of ice a day. Common in quick-serve restaurants and office break rooms.

How Do I Select the Right Type of Ice Cube?

Ice doesn’t come in different shapes because they look pretty. Ice shapes are made to be functional as well.

Whether you’re looking for the best type of ice cubes for bars or hospital ice, selecting the right cube can save you money in beverage costs or safely hydrate your patients.

Below are some of the most popular ice shapes:

Square Ice

    • Helps drinks retain their flavor for longer
    • Traditional square shape looks great in high-end cocktails and spirits
    • Uses only the cleanest water to produce a crystal clear cube

Crescent Ice

    • Great all-around cube for any business
    • Solid ice cube that melts slower than other ice cube shapes
    • Crystal clear to elevate the look of soft drinks and cocktails
    • Can save up to 15% on drink yield

Dice and Half Dice Ice

    • Traditional, square-shaped cubes
    • Solid and slow melting
    • Dice ice looks great n cocktails and spirits
    • Half dice ice helps displace liquid better than larger style cubes

Nugget Ice

    • Soft and chewable which makes it easy on teeth
    • Comes in three sizes
    • Retains the flavor of sugary drinks
    • Semi-moldable and great for cold compresses
    • Great for hydrating patients who have a hard time swallowing

Flake Ice

    • Delicate snow-like texture
    • Highly moldable to create dazzling food presentations
    • Show off products while keeping them cool
    • Great choice for cold compresses
    • A good choice for blended drinks

What Type of Ice Machine Condenser Do I Need?

The next choice to consider is the type of condensing unit your ice machine will run on. There are 3 types of condensing units commonly found in commercial ice machines:

Air Cooled Ice Machines

The most common and cost-effective condensing unit for commercial ice machines. These systems use a fan to help cool condenser coils and emit hot air into the surrounding environment. To effectively release hot air, air cooled ice machines require at least 1-foot of clearance around the intake and venting areas. We suggest 1 ½ feet around the entire ice machine – including between the machine and the ceiling.

Water Cooled Ice Machines

Water cooled ice machine use the incoming water to help cool condenser coils. The water absorbs the residual heat and flushes it down the drain. In terms of cost, the only time you should opt for a water cooled ice machine over an air cooled is if your workplace meets the following conditions:

  • The ambient air temperature of your work environment is higher than 80 degrees and does not have temperature control.
  • You workplace has high particulate air, meaning there is a large concentration of dust, grease or, yeast in the air. (Common in bakeries and warehouses)
  • There is not enough ventilation or space to accommodate an air cooled unit.

Note that water cooled ice machines increase water usage which may raise your utility bills. Many cities do not allow businesses to install water cooled ice machines due to increase of water usage.

Remote Condenser Ice Machines

A remote condenser is similar to an air cooled condenser except the condenser unit is installed away from the ice machine, usually outdoors or in a large space with plenty of ventilation. These systems direct heat far away from the ice machine – and your staff and customers.

Just like water cooled ice machines, you should only consider a remote cooled if an air cooled ice machine is out of the question. Remote condensers require additional installation and often require cutting through walls and ceilings, which can be very costly. Choose a remote condenser if:

  • The ambient air temperature of your work environment is higher than 80 degrees and does not have temperature control.
  • Your workplace has high particulate air, meaning there is a large concentration of dust, grease or, yeast in the air. (Common in bakeries and warehouses)
  • There is not enough ventilation or space to accommodate an air cooled unit.
  • You need to eliminate noise around the ice maker.

Ice Storage Bins

If you’re going with a modular unit, you’ll also need to choose an ice storage bin to catch and store your ice supply.

It’s important to note that ice bins are not refrigerated. They’re insulated, so they can keep ice frozen for hours, but they have their limitations. You don’t want a bin that’s so big you never use the ice at the bottom. Old ice will melt and refreeze into a giant, unusable block.

An ice machine comes with a bin control switch that shuts off the ice machine when the ice in the bin reaches near the top. This makes sure that ice doesn’t overfill the bin to the point where it clogs the ice machine’s drop zone.

Do I Need an Ice Machine Water Filter?

We install an ice machine water filter on every commercial ice machine we service.

Ice machine water filters help to trap contaminants, sediment, and mineral deposits that can hinder the effectiveness of your ice machine, producing less ice in the process. Excessive concentrations within the ice machine can ultimately lead to a breakdown.

Water filters are rated by microns. A 5-micron water filter will trap all particles equal or larger than 5 microns, while letting all other particles (like water molecules) to pass.

There are a three main ice machine filters we use in our commercial ice makers:

  • Standard Sediment Filters: Sediment filters trap particulates that can harm your ice machine while allowing water molecules to pass through unhindered. Great for all water conditions, but particularly necessary in hard water conditions.
  • Phosphate Filters: Used in addition to a standard sediment filter. Phosphate filters inhibit the chemical bonds of minerals that can form to create scale. Very useful in water conditions with high mineral content. Note: Phosphate filters should not be used in nugget and flake ice machines.
  • Carbon Filters: Often used in nugget and flake ice machines in place of a phosphate filter. Carbon filters trap harmful particles that can damage your ice machine. These filters also trap chlorine which effects the taste and odor of ice.

How Do I Size an Ice Machine?

Now that you have an idea as to the type of ice machine you need, you’ll have to select the right size ice machine to meet your business’s ice needs.

The only way to choose the right machine is to find out how much ice you need to run your business every day.

Every business has different ice needs. Whether it’s the ice needs of a restaurant or hotel, each business is unique.

For instance, the average restaurant requires 1.5 lbs of ice per guest. Bars need 3 lbs per customer. Hospitals require 10 lbs per patient. Hotels need 5 lbs of ice per guests.

We’ve made it easy for you to estimate the amount of ice you’ll need with our handy Ice Machine Estimator. To size the correct ice machine and bin for your business, you should follow three criteria:

  • Daily Ice Usage: How much ice does your business go through in a day? We’ve included a handy Ice Machine Estimator to help. It’s important to consider the rate at which you use ice as well. Ice machines produce small batches of ice throughout the day, so if you happen to get a 600 lb machine it will take 24 hours for the machine to replenish from empty. If you require a faster ice production rate, you’ll require a larger machine.
  • Peak Days: If you want to ensure you don’t run out of ice, you should base your daily ice needs on your most busy day. If you run a brunch spot that gets an influx of business on Saturday or Sunday mornings, size based on those peak days. If you need a lot of ice come opening time, you may want a larger bin that can accumulate all that ice during your slower days.
  • Bin Capacity: A good rule to follow is add an additional 20% more ice than you need in a day. The extra ice acts as a buffer, just in case you run low. Nothing is worse than paying extra for ice just to keep your business running.

One general rule to follow, “It’s better to have more than enough ice than not enough.” That means you should always account for busier days like weekends and holidays. Make sure your ice machine can cover those days as well. If you run out of ice, you’ll have to send someone out to buy more, which can cost hundreds of dollars depending on your business.

If you’re in the market for an ice machine, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of owning, learn more about our affordable ice machine program!

What are the Ice Machine Installation Requirements?

Even after you’ve decided what kind of ice machine you want, you still have to make sure your business can accommodate the ice machine.

Ice machines have four general installation needs:

  • Drainage – Ice melts, and that water needs to go somewhere. A floor drain is most common.
  • Electrical – Ice machines generally run on two voltages, 115v (most common) and 220v (not as common). You may need an electrician to secure a 220v outlet.
  • Water – Ice machines need plenty of water to run, so your water line must deliver the proper amount. Water lines generally need to deliver 5 gallons a minute to accommodate most commercial ice machines. You may need a plumber to optimize your water line for installation.
  • Space – Air-cooled ice machines (the most common type) give off a lot of heat. They need enough space to release that heat into the environment, so it doesn’t re-enter the machine. At least 1 ft of space on all sides (including the ceiling) is suggested, but more is even better.

After you’ve chosen an ice machine, check to make sure you have all the necessary installation requirements to accommodate it. You may need to call an electrician or plumber before installation to provide the correct electrical, drainage, and plumbing needs for your new ice machine.

We’ve provided a pre-installation checklist that details all the requirements commercial ice machines need to run.

What Environmental Factors Can Lower My Ice Production Rate?

There are a few factors that can cause your ice machine’s production rate to lower. These factors overwork your ice machine, which will eventually lead to expensive repairs if they are left unchecked. Here are the factors you should look out for:

  • Air Temperatures – An important factor to maintain when operating an air cooled ice machine. Ideally, air cooled ice machines operate best when the surrounding air temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature rises, the ice machine must work harder to freeze a batch of ice. A temperature-controlled room is the best way to fight high ambient air temperatures.
  • Ventilation – Another must-have for air cooled ice machines. When you install an air cooled ice machine in an environment with low ventilation, the hot air the unit produces has nowhere to go. Eventually that air will reenter the ice machine, overheating the unit.
  • Water Temperatures – Important for all ice machine types. Hot water simply takes longer to freeze than cooler water, which will overwork the ice machine and cause your ice maker to be slow making ice. Ideally, the water temperature should stay around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water Condition – Water harbors all manner of contaminants that are perfectly safe for human consumption but can harm your ice machine. Water with high-mineral content (aka hard water) eventually leads to scale, a hard rock-like that can block water filters and cling to vital ice machine components.
  • Cleanliness – A dirty ice machine is less effective than a clean one. Dirt and grime can block water flow and insulate heat-emitting components that will raise the internal temperature of your ice machine. It’s important to get a professional ice machine cleaning at least twice a year.

What Type of Ice Machine Cleaners Can I Use?

There are many commercial grade cleaners on the market designed to clean an ice machine. It’s important to know which cleaners are compatible with your ice machine model, as some cleaners can damage vital components within the ice machine.

  • Acid-Based Descalers – These type of cleaners will take mineral deposits off stainless-steel evaporator plates (like the ones found in Hoshizaki ice machines), but will damage nickel-plated evaporator plates. Make sure you know the type of evaporator plate your ice machine has before using one of these cleaners.
  • Nickel-Safe Descalers – Also used to clean mineral deposits off evaporator plates, but safe to use on nickel-plated (and stainless-steel) evaporators.
  • Chlorine and Water – A mixture of 20% chlorine and 80% water is a great way to clean mold and slime from your ice machine and ice storage bin. Simply spray the affected area and wipe away any grime. Let air dry.
  • Ozone Generators – Ozone occurs naturally in the environment and helps to hinder the growth of mold and slime. Ozone generators are installed directly in the ice machine where they emit safe ozone gas into the ice machine and bin. These are great options for bakeries and breweries that produce a lot of yeast.

Choosing an Ice Machine is Difficult, but We’re Here to Help!

We created our revolutionary commercial ice machine subscriptions because choosing the right ice machine for your business can be very intimidating. Even after you purchase the machine, keeping the machine running efficiently is a giant hassle.

With an Easy Ice subscription, we take care of everything for you! Our helpful Ice Machine Experts will help you choose the perfect ice machine for your business. Once we install it, we take care of all maintenance, cleaning, and repairs for a low, monthly payment.

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