An ice machine is made up of a series of vital parts. These parts work together so the ice maker can continue to run efficiently, ensuring cold ice that’ll keep you and your customers happy. Three of the most important parts are an ice machine’s compressor, evaporator, and condenser. If you want to prevent a broken ice maker, you need to keep these parts in working order. If one is not working at 100 percent, the other two are forced to work harder.  

A clean condenser is one of the first steps in guaranteeing your ice maker stays in working order.   Let us look at what the condenser does, and then we’ll talk about the best ways to keep it clean.    

The Role of the Condenser in an Ice Machine 

The condenser is a vital component of any refrigeration system – including ice machines. Its job is to cool down superheated refrigerant vapor from the compressor and convert it into a high-pressure liquid. The liquid then flows to the evaporator where it expands and freezes water into ice.    

When a condenser is not cooling refrigerant effectively, the compressor works harder to pressurize refrigerant. This extra work ends up causing costly ice maker problems.    

How does an Ice Machine Condenser Get Dirty? 

When refrigerant passes through the condenser, it releases heat outside of the machine. An air-cooled or water-cooled system helps to cool the refrigerant further. 

Both air-cooled and water-cooled condensers attract all manner of dirt and particles.  

Air-cooled systems use a fan to cool condensers, which can pull in airborne particles from workplaces.   

Water-cooled systems cool condensers by running water over them. Eventually, these systems gather minerals from hard water.   

When dirt and particles surround the condenser, they create an insulated cover which makes it harder to cool the refrigerant.   

Some common particles include: 

  • Grease from fryers, grills, and barbeques 
  • Dirt and dust from factories and storehouses 
  • Yeast from bakeries and breweries 
  • Calcium and mineral deposits (scale) from hard water systems 

What’s the Harm? 

They say a little dirt don’t hurt. Well, in the case of ice makers, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When dirt slows down one area of the cooling process, it taxes the whole system, progressively making things worse over time.     

Refrigerant needs to be in a liquid form before the evaporator can accept it. When a dirty condenser stops cooling effectively, it takes longer to convert from a gas to a liquid. What results is a traffic jam effect, where refrigerant takes longer to move through the entire refrigeration system, backing up other components.   

The compressor doesn’t stop doing its job just because refrigerant is moving slowly through it. The compressor is a workhorse and will continue to pressurize it. When the refrigerant is pressurized for too long, it begins to lose its ability to absorb and release heat efficiently. In this state, it becomes even harder for it to change states from a gas to a liquid which further slows down ice production.    

As if this wasn’t bad enough, overworked machines use more energy, which translates into higher energy bills for your business!  

Can a Dirty Condenser Cause a Broken Ice Maker? 

You bet it can! Keeping your condenser clean is like changing the oil in your car. Sure, it will drive for a while, but something will eventually break and cost you money down the line.    

For one, dirty condensers can lead to damaged compressor windings. These are a group of wires tied tightly together in a coil. Their job is to create an electromagnetic field that moves the pistons inside a compressor. As electricity passes through these coils, they vibrate, creating friction between the wires. More work means more friction, which damages these windings over time. Damaged windings have a harder time running electricity to the compressor.    

Compressors can also fail when they are overworked. As pistons continually run, the compressor eventually breaks, leaving your ice maker broken. The only way to fix this is by replacing the compressor, which is generally expensive.   

Finally, too much dirt can cause a condenser to break down, leaving your ice maker broken in the process. Replacing a condenser requires a technician to cut it out of the unit. This process can end up being more expensive than the cost of a new machine.    

Can I Clean the Ice Machine Condenser Myself? 

Sure, you can try, but it is not as easy as wiping it down with a sponge and soapy water. Cleaning a condenser requires specialized cleaners, CO2 tanks, the right tools, and a lot of know-how. That’s why it’s better to get a professional to clean your ice machine.    

If you are an Easy Ice customer, you already know our machine subscriptions come with routine condenser cleanings.  

If you would like more information about our ice machine subscriptions, contact Easy Ice at 866-easyice.