One of the most common service calls we receive is customers informing us that their ice maker is not making as much ice as it used to. While there are plenty of issues that could cause your ice machine’s production rate to slow down, most of the time, there is nothing wrong with the machine at all. Many times, business has simply picked up and the ice machine can’t keep up with the influx of new customers or the summer temperatures have affected the unit’s performance. In this article, we’ll show you how to test ice maker performance, so you can tell if your ice machine is producing the amount of ice it should, or if there is an underlying problem.
Why You Should Test Before You Make a Service Call
Most of the time when you notice something is wrong with your ice maker, your first instinct is to call an ice machine specialist. This is exactly what you should do if you think something is broken with the unit, but most of the time when your ice machine is producing less, it’s working just fine.
We’ve written extensively about the effects of temperature on an ice machine. A high air ambient temperature is easily fixed by lowering the temperature in your business or by improving ventilation around the ice maker.
The other common reason why ice machines may seem like they’re producing less is an increase in business. Although an uptick in business sounds like a good problem to have, it also means that your current model needs to be able to keep up with the influx of new customers. For example, a 500-pound ice machine may have produced enough ice when you first opened, but more customers mean more ice demand.
An ice machine technician can’t solve either of these problems for you, so testing your ice production rate BEFORE you call for service can end up saving you money. Why pay for a technician to come out and tell you that everything is fine, and you just need to lower your thermostat?
Ice Machine Production Rates Explained
Before we show you how to test an ice maker’s production rate, you need to know what your model’s standard ice production rate is. You’ll find the rate in your model’s performance data sheet (most are offered online on the manufacturers’ web pages). Otherwise, your ice machine’s model name will often give you a hint. For instance, a KM-600 produces roughly 600 pounds of ice while consistently running under ideal temperatures of 70-degree ambient air and 50-degree water.
There are two different measurements that ice machine manufacturers list when measuring ice production rates: Max and AHRI. Ice machines’ production rate is directly associated with the ambient air temperature around the machine. Max production, like the name suggests, measures the maximum production rate you’ll see under consistent ideal temperatures of 70/50 degree air and incoming water temperatures.
AHRI stands for Air-conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute. This trade association represents more than 350 manufacturers of AC, heating, refrigeration equipment (including ice machines). The AHRI rating measures the amount of ice your machine is likely to produce under more realistic temperatures. Temperature isn’t an easy factor to control. Water temperatures can rise in the summer, in certain regions like the South, or due to hot water migration from a hot kitchen appliance. For this reason, AHRI lists the ice production your model is likely to see under 90/70-degree air and water, so customers have a good understanding of what to expect in higher temperatures.
Now that you know how to find your ice machine model’s rate of production, let’s show you how to measure a batch of ice.
How to Test the Ice Maker Production Rate for Air-Cooled Units
First, make sure your air-cooled ice machine is plugged in and turned on.
Once your ice machine starts its initial fill cycle (you’ll hear the water begin to run), you’ll need to measure the ambient air temperature around the unit.
Using an electric probe thermometer (we use a Fluke Multimeter or comparable), measure the ambient air in the top-right corner, in front of the ice machine, where the air enters the unit. This will let you know what the temperature around the machine is. After that, you should also take five steps away from the unit and measure the room temperature. It’s very possible that your room could be 70-degrees, but the air around your ice machine can be as high as 100 degrees. We call this phenomenon a microclimate, and it is often the result of poor ventilation around the ice machine.
Next, you’ll need to check the water temperature in your business. For this, you can use a simple meat thermometer.
Find a sink of faucet in your business that uses the same municipal water supply as your ice machine. Turn on the faucet and let it run for 30 seconds, just to get out any lingering water that might have heated up in your pipes. Next, place the bulb of the thermometer under the water for a minute and note the temperature.
Keep in mind, if you find that the water running to your business is particularly high (90 degrees and higher), you’ll want to call a plumber to see if they find a way to lower the temperature of your incoming water.
Now that you know the air and water temperature you can determine how much ice your unit should be producing.
During your ice machine’s harvest cycle (when your ice machine drops a batch of ice) wait until the last ice cube is dispensed. At this moment, start running a timer. Stop the timer immediately when your ice machine starts dropping its next batch of ice. This is one full cycle. Make sure to write down the time.
Using your ice machine performance data sheet, find the air and water temperatures. The example below is of a KM-660MAJ operating under air/water of 90/70. You want to add both the Freezing Cycle Time and the Harvest Cycle time. In this case, the time of a properly working KM-660MAJ under 90/70 should equal 28 minutes for a full cycle.
If the time you measure is within 10%, give or take, of the time listed in the performance data sheet, your ice machine is working properly and you might want to consider upsizing your ice machine if you run out of ice a lot.
If the time is longer than the one listed in the performance data sheet, there is likely something wrong with the ice machine. This is the time you should call a qualified ice machine technician to come out and diagnose the problem.
What to Do If there is a Problem with Your Air-Cooled Machine
If you notice that your machine is not producing according to your performance data sheet, there is most likely an underlying problem with the unit that can include, but not limited to:
- Dirty condenser
- Freeze Ups
- Installation Problems
- Low Water Pressure
- Clogged Distribution Tubes
- Float Switch Issues
A qualified ice machine technician can help you with any of these problems and more. If you’re an Easy Ice customer, you can always give us a call at 866-easyice (327-9423) and we’ll send a technician to your business as soon as possible.
Knowing how your ice machine works can prove to be a real money saver. While it may be easy to pick up the phone and have an ice machine technician resolve the problem, if you discover that it’s something as simple as lowering your thermostat, you can end up saving money on a service call.