Your ice machine is fighting a never-ending battle with heat to produce ice. Condensers are particularly susceptible to high heat, and as a result, there are primarily three ice machine condenser types that accommodate varying climates and environments.
In this article, we’ll discuss these three condenser types, and which are best at handling high heat environments.
Air-cooled condensers are the most common type of condenser you’ll find in ice machines.
These types of condensers use forced air to release heat from refrigerant, so it cools to the point that it changes states from a vapor to a liquid.
Once the condenser releases that heat, it needs to go somewhere other than back into the unit (otherwise the machine will have a hard time making ice).
A fan assists in the cooling process by blowing air through the condenser. This helps cool the coils down while simultaneously forcing the heat outside of the unit.
Air-cooled condensers have a simple and efficient design, which is why they are popular, but they require ventilation and a room with circulating air to work well. Once the fan forces hot air out of the unit, it needs a place to go, far away from the ice machine.
The ice machine needs plenty of space on all sides for hot air to escape – the more, the better. Air should be able to move about the room freely. Never install your ice machine in a small closet or cubby that can fill up with hot air. Owners also need to make sure not to block the ice machine’s vents with boxes and clutter.
Without proper ventilation, there’s a good chance the ice machine will suck the hot air back into the unit.
Air-cooled ice machines are also greatly affected by the ambient air temperature directly surrounding the unit.
If the air around your ice machine reaches above 70 degrees, the refrigeration system loses efficiency causing a drop in ice production – the hotter the air, the greater the loss of ice production.
Temperatures above 90 degrees can tax the machine to the point where components begin to break down and require expensive repairs.
Since heat is such a contributing factor for ice machine efficiency, we highly recommend that you install air-cooled units in a room with adequate air-conditioning.
Air-cooled units are also susceptible to high-particulate environments, like kitchens or bakeries, where small particles of grease or flour are likely floating in the air.
As the fan runs to help cool the ice machine condenser, it blows these particles against the condenser where they adhere. Over time, these particles accumulate to form a layer of dirt that insulates the condenser, making it harder to cool the refrigerant – which is why routine cleaning is necessary to avoid a broken ice maker.
As the name suggests, water cooled ice condensers use ambient water to cool down the unit’s refrigerant.
These ice maker condenser types are an excellent option for areas with low to no ventilation or high-particulate environments because they don’t use fans or emit hot air. Instead, they run water through a tube inside the refrigeration system. The water absorbs the heat from the refrigerant, cooling it down.
One misconception is that water-cooled ice machines are designed for high heat environments. While water-cooled ice machines stand up to high ambient air temperatures better than air-cooled units, you still have to worry about high ambient water temperatures entering your machine.
High water temperatures are much harder to address than air temperatures. Where you can easily address high air temperatures with a good AC unit, there’s no simple system that cools incoming water.
Many areas in the Southern and Southwest United States have sweltering summers that can heat water right through piping.
If you have an exposed water line or have water lines running through walls or ceilings, water can reach temperatures as high as 100 degrees.
The hotter the water, the harder it is to cool the refrigerant in the ice machine. In these temperatures, the ice machine continually runs water through the condenser tubing and down the drain, leading to massive water bills for businesses.
In fact, in some cities, water-cooled ice machines are banned due to the amount of water they can waste.
A remote condenser ice machine has its condensing unit installed separately from the ice machine, either outside or in a separate room with plenty of ventilation.
They work like air-cooled units, but the hot refrigerant runs through a long set of piping to the ice maker condenser, where heat is released far away from the unit.
Since remote condensers are much larger than air-cooled condensers, they use more refrigerant, which allows them to function in high-ambient temperature environments, like outdoors.
These are generally the best setups for high heat areas, but they do come at a cost.
Most businesses aren’t initially set up to accommodate a remote condenser ice machine. To run refrigerant lines away from the ice machine means cutting through walls and ceilings.
That means the initial installation will be more expensive but should make up for the cost of owning an air-cooled or water-cooled ice machine in a high-temperature area.
Choose the Best Set Up for Your Needs
What you should keep in mind when choosing an ice machine is to select the one that works for your needs. One style of condenser isn’t better than another, rather they’re different setups made to accommodate a range of environments. If your establishment can support an air-cooled unit, you should buy an air-cooled.
Know the type of conditions your ice machine is likely to encounter, and you can choose the ice machine that is right for your business.
If you need help, give the experts at Easy Ice a call, we’ll be glad to help you find the best ice machine for your business at a low monthly charge. Our all-inclusive program is much more than a ice machine lease, we include cleaning, repairs and maintenance as well!