The Many Types of Ice Machine Drain Setups

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Drain Options - Ice Machine

Commercial ice equipment requires a lot of water, and any leftover water from the ice-making process will need to be drained out of your business. Depending on their configuration, a commercial ice machine can have anywhere from one to four different types of drains. You’ll of course have the ice machine drain, but there are additional drain installations for your ice bin, condenser drain, drip tray, and other areas.

Your ice maker can only perform properly with drains that work properly. At various times throughout the ice-making process, the machine will expel water. You need a drainage system within your business that can handle the maximum amount of water your ice maker releases.

Let’s look at some of the different types of drainage setups businesses can use with their commercial ice machine.

Floor Drains

Floor drains are the preferred method for draining an ice maker, as they are typically made to handle higher volumes of water than different types.

Floor drains consist of an access point in the floor. Once water leaves the ice maker and enters the floor drain, it will drop into the business’s sewer line or somewhere outside. Some of the different types include:

  • Round
  • Square
  • Floor Sink (sunken)
  • Mop Sink (elevated)

Whether you’re interested in a floor sink, a gravity drain, or any other particular type of floor drain, they all have benefits that vary based on several factors, each unique to your ice machine’s installation setup.

All ice machine drains need a few inches of space (known as an air gap) between the ice maker drain termination point and your business’s drain access point. This space prevents sewer water from backing up into the industrial ice maker or commercial ice bin should a problem arise with the floor drain, giving it room to drop back into the pipes.

A typical air gap is 2 inches, but your local city health code may require a longer gap. Make sure to check local health codes prior to installation.

Standpipe Drains

Standpipe drains are pipes that extend out of a wall or floor and run up into the air. These pipes’ dimensions can be 4-inches high or taller.

If you plan to run your ice maker drain into a standpipe, you’ll need to make sure it’s large enough to accommodate the volume of water your ice maker produces.

Common Standpipe Drain Pump Pitfalls

There are a few important things to keep in mind. First, if the standpipe’s diameter is too small or the pipe’s height is too short, the water may overflow from the standpipe and cause water damage.

Second, most ice bin drains are only 5-6 inches off the ground. If the standpipe is too tall, you’ll either have to elevate the machine or add a drain pump to your setup. Sometimes, you can effectively make it a floor drain by shortening your standpipe a few inches from the ground.

Call a licensed plumber if you plan on shortening the standpipe to make a floor drain. Make sure they know how much water your automatic ice maker will purge during harvest before altering your standpipe.

You’ll need to fit your standpipe with a compliant P-trap if it connects to the sewage line. A P-trap is a curved pipe that prevents sewer gas from escaping your business’s drain access point and makes it drop back. The last requirement is that standpipes also require an air gap that meets your city’s health code.

Wall Drains

Like their name suggests, wall drains are vertical drains that run through your wall.

As the ice maker expels water, it enters the wall drain, where it flows either outdoors or into another access point that leads to your business’s drainage system. Keep in mind, if the wall drain is connected to the sewage line, you will need to install a P-trap (shown in the below picture).

Like a floor drain and standpipes, these setups also require an air gap between the drain of the ice maker drain and the access point.

These are popular drainage setups for small commercial ice machine models like countertop ice makers. The ice machine’s drains can run down through the countertop and directly into the wall drain underneath the counter. These drains can be created from an existing sink drain in most locations.

Transfer Drains

The majority of ice machine drains are gravity drains, which means they use gravity to assist in draining. Using them properly requires 1/4″ of drop for every 1 foot of drain line length. When your ice machine is at the wrong distance to achieve this drain slope, you can solve the problem with a transfer drain.

Transfer drains accept water from your ice machine or storage bin and allow it to flow to an access point further away. These setups can be used in conjunction with floor drains, standpipes, or wall drains. Transfer drains require at least a 1/8″ drop per foot of piping.

Using a Drain Pump with Your Ice Machine Drain

Drain pumps are commonly used when a business doesn’t have a drainage access point to accommodate the ice machine’s configuration. There are two types of drain pumps you can potentially use with ice machines: commercial drain pumps and condensate pumps.

Drain Pumps for Your Commercial Ice Machine

Commercial drain pumps work by pumping water from the ice machine to a designated access point. This type of drain pump is the best option if you’re unable to elevate your ice machine configuration high enough to allow for a gravity-fed drain line to the drain system access point.

For example, if the access point is located six feet off the floor, a commercial drain pump will take the water from your ice machine and pump it up to the access point where it can be flushed away.

Commercial drain pumps can come with large reservoirs that store the water until the pump activates and moves the water. If you’re going to use one of these pumps, you need to make sure it’s able to accommodate the amount of water released from the ice machine.

You also need to make sure the bin drain is above the commercial-grade drain pump. Many commercial drain pumps are 10-14 inches off the ground while an ice machine drain pump offers around six inches of clearance. You may need to raise the ice machine higher if you plan on using a commercial drain pump.

Residential and Commercial Ice Machine Drain Requirements

When purchasing a drain pump, there are three things you need to look for:

  • The pumping capacity in gallons per minute
  • The size of the pump’s reservoir (can it hold the amount of water your ice machine expels?)
  • The strength of the pump (how much water can the pump move upslope?)

Condensate Pumps

Condensate pumps are specifically designed for air conditioning units. They’re designed to flush away the condensation that drips off the AC unit as they run.

While condensate pumps are not designed for commercial ice machines, some people have successfully used them on ice bin drains because the ice melt rate is similar to that of condensation.

However, condensate pumps cannot handle the amount of water that comes out of other areas of the ice machines (e.g. condenser drains, reservoir drains, etc.). The volume of water from the ice machine is far greater than the condensate pumps pumping capacity and could cause the pump to overflow and cause floor damage.

It should be noted that condensate pumps inevitably fail over time and that you should get a new installation each year.

Overall, drain pumps should only be used as a last resort.

Installing the Right Drain Type for the Right Machine

There are many types of drainage setups you can use with ice makers The most important task is to make sure your ice machine is installed safely in your drainage setup. Installing proper air gaps and proper connections required by the state and ice maker professionals will keep you and your customers safe.

With an Easy Ice subscription, you have a team of Ice Machine Experts that will work to ensure your machine is installed under the best conditions. If you maintain and protect your ice maker properly, it’ll help you avoid having to replace it and give you a much more energy-efficient ice maker.

Our team is available to help you get started today!