The Many Types of Ice Machine Drain Setups

Reading Time: 7 minutes Ice Machines 101

Ice Machine Drain

Commercial ice equipment requires a lot of water, and any left-over water from the ice-making process will need to be drained out of your business. Depending on their configuration, ice makers can have anywhere from one to four drains. Your machine will likely have an ice machine drain, but there are also drains for your ice bin, condensate drain, drip tray, and other areas.

Your ice machine’s drains perform a vital function in maintaining its performance. At various times throughout the ice making process, the machine will expel water. It’s imperative that you have a drainage system within your business that can handle the maximum amount of water these machines release.

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

Ice Machine Floor Drains

Floor drains are the preferred method for draining ice machines, as they are typically made to handle higher volumes of water.

Floor drains consist of an opening, known as an access point, built directly into the floor. Once water enters the floor drain, it is either deposited into the business’s sewer line or in some cases, somewhere outside. Floor drains can come in many shapes and sizes including round, square, Floor Sink (sunken), Mop Sink (elevated). Each type of floor drain has its benefits when it comes 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 machine’s drain termination point and your business’s drain access point. This air gap will prevent sewer water from backing up into the industrial ice maker or commercial ice bin should a problem arise with the floor drain.

A typical air gap is 2 inches, but your local city health code may require a longer gap. You’ll have to check your local health codes when installing your ice machine drain to make sure you’re in compliance.

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Standpipe Drain

Standpipe drains are pipes that extend out of a wall or floor and run up into the air. These pipe’s dimensions can differ from 4 inches high or taller. Water is deposited into the access point of the standpipe and eventually into your business’s drainage system.

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

Keep in mind, if the standpipe’s diameter is too small or the pipe’s height is too short, the water may overflow the standpipe which can lead to water damage on your floor.

Another thing to note is that 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 set up (more on that later). In some instances, you can shorten your standpipe a few inches from the ground, effectively making it a floor drain. Make sure to call a plumber if you plan on shortening the standpipe. They will need to know exactly how much water your automatic ice maker will purge during harvest before making alterations to your standpipe.

Finally, if the standpipe is an extension of your sewage line, it will need to be fitted with a P-trap in compliance with your city’s health code. A P-trap is a curved pipe (in the shape of the letter P) that prevents sewer gas from escaping your business’s drain access point.

Just like floor drain, 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 machine 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 above picture).

Like floor drains and standpipes, these setups also require an air gap between the ice machine’s 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

Keep in mind that the majority of ice machine drains are “gravity-fed” drains. Meaning, it uses gravity to assist in draining. To properly drain the ice maker or storage bin, 1/4″ of drop is required for every 1 foot of drain line length. Let’s say you want to use an access point on one side of a room, but your ice machine is installed at a distance where the proper drain slope is not achievable. This is where a transfer drain is most useful.

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.

Since drainage setups rely on gravity to move water through piping, transfer drains need to slope downward on the direction of the access point. Transfer drains require at least a 1/8 inch drop per foot of piping. The steeper the slope the faster water can move through the 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 that can potentially be used with ice machines, commercial drain pumps, and condensate pumps.

Commercial Drain Pumps

Commercial drain pumps work by pumping water from the ice machine to a designated access point. These pumps are 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 6 ft 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 drain pump. Many commercial drain pumps are 10-14 inches off the ground while an ice machine drain pump offers around 6 inches of clearance. You may need to raise the ice machine higher if you plan on using a commercial drain pump.

When choosing a commercial 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.

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. If you plan on using a condensate pump, it’s highly suggested you replace it every year.

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

Choose the Right Ice Machine Drain Type for Your Needs

Clearly, there are a lot of different drainage setups you can use with your ice machine. The most important task is to make sure your ice machine is installed safely to your drainage setup. Providing 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, our team of Ice Machine Experts work to ensure your machine is installed under the best conditions. Not only does this prolong the life of the ice machine, but results in a much more energy-efficient ice maker.

Want more information on ice machine installation? See our Pre-Installation Checklist.

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