We’ve written extensively on how ambient air temperatures around your ice maker can cause your ice production rate to slow, but that’s not the only temperature that can cause ice maker problems. If your ice maker is slow making ice, but the air temperature is in the optimal range of 70-80 degrees, it could be the water coming into your ice machine that’s causing it to slow.
What Happens When You Introduce Hot Water to an Ice Maker?
First, let’s define what we mean by “hot” water. Typically, an ice maker’s production rate is only nominally affected when the water temperature rises between 55-degrees to 70-degrees Fahrenheit. It’s when water reaches above 80 degrees that we begin to see a significant drop in ice production. If the water temperature reaches over 100 degrees, ice machines may shut down into a safety mode, ceasing ice production altogether.
Ice machines must work to lower incoming water to 48 degrees before they begin the ice making process. When water temperatures rise, the ice machine takes longer to lower the temperature of the water to make ice.
In some instances where the water reaches over 127 degrees, the water can be so hot that it heats the evaporator plate, triggering the ice machine’s thermistor, which will cause certain ice machine brands to shut down into a safe mode.
What Causes Hot Water to an Ice Maker?
A few scenarios can cause water to heat up and enter your ice maker. The most common one is excessively hot summer temperatures.
If water lines are exposed to the sun or run through walls or ceilings, hot summer days can quickly heat water up to 100 degrees. This is particularly the case in the South and Southwest states where summer temperatures can reach triple digits.
The sun isn’t the only thing that can heat water lines. Water can heat up in hot kitchens over 90 degrees or if your water line passes right behind a hot stove or furnace.
Finally, hot water migration can force water towards your ice machine and is one of the trickiest problems to diagnose.
Hot water migration happens when hot water forces its way into cold water lines.
We often see hot water migration occurring in setups with pre-rinse sprayers and certain mixing valves. These appliances have hot and cold water rushing to them, and when they’re not properly shut off at closing time, start pushing hot water to the ice machine.
How to Fix Hot Water Issues
All the ice maker problems we listed will most likely require a plumber to solve, but there are different solutions to each problem.
Water Lines Exposed to the Sun
If your plumber concludes that your water lines are exposed to heat from the environment, there are a few solutions they might suggest, like:
- Moving the ice machine to a different water line
- Insulating the water lines
- Moving the water lines
If your plumber finds a separate water line that runs underground or away from the sun, they may suggest you move the ice machine to that area.
Moving the ice machine will only work if it’s installed on a new water line that isn’t exposed to heat – which isn’t always an option. This process can range in difficulty based on whether the new area has all the proper electrical and drainage requirements the unit needs to run, as well.
Insulating lines require less work but might not be practical depending on the temperature. For instance, water lines running through the ceiling are exposed to the hot sun pretty much all afternoon, so if you live in an area like Arizona or Nevada, where it rarely gets cloudy, then insulation might not be enough.
When insulation fails, the only other option is to reinstall the water lines somewhere else. This is the most expensive and labor-intensive process, but it may be your only option.
Similarly, if your plumber finds that a heat-producing appliance is causing your incoming water to heat up, they may choose to insulate or move your water lines.
Moving your ice machine to another area is also an option that can prove to be the least expensive, provided it’s moved to a water line that has cool incoming water.
Of course, the final alternative is moving the appliance in question, which can vary in difficulty as well.
Hot Water Migration
As we mentioned already, hot water migration can be tough to diagnose. That’s because water lines run throughout your business, and it’s difficult to follow and test all the potential problem areas.
It can come down to a simple process of elimination, where a plumber will make a change to your water setup in hopes that it solves the problem, but in some cases, it doesn’t.
This process can go on for weeks and require multiple visits from a plumber, but once they identify the problem area, your ice machine should begin to work without issue.
Pay Attention to the Signs
If you notice your ice maker is slow making ice, pay attention to the area your ice machine is installed and the temperature outside. If you live in an area notorious for hot summers, and you know that your ice machine slows during those months, there’s a good chance it could be your air or water temperature in your establishment.
In many cases, your ice machine is working fine; it’s just responding to less than optimal conditions and doing its best to keep up.
If you suspect anything, a qualified plumber or ice machine technician can help diagnose the problem.