Normally you open the ice storage bin, grab the ice you need, and move on. You do this dozens of times each week without giving it a second thought, but what happens when you find that your supply is lower than normal? Your first instinct may be to assume that less ice means the ice maker stopped working, however this is not necessarily the case. Let’s do some ice machine troubleshooting.
Supply & Demand
First, it’s important to understand the ice machine’s rating and distribution rate. With ideal air and water temperatures, a machine that is rated to produce 500lbs of ice per day will create that ice volume in 10.2-pound batches over the course of 24 hours at an average rate of 20lbs per hour. You may experience a busy time like a lunch or dinner rush, however each new batch of ice still requires 20-40 minutes to freeze. While your supply is building up throughout the day, it’s also being depleted in the course of doing business – 1 scoop at a time. You may think that your ice maker stopped working, however your ice machine problems might actually be usage problems. Simply put, sometimes consumption exceeds production.
Many restaurants and cafeterias use 5-gallon buckets of ice to fill all of the areas where ice is used: soft drink fountains, salad bars, food preparation areas, beer troughs, etc. If you were to open your ice machine 5 minutes after this happens, your supply would be depleted. It’s not that your ice maker stopped working, your consumption has simply exceeded the capability of your machine. Ice is still being replenished at the set rate of the machine’s production capability, unfortunately this doesn’t happen any faster when your supply has been depleted.
Hotel ice machines serve ice in relatively small quantities – one small bucket at a time. What would happen though if guests were to fill poolside coolers – or even bathtubs – with ice? That would require a large quantity of ice being used all at once, leaving the next guest to assume that the ice maker stopped working. This is another example of peak usage time outpacing hourly production time.
There is also a seasonal element to the output and supply of your ice machine. During the summer months, demand for cold drinks increases while ice machine production decreases due to the higher air & water temperatures. That leaves you with a lower supply, higher demand, and the ice in your bin melting faster (be sure to keep that door shut!). This “perfect storm” of summertime conditions can make it appear as if your ice maker stopped working, when it is actually working just fine. If your restaurant, café, or lounge serves lots of mixed or frozen drinks, then your ice supply goes even quicker!
Changes in a business can have a drastic impact on the amount of ice needed. If a store updates its beverage menu, gets a liquor license, or launches a new line of featured drinks, the increase in ice usage applies more pressure to the daily ice supply. A growing customer base or updated store policies such as free refills might very well lead to the assumption that you have ice machine problems. Even operational adjustments such as longer or later store hours could have a tangible effect on ice needs.
Ambient Air Temperature
The previous section was about matching supply and demand but sometimes your ice machine really is producing less ice than it was before. The most common cause of ice machine production problems is high air temperatures around the ice machine. If you’ve spent any time in Florida, Texas, or Arizona in the summer this should not surprise you. Have you ever parked your car outside in the sun for hours, fired up the A/C, only to find yourself uncomfortably warm for the next 30 minutes? That is because your A/C uses the outside air to cool down the inside air. The hotter it is outside, the longer it takes to cool down your car…right? Same thing goes with ice machines, except they use the air to cool the water all the way down to 32 degrees in order to make ice. That means if your ice machine is sucking in hot kitchen air – above 85 degrees – your ice machine will produce less ice than it would if it was surrounded by 70 degree air.
During the summer, this is – by far – the largest source of ice machine problems. In fact, if the temperature around the ice machine gets up over 100 degrees, you may very well find that your ice maker stopped working. The only solution to this problem is to lower the temperature around the ice maker by either increasing the amount of A/C in the area, circulating cooler air from surrounding areas towards the ice maker, or moving the machine to an area that has better ventilation or lower temperatures. Easy Ice has developed some air channeling techniques that can isolate hot spots and enable an ice machine to continue performing despite sub-optimal environments, but every circumstance is unique and requires some creativity to resolve.
An ice maker requires regular maintenance, including cleaning the air filter, to produce at optimal rates. Because the machine requires plenty of cool airflow to operate properly, if airflow is impeded by filters that are dirty from grease, smoke, and dust particles – it can look as though your ice maker stopped working. By cleaning the filters every 2 weeks, you’ll help optimize airflow and maximize your machine’s performance.
The location of the air filters can vary by manufacturer and model. On a Hoshizaki machine, filters are usually found on the front panel of the ice maker, however they may also be located on the back, side, or a combination thereof. The location of the air filters on Manitowoc machines also varies by model. Regardless of where the filter is located, it needs regular cleaning to prevent ice machine problems. To clean the air filter, pull the screen from behind the air grid and wash it out with hot water and soap. While the minimum cleaning schedule is every 2 weeks, the recommended frequency of cleaning is largely determined by the ice machine’s environment. Keep in mind that filters are not dishwasher safe and cannot be exposed to extreme heat.
While ice machines do occasionally break down, these are just a few examples of reduced ice production that is not because of ice machine problems. If you find yourself running low on ice – start by checking the temperature in the room. You may need to cool the temperature of the air surrounding the ice machine. Next, check the air filter and make sure it is clean and free of smoke, grease, and dust particles.
If you’ve got a clean air filter, and room temperature is not an issue, but you’re still running out of ice, you may simply have a customer base that has outgrown your original ice machine. If that’s the case, we invite you to contact Easy Ice about replacing your current machine with a model designed to produce enough ice for your growing business.
If you are an Easy Ice customer, it is your responsibility to maintain an appropriate ambient operating temperature. Service interruptions may not be covered if the machine is not in a proper operating environment. If you have determined that none of the above is the cause of your ice machine problems, please send an email or call our service delivery team at 866-327-3423 to schedule a service call.