The Challenges of Installing an Outdoor Ice Maker

Reading Time: 5 minutes Ice Machines 101

Outdoor Ice Maker Easy Ice

So, you just got a brand-new ice machine, and you want to install it in a convenient spot, where it won’t take up a lot of space. Installing an outdoor ice maker may be convenient, but it comes with a host of challenges.

At Easy Ice we’ve installed over 20,000 commercial ice makers and counting. We work to ensure ice machines run in some of the most challenging conditions. We’re here to share some of our knowledge about outdoor ice makers.

Ice Machines Are Not as Tough as They Look

Let’s face it, industrial ice machines aren’t discreet. They’re large, heavy, and give off a lot of heat, which is why installing an ice machine outside seems so appealing. It’s out of the way, and the heat stays away from your business. If you have an outdoor bar, installing an outdoor ice maker means it will be closer to customers and bar backs won’t need to haul ice back and forth.

Sure, installing an ice machine outdoors may seem like a no-brainer, but it comes with a lot of challenges! There are delicate ice machine components beneath their steely exterior. Many ice machine parts require specific temperatures to run efficiently. Everything from the automatic ice maker’s condenser, evaporator, thermistor, and water lines are sensitive to extreme temperatures and air particles found outdoors. If something goes wrong, it can lead to expensive ice machine repairs or cause your ice maker to stop making ice.

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The Goldilocks Rule

To produce a reliable amount of ice, ice makers must maintain a consistent temperature, which is not an easy task if you have an outdoor ice maker.

Air and water temperatures affect a unit’s ice production rate. Ideally, ice makers work best under air/water temperatures of 70/50 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.

Remember the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Just like Goldilocks, ice machines don’t react well to temperatures that are too hot or cold. A few problems can occur when you stray from 70/50-degree air and water.

What Happens to an Outdoor Ice Maker When It’s Too Hot?

When you expose an ice machine to air and water temperatures above 70 degrees, ice production drops. The heat entering the unit causes the refrigeration system to work harder, making it less effective at freezing water.

If temperatures continue to rise above 90 degrees, your ice maker’s refrigeration system will start to work overtime. If this continues for too long, ice machine components will break down and require costly repairs.

Outdoor heat can also melt ice inside of the ice maker’s bin. Bins aren’t refrigerated, they provide excellent insulation, but they have their limits. When you expose an ice machine to very high temperatures, you’ll find that ice inside of the bin will melt much faster.

Easy Ice performs a thorough site survey before installing any ice machine. We look for things like high temperatures, because we know how much they can affect your overall ice cube production rate. If you are going to install an outdoor ice maker, you’ll need to make sure you can maintain adequate temperatures – which is not an easy task.

For more information about ice machine installation, see our Ice Maker Installation Checklist.

What Happens to an Outdoor Ice Maker When It’s Too Cold?

Cold temperatures can also affect your ice maker’s ice production. Some ice machines use temperature monitoring components, like a thermistor or a thermostatic bin switch, to monitor when begin or stop producing ice. When the environment falls below 45 degrees, the cold ambient air can trick these components. Under these conditions, the unit will produce ice slower or stop producing ice altogether.

In environments that reach below 32 degrees, you run the risk of water lines freezing. Frozen water lines can halt ice production because water won’t be able to get to the ice machine – but this can be the least of your problems. When water freezes it expands and if that happens inside your water line, it can crack the line which will sideline your machine until it’s fixed.

Outdoor Ice Makers are Susceptible to the Elements

Extreme temperatures aren’t the only things you’ll encounter when you install an ice machine outdoors. The elements can be incredibly harsh as well.

With an air-cooled unit, dirt from the outdoors gets sucked up into the unit’s condenser fan and forms a layer around the condenser. Dirty condensers can lead to a host of problems like lower ice production, damage to components, or cause the unit to shut down into a fail-safe mode.

Sunlight can harm an ice machine as well. Not only does sunlight lead to warmer temperatures (and all the problems we mentioned earlier) but it can also damage the unit’s exterior and melt the ice in your bin.

Finally, water from rain or humidity can do a number on your machine. Moisture can rust the exterior and interior components, causing them to crack and break. This will lead to hefty repair and replacement costs down the line.

Storms can cause ice machine electrical issues or cause your ice maker to flood. Make sure to cover the machine with plastic bags and shut off the ice maker if you know a storm is on the way.

The Best Home for Your Ice Machine

Ultimately, the best home for your ice machine is indoors. Installing your ice maker inside offers protection against the elements and the ability to control the temperature.

With proper air conditioning, you can maintain your ice maker’s sweet spot of 70/50-degree air and water.

Keeping your ice machine indoors also means it will be safe from the outdoor environment. As a result, your ice maker will remain structurally sound and continue looking as good as new.

If you must install an ice machine outside, you’ll need to build a housing for it to keep it running efficiently. A shed or alternative space that has controllable temperature will work. Keep in mind, it’s an incredibly expensive undertaking and rarely a cost-effective solution.

If you’re looking for options for an outdoor commercial ice maker, contact one of our helpful Ice Machine Experts today. We have experience choosing the best ice maker for any industry. We also include routine preventive maintenance and cleaning for a low, monthly cost.

Remember, treat your ice machine well and it will treat you and your customers even better. Ice makers are generous like that!

Our team is available to help you get started today!
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