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. If you think installing an outdoor ice maker is the best course of action, we’re here to tell you why that’s a bad idea.
Ice Machines Are Not as Tough as They Look
Let’s face it, 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’ll cause more harm than good! Ice machines are not as durable as they look, the most delicate components are beneath their steel exterior. Many ice machine parts require specific temperatures to run efficiently. Everything from the ice maker’s condenser, evaporator, thermistor, and water lines are sensitive to extreme temperatures and air particles found outdoors.
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.
What Happens to an Outdoor Ice Maker When It’s Too Cold?
Cold 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.
The Best Home for Your Ice Machine
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.
Having bar backs or other employees carry buckets of ice outdoors may be a hassle, but it’s not as bad as shelling out thousands of extra dollars in ice machine repair costs.
Remember, treat your ice machine well and it will treat you and your customers even better. Ice makers are generous like that!