How to Pick the Right Sized Ice Machine and Ice Storage Bin

Reading Time: 5 minutes Ice Machines 101

Ice Storage Bin Group Easy Ice

When it comes to ice storage solutions, one size does not fit all. The amount of ice storage one business needs can be completely different from another – even within the same industry.  

There are a few factors to picking the perfect sized ice maker bin for your business that include understanding how ice machines and bins work, finding your average ice usage, and identifying the places where you use ice other than serving drinks.   

How an Ice Maker and Ice Storage Bin Work 

Your ice maker and ice bin work together to make sure your business has enough ice throughout the day. It’s hard to choose the perfect sized ice bin without first understanding how these two pieces work in unison.  

How an Ice Maker Works 

Each ice machine has a production rating that signifies how much ice a unit will produce over 24 hours, provided the ambient air and water temperatures are 70- and 50-degrees Fahrenheit respectively. For instance, a KM-600 produces approximately 600 pounds of ice a day under ideal temperatures 

When the ambient air temperature around the ice machine reaches higher than 70/50, the ice production rate drops, because it has to fight against more elevated temperatures to make a batch of iceIn these conditions, a KM-600 operating in air and water temperatures of 90/70-degrees will end up producing closer to 500 lbs of ice a day.  

The truth is, ideal temperatures are hard to maintain. Sure, you can lower the thermostat and control the air temperature, but there’s little you can do about the temperature of the water outside. For this reason, when choosing an ice maker and bin, it’s best to base your ice needs off 90/70-degree air and water. Both Hoshizaki and Manitowoc list these statistics for all their ice maker models.  

As a rule, it’s always better to have more ice than you need, than not enough. You’ll spend less money on a larger ice machine than you will on the extra ice you’ll need during busy days and hot summers.  

How an Ice Storage Bin Works 

An ice machine drops and stores ice in an ice storage bin. Ice machines come with a shut-off switch that measures how much ice is in the bin to prevent overflows and freeze ups. When ice levels reach high enough to trigger the switch, the ice machine shuts off.  

Much like ice machines, manufacturers will name an ice storage bin by the maximum capacity of ice they can hold. For instance, a Hoshizaki B-700 holds around 700 lbs of ice before the ice level reaches the bin switch and shuts down ice production. It’s in that phrase, “maximum capacity” where things get tricky.  

Maximum capacity is the total amount of ice a bin can hold if it’s completely level, but when ice falls into a bin, it forms a mound. When the peak of the mound hits the bin switch, ice production will shut down, even though there’s extra space to store more ice. The only way to achieve the maximum capacity is by manually leveling the ice as it drops into the bin – which isn’t practical.  

Overall, an ice bin will only hold around 80% of its maximum capacity before triggering the bin switch. So, a B-700 will more likely hold 600 lbs of ice before shutting down.  

How to Pick the Best Ice Maker and Commercial Ice Bin 

Now that you know how an ice machine and ice storage bin work, you have a better idea about how to choose one.  

Start by estimating your average ice usage for your industry. We have a handy chart showing some average ice usage estimates per industry that you can refer to here 

Next, consider the places you use ice aside from drinks. Do you have separate stations, like a wait station, where you keep ice? What about a beer trough for game days? Do you use ice to prep food in the kitchen? All of these are industry specific questions you should ask yourself and factor into your total ice usage.  

If you know that you’ll be installing an ice machine in an area where 70-degree air is hard to maintain, you’d be wise to choose an ice machine with a little more ice production to compensate for the drop in volume due to heat. Having an additional 25-35% more ice than you need will help cover busier days and hotter summers.  

Finally, make sure you have all the requirements to install an ice maker and bin. That includes:  

  • A floor drain within 6 feet of the machine and space enough for a ¼ in fall for every foot of drain pipe 
  • About a foot and a half of space on ALL sides of the unit – including the ceiling 
  • Proper electrical setups: 20-amp circuit for 110v machines and a 4-wire system for 220v machines 
  • A water line capable of delivering 5 gallons per minute with a dedicated shutoff valve within 6 ft of the machine 

What Can Happen if I Get the Wrong Sized Ice Storage Bin? 

A few problems can occur if you get a commercial ice bin that’s too big or too small.  

If your bin is too small, you won’t get the full benefit of your machine’s production rate. Remember, an ice maker only runs long enough to fill the ice bin. After that, it shuts off until ice is taken out.  

For example, if you had a machine that produces 1900 pounds of ice a day on an 800-pound ice maker bin, you’re wasting the ice producing potential for such a large ice machine. 

Now, you may think there is no fault in having a bin that’s too big. What could be the harm in having too much ice, right? Well, believe it or not, having too big of an ice bin can also cause problems.  

An ice bin isn’t a refrigerator. It does a good job keeping ice cool because it’s insulated, but ice will inevitably melt if it’s left in there too long.  

With traditional slope front bins, the ice at the top gets used first. That means if the bin is too big, the ice at the bottom sits there to melt. As the old ice melts, new ice drops on top of it, refreezing it. What you’re left with is a big, useless block of ice at the bottom of your bin. This is why the largest bins have their doors near the floor, allowing access to the older ice first.  

Take the Time to Choose the Right Ice Maker and Ice Storage Bin 

Many factors go into choosing the best-sized machine and ice storage bin for your business. Just remember to follow the steps: 

  • Understand the limitations of ice makers and ice storage bins 
  • Estimate the ice needs for your industry 
  • Estimate how much ice you’ll need for non-beverage purposes 
  • Add 25-35% more ice production to account for busy days and holidays 

If you ever need help sizing the right ice machine and bin for your business, you can always contact us or call at 866-easyice to speak to you of our knowledgeable representatives.  

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