Buying a used ice machine may sound like a cost-effective way to provide ice to your business, but there are many pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. Buying any piece of used equipment comes with a risk, but despite how tough ice machines look, they’re actually quite delicate. For this reason, you should exhibit extra caution when buying a used ice maker.
Here are a few things you should watch out for when buying a used commercial ice machine.
1. Maintenance History
An ice machine is only as good as the maintenance it receives. An ice machine consists of many vital components that require regular maintenance and upkeep to keep them working efficiently. When these components don’t get the proper maintenance they need, they run the risk of breaking down. Some major components are costly to repair, like condensers, evaporators, and compressors. Repairs can cost as much as the used ice machine’s price.
Ice machines require at least 2 preventive maintenance events a year – more so if the ice machine was in a challenging environment, like a bakery or warehouse.
Which leads us to…
2. Past Installation Environment
The past environment a used ice machine was operating in can tell you a lot about any potential problems. Even the best ice machine brands require proper environmental conditions to maintain efficiency.
There are a few environments that can really take a toll on an ice machine and its components; they include:
- Areas with no air conditioning or outdoors
- Low ventilation areas, like cubbies and closets
- Bakeries and breweries
- Warehouses, factories, and busy kitchens
- No Air Conditioning or Low Ventilation Areas
The ambient air temperature around an ice machine needs to stay around 70 degrees for optimal performance. As the temperature rises, the machine works harder – which means components wear down faster.
While you may find a great deal on an ice machine that’s only a year old, if that machine was running in 100-degree conditions, it’s components could have the wear and tear of a 3-4-year-old machine.
Bakeries and Breweries
Both of these establishments produce a lot of yeast, which saturate the air and end up in your ice machine. Yeast is the main food source for mold and slime proliferation. If the machine wasn’t receiving proper cleanings to address the high yeast environment, it’s likely the interior could have significant mold and slime growth.
Health inspectors commonly write code violations for excess mold and slime growth. While mold and slime are not something that will necessarily damage an ice maker, a dirty ice machine should be priced accordingly. Professional cleanings can cost a few hundred dollars. The seller should not pass that charge on to the buyer unless fully stated.
Warehouses, Factories, and Busy Kitchens
Industrial ice machine or restaurant ice machine models are often exposed to increased levels of dust, dirt, and grease. These particles can attach to ice machine components and cause them to work harder than they’re designed to.
All ice machines work to release heat generated by the unit. As these particles attach themselves to your ice machine, they act as an insulator, which prevents your ice machine from adequately releasing heat into the surrounding environment.
3. Internal Corrosion
Give water enough time and it can corrode just about any surface. While the exterior of a used ice machine may look shiny and new, it’s the inside that really counts!
Internal leaks within an ice machine will corrode the interior of the unit over time. When purchasing a used ice machine, make sure to take off the front faceplate and examine the inside of the machine. If you notice any rusting or corrosion, skip this unit and move on to the next. You’ll need to replace the corroded areas, and it likely signifies a leak from within the machine.
4. Dirty Condensers
Your ice machine’s condenser is the number one component that suffers from an environment saturated with dirt, dust, and grease. The ice machine condenser’s job is to release heat the refrigerant has collected from water during the freezing process
As we explained above, when ice machines cannot properly release heat, it overworks the system, resulting in an expensive ice maker repair.
When inspecting a used ice maker, look to see if there is a thick coat of dust and grease on the ice machine’s condenser. If it is, the machine is due for a professional cleaning.
5. Damaged Evaporators
Evaporators are responsible for freezing water into ice and releasing that ice into our ice bin. When scale adheres to evaporators, it acts as an insulator and creates a rough surface. The evaporator has a harder time freezing ice.
The ice that does manage to form has a harder time releasing from the evaporator plate. Scale will also reduce the ice machines daily production and can lead to further, very expensive repairs.
Keep in mind, different brands of ice machines have their evaporators in different places:
Used Hoshizaki Ice Machine Evaporators
Hoshizaki ice machines, especially KM-series ice machines, have enclosed evaporators that produce ice cubes individually. The design is great for ice production, but not so great for inspection.
The best way to determine a used Hoshizaki ice machine evaporator is damaged is to look at the plate from the top and bottom of the ice machine. You’ll have to remove the roof of the machine to view the evaporator plat from the top. You want to look for any dents, warping, or if the plates are cracked or bubbling.
You can view the bottom of the evaporator plate by removing the front cover. You also want to look below for any plate separation. Tap the plates and see if you heat them bang together. The plates should be solidly connected.
Used Manitowoc Ice Maker Evaporators
Manitowoc designs their ice machines so that all the vital components are easily accessible.
To inspect a used Manitowoc ice maker evaporator, simply open the front panel and pull up the water curtain (the large plastic panel just behind the front panel).
Behind it, you’ll see the evaporator plate, which is a grid-shaped metal plate. Look closely for any bent or damaged metal. Make sure you don’t see any separation, either. All parts of the plate should be secure. Finally, run your fingernail across the metal to see if it sticks. If your fingernail doesn’t skate across the metal, that’s a good sign of scale damage.
Carefully Inspect a Used Ice Machine Before Buying
A used ice machine is only as good as its internal parts. What may seem like a shiny ice machine with little wear and tear, could be a disaster waiting to happen. It’s best to purchase a used ice maker from a credible dealer with a good business history. Better yet, why not rent an ice machine?
Ice machine rentals are a low-cost way of providing ice to your customers. Our all-inclusive ice machine subscriptions not only come with leading commercial ice equipment, but we include preventive maintenance, cleaning, and repairs to keep it running in top shape! Contact us today!