Finding the right commercial ice equipment for your business can be tricky. On one end, you don’t want to pay extra for an ice machine that produces more ice than you will ever need. On the other, ice needs change as the business grows. What may be plenty of ice one year may not be enough the next.
So, what problems can you expect from an incorrect ice maker size?
Ice Machine Sizes vs. Bin Sizes
There are many different types of ice machines, but the most common type of commercial ice machine is a modular style. Modular ice machines require either an ice storage bin or dispenser to deposit ice, so when sizing a modular style ice machine, you need to account for both the machine and the storage.
When we talk about ice machine sizes, we are talking about how much ice the unit can produce in 24 hours. Typically, the model number of the ice machine will give you a hint as to its daily ice production rate. A KM-600‘s maximum daily ice production is about 600 lbs of ice a day under ideal temperatures.
Ice bins and dispensers also have sizes, but they refer to the maximum amount of ice they can hold. Similarly, the model name refers to the amount of ice the bin holds. A B-500 ice bin holds about 500 lbs of ice.
If this were all you needed to know about sizing an ice machine, it would be easy. Just place a 500-lb ice machine on top of a 500-lb ice bin, right? Well, not quite.
Both the machine and bin have a maximum capacity and an AHRI capacity.
Ice Machine Sizing
The maximum capacity refers to the total amount of ice a machine or bin can produce or hold under optimal conditions.
For machines, “optimal” refers to the ambient air and water temperatures entering the machine. Ideally, you want 70-degree air surrounding your ice machine and 50-degree water entering the unit from the municipal supply. Any higher and the ice machine’s production rate will drop.
The reality is, keeping the air and water temperatures at 70 and 50 degrees is not realistic, which is why AHRI sizes exist.
AHRI stands for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an association that provides valuable information to consumers about refrigeration products. They size ice machines at a slightly higher temperature of 90-degree air and 70-degree water, so consumers get an idea of how much ice their machine is likely to produce in higher temperatures.
Manufacturers are required to list AHRI production rates, but you’ll often have to look in the model’s supporting documentation to find it.
The drop differs from model to model. For instance, a KM-600 produces a maximum of 592 lbs of ice a day under optimal temperatures but drops to 503 lbs of ice a day under 90/70-degree temperatures.
Bins also come in two sizes: Maximum and AHRI.
As the name suggests, Maximum refers to the total amount of ice a bin can hold.
AHRI refers to the amount of ice a bin can hold without leveling it off.
Ice machines come with a bin switch, which shuts the ice machine down when the ice reaches a certain point. This stops the ice machine from producing too much ice to the point where it backs up the machine, possibly causing a freeze-up.
As the ice machine drops ice into a bin, it forms a pyramid shape, where the peak is taller than the sides. Once the bin switch registers the top of the peak, it will shut the ice machine down, even though there is plenty of room to hold more ice on the sides of the bin.
If a person levels the ice off, the ice machine will resume making ice, but most users don’t have time to level off their ice bin throughout the day routinely.
AHRI refers to the average amount of ice the bin will hold if no one levels it off.
For example, a B-500 will hold a maximum of 500 lbs of ice but will only hold 360 lbs without assistance.
What If You Choose the Wrong Ice Maker Size?
If you choose an ice machine that’s too big for your needs, you could waste money. If you spend $10,000 on a high-production ice machine that produces more ice than you will ever need, you could have saved money buying a smaller model.
Keep in mind that if your business grows (as most business owners hope), you may find you need that large ice machine, so your business expectations come into play here.
Old ice is the biggest issue you’ll face with an ice machine that is too large for your needs. If your ice machine is producing ice much faster than your staff can pull, you’ll end up only using the newest ice produced.
Ice that sits at the bottom of the bin will melt and reform, often creating a giant clump of ice that takes up bin space. This can become a problem on exceptionally busy days, where you need extra ice, but are stuck with a block of ice in your bin.
If the ice machine is too small, you’re simply going to run out of ice before the end of the day – and that leads to unhappy customers and extra costs in replacement ice. If the ice machine’s maximum ice production rate isn’t enough for your business, you’ll have to buy an additional unit or a larger model.
What If You Have the Wrong Bin Size?
If you have a large ice machine on top of a smaller bin, you’ll have a hard time pulling the total production rate out of your unit. The ice maker is designed continually produce ice until it reaches the bin switch. If you have a 900-lb ice machine on top of a 300-lb bin, the most you’ll get is the AHRI capacity of the bin.
Owning too large a bin doesn’t come with too many repercussions other than taking up space.
Large ice bins are susceptible to the same ice quality issues you’ll find with machines that are too large. If the bin stores more ice than you normally use, you’ll end up with a large clump of ice taking up space. This is not a justifiable reason to buy smaller ice bin. Simply emptying your bin at the end of the day will get rid of any unwanted ice.
Choosing Equipment Size is Difficult, but It Doesn’t Have to Be
If you’re low on ice or you find yourself with too much ice, we have some literature to help you choose the right sized ice machine and ice storage bin.
Our handy ice usage estimator can help you decide how much ice production you need. Our sales reps can help you find the best ice maker size for your company’s needs.
If you’re an Easy Ice subscriber, we can switch you to a larger or smaller ice machine for an affordable setup fee. From there, just pay your new monthly payment.
We understand that businesses grow; that’s why our ice making machine subscriptions are flexible. We want to help you succeed and give you the easiest access to ice. Easy Ice is committed to our customers’ success, and we aim to provide them with every tool available to help them achieve their goals.
As the Co-Founder and COO of Easy Ice, John Mahlmeister has been working in the commercial ice machine industry since 2009. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the only national provider of full-service ice machine subscriptions in the industry. Since Easy Ice was founded, the number of ice machines under its management has grown to over 30,000 units across 47 states, with no signs of slowing down.
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