Deciding where to put an air cooled ice machine involves more than choosing a room with enough space or picking a spot that’s most convenient. Like many appliances, commercial ice machines generate a significant amount of heat. If a room isn’t properly ventilated, the heat buildup will raise your ambient operating temperature (the temperature surrounding your ice machine) and you may find your ice machine not making enough ice.

Many restaurants want to place an air cooled ice machine in the kitchen, close to the food preparation area. What they may not consider is that same room is often shared by ovens, stoves, and food warmers. This is in addition to a walk-in cooler, prep tables, soda fountains, and other refrigeration pieces. That’s a LOT of heat being generated. While a stove or an oven will operate perfectly fine when the air is hot, an ice making machine in a hot room has to work harder. The machine creates ice by pulling the heat out of the water and then blowing that heat into its surroundings. The harder it works, the more heat it generates – which makes it even harder to produce your ice supply! In fact, when ambient air and water supply get hot, ice production can fall by more than 40% – leaving you with an ice machine not making enough ice!

Heat output is measured in BTU (British Thermal Units) to determine exactly how much heat the ice making machine emits. A BTU is a traditional unit of heat measurement used for many common appliances such as water heaters, clothes dryers, furnaces, and backyard grills.

We have compiled the heat output data from some of our most popular air cooled ice machine models, measured in BTUs produced.

BTUs Per Hour / BTUs Per Day

KM-260BAH 4,313 / 103,512

KM-600MAH9,500 / 228,000

KM-901MAH 15,400 / 369,600

KM-1301SAH19,800 / 475,000

KM-1900SAH23,800 / 571,200

How much heat is that?

  • A KM-600MAH will produce the heat equivalent of nearly 1.5 2000-watt hairdryers running non-stop every hour.
  • The KM-901MAH will produce the heat equivalent of 2.25 2000-watt hairdryers running non-stop every hour.
  • The KM-1900SAH produces the equivalent heat of 3.5 of those 2000-watt hairdryers running continuously every hour.

Another way to think about how much heat that represents is to figure out how much air conditioning you need to offset it.  1 ton of air conditioning is equivalent to 12,000 BTU/hour.  That means.

  • A KM-600MAH needs ¾ of a ton of AC to keep the room from getting warmer.
  • The KM-901MAH needs 1 ¼ tons of AC to keep the room from getting warmer.
  • The KM-1900SAH needs 2 tons of AC to keep the room from getting warmer.

An important point to remember is that heat output is compounded throughout the day. The heat from the first hour is added to the heat from the second hour, and so on. As the day goes on, a room that’s not properly ventilated will keep getting warmer.

Sometimes space limitations require installation of an ice making machine in a less-than-optimal location. If that is the case, the machine will still generate ice, but perhaps not at the rate you anticipated. If an overly-hot room cannot be avoided, it is important to consider which type of machine makes the most sense. Learn about the different types of ice machines.

Any ice making machine you have will generate heat, and heat affects two of the things an ice machine needs to operate properly: cool air and cool water. In a warm environment without proper ventilation, ambient air rises in temperature until the machine finally reaches a critical point. That is when you start experiencing a real performance nightmare. Not only will you find your ice machine not making enough ice, but the potential for damage to the machine becomes greater. If the temperature rises enough, the machine will shut down altogether, similar to a car overheating.

Given a choice, the best place to install an air cooled ice machine is in a temperature-controlled environment, with sufficient room for airflow around and above the machine. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 foot of clearance on the sides, 6 inches of clearance in the back, and 18″ of space above the machine. A break room can be a great location because it’s a climate-controlled space that doesn’t usually have other heat-generating appliances. Make sure the room has plenty of ventilation – you can’t stick them in a closet!

A few tips for optimizing the environment surrounding your air cooled ice machine:

  • Avoid enclosed spaces such as closets or cubbies, which lack proper ventilation.
  • Never stack anything on top of the ice making machine, such as kitchen supplies, empty boxes, or cookware.
  • Resist the urge to store items between the side of the ice making machine and the wall. Your machine needs that empty space for airflow.

For more tips and help managing ambient temperature issues, or for questions about choosing an optimal environment for your air cooled ice machine, contact Easy Ice for expert advice and guidance. 1-866-327-9423.