Ice Maker Buying Guide

Ice is a very important item that many people, restaurants and businesses make use of on a day to day basis. If you are someone who loves to entertain, or have your own food business, you must understand the advantages of having your own ice maker. Whether it is for residential or commercial purposes, an ice maker or ice machine is an appliance that you can rely on to get a never ending supply of ice everyday. When it comes to purchasing stuff, we always look for the best. The ice maker is also not an exception. With such a vast abundance of ice makers differing in their types, brands, models and applications, it is important to know the differences, so that it becomes easier for you to choose an ice maker that will best suit your needs.

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Different Types of Ice Makers

Ice makers generally fall under two categories – one that is used for residential purposes and the other for commercial purposes. As the name suggests, the former finds use in homes for entertaining friends and family or outdoor activities like camping, and the latter is used in commercial places like bars, restaurants, hospitals etc. If you want to buy an ice maker for your home, then you should probably choose between a portable ice maker and an undercounter ice maker.

  • Portable and Countertop Ice Maker

della portable ice makerWhen compared to a freezer, portable ice makers make larger quantities of ice within a short period of time. They are relatively smaller in size and designed to sit right on top of the kitchen counter top. You can store the appliance away inside the kitchen cupboard when not in use. Portable ice makers are not freezers, which means the ice will not stay frozen for a long time. The ice melts and the resulting water is reused by the machine to prepare more ice. These machines do not require a permanent water line and they can be easily carried around. They can accompany you on camping trips, boating trips, picnics, parties or other outdoor events. They are reliable, efficient and cost-effective too. Click here to read more.

  • Built-in and Undercounter Ice Makers

whynter-uim-155-undercounterThese machines come with a front ventilation and can be built-in or placed in between cabinetry. They require a permanent water line and sometimes a drain line too. For this reason you will need the services of a plumber to install the appliance. Undercounter ice makers can make and store larger amounts of ice than a portable ice maker. They can also keep the ice frozen for a longer period of time. Know the top 5 best undercounter ice makers here.

If you wish to buy an ice maker for commercial purposes, you can choose between a modular and self-contained ice machines.

  • Modular Ice Machines

new-ice-o-matic-309lbModular ice machines can be used to produce ice but they do not provide storage. In order to store the ice, you have to purchase a storage bin or dispenser, which are stackable and can be kept beneath the unit.

Modular ice machines are perfect for businesses that require a moderate to very high ice production, such as hotels, restaurants, bars, hospitals, or large night clubs.

  • Self-contained Ice Machines

ice maker machine with ice bin mim1000 1000lb maxx self containedSelf-contained ice machines are typically undercounter machines that can produce and store ice in the same unit. They occupy less space and so they are ideal if you have space constraints.

These ice machines are mainly used by  small to mid-sized restaurants, bars, cafés and churches, where the daily ice requirements are low.

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Different Types of Ice

Ice machines vary further depending on the type of ice that they produce. The different types of ice are classified as follows:

  • Full-cube ice – As the name implies, it resembles a cube. It keeps beverages cold for a long  time without watering it down because it has a larger surface area and melts very slowly. Full-cube is often added in scotch, whiskey, and other cocktails.
  • Half-cube ice – Perfect for  frozen margaritas,  frozen coffee drinks and smoothies, as it can be blended easily.
  • Flake ice – Consists of soft slivers of ice that makes it easy to pack around food items on display to keep them evenly cooled. It is also used for therapeutic purposes.
  • Nugget ice – Soft and chewable ice, also known as pellet ice, pearl ice or Sonic ice. It is often used in hospitals and other health care facilities for patient drinks. Nugget ice melts slowly and is therefore useful for color and flavor retention. It can water down alcoholic beverages really fast and hence is not ideal for use in bars.

Now that you have a general idea of the different types of ice and ice machines, and the  applications for each type of ice, lets move on to the various type of condensers.

Types of Condensers

Ice machines condensers come in three types : air-cooled,  water-cooled and remote-cooled. You need to consider space constraints, ice-production requirements and your location, in order to choose the right condenser.

  • Air-cooled Condensers

Air is circulated by means of fans and vents over the condenser to pull out heat from the refrigeration lines. They are less expensive and easy to install. Since they use less water, they are environment friendly and generate reduced utility bills.

  • Water-cooled Condensers

The ice machines are cooled using a water line that runs along the condenser to draw heat from the refrigeration lines. They use less electricity and operate more quietly than air-cooled condensers. The changing temperatures of the air does not affect the energy utilized or the amount of ice produced.

  • Remote-cooled Condensers

These are basically air-cooled ice machines with the condenser placed outside or in another room. The refrigerant is connected to the ice maker using a copper tube. In addition to providing all the benefits of air-cooled condensers, remote-cooled condensers are less noisy too.

The next thing you need to consider for buying an ice maker is how much ice your business actually needs. Your daily needs may keep on varying, so it is important to buy a machine that will meet your requirements even on your busiest day. Another factor to be considered while purchasing an ice machine is whether you need a water filter or not. A water filter helps to get rid of contaminants such as chlorine and mineral deposits that can accumulate over long term usage and damage your ice machine. These deposits can cause malfunctions in the unit and also give an unpleasant taste to the ice. Although it is not mandatory to get a water filter, some manufacturers offer extended warranty  for ice machines that have a water filtration system.

Choosing the right ice machine may seem like a daunting task, but once you understand the basics and the various factors that need to be considered, then you are well on your way to purchasing the right unit for your needs. With proper maintenance and care, you will have an ice machine that could meet your ice requirements for as long as you want.

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