Whether your business is a nightclub that goes through hundreds of pounds of ice per night or a mid-sized office that enjoys iced beverages on demand, commercial ice machines can serve a variety of needs.
Because of their size and power, commercial ice machines produce large amounts of ice quickly and regularly. If you want to buy a commercial ice machine for your business, it is important to understand the differences between products so that you choose the machine that best meets the needs of your business.
Compare Commercial Ice Prices and
save up to 30%!
Where do you need service?
Commercial ice machines are common among a wide range of industries. Some of them include:
When considering what kind of commercial ice machine best suits your business, you will want to consider: 1) the type of ice you want, 2) the type of ice machine you need, and 3) the type of condenser that will keep your ice machine running and producing efficiently.
Generally speaking, there are three main types of ice that can be produced. They are:
Cubed ice is produced by a machine called a cuber. Over 80% of the ice machines in the U.S. produce cubed ice. This form of ice typically melts slower than other forms, making the total consumption lower than other forms of ice. Cubed ice is available in full, half or regular size cubes that range from 7/8”x 7/8” to 11/8”x 11/8”.
A full cube or “full-dice” ice is common and cheap to make. It measures 7/8″ all the way around. With its high ice-to-water ratio, it offers maximum cooling and slow melt time.
The half cube, also known as the “half-dice,” measures 3/8” x 7/8” and is considered to be the most versatile type of ice. A half-cube is a solid, dryer piece of ice with a high ice-to-water ratio (this means it will keep a drink cooler for longer). It melts slower than nugget or shaved ice. More ice can fit in a glass to displace more liquid, which means less liquid can fit into the glass.
Nugget ice comes in pellet or nugget form. Pellet, pearl, “sonic,” and “chewblet” are other names given to compressed nugget ice. Because it is soft and chewable, it is commonly used by healthcare facilities for their patients. It is also popular among certain fast food restaurants and bars whose customers prefer its soft and chewy texture over the harder cubed form.
Nugget ice displaces more liquid than cube and half-cub ice (higher ice to beverage ratio). Customers who love nugget ice want more ice in their cup, which means increased beverage profits.
Flaked ice is produced by a machine called a flaker. Flaked ice typically comes in a shaved or crushed form. It is most commonly used for packing, preservation and cooling purposes. Flaked ice is not typically used for consumption, but is perfect for quick and consistent chilling of display items.
Crescent-shaped ice has a curved side that helps displace liquid. More ice + less liquid = increased beverage profits.
Gourmet ice is known for its top-hat shape and unique visual appeal. These ice pieces are typically larger than other types of ice and are used with high-end liquors.
Types of Ice and Usage
Ice machines are generally available in three different configurations:
Modular ice machines (also known as ice machine heads or IMH) are stackable units that come in a variety of sizes, but the most common include:
An IMH is designed to stack on top of its other components (the storage bin, ice dispenser, or soda dispenser, if applicable). They’re the best choice for any commercial kitchen that needs to be able to keep a lot of ice on hand and ready. They produce large amounts of ice quickly and are designed to be easy to attach to a storage bin that’s the size of your choosing.
The typical ice output for a modular ice machine ranges between 200 lbs. and 1,900 lbs. per day. The storage bin on an ice machine head can typically hold about 12 hours of ice production. Modular ice machines are commonly available in 22″, 30″ and 48″ widths.
Note: Modular ice machines only make the ice; you’ll have to buy a separate storage bin to keep the ice in once it’s made.
They do take up more space than self-contained ice machines, but they provide more capacity. If you need a significant amount of ice produced every day, then a modular model is likely the best commercial ice maker for you.
For small bars, cafes, or businesses that don’t need as much ice, an under counter or self-contained unit (SCU) may be the best fit. These ice makers combine the storage bin and ice machine so that the unit can fit beneath a standard 40” high countertop. The average ice output for an under counter maker is about 350 lbs. per day, although some units can produce more. Talk to a local supplier about options.
Countertop ice dispensers (also called countertop makers) are most commonly used in the health care industry. Even though these ice makers are usually smaller than their larger counterparts, they can still produce as much as 400 lbs. of ice per day. Some of these machines come with a water dispenser option. This is a great option for any business that needs a lot of ice but doesn’t have space for a larger machine. These machines usually dispense nugget ice, which is easier to chew and, therefore, popular in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
3 Types of Ice Machines
Once you decide on the type of ice and ice maker you need, the next thing you need to decide is the type of condenser you want. Condensers are the refrigeration systems for ice makers and vital to the efficiency of your ice machine. Also known as compressors, a condenser removes heat from the ice machine to allow for continuous cooling. Most ice machines can be paired with more than one type of compressor, so you will need to decide which compressor works best with your unit and fits within your budget.
There are three basic types of condensers:
Air cooled is the most common type of condenser. They are all-purpose and practical units. Air is blown over the refrigeration lines to draw heat away from any high-pressure, high-temperature areas. Fans and air vents are used to keep the air flowing. An under counter ice machine will need a condenser that draws air in and pushes air out underneath the unit. Other ice machines will attach the compressor to the side to achieve the same process.
A water cooling condenser uses water (instead of air) to cool refrigerant vapor and turn it into liquid. There are two separate water lines in a water cooled ice maker. One line flows into the ice-making compartment. The other line runs along the condenser and draws heat away from the refrigerant. A water cooled condenser must have a continuous water supply to function properly.
Water cooled condensers may use a once-through system that pulls the cooling water through the system one time, then dumps it out. A closed-loop system is another option which recycles the water, rather than draining it. A closed-loop system uses less energy and creates less water waste.
Water cooled condensers are typically quieter and more energy efficient, but they can end up costing you in water utility bills because of the high amount of water required to operate them. In some places, water cooled condensers are no longer permitted due to the amount of water they use. This makes water cooled condensers less common, except in a situation when:
Even though the advantages of a water-cooled condenser may seem attractive, in most cases, they do not outweigh the expense of the unit and the cost of water. Similarly, a closed-loop condenser is an incredibly complicated machine that comes with an expensive price tag. Closed-loop condensers only make sense when used for large scale operations.
Similar to an air cooled condenser, a remote condenser uses a fan to blow air over the refrigeration lines pulling heat away from high temperature areas of the ice machine. The remote condenser unit (RCU) is installed outdoors, rather than indoors (usually on a roof) and is cooled by the outside air. A refrigeration line runs from the condenser to the ice machine.
Because the condenser is outdoors, away from the main unit, the ice machine is very quiet. The downside is that installation and maintenance are usually more expensive. RCUs are commonly used in grocery stores and other large-scale operations.
Types of Condensers
An ice maker storage bin is the compartment where the ice is stored until it’s ready for use. Storage bins can hold as little as 40 pounds and as much as 100 pounds of ice.
When you are choosing an ice bin, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Here is a standard ice sizing chart showing daily ice usage per number of customers per industry.
Note: These are estimates only. Talk to your local supplier for specific recommendations regarding the needs of your business.
Once you know you need an ice machine, the next question people usually ask is: how much is it going to cost?
Ice makers range widely in price, generally anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000. The price is influenced by all of the following factors:
But as a general rule: the higher the ice output, the higher the price.
Once you’ve decided your business needs a commercial ice machine, it’s time to start shopping. There are a lot of ice machines and ice services out there. We’ve created a list of questions to ask potential suppliers so that you can make an educated decision before investing a lot of money in an ice machine.