Choosing the right ice machine for your business isn’t a difficult task. A few brief calculations and a bit of jargon is all you need to know. By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll have a good idea of what to look for when you’re shopping around for a machine.
Type of ice
There are three main types of ice: cubes, nuggets, and flakes. Different manufacturers will have different names and sizes, but most break down into these three broad categories. The larger the piece of ice, the longer it takes to melt and the slower it will cool things down. Cube ice is the standard for general cooling and for water. Half-cube ice machines make smaller cubes. Nugget ice is softer and easier to chew, but melts faster. Many fast-food restaurants use it. Flake ice is used for store displays and certain hospital applications.
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Production and capacity
The first thing is to know how much ice you need for your business. The rule of thumb for choosing an ice machine is to have enough ice for a full house plus 20%. You don’t want too much or too little ice on hand. Ice machine production is measured in pounds of ice generated per day. Bins are rated by how many pounds of ice they can hold. If you already have an ice machine, you can estimate how much more or less you need by measuring your current demand.
- Restaurant: 1.5 pounds
- School cafeteria: 1.5 pounds
- Cocktail bar: 3 pounds
- Full-service Bar: 3.5 pounds
- Hotels: 5 pounds
- Hospitals: 10 pounds per patient
- 10 oz. water glasses use about 4 oz. of ice each.
Air, water, or remote cooling?
The next thing to choose is what type of cooling you need. Air-cooled machines use more electricity but much less water. Water-cooled machines are the opposite. Many municipalities have banned water-cooled ice machines because they use so much water, but in places where the surrounding air temperature is too warm a water-cooled system is required.
If you need to make a very large amount of ice daily, remote-cooled systems separate the condenser and place it on the roof. This allows for greater cooling capacity without taking up a lot of space. However, the installation costs of this method are very expensive. Most businesses will use an air-cooled or water-cooled machine.
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The next thing to consider is the amount of space the bin and the ice machine head, the part that makes the ice, will take up. If you order a stand-alone ice dispenser where the two parts are combined, then it’s just a matter of measuring the installation void and adding the recommended air gap around it. However, if you are ordering a separate head and bin, you have more options. Heads and bins come in several standard sizes. If you want to mix and match, make sure the parts will work together and fit inside the void.
If you are looking for a smaller machine for a bar, look for an undercounter ice machine. These are made for bar and refreshment businesses that don’t need a large stand-alone machine.
Once you know how much ice you need, the type of ice you need, the amount of space you have, and the type of cooling you need, you’re ready to start shopping for an ice machine. Your vendor will have additional information on features like antimicrobial surfaces and electronic controls.