Ice Dispenser vs Ice Storage Bin

Having ice on hand for your hotel guests is one of the many things expected of you upon arrival at your hotel. Most people identify two things right away upon checking in: the location of the fire exits, and also important, the location of the ice machine. The size and quality of your ice machine should match the size of your hotel and the amount of ice that your guests typically require. Today, we’ll focus on which will suit your hotel, your guests, and your ice machine better: the ice dispenser or the ice storage bin. Both provide distinct advantages, and there are quite a few things to consider when deciding which would best suit your establishment.

Ice Storage Bin from IceOMaticWhat the Ice Storage Bin Brings to Your Hotel

Pros of the Ice Storage Bin

Guests Are Allowed Access to More Ice

Hotel ice dispensers may limit the amount of ice to which your guests have access. The ice scoop provided can be used to attain ice until an adequate amount is had by the user. Larger containers can be filled easily, in one stop, so guests that want to fill coolers for a day trip (to the beach or elsewhere) can do so. This saves time as ice can be accessed far more easily than with an ice dispenser.

No minimum clearance

One of the most inconvenient features of the hotel ice dispenser is the limit to the size of the container which can be used to be filled with ice. Manitowoc’s ice dispensers offer the greatest amount of clearance (10.5 inches), so they can accept the largest ice buckets or containers, but others have smaller sink clearances, so they may not be able to accept some containers. With the ice bin and scoop, there is no minimum clearance as ice is scooped and removed from the ice bin.

Ice Bins Have Larger Storage Capacity

This is simple enough. With an ice bin, you can store up to 2,000 pounds of ice. Granted, your hotel probably won’t require that much ice, but with the option of having such a great amount, an ice bin is always convenient. Most hotel ice dispensers max out around 180 pounds. Hoshizaki’s ice dispenser, the DB-200H, has the greatest storage capacity with the ability to store up to 200 pounds of ice when filled to capacity, but even the smallest ice bins can match this type of storage.

Ice Bins Require Little to No Maintenance

The ice bin is very simply constructed. There are no mechanical parts and very few moving parts to worry about. There are never any mechanical issues that your ice bin may face over its lifetime and, should your ice machine stop running for any reason, oftentimes you can replace the ice machine without being required to purchase a new ice storage bin. This can save you a good deal of money long term.

CONS of the Ice Storage Bin

Guests Handle Ice More Frequently

In terms of sanitation, the ice bin leaves a bit to be desired. Many guests will make use of the ice bin which means there will be more hands in and around the ice bin, on the scoop, and sometimes even on the ice itself. This can allow germs and bacteria to build up incredibly quickly, and if a guest becomes sick from the ice you provided, they will more than likely blame the owner of the hotel and the ice machine. This can be a liability issue.

Ice is Not Regulated, Can Be Used Faster

Aside from the increased germ risk, you also have much less regulation on the amount of ice your guests are allowed. If a rowdy group of college kids are having a party in room 614, they can very easily clean out your ice machine’s storage bin in an hour or two. This can lead to lower levels (or no ice at all) for the remaining guests in your hotel, which will inevitably lead to complaints from these guests.

Hotel Ice DispenserWhat the Ice Dispenser Brings to Your Hotel

PROS of the Ice Dispenser

Regulated Ice Dispensing (Especially with Room Key / Coin Op Feature)

Not only are you able to regulate the size of the container your guests can use, but you can regulate those who have access to the ice machine with select hotel ice dispensers, especially that are operated by room key or are coin operated. This will ensure that ice is not wasted, as access will either cost money or require a room key to be swiped

Guests Have No Direct Access to the Ice

With the ice storage bin, your guests can directly access ice. The hotel ice dispenser keeps ice completely enclosed and it cannot be accessed without the guests using the ice dispenser. This way, ice cannot be returned to the ice dispenser, so there is zero risk of cross contamination from one guest to another. The ice is also stored in an insulated cabinet that is not exposed to the air outside, so your ice will be better protected from warmer air.

Fewer Ice Spills

With the ice dispenser, ice is transported directly from the dispenser to the user’s ice bucket. If there is a spill, it is usually captured in the sink area of the ice dispenser. With a bin, there is a much greater risk of spillage when transporting ice from the bin with a scoop to a container or cooler. There is also no catch sink, so any spilled ice will likely remain on the floor to melt. This can ruin hardwood floors or lead to mold buildup in carpets, not to mention the problems it may cause if wires or electrical outlets are present in the area.

Faster Ice Fill-Ups

With an ice dispenser, the fill-up process is simple and hassle free. There is no need to lift the bin door and repeatedly scoop out ice. Guests can push a button or a lever, receive their ice, and get on with their day. The process is far more efficient than that of filling up by repeatedly scooping ice.

CONS of the Ice Dispenser

Require Higher Ceiling, More Space

The hotel ice dispenser is not a small unit, and requires a greater amount of room to operate, specifically a higher ceiling. While every company does provide the option of a 22 inch wide ice dispenser, they often stand taller than the standard ice storage bin. If you own an older hotel with lower ceilings, finding room for your ice machine and ice storage bin to operate can be an inconvenience.

More Likely to Require Repairs / Service

The hotel ice dispenser features far more moving parts than the standard ice storage bin. More moving parts can equate to more problems, and because of this, hotel ice dispensers are susceptible to breakdowns more frequently than ice storage bins. You will never see an “Out of Order” sign on an ice bin, but you may on an ice dispenser from time to time. Your guests will not react warmly to this inconvenience.

Accepts Limited Amount of Container

With a hotel ice dispenser, the sink area is limited in size, so not every container can be easily filled, whereas ice scooped from an ice bin can be placed in any container desired. If ice is limited to smaller containers, guests will have to make trips more frequently, which will create more foot traffic in your hallways, and can lead to a greater amount of guest disturbances and complaints.


In terms of cost, the hotel ice dispenser costs far more than an ice storage bin. Cost of operation will also be greater due to the fact that the ice dispenser requires a greater amount of electricity to operate. If you are looking to save money, an ice storage bin will definitely be a better choice than an ice dispenser.

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There are benefits and drawbacks to both the hotel ice dispenser and the standard ice storage bin. They are for you to weigh in order to find the best piece of equipment for your establishment. As always, you can call Ice Machines Plus for assistance in finding the right one for your hotel or motel. Your requirements will vary based on the size, occupancy, and location of your hotel or motel. Find all of our hotel ice dispensers here and our ice storage bins here. For help finding the best dispenser, consult this article about hotel ice dispensers, which compares all of those available at Ice Machines Plus in one easy-to-read chart.