[posted June 28, 2013]
Looking to buy a new ice machine? Not so fast! There are quite a few things to consider before making a purchase. By taking these ten factors into consideration, you will be ten steps closer to finding the perfect ice machine for you or your establishment.
1. Ice Machine Output
This is the most basic characteristic that should be considered when selecting a new ice machine. You don’t want an ice machine that produces too little ice, leaving you in a bind when demand increases. Your ice requirements should be carefully planned out before purchasing a new commercial ice machine. For example, restaurants usually require a pound and a half of ice per person, while hotels require around five pounds of ice per occupied room. You can find out more information by consulting our ice machine sizing guide, which breaks down the ice needs of additional establishments.
2. Ice Style
Cubes? Half cubes? Nuggets? Flakes? Gourmet? Pearls? Octagons? You may not have realized how many different types of ice there actually are, but there are many- more than just the standard ice cube you’re used to seeing in your refrigerator. Each ice style has its own special function and purpose. Flake ice is better for seafood and produce displays, allowing you to show of your perishable food items in a safe, cool environment. Nugget ice and cube ice are better suited for use in beverages. Finding the right ice style for your operation is a must, as having the right type of ice makes a huge difference in the quality of the product you offer.
3. Ice Machine Condenser
More specifically, how will your condenser be cooled? Air-cooled condensers tend to be more efficient than water cooled condensers, consuming no additional water, but they are more susceptible to production loss when air and water temperatures increase. Water-cooled condensers operate quietly, and allow ice machines to produce ice more consistently, but they tend to use extreme amounts of water (over 150 gallons per 100 pounds of ice created in some cases). This water is then disposed of and wasted, and can cause your water bills to skyrocket. The remote air-cooled condenser is a very popular alternative to both of the previously mentioned condensers, as this condenser type is allowed to operate outdoors or on the roof of your building. This takes the heat and noise produced by the condenser away from customers and employees, and often allows the ice machine to operate more consistently than standard air-cooled ice machines. Many remote air cooled ice machines are Energy Star qualified as well. While the condenser costs more and is sold separately, the benefits provided are priceless.
4. ENERGY STAR Qualification
Having your ice machine qualified by ENERGY STAR is very important if you want to conserve water and electricity. In some areas, ENERGY STAR qualified appliances even allow users to receive rebates for using “green” ice machines. They will allow your business to save on operating costs, and may even allow you to receive monetary rebates in the future. ENERGY STAR qualified ice machines make better choices for both your business and the environment. Many air-cooled and remote air-cooled ice machines sold on IceMachinesPlus.com are ENERGY STAR qualified, and can be identified in the product description or in the product spec sheets.
5. Resource Consumption
Although similar to the ENERGY STAR qualification post above, these two are not entirely the same entity. Of course, most ice machines that conservatively consume resources are ENERGY STAR qualified, but some ice machines use far less water and electricity when compared to their counterparts. Scotsman cuber heads for example, use minimal amounts of water and electricity, without sacrificing ice production. If you opt for an ice machine with a water-cooled condenser, Hoshizaki’s consume less water than their competitors. You can read more about water cooled ice machines and their water consumption in this article in our blog.
6. Ice Machine Size (Physical and Assumed)
You must make sure you have adequate space in which your ice machine can operate and create ice effectively. Many ice machine manufacturers provide low profile units which may be narrower or shorter in stature to allow them to fit and operate in a greater variety of locations. While the physical measurements must be taken into consideration, some ice machines require additional clearance on the top, rear, or sides in order to allow them to function properly. This may require you to account for up to 16 additional inches of space beyond what the ice machine’s actual measurements are. Some ice machines will not create as much ice as they advertise if not provided with the proper clearance.
Of course, you are probably going to want an ice machine with a solid warranty to protect against any problems it may incur throughout its lifetime. Ice machine warranties vary from machine to machine, and from company to company. Some manufacturers offer to extend existing warranties with the purchase and replacement of an approved water filter. Water filters help extend the life and well-being of your ice machine, and allow them to operate more efficiently, and provide higher quality ice. They also minimize scale, slime, and mold buildup in the ice machine, which is one of the main reasons the warranty can be extended. As with any new purchase, be sure to read the fine print regarding your ice machine’s warranty to make sure it is sufficiently covered to your approval.
Different ice machines will provide you with varying degrees of technology. Ice-O-Matic for example, believes that ice machines should do simply what they are intended to do – make ice, and lots of it. Other major commercial brands like Manitowoc and Scotsman have invested far more into the technological revolution, with their respected Indigo and Prodigy ice machines. These ice machines allow for programmable ice production, and monitor their own activity, letting users know if or when a problem occurs. This allows the proper fix to be applied before it turns into a more serious situation. Whether you want an ice machine that operates simply, or with more technology is a decision that must be made by you beforehand.
9. Ice Bin or Ice Dispenser
If you’re buying an ice machine for the first time, you are going to need a place to store the ice that it creates. Ice machines in a hotel or motel are usually best served by a hotel ice dispenser, but not always. Hotel ice dispensers are more sanitary, but cannot contain nearly the amount of ice that a standard ice storage bin can. As it is more expensive to create ice than it is to store it, having a larger ice bin is never a bad choice. The amount of ice you require on hand during peak hours of the day should determine the size and capacity of the ice bin you choose. At IceMachinesPlus, we have storage bins that can hold well over 1,000 pounds of ice if required.
10. Education and Care
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve already started educating yourself on the commercial ice machine buying process, and you probably understand the importance of educating yourself before making a major purchase. However, with the purchase and ownership of a new commercial ice machine comes the responsibility to care for and clean your unit as well. Be sure to stay on top of cleaning and sanitation schedules to get the most consistent performance from your ice machine. Scale and mineral deposits may build up inside your unit, and production can diminish or falter, and require costly repairs. Regular cleanings are always necessary, especially in areas that make use of lower-quality water. The steps required for the cleaning process are usually outlined in the ice machine owner’s manual.
By considering all of these things before you purchase your ice machine, you will be that much closer to finding the perfect ice machine for your home or business. There are many factors that go into finding the right ice machine, but if you consider these ten, you’ll be well on your way to finding an exceptional unit. For more information, consult our Ice Machines Plus Blog, updated every week with new information, advice, and product reviews, or give us a call and talk to someone about finding the best new ice machine for you and your business.
For the ultimate in-depth Guide to Buying your Ice Machine, check out our Ice Machine Buying Guide
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