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Section 4. What Size Commercial Ice Machine Do I Need?

Ice Machine Size: Production Rate / Physical Dimensions


How Much Ice Do I Need?

First of all, no two businesses are alike and ice usage is rarely consistent even within the same industry.  Use this information here as a guideline.  You know your business better than anyone.  Better to err on the side of caution and always have ice on hand.

The correctly-sized commercial ice machine for your business will be able to produce enough ice to keep up with your hourly and daily requirements without producing too much extra ice which may end up sitting and melting (meaning electricity, water, and money going down the drain).

Keep in mind that generally, commercial ice machines are sized based upon the amount of ice produced in a 24-hour period.

You therefore will need to know as a rule of thumb how much ice your application will require during a 24-hour period, in order to determine what production rate the ice machine must have.

You will likely need to know the number of people being served by that particular application/location.

And you will need to know what style of ice is needed at that particular application/location.

When choosing your ice machine, consider what style of ice you are looking for. Different types of ice are more suitable for specific applications.

Peak Needs
Determine your ice production requirements based upon peak needs.  You have peaks periods of ice needed during your typical week, dependent upon your industry and situation; for example, a restaurant may have larger needs Thursday through Saturday evening, while a convenience store may have consistent requirements Monday through Friday and more moderate needs on Saturday and Sunday. Plan ahead by selecting an ice machine with a production rate high enough to meet the requirements of the peak periods.

Also consider that more ice may be needed during summer months than in winter.  This will vary dependent upon your climate.  For example, if you have hotter summers, you may need to select an ice machine with a higher quantity of ice produced in a 24-hour period.  Locations with more moderate temperatures during summer will not experience as large an increase in usage over the rest of the year.

Multiple Applications
Consider purchasing an ice machine specifically for each application or location within your establishment. While adding up the total amount of ice that your business needs and buying a single ice machine unit to make enough ice to supply the entire establishment might save money initially, shuttling ice from a central location to all of the other points where ice is needed can be inefficient, unsanitary, and costly. The ice used in beverages (such as cube ice or nugget ice) may not be ideal for keeping the food items on the salad bar cool (flake ice would be appropriate). Employees rushing around with ice totes, then dumping them into ice storage bins opens up the possibilities for spills and contamination of the ice, not to mention the added time it takes to continually fill ice totes when locations run out.

A self-contained flake ice machine might be dedicated for the salad bar, a cuber head might be mounted upon the self-serve soda or beverage dispenser, and the bartender may have their own undercounter cube ice machine behind the bar. Therefore you would need to calculate your needs for each application/location.

For New Businesses / Establishments
1. Will there be a need for more than one style of ice or for more than one ice machine?

Consider where in your establishment you will need ice. For example, a typical restaurant may have a large ice machine in the kitchen and a smaller ice machine (possibly an undercounter model) behind the restaurant bar. A hotel / motel will typically have an ice machine cuber head mounted on a hotel ice dispenser unit centrally located on each floor of the building. Or a healthcare facility may require a flake ice maker dispenser on each floor or wing.

2. Have you anticipated the growth of your business and the increase in customer traffic (and therefore the increase in demand for ice)?

You may initially select an ice machine that will meet the needs of your business upon opening. But as your business becomes more successful or the facility expands to accommodate additional customers, you may find that your initial ice machine is now unable to meet the demands for ice. Consider starting with an ice machine with an increased production rate to compensate for your growth potential.

Are You Replacing an Old Ice Machine?
1. Was your old ice machine able to keep up with daily ice demand?

If you are replacing an old ice machine, you will know if the unit was able to keep up with daily ice needs. If you were running out of ice in the middle of the business day, you will want to significantly increase the size of the new ice machine. If you were running out only towards the end of the business day, you may only need to bump up the production rate of the new ice machine to the next production level.

2. Do you have existing ice machine components you would like to continue using, but you are worried a large ice machine will make the old components obsolete and you will need to purchase more equipment?

If you DO need a new ice machine with a higher ice production rate than your old machine, but you have an existing ice storage bin or ice dispenser that works perfectly fine and you would like to continue using it, never fear. Most ice machine manufacturers have several ice machine models available in the standard widths with varying production rates. For example, there would be 30" wide ice machine heads that produce 330 LB, 500 LB, 600 LB or 650 LB per day (and more), so you could bump up one or two production rates and still fit your ice machine head on the old storage bin or dispenser.


How Much Space Do I Need?

Modular Ice Machine Heads
Cuber Heads are manufactured in standard widths of 22", 30", and 48".   Ice storage bins and ice dispensers are designed to be the same standard widths to easily accommodate the standard ice machine heads.

Some ice storage bins are larger than 48", reaching up to 60" wide.  Most of the standard width cuber heads can be mounted on the larger ice storage bins, even the models that are much wider, with the use of bin top adapter kits, which cover the open space on top of the bin and allow the head to sit firmly.  In some cases, multiple cuber heads can be placed on the larger bins.

If you are purchasing a cuber head and an ice storage bin or a cuber head and an ice dispenser, be certain to allow space for the bottom wider unit(the bin or dispenser).

Bins and dispensers also have different depths from the cuber heads, so find out the equipment's measurements front to back to determine if you have space for it.

In addition to the physical space the equipment takes up, many ice machine heads and ice maker dispensers require extra clearance behind, above and on one or both sides of the unit for considerations like air circulation and space for water and electrical hookups. These additional clearances tend to range between 3 to 8 inches, so check the equipment specifications before purchasing.

If your facility or kitchen has a low ceiling, you will need to pay close attention to the physical height of the ice machine equipment.  This means not only the height of the ice machine head, but also the total height of the storage bin or ice dispenser and their legs.

For locations with limited space from floor to ceiling, several manufacturers produce models with a "Low Profile" version.  The "Low Profile" models manufacture the same amounts of ice as the regular models, but the cabinets have been turned on their sides and the internal components rearranged to minimize the cabinet's height, saving several inches on top.  Note that the "Low Profile" models will be wider than the regular models and so will trade off that extra space and add it to the width of the equipment.

Some manufacturers also have designed air cooled ice machine cuber heads that discharge the warm air from the condenser out of the TOP of the unit instead of through vents on the sides of the unit.  This means that the top discharge cabinet does not need the extra side clearances, but will definitely need additional space above the unit for the warm air to vent out and be circulated.

Ice Maker / Dispensers (Al-In-One, Self-contained)
Many of the self-contained, all-in-one ice machines that are designed to be freestanding or undercounter models have much smaller widths and heights.  Standard undercounter height is 39" to 40", so most undercounter ice machines must be shorter than this. All-In-One Countertop Ice Maker Dispensers will typically be the standard cuber head widths, but their heights can reach up to 49".  Measure your space from countertop to ceiling.

ADA-Compliant Ice Machines
All-in-one ice machines (undercounters) in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be even lower, at no more than 34" tall.

Most undercounter, self-contained ice machines are narrow, typically no more than 30" wide, and more often smaller and closer to 15" wide. Flaker all-in-one models, however, can be up to 38" wide, depending upon the model and manufacturer.

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