Ice Makers: A Brief Introduction

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. At no cost to you, I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

With such a wide variety of ice types, ice maker manufacturers, applications, and models, it is essential to understand the fundamentals so that you can select the ice maker that best meets your needs. 

Most commercial units are found in bars, restaurants, hospitals, supermarkets, and convenience stores. In contrast, residential ice machines, particularly built-in and under-counter ice makers, are ideal for people who love to entertain or prefer a particular type of ice. Portable ice makers are convenient for travel and small living spaces (i.e., boats, RVs, dorms, and small apartments). A portable ice maker is an excellent alternative to a refrigerator without an integrated ice maker. 

We have compiled the following guide to help you understand what an ice maker is, how it will benefit you, and which one may be best for you. Ice Makers: A Brief Introduction 

The Different Types of Ice Makers 

There is a selection of ice makers and machines from which to choose. Not all of them are constructed the same, so it is essential to recognize their differences. If you are considering installing an ice maker in your home, you will likely have to decide between a portable and a built-in model. 

1. Portable & Countertop Ice Makers

Portable ice makers are typically compact, do not require a permanent water line, plug into any standard 110V outlet, and require only the addition of water to function. 

This ice machine is designed to produce ice very quickly, frequently in less than ten minutes. However, it is essential to note that they are not freezers and, therefore, cannot keep ice frozen for an extended period. As the ice melts, the machine will continuously recycle the water to produce additional ice. In addition, these small ice makers can only hold a small fraction of their maximum ice-making capacity (up to 35 pounds per day), so you will need to empty them frequently if you require more ice. 

One of the most significant advantages of a portable ice maker is its portability between the kitchen, recreation room, bar, patio, poolside, etc. In addition, their small size makes them ideal companions for camping, picnics, tailgating, boating, and any other outdoor activity. 

2. Built-In & Undercounter Ice Makers

Undercounter Ice Makers are front-ventilated, allowing them to be installed in or between cabinets, as their name suggests. A licensed plumber should install built-in ice makers. They require a permanent water line, and some require a drain line. 

This type of ice maker has a larger storage capacity and can keep ice frozen for more extended periods than portable models. A built-in ice maker may be more expensive to purchase, but it will provide you with a steady supply of ice for many years and increase the value of your home. 

3. Modular Ice Machine

Typically, modular ice machine heads produce much more significant quantities of ice than under-counter ice makers. This ice machine is ideal for commercial properties such as restaurants, bars, and hospitals. 

Modular ice makers necessitate a separate ice collection unit. A storage container will aid in collecting and keeping ice ready for service. Typically, these are stackable and positioned beneath the modular unit. 

 When your ice production needs exceed 300 pounds per day, modular ice maker heads are your best option for the dependable production of large quantities of ice. When choosing a modular ice maker head, keep in mind that the condenser can be cooled by either water or air, with most air-cooled units requiring less water and electricity to produce ice and therefore being ENERGY STAR-certified. 

4. Self-Contained Ice Machine

Self–contained ice machines are designed for manufacturing and storing ice within the same unit. Self-contained ice machines have a lower production rate and storage capacity than most modular ice makers, despite requiring less physical space. Self-contained ice machines are the most space-efficient option when deciding which machine to purchase based on available space. 

How An Ice Maker Works 

Regardless of the various types of ice makers, the ice-making procedure is typically the same. Manually or through an exterior supply line, water enters the ice maker. It is then channeled into a refrigerated ice tray, frozen layer by layer to form ice cubes. After the ice has formed and frozen, a gentle heating element loosens it from the tray so it can fall into its collection bin. 

How to Clean Your Ice Maker 

It is essential to use an ice machine cleaner that is nickel-safe when cleaning your ice machine so it can be used on various ice machine models. In addition to being nickel-safe, the ice machine cleaner you choose should be able to remove lime scale, hard water, and algae and prevent future buildup. 

Your ice machine should be cleaned every three to six months to prevent future problems and maintain clean, flavorless, and fresh ice. 

  • Turn off and disconnect the ice maker. 
  • Ensure that the machine’s water supply is turned off. 
  • Remove and discard all water and ice from the machine. 
  • Remove every component that meets ice. 
  • Mix 1 part ice machine cleaner with three parts waters to wash and sanitize. 
  • Thoroughly rinse with clean water. 
  • Reassemble the machine, wipe down all exposed surfaces, and let the air dry. 
  • Restart the machine and discard the initial production of ice. 

Gravity Drain vs. Drain Pump: Which Should You Use? 

Draining is required for both commercial and residential under counter ice makers. Two primary ways to accomplish this are by utilizing a gravity drain or a drain pump. 

Gravity Drain 

A gravity drain utilizes the earth’s gravity to drain condensate from an ice machine. If your drain is within 2 feet of the ice machine and the drain itself is lower than the ice machine’s drain port, a gravity drain will work well. However, remember that problems will arise if the drain is more than 2 feet away or if the excess water must travel “uphill” If either of these conditions exists, a pump will be required. 

Condensate Removal Pump 

A condensate removal pump assists in transporting excess water from the ice machine to a drain. A pump will be required if your drain is more than 2 feet away. In addition, if the water must flow uphill at any point, a pump will be required. There are two fundamental pump types. One is external, and the drain line from the ice maker to the pump and another from the pump to the drain are connected. Additionally, there are a few ice machines with built-in pumps. 

A Note on Ice Production Rates 

Their ice production rates most frequently identify ice machines. The production rate of a device is determined by how much ice it produces in 24 hours. Manufacturers categorize production rates according to their performance in ideal conditions. The perfect temperature for ambient air is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while the ideal temperature for water is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If your ice machine’s warmer environment, you should expect production rates to be approximately 20% lower than stated. Because production depends on the environment in which your device will be placed, it is essential to consider these variables when determining the optimal production rate for your needs. 


An ice maker is a kitchen appliance dedicated to making a large amount of ice in the comfort of your own home. This prevents you from having to stock up on ice for parties and special occasions you host at home.

An icemaker, ice generator, or ice machine may refer to either a consumer device for making ice, found inside a home freezer; a stand-alone appliance for making ice, or an industrial machine for making ice on a large scale. The term “ice machine” usually refers to the stand-alone appliance.

It is made by filling metal cans with water and lowering them into a bath of brine (usually sodium or calcium chloride) refrigerated to well below the freezing point of water. The water freezes in the cans and the ice blocks are removed from the cans after several hours of freezing.

John Gorrie’s ice-making machine got a dramatic debut. Diagram: U.S. Patent 8,080, May 6, 1851. 1850: Florida physician John Gorrie uses his mechanical ice-maker to astonish the guests at a party. It’s America’s first public demonstration of ice made by refrigeration.

You don’t need one. If you rarely open your freezer, chances are you don’t need one. However, if you like to entertain, find you frequently need bags of ice, or your in-freezer ice maker just can’t keep up with your demands, you might want to look into one of these.

A new ice maker will cost about $50 to $200. If you are simply replacing certain parts, expect to spend anywhere from $10 for a new filter to upward of $150 for a new ice maker motor.

Place the ice container/bin under the ice maker, pushing it as far back as possible. Lower the wire signal arm to its “down” or ON position. Normal ice production is about 2.5 to 3 pounds of ice every 24 hours depending on usage (unless just installed – may take a little longer) or about 8 cubes every 80-160 minutes.

Ice forms on calm water from the shores, a thin layer spreading across the surface, and then downward. Ice on lakes is generally four types: primary, secondary, superimposed and agglomerate. Primary ice forms first. Secondary ice forms below the primary ice in a direction parallel to the direction of the heat flow.

Ice makers freeze up when ice can’t release off the evaporator plate. As water continues to flow over the stuck ice, it continues to form to the point where it becomes a massive block of ice.

Water-cooled machines consume anywhere between 187 and 193 gallons of water per 100 pounds of ice produced. In contrast, most air-cooled ice machines consume less than 20 gallons per 100 pounds of ice produced.

Why You Should Use a Water Filter in Your Ice Machine?


A water filter removes sediments from your water, such as dirt, rust, and other particles. These contaminants are typically invisible to the naked eye. However, they do exist and negatively impact the produced ice quality. Removing these sediments from the water will diminish undesirable flavors and odors in the ice, making your beverage significantly more enjoyable. 

Additionally, a water filter will reduce the wear and tear on your ice machine, reducing repair expenses. When using unfiltered water, lime scale, slime, and mold tend to accumulate in your ice maker. This accumulation leaves your ice machine in a highly unsanitary state and is also the leading cause of machine failure. The collection of limescale, slime, and mold reduces production, and energy efficiency and, in extreme cases, can cause the compressor to fail. Remember to replace your water filtration system every six months for optimal results. 

Now that you understand the fundamentals, it is time to find the ideal ice-making solution. 

Related Posts

Why Trust Us

You will find what you are looking for at Largo Bar and Grill. From classic to luxury brands, you'll find both. We will help you to select appliances that fit your needs, budget and lifestyle. Whether you want to stop by to learn more — or plan to make a major purchase — we’ll treat you like family and assist you every step of the way. Shop with us today to receive friendly and experienced help along the way.