Undercounter vs. Portable Ice Makers: Their Pros and Cons

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At first glance, portable ice makers may appear to be miniature versions of under-counter ice makers. This is not the situation. There are numerous similarities and differences between the two, and when shopping for an ice maker, you want to make the best possible purchase. To expedite the process, let’s examine the pros and cons of each option. 

Portable Ice Makers 

Essentially, portable ice makers are more practical for light use. A portable ice maker should produce sufficient ice in various situations where a traditional under-counter ice maker cannot. 

Pros for Portable Ice Makers 

Among the most notable advantages of portable ice makers are: 


A portable ice maker does not require a great deal of room. It can be easily stored in an apartment, house, or business for regular or occasional use. Additionally, portable units are ideal for RVs, boats, and other non-traditional living spaces. Instead of making hurried trips to the store to purchase ice, pour water into a portable ice maker. Use it when necessary and disregard it otherwise. 


As their name suggests, portable ice makers are designed to be transported. Most models can easily fit in a car and be transported to a park or outdoor event. Using an AC/DC adapter, you can also connect a portable ice maker to the vehicle’s power source. With this capability in mind, the potential applications are limitless. 

Do Not Require A Water Line or Drain 

There is no need to hire a plumber to install a portable ice maker because they do not require a water line or drain. These items are straightforward. Pour water into the machine and turn it on to initiate ice production. A power source is required, as no water or drain line is needed. 

Cons for Portable Ice Makers 

Despite their numerous advantages, portable ice makers have several disadvantages. Among the most notable disadvantages of portable ice makers are the following: 

Smaller Capacities 

Portable ice makers can produce close to 30 lb of ice per day but have smaller capacities. This may be sufficient for yourself, your family, and a small gathering, but it may not produce enough ice for a large group. 

You Have to Add Water Continually 

Portable ice machines require water to produce ice. You will need to locate a faucet or bring bottled water if there is no water line. Every time there is insufficient ice, more water must be added. 

Undercounter ice makers are ideal when large amounts of ice are required for extended periods and quickly. Undercounter ice makers are typically installed as permanent appliances in homes, offices, bars, restaurants, and cafes. 

Pros for Undercounter Ice Makers: 

Undercounter ice makers are the best option for buyers who require large quantities of ice and have the necessary space and plumbing for a dedicated water line. Among the most notable professionals are: 

They Are Installed Once: 

As with most other large kitchen appliances, under-counter ice makers are permanently installed. They are typically installed beneath a counter, hence the name, and produce large quantities of ice rapidly and effortlessly. 

They Have Large Production Capacities: 

A steady supply of ice is essential if you have a large family, operate a business, or enjoy hosting parties. Attempting to explain to a line of customers at a coffee shop that there is no ice or that drinks on the rocks are unavailable for the next several minutes may not be the best way to run a business or host a party. Most under-counter ice makers have sufficient capacity to meet all residential and commercial ice demands. 

They Are (Almost) Automated: 

You will never have to worry about the ice running out or scrambling for water again. Push a button or pull a lever to obtain ice immediately. Most models operate automatically and continuously, suspending ice production only when the unit is full. 

Cons for Undercounter Ice Makers: 

Almost all large appliances are difficult to install, and ice makers are no exception. Several disadvantages of undercounter icemakers include: 

They Require A Water Line And Drain 

For under-counter ice makers to function, they must be installed close to a water line and drain. Installation requires a plumber as well. 

They Take Up Space: 

There must be a compelling reason to sacrifice counter space for an under-counter ice maker. Unless you need a substantial amount of ice, an under-counter ice maker may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

They Are Difficult To Move 

Although under-counter ice makers are easier to move than industrial-sized refrigerators, they are not portable. Typically, once they are installed, they remain in place. Moving under counter ice makers typically requires a dolly, a truck of sufficient size, and a few individuals to assist with loading and unloading. 

Can You Get the Best of Both Worlds? 

Many business owners and homeowners require large quantities of ice regularly and frequently attend off-site events. 

A portable ice maker is frequently a worthwhile addition to an under-counter ice maker. Use the under-counter ice maker daily and the portable ice maker for special events. 



Undercounter ice makers are a super convenient tool for when you want to make a lot of ice in a short amount of time. Compared with portable ice makers, they have a stronger motor, larger capacity, and much more solid construction. They run more efficiently, but also take up more space, and are relatively more noisy.

One thing that is really important with a portable ice maker is keeping everything clean and dry. Any moisture will attract and grow mold and mildew.

You need to leave it plugged in and running all the time if you want ice. If the unit is powered off the ice will melt and the water will return to the reservoir. This is just like your refrigerator or freezer in that it needs to be on all the time.

If you want the unit to run continuously while you’re away, make sure to choose a portable ice maker that will recycle ice water back to the reservoir. A countertop ice maker will keep ice at the ready to serve, but the ice will slowly melt if it is not used or transferred to a freezer.

With undercounter ice makers in particular, you’re buying a very powerful machine in comparison to its compact size. Some factors that may be contributing to your ice maker’s lofty price tag in particular are: size, capacity, brand name, water filter, and the ability to produce nugget ice.

On average, an undercounter ice maker lasts around 5 years, and, with excellent care and maintenance, up to 10 years.

Keeping your air filters clean is one way you can help prevent the growth of mold and slime. Air filters trap many of the particles they feed on. At Easy Ice, we recommend employees clean air filters every week to prevent a dirty ice machine.

Only use potable water or water suitable for drinking. The temperature of the water should be between 51°F and 90°F

Warm air is causing the ice to melt. The ice dispenser is at the top of your freezer. Warm air may be somehow entering your appliance and rising, as warm air does. The warm air is then causing your ice to partially melt, creating the ice clumps that the dispenser cannot handle.

No, most portable ice makers are not designed to keep ice cold and frozen. They do not have the insulation to keep the ice from melting. Any unused or remaining ice cubes will slowly melt over time and replenish water back into the bottom water reservoir.

Most undercounter ice makers do require a drain line, but there are exceptions, like the EdgeStar IB120SS, that do not. These models act as a freezer and keep the ice frozen, thus no need for a drain line. Other ice makers are not able to keep the ice frozen, and as the ice melts, it needs to drain.

Portable ice makers are not designed to keep ice cold for a long time (that’s a job for a compact freezer). However, any ice that melts will flow back into the water reservoir, meaning you won’t have to worry about spills.

Finding the Perfect Match 

Evaluate your needs and identify any deal-breakers. For instance, it may not be the best option if you lack space for an under-counter ice maker. In this situation, you might be better off with a portable device.  

In contrast, a portable ice maker may not be sufficient for your needs, so you should invest in an under-counter unit. We can guarantee that there is a perfect ice machine for your lifestyle or circumstance. 

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