It’s been a warmer than usual summer for most of the country, and for restaurant kitchens that means they’re hotter than they want to be. With greater restaurant and bar traffic, the rising temperatures can wreak havoc on a commercial ice machine’s ability to keep up with ice production and can increase the machine’s propensity for breaking down.
Ice-cold drinks are in high demand during summer. The last thing a restaurant owner needs is the loss of ice production. To keep customers hydrated and happy, below are six recommendations to maintain an ice machine during unrelenting summer heat.
An air-cooled ice machine uses a fan to suck air in the front of the ice maker and across the condenser to cool (remove the heat) from refrigerant that is used to produce ice. This is why the recommended ambient temperature of 70 degrees keeps an ice maker producing optimally.
In addition to the ideal ambient temperature, the ice machine needs to be in a space with proper ventilation. If the ambient temperature is too hot, coupled with a snug or crowded location, the lack of airflow can lead to an overly hot microclimate. Add hot summer temperatures to the mix and it’s a recipe for ice machine failure.
It’s important to understand that ice makers perform best when the ambient room temperatures are between 45 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but 90 degrees push it as ice production begins to slow. At 100 degrees, ice production can stop completely, and the ice in the bin can begin to melt, leaving even less ice for customers.
Fix slow production by lowering the room’s temperature. If it’s impossible to reduce the temperature, move the machine to a cooler location that can support electrical and water needs. This laborious move can be avoided with a well-ventilated initial installation away from other heat producing kitchen appliances.
Maintain Water Temperature
Ice machines function best with an optimal water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If incoming water heats up, the ice maker must work harder to freeze the water and produce ice. For each degree above 50, expect a lower ice volume. If water temperatures increase too much, the ice maker could shut down.
A change in water temperature is less common since the water lines are insulated by being buried underground. Inevitably, some water lines lose insulation when they are threaded through walls or a roof which potentially exposes them to summer heat. Easy Ice technicians have recorded incoming water temperatures as high as 140 degrees for unburied lines in hotter temperatures.
Check incoming water temperatures. If they are much higher than 50 degrees, contact your local plumber for other water supply options such as additional insulation or even moving the water lines to allow more consistent insulation.
Room To Perform
Ventilation is a critical factor for ice machine function, particularly during hot summer months. Best practices include adequate room for ventilation around the machine to allow the hot air to disperse from the ice maker. If this hot air gets trapped, it is sucked back into the ice maker, indicating the start of an ice machine shutdown.
To prevent this, make sure that your ice machine is in a space with enough ventilation. If the ice maker is too close to the wall or installed in a cabinet or cubby, the lack of airflow can lead to an overly hot microclimate. There should be a foot of space surrounding the machine.
Boxes and clutter can also block airflow above, below, or around the machine, so don’t store anything on top or around the unit.
If the ice machine is located next to other heat-generating appliances, like a grill or oven, the air around the unit may reach 100 degrees or more.
Keep It Clean
Ice makers function best when they are clean. As dust, dirt, and grease build up on vital components within the unit, the buildup acts as insulation that holds in more heat
Manufacturers recommend ice machines be deep cleaned by a technician a minimum of twice per year. Try to schedule one of these biannual cleanings in the spring, so the ice machine is descaled, disinfected, sanitized, and running in peak shape going into the heat of summer.
Regular cleanings and maintenance should be performed, with emphasis on cleaning the air filter, the condenser, and the water filter (especially important in with hard water) to help an ice machine work efficiently through the warm season.
Regular Maintenance Is Key
The standard lifespan of an ice machine is seven to ten years. Considering the high purchase price and the cost of ongoing maintenance and repairs, this makes the ice maker an expensive kitchen investment. A savvy business owner will try to keep the ice maker running for as many years as possible. At Easy Ice, we own nearly 40,000 ice makers, and we perform all regular maintenance. As a result, our machines last up to 10 years longer than the average ice maker.
Business owners can increase the value of the capital spent on an ice machine by having regular maintenance services performed on the unit.
Keep Summer Cool for Customers
Summer months can be hard on ice machines and harder on your customers if you don’t have ice. Nothing blows up social media faster than a bar or restaurant that has no ice for beverages, especially in the summer heat, and the cost of buying bags of replacement ice adds up quickly. There is more to lose than ice when the ice maker breaks down in the height of summer temperatures.
Follow these tips and engage in proper ice machine care before and during summer to ensure your ice supply stays high and stress stays low as temps rise.
John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, New York City, and Los Angeles. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to nearly 40,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit their website, or at LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.