Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled Ice Machine: Which One’s Right for You?
We’ve probably all suspected it, but now it’s official. A survey into Americans’ ice consumption revealed that the average person consumes 36 pounds of ice a month. That’s over 400 pounds of ice, per person, each year!
Many of your customers simply won’t drink water unless it’s cold. So the question is not whether you should get an ice machine, but what type you should get. There are lots of options, but it boils down to two main types of cooling systems: an air-cooled vs water-cooled ice machine.
Both have their pros and cons. Let’s take a deep dive into each one, compare them, and see which is best for your business.
Air-cooled condensers are the most common types of cooling systems around. They work by using a fan to draw in fresh air to cool the condenser.
That air gets heated up by the refrigerant and has to go somewhere. It’s expelled by the ice machine into the surrounding area. This will have an impact on the ambient temperature wherever an air-cooled condenser is running.
Air-cooled condensers also need an ambient temperature of less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit to run efficiently. If you live in a hot part of the country where temperatures regularly exceed 75 degrees in the summer, you might want to explore a water-cooled option.
Air-Cooled Ice Machine Advantages
The main advantage of an air-cooled ice machine is that they’re very common. They’re easy to find and are less expensive than water-cooled machines.
The technology is fairly simple and easy to fix, which makes it cost-effective to maintain in the long run. They also don’t need any special installation features, like a water line and drains. This means that you can put them almost anywhere, as long as there’s enough clearance for them to run efficiently.
Finally, because they only use water to make ice, they’ll put less of a dent in your water bill.
Air-Cooled Ice Machine Disadvantages
Any machine that uses a fan is going to make some noise. If you’re running a busy restaurant, customers expect there to be a bit of noise and bustle from the kitchen or bar. It probably won’t be enough to disturb anybody.
If your ice machine is located in a quieter environment, then water-cooled condensers may be preferable.
Air-cooled condensers also need sufficient space to draw in fresh air and expel warm air. They’ll generally need around 6-12 inches of clearance from other equipment. If you don’t give them enough clearance, they’ll overheat.
This will cause the motor to burn out prematurely. They’ll also run inefficiently while they are working.
The last disadvantage of air-cooled condensers is the heat they pump out. Restaurants tend to be hot places that use a lot of AC anyway. But you will have to pay to cool the air that the ice machine has heated, which is not a consideration with a water-cooled condenser.
As the name suggests, water-cooled condensers use water to cool the condenser and refrigeration system. It will need around 1 gallon of water to make 1 pound of ice.
To install a water-cooled condenser, you need to choose a location with a water line and a drain. The drain allows the excess water to drain away after cooling the condenser.
If you live in a hot part of the country, water-cooled condensers are the best choice. They can operate at ambient temperatures greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They also don’t need airflow, because they don’t rely on a fan to keep them cool.
Water-Cooled Ice Machine Advantages
No fan means very little noise! If you want to keep your bar or hotel lobby supplied with ice while remaining quiet and calm, a water-cooled condenser is the way to go.
Water conducts heat more efficiently than air. This means that water-cooled ice machines are usually more energy efficient than air-cooled options.
Finally, you can use them anywhere. No need to worry about ambient temperatures or clearance. As long as there’s a water line and a drain, you’re good to go.
Water-Cooled Ice Machine Disadvantages
The obvious drawback of a water-cooled ice machine is that it uses a lot more water! You’ll notice that your water bills go up. You’ll need to balance that with the other cost savings you get from running a water-cooled machine.
As water-cooled machines are less common, they’re also more expensive. It can also be harder to maintain them, as fewer technicians have experience in working with them.
Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled Ice Machine: Which One Wins?
Both air-cooled and water-cooled ice machines are excellent choices. Your decision will come down to the type of business you run and where you’re located.
If you’ve got plenty of room in your kitchen and year-round temperatures are moderate, an air-cooled ice machine is a great choice. They’re cheaper to buy and are easy to maintain.
But if you’re based down south, where temperatures regularly rise about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, stick to a water-cooled machine. They’ll save you money on your electricity bills and will quietly supply all your ice needs.
Let Ice Maker Depot Help You Find Your Perfect Ice Machine
Hopefully, we’ve now settled the air-cooled vs water-cooled ice machine debate for you. The next step is finding the perfect machine for your operation.
At Ice Maker Depot, we make it easy to find the right fit for your business. We work with ice machine vendors the length and breadth of the country to find you a great machine at an affordable price.
Click here to tell us about your needs and request a quote today!