Can I use my commercial ice maker outside?

Cookware & Cooking Tools

While they are insulated, the storage bins in an ice maker aren’t refrigerated. The ice cubes in an ice maker outside in hot weather may melt as fast as the machine makes them.

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The  place to put your commercial ice maker

A commercial ice maker can be a large, cumbersome machine that takes up a lot of space and generates a great deal of heat. It would seem evident that placing such a well-fortified piece of equipment outside where it won’t be in the way would be an obvious choice.

However, if that’s the decision you have made or are considering making. Hopefully, you’ll read through the rest of this article to determine why that is not recommended.

How does a commercial ice maker work?

While not all ice makers function the same, some basic principles apply.

  1. An ice maker pumps water into a tray that holds that water until it is frozen.
  2. An ice maker uses a refrigerant. This refrigerant repeatedly cycles through a system of components and tubes, changing states from vapor to liquid to vapor, over and over.
  3. The refrigerant gas is compressed then condensed to turn into a high-pressure liquid. This part of the process creates a great deal of heat on the outside of the unit. When that high-pressure liquid flows through an expansion valve into the evaporator coils, it turns back into a vapor. This process rapidly absorbs the heat inside the ice maker, cooling it down dramatically – making it cold enough to turn the water in the tray into ice.
  4. The tray is briefly heated to free the ice cubes (without melting them). The ice cubes either slide down a chute or are cleared away in some manner (the method varies from machine to machine) so the process can begin again.

Consequently, air temperature and water temperature are critical for allowing an ice maker to function correctly. While there is some variation between models, an ice maker functions best when the air temperature is 70 degrees, and the water temperature is 50 degrees. 

If the air is too hot, the ice maker will have to work harder to make the ice, which will shorten the unit’s lifespan. If the air is too cold, it will slow down the ice production or even cause some machines to cease making ice altogether. In the worst-case scenario, if the temperatures are below freezing, the water in the lines can freeze and burst.

Pros and cons of placing a commercial ice maker outside

Now that you understand how an ice maker works, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of placing one outside.

What are the pros of placing a commercial ice maker outside?

If you are considering placing an ice maker outside, there are very few reasons why you would want to do that. We can only think of two.

  • If your establishment has limited space, placing an ice maker outside may be your only viable option.
  • If the heat that the unit produces negatively impacts some aspect of your business ( such as comfortable working conditions as cooling bills), you may be considering placing the unit outside.

What are the cons of placing a commercial ice maker outside?

Contrary to the pros, there are many reasons why you would not want to place an ice maker outside. Here is a list of the top ones.

  • An ice maker that is placed outdoors will suffer from poor performance, rarely operating at peak efficiency.
  • If an ice maker has to work harder to create ice, the components will wear out more quickly – you may not even get five years out of a unit that costs several thousand dollars.
  • An ice maker that isn’t explicitly rated to be placed outside won’t endure the elements.
  • If you place your ice maker outside, whenever employees need to access the machine, there is a risk factor involved, especially if the business operates at night.
  • Ice isn’t light. If the ice maker is outside, you will undoubtedly be carrying larger (heavier) loads of ice than if it was in a more convenient place. 
  • An ice maker that is outside can not be monitored as easily, making it a health issue.
  • Thieves can steal even something as large as an ice machine. 
  • Placing it outside makes a thief’s job easier.
  • It is possible that placing an ice maker outside will void the warranty because the machine is not working under the conditions for which it was designed.

Should a commercial ice maker be placed outside?

Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker

Unless you are purchasing an ice maker specifically rated to be outside, the cons far outweigh the pros. If space is tight, look for a smaller model (there are several compact options) or consider some minor remodeling because an ice maker should not be placed outside.

Best commercial ice makers

SNOOKER Ice Maker 160 lb

SNOOKER Ice Maker 160 lb

This model is designed for establishments that have high demands. The unit can produce up to 160 pounds of ice each day and employs technology that shows the status of ice production. It also comes with a storage bin which can hold up to 80 pounds of ice, while the entire unit can produce up to 160 pounds a day.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Manitowoc Undercounter Ice Cube Machine

Manitowoc Undercounter Ice Cube Machine

If you are looking for an undercounter ice maker that can produce up to 195 pounds of half ice cubes per day and has a 190-pound storage bin, this is the model for you. The easy-access door makes it simple to fill pitchers or even buckets with ice for transport.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

GE Ice Maker

GE Ice Maker

This GE ice maker can produce up to 65 pounds of ice per day. It has a 26-pound capacity bin with an automatic shut-off that keeps the machine from overflowing. The handy Clean Indicator lets you know when it’s time to give the machine a cleaning.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

NewAir Countertop Clear Ice Maker

NewAir Countertop Clear Ice Maker

For homeowners who would like restaurant-quality ice in their own home, this compact machine can make a new batch of ice every 15 minutes. This will be clear ice, and the small countertop unit comes with a BPA-free plastic ice scoop and a removable ice basket.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Costway Ice Maker

Costway Ice Maker

If you are looking for a compact commercial ice maker that would be ideal for a coffee shop or a bar, this 31-inch model is sized for the job. It can make up to 110 pounds of ice each day in 12- to 18-minute cycles. The ice is bullet-shaped and clear. It is designed to function as either a freestanding machine or a built-in one, depending on your needs.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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