Question: Are energy efficient ice machines available? What do I need to know?

Answer: Chunk-a, chunk-a, chunk-a—it’s a familiar sound to anyone who’s been in a hotel and needed to cool off their drink, or been to a self-serve soda fountain.  Ice makers are a fixture at many hospitality and fast food facilities—and the good news is that there are ENERGY STAR-qualified models that can help you save money and energy.

Commercial ice makers are available as stand-alone or modular units, and either type is available with an air-cooled or water-cooled condenser. Ice machines produce either whole cubes, most often used in foodservice and hotels, or flakes, which are most often found in grocery stores and industrial facilities.

According to Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, there are currently 80,000 commercial ice machines in use in Canada, using the equivalent energy of 40,000 households over the course of a year.

High efficiency units have one or more of the following features:

  • high efficiency compressors
  • high efficiency condenser fan motors and blades
  • improved insulation
  • reduced water loss
  • reduced melting
  • increased evaporator size

If you’re thinking of purchasing an energy-efficient ice machine, consider the following tips:

  • Air-cooled machines use more energy but less water. As well, air-cooled units can increase air-conditioning costs for the area where the unit is located. Water-cooled machines are quieter than air-cooled models.
  • Consider buying a machine that makes “waffles” of ice cubes, rather than individual cubes. The waffles are more efficient to make, and generally break apart when they fall into the storage container.
  • Make sure you’re buying the right-sized unit for your facility. Either too small or too large can result in wasted energy.
  • Consider a self-cleaning model, which uses more water but reduces maintenance time and costs.
  • Keep your ice maker clean and free from limescale.

With a simple payback period estimated at 1.07 years, an energy-efficient ice machine makes sense if you’re looking to replace a conventional model.

Do you use an energy-efficient ice maker? What do you think?

Image credit: Muffet