Guide to Saving Energy and Reducing Costs for Commercial Ice Machines

Last Updated on February 16, 2022 by Kimberly Crawford

The equipment used in commercial kitchens has a significant impact on food quality. When purchasing electrical appliances such as industrial ice machines, it is critical to consider energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly options.

Restaurants, pubs, and health facilities all employ ice machines. You may save money by reducing the amount of electricity and water used by your industrial ice machine by making a few simple changes. Ice machine models range in terms of power consumption, with smaller machines often requiring less voltage than bigger ones.

Tips for Reducing Energy Costs of Commercial Ice Machines

Here are some tips you can use to reduce energy costs of the installed ice machines:

Installing high-efficiency ice-machines

It is critical to get ENERGY STAR certified ice makers, which are more energy efficient than other electrical equipment and can save up to 20% of energy. They equate to cheaper energy bills and more money in your pocket.

Buying the right size

Before making a  commercial ice machine purchase, make sure to evaluate the amount of ice your kitchen needs on a daily basis. A reduced capacity can result in insufficient supply, leading product delivery to be delayed. It is a waste of time, water, and energy to purchase a machine with an excessively big capacity.

Regular cleaning

In the kitchen, keeping the equipment clean is a must. Clean equipment aids in the organization of the workplace, allowing staff to offer their all. Over time, dirt and grease build up on the coils and cooling systems. They can produce blockages if not cleaned on a regular basis, resulting in maintenance costs.

Controlling the water filtration system

The amount and quality of water  consumed has a major impact on the increase in energy costs. Many commercial ice machines incorporate water filtering systems to guarantee that only pure water enters the machine, lowering the chance of particles damaging or eroding the unit over time.

Water pressure

Check the water pressure to make sure you aren’t pushing more water into your machine than is necessary. Pumping an excessive amount of water causes the machine to work harder and take longer to chill the water within. It’s critical to verify that your ice maker’s water pressure is within the manufacturer’s recommended range.

Switching to air-cooled units

Fans remove heat from the refrigerant coils in air-cooled ice producers, causing the temperature to drop low enough to freeze the water. These are the most common and environmentally friendly ice makers on the market. Keeping an air-cooled ice machine in a well-ventilated environment ensures optimal performance and prevents overheating and frequent breakdowns.

Maintaining your ice machine

Routine maintenance prolongs the life of the machinery while allowing it to run as efficiently as possible.

Switching it off when not in use: 

When equipment is not in use, it is turned off to save energy and allow it to cool down. However, if it is shut off incorrectly, it might lead to the growth of hazardous microorganisms. For instructions on how to switch off the ice maker, consult the unit’s service manual.

How Much Energy Does It Take to Freeze Ice?

These industrial ice machines are meant to run continuously until the ice bin is full. Even if no one is around to scoop ice from a bin, it will eventually melt. The machine will continue to produce ice as the ice level in the bin declines, ensuring that the bin remains full. As a result, shutting it off when it’s not in use saves energy and water. The average ice maker consumes about 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) each month, which works out to about $21 per month at a normal rate of $0.06 per kWh. It has the capacity to produce up to 500 pounds of ice every day.

These appliances are important in commercial kitchens, but they can dramatically raise the cost of energy needed on a regular basis. It is both environmentally and financially friendly to use energy-efficient equipment.

How does a commercial ice maker work?

Ice machines are used in virtually every kind of commercial location that serves food or drinks. Ice is generally stored in an ice storage bin, where it is kept cold by means of refrigeration equipment.

A heating element in the machine boils a supply of water which is then rapidly cooled when it comes into contact with either cold air blown over it by an air blower or cold water from an in-feed pipe.

The resulting refrigerant has a temperature of around −7 °C (19 °F), at which point it is collected in the ice storage bin. However, many machines do not use the coldest part of the refrigerant for making ice, but instead, divert a portion of this to a brine well or brine tank.

The water supply for the ice maker is fed into the machine, usually through an in-feed pipe which comes from a storage tank (or sometimes directly from the municipal water supply).

A valve within the machine controls how much of this incoming feed water can enter at any one time. Since it takes a certain amount of time for the machine to make ice, and also since it is more efficient to make a continuous supply of small pieces rather than large chunks, some water enters the cell at all times.

The valve controls how much water is allowed in relative to the size (volume) of pieces being made. The ice machine can be set up such that the valve controls the water supply for a single cell, or it can control several cells at once. In a typical commercial ice maker line, a machine might have multiple stations each with its own valve and infeed.

The cell is filled with cold refrigerant from both internal sources and external ones, depending on design. The rate of heat removal from the ice in the cell determines how fast new ice is formed. If it heats up, more ice will form; if it gets too cold, some of the new ice may freeze to the sides of the cell and stop forming until things warm back up again. To prevent this, flake ice machines often use an air blower or a recirculating pump to keep the ice in constant motion.

In a typical flake ice machine, when ice is being formed, the infeed valve is fully opened and water flows into the cell. A restriction called an orifice plate in the pipe just before it enters the cell causes this water to spray out of tiny holes at high speed. At the same time, the machine’s air blower will be blowing cold air into the front of the cell. The water is instantly frozen into tiny ice flakes by its contact with this cold air.

The small pieces of ice fall down to the bottom of the cell where they are swept up by a scraper blade and pushed through an opening at the bottom of the cell.

The ice is ejected from the machine through a shoot and falls into a collection bin where it is stored until used by customers. When the storage bin is full, an outfeed pipe at its bottom automatically opens and shuts to allow a new bin to be placed under the machine’s shoot.

How many amps does a commercial ice maker use?

Commercial ice makers use anywhere from 10 to 50 amps of electricity, though the average is about 20 amps. Some units may pull as much as 60 or 70 amps at startup (which is often why SRCD’s are required by electrical codes). If the machine has a heating element in it, an additional 5-10 amps will be used.

Most commercial ice makers are 480 volt machines, meaning that two 240 volt legs are used to create a 480-volt circuit. Some machines may use 240 volts or 277 volts depending on power requirements.

Most of the electricity used by an ice maker is converted directly into heat. It takes about 40 amps of power to make one pound of ice in a flake ice maker.

What are the typical costs to run an ice machine?

The average commercial ice maker uses about 0.06 kWh (kilowatt hours) of power per pound of ice produced, or about 1 kWh for every 100 pounds of ice made. Each kilowatt hour costs roughly $0.10 to $0.12, so the cost to make one 100 pound batch of ice will vary between $1.00 and $1.20. Some utilities charge for electricity on an escalating scale that can greatly increase these costs.

Commercial flake ice makers are typically sized at 250 to 800 pounds of ice per day based on usage patterns, with most sized at about 500 pounds. The average cost to make and buy 500 pounds of ice is about $1.00 (assuming you pay for both the electricity to make it and the ice itself).