Reducing Energy Costs for Commercial Ice Machines

5 Ways to Reduce Energy Costs for Commercial Ice Machines


Did you know that the typical commercial icemaker uses two or three times more water than it actually needs? By making a few slight adjustments to your machine, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a month. Learn 5 tips that will help you choose and adjust your ice maker to be as energy and water efficient as possible.

businessman holding sign that reads ‘reduce your energy bill’

1. Choose air-cooled, not water-cooled.

If you are looking for the most energy-efficient condenser, an air-cooled condenser is the way to go. Water-cooled condensers, on the other hand, require water not only to produce ice, but also to cool the machine. In some cases, water-cooled condensers may actually require less energy to operate, but they use, on average, about 100 gallons of waste cooling water per 100 pounds of ice. That’s a LOT of water. Many cities are now banning the use of water-cooled condensers because of the excessive water waste. Read more: What to Know Before Purchasing an Ice Machine.

Note: If your ice machine is in an enclosed area, like a closet, where the space can get very hot, it is important to keep the area well-ventilated (with fans, vents, compressors, thicker insulation, etc.). Excessive heat can lead to decreased efficiency and machine breakdowns. Talk to your ice machine supplier for more details about how to keep the space ventilated.

2. Monitor and adjust the water pressure.

One easy way to reduce water usage on your ice machine is by monitoring the incoming water pressure. If your machine is not already adjusted to the lower end of the manufacturer’s listed operating range, you can adjust it manually. Look for the ‘water purge time setting.’ Note: it is important to verify with the manufacturer that the lower range settings will not affect the ice dispenser’s functionality. In some cases, adjustments must be done by an ice machine technician.

Some machines include optional controls that allow you to program the amount of ice you need. This is another great way to reduce water and energy usage. If your machine does not have this feature, you can turn off the machine when not in use.

cleaning spray next to stack of sponges

3. Keep your machine clean.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the back of your refrigerator or washer/dryer, you know how dirty it can get. Similarly, the coils and cooling unit on the back of an ice machine quickly accrue dust, dirt, and rust. This causes mineral buildup that will eventually damage the machine.

Unless you make a conscious effort to schedule a regular cleaning of your machine, it’s a job that often gets overlooked. Just by cleaning the coils and cooling unit on a regular basis, you can significantly reduce the overall energy expended. If cleaning the back of an ice machine isn’t something you have time to deal with, you might consider investing in a self-cleaning model. Or, if you have an ice/water service, many suppliers will offer maintenance and cleaning of the machine free of charge.

Read more: How to Maintain and Clean Your Ice Machine

In addition to the back of the machine, the storage bin (where the ice is held) can also accrue mold, bacteria and algae. If you’ve ever noticed a slimy texture inside an ice bin, that is often due to a buildup of algae or bacteria. Some ice machines come with an antimicrobial feature that can be dropped in the water or placed in the ice bin to eliminate bacteria and mold. Ask your local supplier if they offer an antibacterial component with their machines.

4. Invest in a water filtration system.

One easy way to help make your ice machine last is by investing in a water filtration system (also known as a descaler). Many ice suppliers offer a filter kit as a companion item. This is an item that’s worth paying for! It may cost you a couple of hundred dollars upfront, but it will save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Up to 40% of maintenance issues on ice machines are related to unfiltered water.

Plus, filtered water = filtered ice = better taste! The filter helps rid the water of chlorine, odors and particles of dust that directly affect the taste and quality of your water/ice.

Energy Star logo

5. Choose a machine that is ENERGY STAR certified.

Ice machines require a lot of energy to run. There’s no way around it. On average, a typical 500 lb./day air-cooled ice maker expends 5,000 kWh per year. An ENERGY STAR certified ice machine, on the other hand, is up to 15% more energy efficient and 23% more water efficient than non-certified ice makers. They can save you as much as 1,200 kWh per year (or $130/year on utility bills). All of the following air-cooled condensers are eligible for ENERGY STAR certification:

  • Ice-making head (IMH)
  • Self-contained (SCU)
  • Remote condensing unit (RCU)
Note: Qualifying models must meet the maximum water and energy consumption limits in order to earn the ENERGY STAR standard. It is important to find out the energy and water usage of the specific unit you own or plan to buy. You can do this by consulting the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), who has tested each unit to determine the rate of ice output, energy used for ice production, and water use. If a machine meets AHRI standards, it will be listed in their directory of Certified Automatic Commercial Ice Machines and Ice Storage Bins. For more information go to www.ahrinet.org.


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