Most of the time, employees and managers are too busy to notice that their ice production rate has slowed. When you do realize it, your first thought is to assume the ice maker stopped working, but this isn’t always the case.
Let’s identify some of the reasons an ice maker’s ice production rate would slow, and what you can do about it.
Ice Production vs. Ice Usage
To figure out why your ice supply might seem low, it’s best to have a solid understanding of your ice maker’s rating and distribution rate. If you’re operating a machine that produces 500 lbs a day in ideal air and water temperatures, it will drop ice in 10.2 lb increments over the course of 24 hours at an average rate of 20 lbs per hour. This rate will remain constant whether you’re busy or not. No matter what, your ice machine will need between 20-40 minutes to freeze a batch of ice. So, what you might assume is an ice production problem is actually an ice usage problem. You’re simply using more ice than your ice machine can keep up with.
The scenario mentioned above is common in restaurants or cafeterias with multiple stations where they store ice. To fill these stations, employees often carry 5-gallon buckets full of ice. When too many employees pull from your ice machine at once, it will appear that your ice machine is running low. Again, it’s not that your ice maker has stopped working, your employees are pulling too much ice at once and your ice maker is struggling to keep up.
Hotels also encounter this problem. Guests normally pull ice from the ice maker one bucket at a time, but what if there’s an event going on where people are filling coolers with ice, like a pool party? You guessed it, the next person is going to pull ice from an empty machine – and most likely complain that the ice maker is not working. This is another example of peak usage times, where people pull more ice than on an average day.
Different seasons are also a cause for peak usage times. The summer months are especially tough on an ice maker. Customers demand more cold drinks to cool them down in the heat. Also, as the temperatures rise, your ice machine’s production rate lowers and ice melts faster in your ice bin. It’s this “perfect storm” that makes it appear as if your ice machine isn’t working properly, but it’s the combination of these three factors that are proving to be too much for your ice maker to handle.
Finally, changes to a business can also influence ice usage. When a bar or restaurant launches a new drink menu or gets a new liquor license, it will naturally increase the demand for ice. Other factors can also increase the need for ice, such as:
- Growing customer base
- New store policies, like free refills
- Longer store hours
One of the most common reasons for ice machine production problems is high air temperatures around the unit.
A good example of how this works is starting your car after it’s been in the sun all day. Normally, the A/C unit will blast hot air for a few minutes before cooling down. That’s because the A/C draws from the outside air to cool the inside of your car. The hotter it is outside, the longer it takes for your A/C unit to blow cold air. Ice machines face the same problem, except they have to freeze water into ice. As your ice maker sucks in the air, from say, a hot kitchen, it will take longer to produce ice than if it was in a cool room with 70-degree air.
Summer is notoriously the worst season for ice machines because of the sudden rise in temperatures. In certain areas, summer heat can raise the temperature around your ice machine to over 100 degrees. In this environment, you risk your ice maker shutting down completely.
Again, this is not a case of your ice maker not working properly, but rather environmental factors contributing to lower ice production. The best way to combat high temperatures is by installing your ice maker in an area with good temperature control and plenty of ventilation.
Dirty Air Filters
Ice makers need routine maintenance to continue to run optimally, and that includes cleaning your air filter. When an air filter is clogged by dust, grease, or smoke particles, it will impede airflow and cause production problems that will make it appear as if the unit is not working. You need to clean your ice machine air filter every 2 weeks to keep steady airflow and optimize your unit’s performance. If your unit is in a challenging environment, you may need to clean your air filter even more.
The location of the air filter differs from model to model. You can normally find a Manitowoc ice machine filter on the right side of the unit.
You can usually find Hoshizaki ice machine filters on the front panel, but they may also be on the side or back on other models.
Cleaning an air filter on either model is easy, just slide the filter out of the unit and wash with hot water and dish soap. If there is a lot of grease present, you can also use a commercial grade degreaser. After you clean the air filter, set it aside to air dry and replace. Air filters are not dishwasher safe. Dishwashers use high heat that can damage air filter frames and melt synthetic meshes.
Troubleshoot Before you Call
These are just a few reasons how ice production rates can drop despite your ice maker working at 100%. If you find yourself running low on ice, make sure the issue is not peak ice usage, excessively high temperatures, or a blocked air filter. You can fix a lot of these issues on your end without having to spend money on an unnecessary service call.
If you’re an Ice-Masters customer and find that your ice maker is running low and it’s not any of the issues we’ve mentioned in this article, feel free to give us a call at (773) 975-2005.
If you find that your customer base has outgrown your current ice maker, it’s time for a new ice machine. We only lease out the best Manitowoc and Hoshizaki ice makers in any size, so ask for our sales team and they’ll get you the best quote on a machine that fits your specific business needs.