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Small Business Guide: Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled Ice Machines

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If you run a small business, every decision you make matters. You want the machines you buy to last a long time. They should also be cost-effective and energy-efficient. When researching commercial ice machines, you will get a variety of options. From size to output speed, there are a lot of factors to consider.

One of the most important aspects of ice machines is how they release heat. Generally, there are two main options for this. Water-cooled ice machines and air-cooled ice machines.

Though a water-cooled system achieves the same results as an air-cooled one, the two processes are actually quite different. Read on, and we’ll walk you through the differences and similarities between water-cooled and air-cooled commercial ice machines.

Water-Cooled Ice Machines

As the name implies, a water-cooled ice machine uses water to remove heat from the machine. Water coils run along the machine’s condenser coils. The condenser coils transfer the machine’s heat to those water coils. That hot water is then drained out of the system. By undergoing this process, the unit is able to remain cool.

Unfortunately, to keep temperatures low, a lot of water ends up getting drained out in the process. In fact, water-cooled ice machines use up to 5 times more water than their air-cooled counterparts. And even more shocking, up to 95% of the water used by water-cooled ice machines can end up being dumped straight down the drain.

Water-cooled ice machines are often used in locations where the outside temperature is hard to maintain. Water-cooled systems do not dependent on outdoor temperatures to remove heat. Because of this, they can operate in a variety of environments without losing any productivity.

Also, check to see if the building you are operating out of happens to have a recirculating water system and cooling tower. If so, you can actually take advantage of that system by reusing its cooling water. This is an ideal situation when it comes to water-cooled ice machines but is unfortunately not a very common one.

You should be aware that cities across the country have been banning or limiting the usage of water-cooled ice machines. This is because of how much water they end up wasting.

Air-Cooled Ice Machines

As opposed to the water-cooled ice machine, an air-cooled ice machine uses air to remove heat from the system. This is done by utilizing various fans and vents located within the machine. As air travels down the condenser coils, it takes up the machine’s internal heat and is then exhausted out through the vents.

Unlike the water-cooled ice maker, which is not affected by outside temperatures, the air-cooled system very much is. If situated in a hot environment, the air-cooled machine won’t be able to release an optimal amount of hot air.

And if the machine is placed within an enclosed location that has a warm temperature, the machine’s release of the hot air will only make the room warmer. Eventually, the room’s temperature can get so high that the machine will have to automatically turn itself off due to overheating.

Because of this, you should not keep an air-cooled ice machine in a warm and enclosed environment. This can lead to a weakening of the system.

Another problem with air-cooled ice machines is that it can become easily contaminated. If the air that is being pulled into the machine for cooling is coming from that of a dirty kitchen, those airborne dirt and grease particles can come in and clog up the fan blades. This can mean a slower machine, less ice output, and even equipment problems.

Benefits of an Air-Cool System

On the plus side, air-cooled machines use much less water than the water-cooled ones. Because of this, air-cooled systems tend to bring a smaller water bill and overall lower costs.

In fact, many air-cooled ice machines are ENERGY STAR certified. This is a seal of approval granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is bestowed upon exceptionally energy-efficient products.

It is worth noting that a less common, but even more efficient, ice machine cooling system is the remote condenser unit. This is a product that works in conjunction with an air-cooled ice machine.

Basically, most air-cooled systems have a condenser unit inside the machine. With this added product, a remote condenser is placed outside of the machine. It is kept in a separate, outdoor location such as the roof. This relieves the need for a lot of cool airflow in enclosed spaces.

This remote condenser method could lead to an even lower energy bill plus bring about a more efficient output. This is especially important consideration nowadays as businesses are really making an effort to be energy-efficient.

Unfortunately, if you want to buy a remote condenser unit then you will have to pay higher upfront costs due to the addition of an extra part. Another downside is that the product is difficult to install.

A Quick Summary

After looking at these two options, we can conclude the winner of the air-cooled vs water-cooled ice machine debate. It is the air-cooled ice machine because these systems tend to be more cost-effective as well as energy-efficient.

But, that being said, there are still some benefits to a water-cooled system that must not be overlooked. Especially if the environment your machine will be installed in is not conducive to an air-cooled machine.

And don’t forget that there are all types of different ice machines within these two groups. After deciding which cooling system works best for you, do your research and get a reputable quote. You can click here to get a quote on all kinds of ice machines. 

Making The Right Choice For Your Office

When purchasing an ice machine – whether it’s a water-cooled ice machine or an air-cooled one – be mindful of the location it will be placed in. This includes cleanliness and temperature. There are many environmental factors that determine which ice machine is ideal for your situation. You should always be sure to do your due diligence.

Need help with other business concerns? Check out our informative articles for more! 

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