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May1999 Issue (Updated March 2001 Issue)
By Brian Ward
SPECIAL REPORT: The Cold Facts On Ice Makers
Try running your operation without ice, and it won’t run far. Here’s an update on spec’ing capacities, air-vs.-water cooling, evap designs and more. Plus outlines on the six top brands.

Sure, the foods you put the price tag on are important. But face it: Without ice, just about everything else grinds to a halt pretty quickly.

Which puts your ice maker (for story purposes we’ll focus on cubers) close to your heart—probably right next to the triple-digit drink margins.

So how do you spec it? What do you look for? And how is the current crop of cubers different from the cantankerous boxes of yore that gave everybody nightmares about compressors and sediment damage?

To get the scoop (no ice pun intended), we contacted the six biggest names in the cuber business, plus a multiline distributor for the broad maintenance picture. To keep things from spinning out of control into a thousand-page hallucinogenic, we decided to focus on just the cubers themselves. Any mention of bins, ice crushers, flakers, ice-maker/drink dispensers and other sundries tied to the ice business would be minimal, we decided. And the great debate on ice shapes and sizes would go by the board, too. Just too many permutations to detail in one story.

All six invited manufacturers were up for the story.
Hoshizaki America; IMI Cornelius; Ice-O-Matic, An Enodis Co.; Kold-Draft; Manitowoc Ice Inc. and Scotsman Ice Systems, also of Enodis, all anted up. They anted up with product catalogs—some thick as phone books, by the way—photos and tons of specifying tips, along with test data and maintenance guidelines. Combined, they represent well over 100 basic models, not counting the multipliers like cooling options, bin combinations and so on.

All six—and this is no hype—are building a far better product than, say, 15 years ago. Reliability is better; fit and finish are better; utility efficiency is better. It’s not that the ice-making process itself has changed all that much from the days of maintenance horror stories. But some new-think has emerged here and there, and has stimulated evolution and better execution across the category.

On that score, many makers in this group give the nod to component suppliers, who have stepped up with far better compressors, condensers and so on. Rust control, long a bugaboo in cubers, has improved greatly. Filtration has virtually eliminated contamination-related woes. And programmed electronic controls, after some teething problems, have matured into reliable systems. Depending on the system you get, they now will adjust the cuber for seasonal differences, warn you of impending problems, and so on. And, on a less exotic note, most of the models here are stackable, a fair response to soaring footprint costs.

A Look At The Brands
Now, to some brand specifics: Hoshizaki America’s KM cuber line spans 18 models of cubers and a half-dozen F Series flakers, not counting 50-cycle versions for overseas installation. Cuber sizes run from a 150 model up to a 2400. The whole KM line makes individual (as opposed to slab) crescent cubes. All KM cubers have now transitioned to zero-chlorine, ozone-friendly R-404a refrigerant.

Among notable Hoshizaki goodies: Stainless steel evaporators are standard (as opposed to copper that’s painted or dipped in nickel or tin); a cycle saver design produces more ice per cycle, so the unit turns fewer cycles per volume. Removable, cleanable filters make proper maintenance easier. Several models up to the 630 come in slim 22” width; larger units run 30” and 48”. An electronic board detects damaging condition changes and automatically shuts down and restarts when conditions allow. And finally, Hoshizaki now is offering a new control board with an audible alert for problems.

Ice-O-Matic steps up with the all-new ICE Series cuber line introduced in 2000. Built from #304 stainless steel, the line offers improved production levels and operating efficiencies. The ICE Series includes a pair of undercounter self-contained units, the ICEU150 and 200, rated at peak production of 175 lbs./day and 226 lbs./day. Like the rest of the ICE Series models, these units are designed to save space and remain rust-free forever.

At the heart of the ICE Series are the ICE0400 and ICE0500 with low energy consumption and high production rates. They range from a 250 model up to a 2,100 model. Further, the ICE0250 and ICE1006 measure just 30” wide, while the ICE1400 through ICE2106 run 48” wide. In addition to these standard models, Ice-O-Matic offers space-saving options with its Wallhugger and top-vent designs.

In 2001, Ice-O-Matic says it will introduce several new products, including the ICE0320 and ICE0520 at 22” wide each. An expanded flaker also should hit the street, with models ranging from the countertop 300 lbs./day to the 3,000 lbs./day low-side unit.

Ice-O-Matic also continues to offer the GC Series of cubers with nonrusting plastic cabinets, stainless steel evaporators and individual crescent-cube production.

IMI Cornelius, a name long well known in dispensing, got into the cuber business via acquisition of Ross Temp back in the early 1980s, and commenced strengthening the product. In ’90, the RT line went away. By ’94, the current I Series debuted, and it’s been expanding ever since. The company also has extended into the undercounter business with the IACS224 self-contained unit and also went huge with the IAC2448.

Today, the Cornelius stable includes three undercounter cubers plus 11 more cubers ranging in size from 300 to a hefty 2400. All use R-404a. Also available are chunkettes and flakers, as well as bins. Among key differentiations: A particular attention to cubers top-mounted to drink dispensers, of course, but also its all-stainless panels and frames, and a lifetime warranty against rust. Another plus is a computer-driven system that automatically handles seasonal ice-making adjustments.

Further, IMI Cornelius has two additional lines. One line uses the IMD model, which is an ice maker/dispenser for healthcare markets, and the other is for shipboard marine applications.

Also key: Cornelius is now the only ice maker manufacturer to offer built-in Microban technology. Microban’s antimicrobial ingredients inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew. The ingredients, added during the manufacturing process, are part of all plastic components that come in contact with water and ice. Cornelius also plans to introduce a new patent-pending line of ice makers in 2001.

Kold-Draft, a division of Uniflow Mfg., offers a different approach in more ways than one. First, it focuses on just five basic models, four of them recently upgraded, a GT351, GB451, GT550, GB654 and GB1254. Production values run roughly from 250 to 1,115 lbs./day, and each one can be spec’d for your choice of full cube, half cube or cubelet. The new GT550 weighs in as one of the narrower 500s in the field at just 30”. All models run on R-404a, and construction is all stainless.

Apart from the rifle-shot product spectrum, another distinction is K-D’s ice-making method. Unlike the other five here, which all use what’s called a vertical evaporator, Kold-Draft uses a horizontal evaporator. The significance, K-D says, is that the system involves water flowing upward before reaching a flat-mount evaporator. Gravity does its job, the company says, pulling sediments downward out of the water flow before it reaches the evaporator. The result: No impurities fouling the water or the cuber—and in almost all cases, no filter is required.

Manitowoc Ice redid its whole cuber line in ’98, dubbing it the Q Series, and during ’99 added two models and also unveiled its all-new QuietQube technology.

The QuietQube system is a remote design using patented CVD (that’s for cool vapor defrost—as opposed to conventional hot gas) technology that offers several advantages. The CVD system allows the compressor and the condenser fan motor to be moved out to the remote condensing unit, cutting ambient noise by 75% compared to a conventional remote setup. The gas technology also clears the way for a redesigned condenser that can operate at higher temps, requiring fewer defrost cycles. And with the compressor outside, it cools more effectively for improved reliability.

The QuietQube system, first shown on the Q100C and Q1400C at NAFEM/99, was added last year on a Q600C and Q800C.

As for the Q Series overall, it includes an undercounter Q-210 plus 17 models ranging from the Q-270 up to a big-boy 1800. (Separately, Manitowoc also offers a QM-30, QM-4, QM130, QM210 and QM270 undercounter self-contained model, plus a marine line.) All boast R-404a coolant; a new water-batch system for upgraded performance; and stainless exteriors, composite resin bases and polyclad steel interiors for corrosion resistance. Available throughout the line is the AuCS (Automated Cleaning System), which automatically runs cleaner or sanitizer through the system on whatever timetable you set.

Rounding out the group is Scotsman Ice Systems, now an Enodis company. Its ice-producing equipment includes modular and self-storing cubers and modular and self-storing flakers.

Scotsman touts its CM3 Series of cubers, which can produce 200 lbs./day to 2,000 lbs./day in 22”, 30” and 48” units. The line uses little water and electricity to cut your operating costs over time. Special cube ice machine features include the AutoIQ Control System, which monitors and controls machine functions to ensure consistent ice production and reduce operation costs. The evaporator plate is a hot-tin-dipped, molecularly bonded plate that has been field-tested and proven 99.4% reliable over five years, according to Scotsman.

Also, the rust-proof polyethylene base and food zone are insulated with 1 1/2”-thick foam to keep them cool. The rust proofing comes under a lifetime warranty.

New to the Scotsman flake and nugget ice machines—which produce from 450 lbs./day to 3,000 lbs./day in 21”, 30” and 42” units—is a monitoring system called AutoSentry. AutoSentry constantly monitors the workload on the gearbox and shuts down the system before a costly problem develops. Electrical conductivity water sensors eliminate low- or no-water failures. A plastic drain pan with larger outlet helps channel water away to prevent particulate buildup and rust.

So there you have the lineups. When you start defining your needs, your priorities will be unique, of course, but your spec issues will generally fit into these categories: How much ice do you need, and where do you need it? That’ll get you size and location of the ice cuber. Then you’ll want to sort through cooling systems—air vs. water, and self-contained vs. remote. Then you’ll get into such things as water and electrical efficiencies, cube shapes and so on.

Start with production. You experienced hands already have a history to refer to, and you probably know pretty well what you need for your own menu, clientele, food volume and so on. If you’re less, uh, grizzled, or venturing out of your usual pattern with a new concept or market, though, you could get input from your dealer or the ice maker distributor or the soda guys.

Basically, though, for restaurants and cafeterias, you’ll probably find your numbers working out to about 2 lbs./person or per cover of cubed ice, or maybe a bit more. Bars, figure 3 lbs. (Note these are per traffic, not per seat.)

For hospitals and nursing homes, figure 5 lbs./bed, or maybe a little more. Hotel/motels, estimate 5 lbs./room for room service, and maybe a third of that for foodservice. Banquets would probably figure a pound per seat.

If you’re looking specifically for off-premise traffic, as in soft drinks, figure half to two-thirds the drink weight will be ice. And whatever you’re doing, if you’re using flaked ice, bump the numbers up a bit because flakes fall more densely.

Then, test all that against your rush volumes. Will the cuber keep up with your heavier days, or a lunch rush that accounts for half your daily ice volume? Add in a safety margin so the cuber-plus-bin-reserve will meet your heaviest needs. The bin’s important here. Make sure it’s big enough, and keep in mind largish bins might take bigger footprints than what we’re citing for the cuber.

A final note on production: Do not—repeat do not—get yourself tangled up in model numbers while you’re sizing. Focus on production numbers. If you decide you need 800 lbs./day, you’ll find that you’re looking at a couple of 800-series models plus a couple of 1000s. Some 600s make 480 lbs./day, while others actually make 600.

Stay Away From Heat…And Yeast
Once you figure your production needs, the next question is where to put the cuber—or cubers, plural. A tough question, really. Say you need 1,200 lbs./day of ice. Do you need a single 1,200-pounder, or two 600s?

Check with your checkbook, and the quick answer is to go for the bigger one. A single unit, with a single set of components, costs less upfront. It’ll also cost less in electricity and water consumption, and bigger units also tend to be more efficient per-pound anyway. Plus, maintenance expense will be lower.

But force yourself to face the question anyway. If you’ve got far-flung points of use for ice, how much labor cost is being eaten up with somebody lugging buckets, or hopefully a more sophisticated wheeled transport option?

Another angle on this: If you’re leaning toward a remote condenser anyway (more on this later), you might want to look into running more than one maker off a single set of components up on the roof. Sharing components shifts the economics of the issue all around, and you might run a big cuber in back and a couple of 400s on drink dispensers upfront—all off the same rooftop package.

Where, exactly, you decide to put the unit or units is going to vary by situation, obviously. But before we leave the topic, we can tell you where not to put it: Don’t put it near heat, which sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Also, don’t put it where transport sorties are going to conflict with other kitchen traffic.

And finally, according to people who know—Do not put it anywhere near dough preparation. Pizza houses and deli shops making their own bread have found out the hard way that the yeast floating around creates a contamination in the ice maker that’s too gross to even describe.

’Nuff said on that. Next question is cooling. You’ve got three flavors of condenser here: air- or water-cooled self-contained, or air-cooled remote.

Dang, Where To Put That Condenser
The air-cooled, self-contained setup is the basic choice for most units, although some bigger models don’t offer it. Air works well enough, assuming ambient air temps don’t go much over 90°F. But keep in mind that air temps will impact production rates—the higher the temps, the slower the ice production. Anticipate this when you’re sizing the unit. Beyond that, you have to consider that heat released from the condenser into your kitchen doesn’t just disappear—it reappears as part of your HVAC load.

Water cooling, usually a no-charge choice, fixes much of that. It pays off in better reliability and longer life for your ice cuber, thanks to less fluctuation in component temps. Electrical consumption frequently runs 10% or so lower than in the air-cooled version. Your indoor heat issue is reduced, as well. And another plus: Water-cooled units are less hampered by higher air temps, so by the time the air rises to 90°F, the liquid-cooled cubers often have about a 10% production advantage over air-cooled cubers.

But there’s a but. The main caveat—and this is a big one—is that water cooling uses a lot of water (generally five to 10 gallons of cooling for every gallon going into ice making). The double whammy is that environmental issues are pushing up water prices in many areas.

Another possible exception: Extremely hot climates sometimes leave you with water as hot as 80°F or more—no bargain for a water-cooled cuber. Places like Phoenix during summer, for example, require some special calculations.

The third option, a remote air-cooled condenser, involves higher installation costs, but frequently is worth it. You can spend an additional $1,000 to $2,200 (list) or more for parts, depending on sizing and distance. Then figure labor, and the rooftop project can easily match the price of your average 800-series unit. But, the big advantage is that heat is released outside—where it’s out of your life forever.

But there’s an exception here, as well. Remote air cooling has its limits, again in hotter locales. It’ll still be a good choice in many scenarios, but you might want to up-spec the components.

Sticky Wickets—And Water Bills
Part of configuring the unit is, of course, calculating operating efficiency and lifecycle costs. They’re a big deal in any kind of equipment, and bigger in ice machines. Assuming “normal” maintenance, manufacturers these days estimate lifespans of “seven to eight or 10” years of economically reasonable life—plenty of time for utility costs to make the upfront outlay look paltry.

Rule Number One in utility comparisons: Make sure you’re getting standardized data. While cruising spec sheets for electrical and water consumption per 100 lbs. of ice made, make sure you’re looking at Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute test figures. ARI 810 is the standard that applies. It measures consumption at an ambient air temp of 90°F and water intake temp of 70°F. Once you get your comparative compass set at this level, you can check how production rises or falls at other air and water temps.

Then you can start comparing competing models’ ARI 810 standard data. Usage varies quite a bit. As we alluded to earlier in the story: Of four 600-series air-cooled units on the market, actual ARI test production figures range from 460 to 600 lbs./day; electrical usage per 100 lbs. of ice varies from a low of 5.8 kWh to a high of 8.3 kWh. Water usage per 100 lbs. of ice runs from 19 gals. to 25 gals.

Add in the water-cooled units, and you’ll find that cooling water usage per 100 lbs. of ice swings from 144 gals. to more than 210 gals.

Whichever model you’re looking into, maintenance will be pretty straightforward. First, with the possible exception of the Kold-Draft units—and even then it couldn’t hurt—you’re going to need to filter the incoming water. Yes, the cuber will run without it—for awhile. But the harder the water, the more you’ll want the filter. So turn loose the $100 to $300 for the filter and spring for the $50 replacement cartridge every six months.

Also, clean the unit according to owner’s manual directions. Use a citric ice machine cleaner according to the recommended schedule—probably every six months—to get rid of calcium. Then run the sanitizer.

Wipe down the unit daily. If it’s air cooled, eyeball the condenser every couple weeks to make sure it’s clean. Have a refrigeration servicer come out every six months and clean and sanitize the system. Even an automatic cleaning system won’t clean the condenser. According to every refrigeration type we’ve ever contacted (for this story or any other), 80% of service calls are traced to a dirty condenser.


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