Foolproof Your Ice Machine Installation
Many foodservice operations need to efficiently produce good-tasting, well-performing ice. Customers may not pay much attention to what’s clinking in their glass when all is well, but if that ice starts tasting off or is missing entirely, they may not make a return visit.
Scott Hester, president of Refrigerated Specialist Inc. in Mesquite, Texas, who’s spent decades servicing this equipment, shares his do’s and don’ts when it comes to setting up an ice machine for success:
1. Do select the right kind of condensing unit.
Ice machines are either air-cooled, water-cooled or equipped with a remote compressor. According to Hester, operators need to consider how variables like ambient air temperatures and clearance around the machine impact which unit they choose.
“Operators may buy an air-cooled unit because it’s the lowest price, but then put it in an environment that doesn’t maintain below 85°F so the machine runs hot all the time,” he says. This puts undue stress on the machine over time, leading to more maintenance problems and service costs. It also uses more electricity. “It’s like that drippy faucet,” says Hester. “You don’t see the big hit on one water bill, but it’s always there, eating away at your utility cost.”
2. Do get a local water analysis before selecting a water filtration system.
Operators get into trouble with ice machines when they don’t consider the specific local water quality pumped into their machines. “Most operations tend to use a broad-brush approach and use water filtration systems that have a carbon component in it, which may not be needed,” he says. “This filter also takes the chlorine out of the water, however, which leads to yeast spore growth, slime and mold [inside the ice machine].”
Hester advises that operators, particularly those in restaurant chains who are more likely to go with a one-size-fits-all filter, take the time to get a local water analysis done and only install a filtration system that addresses their specific needs.
“You don’t see the big hit on one water bill, but it’s always there, eating away at your utility cost.”
3. Don’t install ice machines in a problematic location.
Operators may want to place their ice machines in a location that works with the overall foodservice design as well as their staff and customer flow. Yet Hester points out that there are other variables to consider. “Ice machines shouldn’t be installed too close to the soiled dish area,” he says, to prevent cross contamination. It’s also best to avoid placing ice machines near areas where flour is being used, as airborne yeast is a big challenge for the equipment.
“Sandwich chains where they bake lot of bread or use a lot of cornmeal have issues with yeast growth and slime in their ice machines,” says Hester. “This can be minimized by placing ice machines farther from the source but [still] will require more regular cleaning than in a more sanitary setting where not a lot of bread is baked.”