How to Take Care of Commercial Ice Makers for Wintertime

Ice machines and cold weather don’t always go together. Ice makers cycle between hot and cold. If the chilly winds of winter prevent your ice machine from getting warm enough, it won’t be able to produce as much ice as you need.

While most people think restaurants don’t need that much ice for cooling beverages in the winter, kitchen professionals know they still need ice for preparing their food products and displaying their cold menu items. Keeping the ice machine warm enough allows water from the supply line to circulate freely to the ice maker. If the water freezes over, how are you going to expect the ice machine to churn out any ice?

By taking care of your ice machine properly and practicing the necessary measures to ensure that water can easily circulate through the ice machine, you can ensure that your restaurant doesn’t run out of ice, even during the coldest parts of winter.

Repair the Frozen Water Line

If your ice machine isn’t ready for winter, don’t be surprised to find that parts of your water line may have frozen over. The long-term solution is to provide adequate insulation for your machine and exposed water pipes, but if you’re in a bind and just really, really need more ice right now, there’s a quick, do-it-yourself solution for that.

Turn off the ice machine and pull the plug off from the outlet. Remove all ice from the bin and find the part of the water supply line that has frozen over. Next, place a bucket of water underneath the frozen pipe to catch any water that may drip off. Spread out some rags on the floor to prevent any puddles from forming. Use a hair dryer to heat up the frozen line and thaw the ice inside the pipe. Make sure that you plug the dryer away from the area where water may collect to prevent accidents from happening.  

Invest in Heavy-Duty Insulation

High-end ice machines have their own foamed-in insulation to provide optimum temperatures for ice making. However, even the most expensive models won’t work if your water supply is clogged up by frozen water. Exposed pipes on exterior walls or lines located in unheated spaces, such as basements, garages, or attics, are prone to freezing.

Invest in high-quality plumbing work to keep your water lines freeze-free in a climate-controlled environment. Insulation doesn’t have to be expensive and can actually be easy to install as long as you follow instructions.

There are plenty of insulation materials perfect for water pipes. You can choose among foam, foam-and-foil, rubber backing tape, rubber pipe insulation tape, bubble-film pipe wrap, or foil back natural cotton to wrap your water pipes. When choosing which insulation material to use, look at its R-value. A material’s R-value refers to how resistant it is to heat flow. A higher R-value means better insulating capabilities.  

Insulation materials often come in pipe-wrap or tubular sleeve insulation. Pipe-wrap insulation, as its name implies, is insulation that can be wrapped around the pipe starting at one end and finishing off at the other end. Pipe-wrap insulation is useful for covering small lengths of the supply line or areas with many bends and corners. Tubular sleeves, on the other hand, are long cylindrical sleeves that are split down the middle. These sleeves are best for insulating longer pipes and can be sealed shut once placed around the supply line.

Clean Your Ice Machine

Ice makers must be cleaned and sanitized regularly to prevent the buildup of grime, scale, and mineral deposits that make it harder to produce good quantities of ice. Buildup causes ice to adhere to the surface of the evaporator plates, preventing proper heat transfer and causing the machine to take longer to produce ice. In extreme cases, it also causes the water freeze, which means you run out of ice altogether. Not only is this detrimental to business because the lack of ice disrupts your kitchen’s operations, it can also incur huge servicing costs.

To properly clean your ice maker, unplug the machine and remove all ice from the ice bin. Press the “Clean” or “Wash” button, depending on how your ice maker is configured. This will cause the water to flow down the water dump valve and into the drain. The machine will then fill up again with water and indicate that it’s time to add your cleaning solution. Always read the machine’s manual for the specific cleaning and sanitizing materials and ratios recommended by the manufacturer.

Your ice machine will also have a few internal components that need to be taken apart and cleaned separately using the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solution. Then rinse each component in water and let dry. Use the same solution and a soft cloth to wipe down the exterior surfaces, including the walls, base, bin, dispenser, and the evaporator’s plastic parts.

Finish by spraying all components with a sanitizing solution recommended by the manufacturer. Wait for at least 20 minutes before putting the ice machine back together.