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Ice Makers (Ice Machines)


An automatic ice maker (ice machine) is a factory-made assembly consisting of a condensing unit and an ice-making section. These parts may be contained in a single package but operate as an integrated unit. The assembly may also contain a bin for storing ice until it is removed for use.

Automatic ice makers are available in two basic types:

  • cubers – make clear, regularly shaped ice cubes, which are typically used in the hospitality, fast-food and health care industries for keeping drinks cool

  • flakers – make irregularly shaped chips of ice, which are typically used in the grocery, food processing, industrial and scientific industries

Automatic ice makers are also categorized by their physical configuration. Self-contained units have both ice-making and ice-storage components and have a small capacity, producing from 20 to 130 kilograms (kg) of ice per day (kg/day).

Modular units require accessory storage bins. Modular units that have

  • built-in condensers are called ice-making head units and have an ice-making capacity of 90 to 850 kg/day
  • the condenser located separately from the ice-making component are called split-system or remote condenser units and have large ice-making capacities (200 to 1000 kg/day)

Both self-contained machines and modular units are available with either an air-cooled condenser or a water-cooled condenser.

An estimated 80 000 ice makers are in commercial use in Canada. The annual energy consumption is estimated at 3.3 million gigajoules – equivalent to the annual energy use of approximately 40 000 households. The estimation was based on an average ice production of 160 kg/day and an energy consumption of 706 kilojoules per kilogram of ice produced.

Automatic ice makers are a regulated product that has minimum performance requirements for cubers and flakers under Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations. However, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has proposed amendments to the Regulations to strengthen the minimum energy efficiency requirements that apply to automatic ice makers that produce ice-cubes (batch type) and ice flakes (continuous process). About 90 percent of ice makers sold produce ice-cubes. Both air-cooled and water-cooled equipment are included.

As well, an ENERGY STAR specification was released in July 2007 with an effective date of January 1, 2008. The energy efficiency levels for ENERGY STAR qualification are about 10 percent more stringent than NRCan's proposed new levels.

Significant progress has been made in recent years to improve the energy efficiency of automatic ice makers. Today's more efficient machines have one or more of the following features:

  • high-efficiency compressors
  • high-efficiency condenser fan motors and blades
  • improved cold compartment insulation
  • reduced purge water losses
  • reduced melting during ice harvesting
  • reduced thermal cycling of the evaporator
  • increased evaporator size

Guide for purchasing and using ENERGY STAR qualified commercial ice machines

Technical specifications for ENERGY STAR qualified commercial ice machines