How to Maintain Your Restaurant's Ice Supply During Summer Months

    This time of year can be hard on ice machines if proper care and maintenance isn’t undertaken.

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    Manufacturers recommend ice machines be deep cleaned by a technician a minimum of twice per year.

    When the weather outside heats up, temperatures in the kitchens of restaurants, bars, and eateries can also rise. The hotter environment makes it difficult for commercial ice machines to produce as much ice. This added stress on the machine can cause it to break down or under-produce, leaving business owners and managers without ice for their customers—precisely when customers most desire cool drinks. Maintain ice production all summer long by preparing the ice maker ahead of time and following the instructions below for keeping the unit healthy in the heat.

    Keep the Room Cool

    Ice makers function best in ambient room temperatures between 45 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature around the machine exceeds 90 degrees, ice production slows. Above a certain temperature (usually 100 degrees), ice production can stop altogether. Not only that but hot ambient temps can cause ice in the bin to melt faster, leaving even less ice to meet customer demand!

    It’s important to note that even when the overall kitchen temperature is in the optimal range, the air around the ice maker is already hotter. Hot air is pushed out of the unit as part of its ice-making process. Without proper ventilation of this hot air or with added hot ambient temperatures, a considerably hotter microclimate may form around the ice maker. At this point, the machine’s ice production decreases and can stop.

    Remedy this by decreasing the temperature in the room. If the air conditioning unit cannot keep temperatures below 90 degrees, another option is to move the ice maker to a cooler room. This is obviously laborious, and the new spot must meet the electrical and water requirements for the ice maker. This is why it's so important to install the ice maker in a cool, well-ventilated room and not close to any other heat producing appliances, grills, or ovens.

    Check Water Temps

    Ice machines also function best with an optimal water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As incoming water heats up, the ice maker must work harder to produce ice. Expect a lower volume of ice for every degree above 50. If water temperatures increase too much, the ice maker could shut down.

    Most water lines are insulated by virtue of being buried underground, so a swing in water temperature is less common than room temps. However, some water lines run through walls or the roof, which potentially exposes them to summer heat. In extreme summer temps, Easy Ice technicians have recorded incoming water temperatures as high as 140 degrees.

    Check incoming water temperatures. If they significantly exceed 50 degrees, contact your local plumber for other water supply options.

    Clear the Space

    Another important factor of optimal ice machine function, especially in summer months, is air flow. Commercial ice makers need open space of at least one foot on all sides. Without this, the hot air dispelled by the ice maker has nowhere to go and can be sucked back in by the unit.

    Air flow can be blocked when the ice maker is installed in a cubby or closet, or when items are leaned against or stacked on top of the ice maker. Clear a space around the ice maker and keep it clear year-round.

    Clean It Up

    Unsurprisingly, ice makers function best when they are clean. When dust, dirt, and grease build up on vital ice machine components, they can act as insulation that holds in heat. This obviously exacerbates any heat issues caused by summer temps.

    Manufacturers recommend ice machines be deep cleaned by a technician a minimum of twice per year. Try to schedule one of these biannual cleans in the spring, so the ice machine is descaled, cleaned, disinfected, sanitized, and running in peak shape going into the heat of summertime.

    Regular cleaning and maintenance should be performed such as cleaning the air filter, water filter (especially important in cities with hard water), and the condenser to help an ice machine work efficiently through the warm season.

    Adhere to Regular Maintenance

    At Easy Ice, we often double the expected lifespan of our ice makers. One reason for this is our dedication to preventive maintenance on every ice machine. We follow all recommendations for regular maintenance, and our machines reward us by lasting up to 10 years longer than the average ice maker.

    All business owners can increase the value of the capital they spent on their ice machine by having regular maintenance services performed on the unit.

    Keep Summer Cool for Customers

    The summer months can be hard on ice machines if proper care and maintenance isn’t undertaken. Lack of ice can be even harder on business profits when customers come in expecting an iced beverage and don’t get one. Engage in proper ice machine care before and during summer to ensure your ice supply stays high and stress stays low as temps rise.

    John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, New York City, and Los Angeles. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to nearly 30,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit EasyIce.com.