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Commercial Ice Machines: Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled; What’s the Difference?

Posted by on 5/27/2015

It seems as though one of the more frequently asked questions around the sales office is, “What’s the difference between air-cooled & water-cooled?”… Well I’m here to give you that answer.  While it may seem as thought the answer is self explanatory most people do not understand the difference or the pros & cons of each.

Air-cooled commercial ice machines have a electric fan that assists in the removal of heat produced by the mechanical refrigeration components.  Water-cooled commercial ice machines use water to cool the mechanical refrigeration by circulating the cool water around the components.  Water-cooled machines use significantly more water than air-cooled machines, about 100 gallons per 100-lbs of ice produced, and single-pass (use and dump) systems have been banned in many cities in the US.

Air-cooled ice machines are far more popular these days mainly because they are more energy efficient than the water-cooled counterparts and have a lower cost of operation.  A lot of the air-cooled commercial ice machines on the market today are adorned with the Energy Star label, for those not familiar with the Energy Star label it is the trusted, government-backed (EPA) symbol for energy efficiency helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.  One downside to the self contained air-cooled ice machine is the warm air that is emitted into the room in which it is located, this typically isn’t a problem and in most applications you will never notice the warm air coming from the ice machine.  If you want to alleviate this “problem” you can use a remote air-cooled ice machine, this type of machine removes the condensing unit from the ice machine head and remotely locates it outside your building where the warm air will be discharged.  While not as popular or energy efficient, water-cooled ice machines do have their place and that place is anywhere the ambient air temperature will be above 75°F.  If the location you will be installing your commercial ice machine is not air-conditioned (i.e. outside) then a water-cooled machine may be the better choice.  The reason for this being that if the ambient air is above 75°F the air-cooled machine will have a hard time cooling the refrigeration components there by putting a strain on the system which in turns decreases the machines production and increase wear and tear.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion but if you are still not certain about the type of machine you need or have questions regarding commercial ice machines feel free to contact the friendly and knowledgeable staff at J.E.S. Restaurant Equipment and we’ll be happy to help you.  Thanks for reading and remember…

Now Ya Cookin’


J.E.S. Restaurant Equipment

Healthcare Foodservice Supplies / Catering Equipment / Commercial Sinks

Commercial Refrigeration / Commercial Ovens & Ranges / Bar Supplies

Greenwood, SC


Date 6/1/2017
What about water cooled unit in Arizona - in your article you said if temp is 75 degrees - that water cooled is the best - obviously here the outside temp easily 110 every day with 95 at night - is water cooled still the best bet for an outdoor machine. It is housed in a halfway house - shaded area on a golf course? We currently have an air cooled and it struggles to say the least - just wondering if a water cooled will still struggle in 100+ temps because the water will also be hot?? Help!
JES Restaurant Equipment ~
Date 6/5/2017
Ann - Absolutely. If the environment is 75 degrees and above the water cooled unit will perform the best and give you the most production and performance out of your unit. :-)
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