buying an ice machine

Ask the Experts: What’s the Difference Between Air-Cooled and Water-Cooled Ice Machines?

One of the biggest components of any ice machine is the condenser. You'll have to choose between Air-Cooled and Water-Cooled ice machines. Which is best?


When it comes to choosing the best commercial ice machine for your business, there’s a lot to consider. From ice size to production volume, your ice machine must have all of the features and capabilities you need for success. Not only that, you want to maximize value while minimizing cost. 

One of the most crucial components of any ice machine is the condenser. The condenser’s job is to control superheated refrigerant vapor from the compressor and channel it into a high-pressure liquid. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss two different types of condensers for commercial ice machines: air-cooled and water-cooled.

Air Cooled or Water Cooled: What's The Difference?

Air-Cooled Ice Machines

HOW THEY WORK: Air-cooled condensers utilize vents and fans to suck in surrounding air. Then, the air is distributed around hot condenser coils. Next, the heat travels through circulating air that is finally emitted from the ice machine cabinet. 

Advantages of an Air-Cooled Ice Machine

  • Easy installation. Air-cooled ice machines are simple and easy to install. Rather than tangling with waterlines, these only require fans and vents.
  • Cost-effective. Straightforward installation means reduced installation cost.
  • Friendly utility bill. Compared to its brother, the water-cooled ice machine, air-cooled ice machines have lower utility costs since they require much less water usage.

Disadvantages of an Air-Cooled Ice Machine

  • Needs a lot of space. All that air needs somewhere to go.To operate in optimal conditions, the machine needs room to breathe above, behind, and all around it. 
  • Cleanliness is critical. “My body is like a microchip, and the flu is like a grain of sand. It could literally shut down my whole system.” — Chris Trager, Parks and Rec. The same applies to your air-cooled ice machine; keep it dust-free so it stays healthy!

  • Hot environments aren’t cool. Exhaust air from your ice machine can lead to an even hotter environment. This can lead to a higher utility bill.

Water-Cooled Ice Machines

HOW THEY WORK: A waterline separate from the water used to make ice moves water into the ice machine’s cabinet. The water is dispersed through the system, eradicates heat, and then is drained from the ice machine. As you may guess, this requires quite a bit of water.

Advantages of a Water-Cooled Ice Machine

  • Quiet. No fans mean less noise. Always a plus.

  • Ideal for hot environments. Water-cooled ice machines work best in environments that reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more since they don’t add to the heat.
  • Use less electricity. Although your water bill will be higher, your electricity will be much lower compared to an air-cooled ice machine.

Disadvantages of a Water-Cooled Ice Machine

  • Water wastage. Water-cooled ice machines empty gallons of wastewater down the drain. (However, you can look at obtaining a loop water cooling system.) This wastes money and hurts the environment.

  • More long-term costs. Installation for a separate waterline is going to have a steeper price. In addition, reliance on water means more costs, such as an expensive water bill.

  • Regulations. Water-cooled ice machines have restrictions in different areas of the country. Before installing, be informed about your local laws.

The Experts Weigh In: Which Ice Machine Is Right For You?

So, which commercial ice machine should you get: one with an air-cooled or water-cooled condenser unit? Here’s what we suggest:

The water-cooled ice machine is for you if:

  • You have a loop water cooling system.
  • You have minimal space.
  • Your work environment regularly exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The air-cooled ice machine is for you if:

  • You want to cut down on costs.
  • You can control your ice machine’s environment.
  • You have the space necessary to operate your ice machine.

Still not sure?  Talk with a tech today


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