Summer Survival Guide for Your Commercial Ice Machine


A commercial ice machine is one of the most essential elements of any restaurant or foodservice business. However, most operators don’t pay much attention to it unless something’s wrong. As the weather heats up, ice machines will have to work harder as more customers need cold drinks. So, operators must take action to ensure the machine can handle the extra demand. Fortunately, with some proactive measures, this process is relatively easy.

How Weather Affects Restaurants

Summer is an excellent time for restaurants because bright, cheerful weather creates bright, cheerful customers. When the weather is nice and not too hot, more people are out and about, meaning they’re more likely to stop somewhere for lunch or dinner.

However, hotter temps can also put a lot of strain on foodservice equipment, including commercial ice machines. Since workers will be opening and closing the door more often, the compressor has to work constantly to produce more ice and maintain the right internal temperature.

Overall, while summer is good for business, it’s bad for ice machines.

How to Care For Commercial Ice Machines During the Summer

If an operator wants to avoid an expensive repair bill (and the loss of income from having a broken ice machine), they can follow these simple steps. It’s also imperative to follow them consistently and regularly so wear and tear don’t add up too much. These steps are even more crucial if the ice machine produces unique shapes for cocktails and other beverages.

1. Clean the Exterior

Dust and debris can collect on an ice machine, especially if it’s outside. Cleaning the exterior is important because it ensures that dust won’t blow into the machine and contaminate the ice. Also, cleaning the intake and exhaust ports will help the compressor work more efficiently.

2. Check the Water Supply

If the water supply is low, the ice machine works harder, meaning it could break down faster. On hot days, the water supply will run out much faster, so employees must check it more often than usual.

3. Inspect Important Elements

The four primary elements of a modern ice machine are the compressor, the condenser, the expansion valve, and the evaporator. While these components may not always be visible without opening the machine, they will make noises if they’re not working correctly.

Similarly, employees should check elements like the cleanliness of the ice bin, the temperature of the machine, and the quality of the ice coming out of it.

4. Clean the Condenser Coil

The condenser is where the refrigerant cools down before it turns water into ice, so if this piece is dirty, it won’t allow as much heat to escape. This coil should be on the back of the ice machine and behind a vent. Clean condensers and compressors ensure a longer-lasting ice machine that delivers consistent results.

5. Verify Proper Ventilation

Refrigerant can generate a lot of heat as it passes through the system repeatedly, which is why there’s a vent for hot air to come out. If the vent is blocked, that air will return to the machine, forcing it to work harder.

6. Sanitize the Ice Bin

Dirty and moldy ice is a huge problem for many restaurants, as a lot of operations don’t empty and sanitize their ice machines often. However, this mold could lead to customer illness and huge legal headaches for the business. Realistically, a commercial ice machine doesn’t need to be sanitized more than a few times per year, but workers should do it before summer hits and monitor the bin for mildew throughout the season.

7. Test the Harvest Cycle

Ice machines use sensors to know when to make more ice. So, before a lunch or dinner rush hits, employees should test the harvest cycle to ensure that the sensors are working correctly. Otherwise, the machine may lag behind demand, meaning there could be a period of no ice until it refills.

8. Schedule Routine Maintenance

Because commercial ice machines are always working, they need annual inspections and routine maintenance. Scheduling these appointments before the busy season ensures that a repair technician can fix any problem before it disrupts a restaurant’s operations.