It might not seem like it, but always having ice readily available can be a very convenient thing that some may not even know they need. Let’s think about this scenario: you’re hosting a party and everyone is enjoying themselves. Before you know it, you’ve run out of ice and you have to make another trip to the store. It’s not the biggest problem in the world, but it’s a hassle that you shouldn’t have to deal with.
Introducing an ice maker into your life can help to solve those inconvenient scenarios where you have to either go to the store for more ice or make your own by filling those annoying ice trays. With an ice maker, you can have ice ready and waiting for you whenever you need it; try topping that level of convenience.
The trick can be determining not only how big of an ice maker that you need to buy, but the kind of ice maker that will do what you want it to do. Do you want something that is smaller and inexpensive that can make ice for your drinks, day to day, or are you looking to generate clean, cool, gourmet ice cubes that will catch the eye?
No matter what you decide, adding an ice maker to your life should be an easy choice to make. Especially in the summer months, having an ice maker at your side can make a huge difference in the way that you enjoy a wide variety of things.
Here is your guide for determining what kind of ice maker that you might want to purchase and bring that cool, crisp enjoyment into your life.
What is an ice maker, exactly?
An ice maker is a well-engineered and simple device. Your standard ice maker will be comprised of three main components: a heating unit, an electric motor that has a cooling unit, and the ice tray. There are certainly other features that can be involved in an ice maker, but there isn’t one that won’t have one of these items in it.
Each ice maker also requires a supply of water to work. After all, if there is no water, there is nothing to freeze and there will be no ice cubes. You can either connect a water line to the ice maker or you have to fill your ice maker with the water that it needs manually. The transparency of the ice will depend on the water that you use; consider using filtered water to get clearer, more transparent ice.
When it comes time for the machine to make ice, that clean water will be pumped into the ice tray element. Once the water reaches the right level, the cooling unit will kick on and work to freeze the ice. Every ice maker has a built-in thermostat so they will automatically know when to turn on and when to turn off.
Once the water freezes in the ice tray, it is time for the heating unit to come into play. The heating unit will heat the base of the ice tray so that there are no giant clumps of ice for you to chip away at. It will separate that ice and create cubes of different sizes.
Finally, the ice will fall into the ice bin where it is ready to be used at any time. Scoop it out by hand to fill your glass or use the scooper to serve ice to guests at a party. That’s how each ice maker works; a pretty simple process that can make your life way more convenient.
An ice maker is not a freezer
One thing to keep in mind is that an ice maker is designed to create ice, not to store the ice. There is a wide array of ice makers that do not include a cold storage unit; this means that the ice bin is meant to be a temporary solution and that the ice could melt at some point.
What you would want for the storage of ice is a freezer. If you are looking for a cheap ice maker, know ahead of time that it will not include a large storage area for your ice; you have to use it in relatively short order or it will melt. That’s just how it works.
So, why buy an ice maker then?
Buying a cheaper, portable ice maker is still very convenient and you will find yourself taking advantage of its’ benefits. Even though you can’t store a huge amount of ice in a portable ice maker, you will still want to use it frequently.
And with the portable feature, you can even bring it to a multitude of places and events. Maybe you’re setting up a break room in your office. Investing in a compact ice maker is a great way to ensure that there is ice available at all times for your employees.
Or, for example, you could find yourself in a situation where you are going camping. Fresh ice could never be available unless you bring an ice maker along for the ride. Because they are portable, they are small and easy to bring with you and can give you easily accessible ice even in a place where ice is not available.
The absolute perfect place to have a portable ice maker would be at a tailgate party. Think about it: a tailgate party is a place to enjoy food and drink before the big game and what better way to do so than to have an ice maker readily available? You can keep the cold drinks flowing with no issue and everyone will continue to have a great time as a result.
Simply put, there is no situation where you couldn’t implement an ice maker and improve the situation. A portable ice maker is a great investment to make and one that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get.
Ice maker types
Most people will want a countertop or portable ice maker, but there are a couple other options. If you already know what type you want, you can skip ahead and read about more of the features that make up a good ice maker. However, if you have no idea what different types of ice makers are out there, here are a few different types to keep in mind.
Modular ice makers specialize in making ice in large volumes. There are modular units that can make up to a thousand pounds per day. You would find this type of ice maker in larger restaurants and in hotels; they are the massive, often stainless steel, hunks of metal that you have seen before.
This is not something you would need for your home, generally speaking. They also carry a hefty price tag with them because of their ability to produce so much ice. These units also need a dedicated water line to continuously feed them water throughout the day.
Under the counter
These are meant to stay out of sight, but not out of mind. You might find these under a kitchen counter or a bar, in particular. These under-the-counter options can also produce high volumes of ice; in the 300-400 pounds per day range.
And like the modular option, these are often very expensive and need to connect to a water line to work like they’re supposed to. If you throw a lot of parties or use a massive amount of ice, this would be a great ice maker to add. But if it is just you and maybe a few other people, this might be something of an overkill to have in your home or home bar.
Countertop ice makers
This is likely the kind of ice maker that will appeal to the vast majority of prospective customers. They are compact, small units that are about half the size or less of your average under-the-counter unit. Not only that, you can find a pretty good quality countertop ice maker for less than $200, a substantial decrease from the aforementioned models.
Your average ice maker can produce in the range of 20 to 80 pounds of ice per day; it would depend on just how much ice you are looking to produce in a given day based on your usage. For minimal usage, stick with the smaller ice makers so that you aren’t taking up a huge amount of space on your countertop.
Portable ice makers
This is by far the most versatile option that you can bring into your home. Whether you want to position it on your countertop or move it outside to bring the party into the sun, you can take this ice maker with you anywhere you want to have ice readily available.
These are also the cheapest models that you can get; generally speaking, you can find them for under $100. It should also be noted that your portable ice makers will also generate the least amount of ice among all of the different types. Still, there are portable ice makers that can generate as much as 60 pounds of ice per day.
The general idea here is that you are getting convenience and portability over every other factor of an ice maker. Being able to bring it with you is a huge selling point and you can do just that with portable ice makers.
Personal Ice makers
This is something of a subset of the portable ice makers. These are meant to be around the size of a handheld and can be rechargeable using a smaller charger. These are meant for situations like camping and boating, where you would want ice production but you don’t want to take a lot of space in the area where you will use it.
Having one of these is really only recommended if you are someone who is at the campsite or on the boat with regularity; a portable ice maker would probably make for better usage for the more infrequent visits and usage. Again, space is the key here.
Know your ice production
One of the keys to ensuring that you get the right sized ice maker is to have a firm understanding of just how much ice you would like to produce. If you plan on throwing parties, you might want to know how big an ice maker you will need to accommodate everyone comfortably. If you only plan to use it for yourself and a couple of others, this would greatly affect your decision as well.
The fact of the matter is that ice makers cover a pretty huge range of production options and that you need to do your homework before making your purchase. There are smaller models that will make enough to fill a glass while there are others that will put out enough ice to fill a large bin.
There are two things that you need to ask about a potential ice maker: how fast does it produce the ice and how much ice can it make in a day? The first can be measured in the number of minutes to the first serving and the second can be measured in pounds.
Generally speaking, you might not want to go under 20 pounds of ice production in a day. When a company tells you what their ice maker is capable of producing, that is in 24 hours of continuous production, something you likely will not be doing.
You also want to consider the speed that the machine creates the ice. If you find one that takes more than 10 minutes for a single batch of ice, you’ve found one of the slower models out there. While ice makers won’t pump out ice in a minute, they will work pretty fast overall. Look into the different speeds for the models that you might find interest in.
While this might not be the most important factor to take into consideration, you definitely want to make sure that your new ice maker fits in with the design motif of your kitchen. You can usually find any ice maker in stainless steel as that is one of the go-to styles out there. Stainless steel will go with just about any kitchen, making it one of the most versatile materials available.
Of course, you can find them in black, white, silver, or a wide array of colors that will fit whatever specific design that you might have going on. Additionally, there are two basic style types: boxy or smooth.
Boxy ice makers are generally meant to be placed under a cabinet or in their groves. The more fluid ones are meant for your countertops. Understanding the different styles can make it a bit clearer and narrow down your search to a more specific type of ice maker.
A pretty good rule of thumb with anything you buy is that it shouldn’t be super difficult to use. This is especially true for an ice maker where you are quite literally just looking to make ice. Most of the options that you want will entail a timer, the ability to turn it on and off, and the ability to select your ice.
You also want to make sure that your ice maker is easy to clean. And, yes, you need to clean it from time to time because you can get some gross things in there if you let it build up over time. Having an ice maker that is easy to clean is a must when choosing an ice maker.
Last of all, when it comes to simplicity, it should be easy to install. You don’t want some convoluted, complicated installation process. It should be as simple as plugging the device into an outlet and that being the end of it. Look for something simplistic so that you can get down to making ice without needing a PhD to get it done.
What good is it to buy an ice maker if it breaks down after a few weeks? When choosing an ice maker, you want to make sure that it will stand up to frequent usage without falling apart. Durable ice makers also generally tend to have pretty good customer support. Obviously, these two things do not have to go hand-in-hand, but they often do.
This is why going for the cheapest option is not the best choice to make. The old saying is that you get what you pay for and if you pay for a cheap device with no customer support, you will likely need a new one in pretty short order.
Factors to consider when you are buying an ice maker
Because not all ice makers are created equally, there are a number of different factors that you would want to keep in mind before purchasing an ice maker. Don’t go with the cheapest one just because it’s cheap, and don’t assume that you are paying for quality when you spend a lot of money.
There are three important factors to keep in mind when buying a portable ice maker to ensure that you are not only getting the right amount of value but that you are getting all the features that you want. Don’t settle for an ice maker you don’t want simply because you feel like you have to.
This is likely the most important thing for the vast majority of consumers. An ice maker, regardless of how much you use it, is not a necessity. It is a luxury item to make your life convenient that most could live without.
For that reason, it might be more important for you to find a great deal when looking for an ice maker than it would be to find the one with the most available features. The good thing is that you can get a pretty basic, small portable ice maker for around $100. That might seem like a lot until you consider that the higher-capacity and more efficient ice makers out there can run you around $300.
And that’s not even considering a built-in ice maker or a specialized under the counter version. Those are much more comprehensive and heavy duty and will run you in the thousands of dollars. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you are willing to spend on an ice maker and focus on staying in that range.
Do a little bit of homework when buying an ice maker. The prices are not universal; you might be able to find a better deal through one vendor than you would with another. For instance, you might be able to find a better deal through an online retailer like Amazon than you would in-store.
This is perhaps just as important a factor to take into consideration as the price. Depending on where you want to implement it, the size of the ice maker could make a massive difference. For instance, if you plan to put the ice maker that you purchase on your countertop, you wouldn’t want to buy a huge unit that will take up all sorts of space; you would want a more compact option.
It is important to take measurements of the area that you would like to put the ice maker so that you know what kind of space you are dealing with. Don’t make assumptions; this is the quickest way to make a purchase that doesn’t fit with the room you have available and will leave you feeling frustrated.
There is one thing that most don’t consider when purchasing an ice maker and that is the breathing room for the machine. As a good rule of thumb, you should allow at least one inch of clearance on all sides of a countertop ice maker to make sure that it gets the most oxygen circulation.
For those under-the-counter or built-in options, you want to make sure that you give a little bit more clearance. There are some larger units that might need a special ventilation duct; check the model’s installation guide before you buy to make sure that you have the necessary space to accommodate the requirements.