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How to choose the right ice maker for you?

How to choose the right ice maker for you?

Why Buy an Ice Maker?

An icy beverage on a hot day is one of life's simplest pleasures. It may come as a surprise, and it's also a relatively new luxury. Now that we don't have to wait for ice shipments from the Arctic, it's easy to take the ice for granted. That is until our stockpile runs dry. If you've ever hosted a cocktail party, you know how important ice can be. Once your supply dwindles, even freezers equipped with ice makers are unlikely to keep pace with demand. Ice trays won't be much help either as they generally take hours to freeze a small batch.

ice maker

With an ice maker, you can have a new batch of ice in minutes rather than hours. Many even include storage bins, ensuring a surplus of ice for any occasion. If you've ever encountered an ice shortage at one of your gatherings, or you find yourself buying bags of ice with any regularity, buying an ice maker is a perfect solution. And if you're a connoisseur of clear/gourmet ice (yes, that's a thing), you already know precisely how important a quality ice machine can be. Whether you're after quantity, quality, or both, this Ice Maker Buying Guide will help you make sense of the world of ice makers. Read on to learn how to select the best ice maker for your specific needs.

Before You Buy

If you've never owned an ice machine, it's important to understand the benefits as well as the pain points of bringing one into your home. Since you've found your way to this guide, there's a good chance you already understand that the quality of ice from a high-quality ice maker can greatly exceed that of the ice from your freezer. However, it's important to understand that there are two distinct styles of stand- alone ice makers: Traditional & Clear/Gourmet Ice.
Traditional ice makers work almost identically to the ice maker in any normal freezer. The only real difference is the shape of the ice. Clear ice makers, on the other hand, produce cleaner, better-tasting, gourmet ice. If all you care about is quantity, a traditional ice maker will suffice. If quality is what you're after, you'll need a clear ice maker.
The difference in quality is a result of the freezing process. Traditional ice makers work off the same basic principle as an ice cube tray. First, they fill a mold with water. Then, they freeze the stationary water. When the ice has fully formed, a sensor signals the machine to release the ice into the storage bin. A second sensor monitors the storage, ceasing ice production once the container is full.
Clear ice makers freeze water by running a slow, steady stream of water over a surface that's been chilled to precisely 32°F. This forms the ice cube from the inside out, growing the cube to the ideal size much like the way a snowball grows as it rolls down a hill. And because only pure water freezes at exactly this temperature, gravity works to remove the impurities which are then funneled or pumped out to a drain.
Once the clear ice reaches the appropriate size it's released into a storage bin that typically does not have its own cooling unit. Without a cooling unit in the in the storage bin, the ice slowly melts. So to keep the container full, clear ice makers never stop making ice. The sporadic sounds of new batches of ice tumbling into the storage bin and the pump clicking on and off to move melted water to the drain can be distracting to some people. Because of this, you may not want to install a clear ice maker in a living or entertainment room if you're sensitive to noise.
It's also important to understand that clear ice makers need to be cleaned at least once every 3-6 months. The procedure for specific models is usually printed on the inside door of the machine and is almost always available online and in the instruction manual. Typically, the process involves removing all of the ice from the bin, then running a special cleaning solution through the machine. While cleaning an ice maker isn't especially difficult, it does take time. As long as you know what to expect, owning an ice machine is a great way to improve the quality of your favorite drinks.

ice maker countertop

Types of Ice Makers

Ice makers are categorized by the locations in which they can be installed. Although the names of the various types of ice makers give you a good sense of where they'll fit, it's helpful to see the differences spelled out:

Built-In Ice Makers / Undercounter Ice Machines

    Generally 25 - 35" tall, 12 - 18" wide, and 23 - 25" deep
    Designed to fit flush with the surrounding cabinets under a countertop.
    Finished front panel or no panel at all, allowing you to add a custom panel
    Requires a water line
    Produces 20 - 100+ lbs of ice over 24 hours
    Includes insulated collection bucket to store 20 - 50 lbs of ice
    Front Venting

Freestanding Ice Makers

    Similar in size and shape to built-in models
    Designed to fit anywhere
    Finished front, rear, and side panels
    Requires a water line
    Produces 20 - 100+ lbs of ice over 24 hours
    Includes insulated collection bucket to store 20 - 50 lbs of ice
    Front or rear venting

Countertop and Portable Ice Makers

    Roughly the size of a toaster or breadmaker
    Designed to rest on a countertop
    Fully finished look
    Does not require a water line—water must be added manually
    Some models include collection bucket to store 2 -5 lbs of ice, many do not
    Produces 10 - 30 lbs of ice over 24 hrs
    Venting depends on the model, often side or rear

For folks interested in adding an ice maker to an outdoor kitchen or bar area, look for Outdoor Ice Makers. These models are nearly identical to freestanding and built-in models in terms of size, shape, and features. However, they're built with components that can withstand the stresses of the elements. Those looking to make as much ice as possible will want a Commercial Ice Maker. These appliances, commonly found in restaurants and hotels, are significantly larger than the other devices, producing and storing hundreds of pounds of ice every day.



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