an Ice Maker

How does an Ice Maker Work?

By definition, an ice maker is a device that is used to make ice. An ice maker may be embedded inside a freezer or a refrigerator or might stand alone as an independent appliance.

An ice maker may also be referred to as an ice generator or an ice machine. In most cases when people use these terms, they often are referring to the standalone appliance. Ice makers are especially important in hotter climates as the ice they make is used to keep drinks and food cool.

How an ice maker works

An ice maker works in the same principle your refrigerator. They all follow a cycle referred to as the refrigeration cycle. Inside the ice maker, there are four main components that play part in the preparation of ice. These are the evaporator, condenser, compressor and the throttle valve.

The compressor compresses(yes) vapor and creates high pressure vapor which is then piped to the condenser which converts the vapor to liquid(condensation) still at high pressure. The high pressure liquid is then released out through the throttle valve where it becomes low pressure liquid.

The liquid proceeds to the evaporator and after a heat exchange process, ice is created. This is one cycle and it happens every time your ice maker has to make ice. Although this process is automated and most of the time we do not care that it is there, it is still interesting to know how it is done and essentially how ice is created.

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How to Clean your Ice Maker

An ice maker needs regular cleaning as the rest of the other important appliances since ice technically is food. Most people are guilty of not cleaning their ice makers as often as they should. This appliance needs as much cleaning. A dirty ice maker often produces an odor, is slow and produces incomplete cubes.

A dirty ice maker is also more likely to break down and cost you in hefty repairs in the long run. Ice maker cleaning can be sometimes specific to the manufactures instructions and for that reason it is important to look at the manufactures guide before embarking on your personal cleaning. However, there is a general guide as to how to go about cleaning your ice maker generally.


  • First, switch off the ice maker at the end of the cycle and allow the ice to completely melt.
  • At this stage, press the clean button which releases water down the drain. The water flows to the trough which will indicate on refilling so that you can add cleaning chemicals.
  • Add the recommended amount of ice machine cleaner into the troughs.
  • At this point, the ice maker will commence a clean cycle that should typically take about 20 minutes.
  • Disconnect the ice maker from the power completely after the cycle.
  • Depending on the type of ice maker you have, remove the specific internal components for cleaning at this stage.
  • Create a solution of water and cleaner. The water works best if warmed.
  • Use this solution to clean the internal components that you previously removed as well as the bin, dispenser and base.
  • You can blow compressed air through the condenser to remove dirt. This step can be done after cleaning the internals of the ice maker but it is very important and should always be done.
  • Clean all the remaining areas with a brush.
  • Lastly, rinse all parts with water while being keen not to leave any cleaner residue behind.

Most people choose their ice makers based on where they want to use them. Most people either have to use them commercially e.g. in a bar or at home. There are a few options out there when it comes to ice makers with distinctions arising from their capacity and their mounting style. The most common types of ice makers you can buy today include:

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Types of Ice Makers

1. Built in ice makers

How an ice maker works - Built in ice makers

These types of ice makers are sometimes referred to as under counter ice makers. They are often installed between cabinets in the house. They are expensive to install as the installation has to be done by a professional.

These types of ice makers also need a permanent water and drain line (for some models). Reliability is often dependent on the specific model of ice makers but this type of ice makers does tend to last long as they are not moved around.


  • Handle large capacities of ice
  • Fit flush in cabinets for a cleaner look


  • Expensive to install

2. Portable ice makers

2. Portable ice makers

Portable ice makers are smaller in size and are designed to be moved around. They are designed to be placed on your countertop for quick and easy ice making. They are quick and are mostly used to make ice around the house because they can be carried around.

Another advantage this types of ice makers have is that they can be brought along on a camping trip or a road trip ensuring that you have that constant supply of ice even outside the confines of home. Most of these ice makers do not freeze the ice and you need to use it before it melts.


  • Portable
  • Quick in operation


  • Limited ice capacity

3. Self-contained ice makers

How an ice maker works- Self-contained ice makers

These are designed to make and store the ice in the same compact appliance. They are nice on space and low on power consumption. Additionally, they are also very practical as they fit right in. They however feature a smaller ice production capacity and may not be suitable for large ice quantity needs.


  • Space saving


  • Limited ice capacity

4. Modular ice makers

Modular ice makers

Modular ice makers are the best option for enterprises that need huge amounts of ice. They tirelessly deliver large amounts of ice without fail and are best suited for restaurants and bars.

It is important to note that these types of icemakers need a separate unit for ice collection and so you might need to invest in an ice storage bin. They are heavy on power consumption and they are a huge unit in size.


  • Large ice quantities production


  • Heavy power consumption

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