How Do Air Cooled Ice Machines Compare to Water Cooled Ice Machines?


The condenser is a necessary part of any refrigeration system. It assists in removing heat from the refrigerant for continuous cooling. When it comes to commercial ice machines, there are three different condenser types: air-cooled, water-cooled and remote-cooled condensers. The condenser you need depends on where your establishment is located and the ice-production capacity of your machine.

Air-Cooled Ice Machines

With air-cooled ice machines, air is circulated over the condenser to draw heat off of the refrigeration lines. The air is moved via fans and air vents.


  • Air-cooled machines are easy to install.
  • These units are typically less expensive than water-cooled and remote-cooled condensers.
  • They utilize much less water in comparison to water-cooled units, saving money on utility costs.

Ideal Application

  • Most commercial kitchens will be able to use air-cooled ice machines.

Additional Considerations

  • Clearance for airflow is required on the top, sides and back of all air-cooled ice machines. Depending on the manufacturer and where the air vents are located, as little as a few inches or as much as several feet may be required.
  • The air filters and air vents need to be cleaned or replaced regularly so the machine can breathe properly.
  • The cooling fan can become noisy during operation, and the exhaust air can add extra heat to a hot kitchen.

Types of Air-Cooled Ice Makers

Remote Ice Machine Condensers

Remote ice machine condensers are essentially air-cooled condensers that are placed in a remote location. These are perfect for large operations like grocery stores or those where the kitchen or ice-production area is sensitive to excessive noise.

Water-Cooled Ice Machines

Water-cooled ice machines have two separate water lines; one feeds the ice-making compartment, the other runs along the condenser to remove heat from the refrigerant.


  • Water-cooled machines are not affected by ambient air temperature.
  • This type of condenser uses less electricity than air-cooled condensers.
  • With no condenser fan, water-cooled machines operate fairly quietly.

Ideal Application

  • Water-cooled ice machines are ideal for hot, humid climates where temperatures may otherwise adversely affect the ice machine’s cooling properties.
  • Water-cooled ice machines are more practical for operations located in areas with low water utility costs, since they utilize a great deal of water to operate.

Additional Considerations

  • A separate water line is required for installation.
  • The cooling water is sent directly down the drain, so hundreds of gallons of water are drained every day; this can take a toll on utility costs.
  • Municipalities that have water-usage restrictions do not allow businesses to install water-cooled ice machines.

Types of Water-Cooled Ice Makers

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1 Comment

  1. I didn’t know that there where different types of ice machines. I can see how a water-cooled machine operating quietly would be a benefit. Is there any difference in the ease of repairs? If it ever breaks down, I would prefer the machine that is easier to fix.

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