50 – 75% of ice machine service calls are water-related

50 – 75% of ice machine service calls are water-related

It may seem straightforward, but foodservice and hospitality operations spend a lot of time thinking about water, ice and their ice-making equipment.  Water chemistry can be complex but recommending the best water treatment solution shouldn’t be.

It’s important to understand how water quality affects ice quality, how it impacts equipment performance and why both are critical to address together.

Product quality: With ice, water quality problems have nowhere to hide.  Sulfur, iron, chlorine and other contaminants lend unpleasant tastes and odours to ice, and by extension, the beverages that ice is used in.  Particulates contribute to inconsistent formation and cloudy, unappealing ice.

Equipment performance: Poor quality water can increase maintenance downtime and shorten the life of an ice machine, both of which are added expenses in an industry with thin margins to begin with.  Properly treated water reduces scale buildup and helps reduce corrosion.

Water’s characteristics & common contaminants

Ice is 100% water, but water itself isn’t just H2o.  Water is a natural solvent, carrying away particles of whatever it encounters along the way.  It’s these particles, chemicals and contaminants that can impact ice quality, ice consistency and equipment performance.

Total dissolved solids (TDS): A combined measure of all organic and inorganic substances dissolved in water, including minerals, salts, metals and other particulates.  High TDS levels cause cloudy ice and unpleasant tastes.

Hard minerals: The most common and expensive water related problem with ice makers is limescale buildup made up of dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. These hard minerals, along with other dissolved solids, are forced out of solution during the freezing process and create a rock-like layer of scale that reduces performance and increases maintenance and downtime.

Particulates: Fine sediment, rust and other particles provide a catalyst for scale buildup and wear and tear on equipment.

Chlorine: While added chlorine makes water safe to drink, it also contributes to corrosion in ice equipment and can give ice an offensive taste & odour.

Iron: In addition to giving water an unpleasant metallic taste, iron in water used in ice machines is a recipe for corrosion.

Alkalinity: Alkalinity is water’s capacity to neutralize acid.  High alkalinity can indicate an increased potential for hardness minerals to form scale, low alkalinity can indicate an increased potential for corrosion.

pH: Water’s balance of acid and alkaline substances can be an indication of whether it will be scale-forming (high pH) or corrosive (low pH).

Chlorides: Even at low levels, chloride ions can penetrate the passive film on stainless steel and trigger corrosion.

Slime: As ice equipment draws in air, naturally occurring yeast and mold comes with it.  This slime mix can quickly expand, causing loss of performance, decreased efficiency, equipment malfunction and contamination.

Optimal Water Quality for Ice Formation

Without question, the chemical and physical properties of water have a significant impact on ice quality and ice making equipment.  Optimal water quality can drastically reduce water related problems and support years of consistent equipment performance.

For the sake of simplicity, below are the primary optimal parameters for maximizing ice quality and reducing water related equipment problems:

Hardness – <85 ppm

Alkalinity – <150 ppm

Chlorine – <0.05 ppm

Iron – <0.25 ppm

pH – 6.8 to 7.4

Chlorides – 80 ppm

TDS – 70 to 200 ppm

(note: these are only general guidelines. For recommendations and requirements, please refer to equipment manual provided by the manufacturer).

Finding the Right Treatment

Different filtration media excel at removing different contaminants and the finer the filter, the more particulates are removed.

Inhibiting technology: Inhibiting systems suspend dissolved calcium minerals in a solution that inhibits them from forming scale and provides a protective barrier that guards against corrosion.  These systems also provide chlorine and sediment reduction.

Types of Ice Machines

Flake and Nugget: to form flake ice, water is frozen in a barrel-shaped evaporator before being scraped off by an auger and collected in a storage bin.  Nugget ice is simply flake ice that has been compressed to form nuggets.  In a flake ice machine, all the water is used to produce ice. The minerals and sediment dissolved in the water are forced out during the freezing process, and since they have nowhere to go, they either become trapped in the ice or build up as scale inside the machine.

Cubes: In a cube ice maker, water from a sump is continuously circulated over an evaporator where it freezes layer by layer until cubes are formed. and then released into a storage bin.  As the water freezes, most of the dissolved minerals are forced out and become  concentrated in the sump water.  This water is then purged from the sump, taking with it the dissolved solids that would otherwise form scale.  This means that cube ice machines use more water than required to produce the ice.  On average, 18 to 20 gallons per 100 lbs. of ice.

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