Water Consumption – Ice Machines

Glass of Ice Coffee on a table

Water Consumption – Ice Machines

Water consumption in ice machines is very important, especially when the only ingredient is water.

If you order a cold drink at a restaurant or café, it will contain ice cubes or be made with crushed ice. In the past ice was delivered to restaurants as blocks or crushed ice. Because of refrigeration, commercial ice-makers were born.  Every  restaurant and hotel makes their own ice on-site. This now brings the topic of water consumption in ice machines to the attention of these businesses.

Ice-makers produce ice in much the same way air conditioners produce cold air. A compressed refrigerant is pumped through a closed loop. As the refrigerant expands to become a gas, it absorbs heat from water and the water freezes to form ice.

Types of Ice:

There are three main types of ice-makers:

1) cube ice, which is hard, clear ice cubes that melt slowly

2) flake ice, which is a soft, crushed form of ice used in food displays and salad bars

3) nugget ice, which is shaped like small “nuggets” and are popular in soft drinks

Types of Ice Machines:

There are water-cooled and air-cooled ice makers. Water-cooled ice machines have a water line connected directly to the machine to absorb heat from the refrigerant. The cold water that is used to cool the machine down is only used once and then goes down the drain.

Air-cooled ice makers are similar to house refrigerators in that heat is vented out and no water is required to absorb the heat. This makes air-cooled ice makers the better option for water conservation.

Water Consumption:

Energy and water consumption of ice-makers vary depending on their model, cooling method, and type of ice produced. The bigger the ice maker, the less energy used per pound of ice produced. There is a big difference in energy and water consumption between air-cooled and water-cooled ice machines.

Water-cooled machines consume anywhere between 187 and 193 gallons of water per 100 pounds of ice produced.  Most air-cooled ice machines consume less than 20 gallons per 100 pounds of ice produced. Just think of the cost of water and sewer discharge over the lifetime of the machine!


The average lifespan of a commercial ice-maker is 8.5 years. Consider a typical water-cooled ice-maker rated for 800 pounds of ice per day versus a highly-efficient air-cooled model of a similar capacity. Over the 8.5 year period, the total utility costs to operate the water-cooled machine would be $41,800 verses $16,800 for an air-cooled (based on a study by Koeller & Company, 2008).

Read more:

Energy efficient water cooled ice machines

How ice makers work


Remember to consider other areas of your operations, for water consumption, such as your commercial dishwasher.