Air-Cooled Vs. Water-Cooled Ice Machine: What Is The Difference?

Air-cooled Vs Water-cooled Ice Machine

When you purchase a new ice machine, one of the first choices you’ll need to make is whether it will be air-cooled or water-cooled. Your choice will also depend on several other variables like your location and what type of ice you’re planning to use. So here are the major differences – and pros and cons – between air-cooled and water-cooled ice machines.

Air-Cooled Ice Machine


The air-cooled ice machine was invented by Andrew Muhl in 1851, who used a fan to push air over blocks of ice, thus speeding the process of melting. The result was artificial snow, which he chilled with cold water to ice. He called his process “refrigeration” and opened the first commercial ice company in 1857 in Galveston, Texas. It was not until 1878 that the first mechanical refrigeration system was patented by Carl von Linde after 12 years of research and development.

How it works

Air-cooled ice machines are usually placed outside of a building to avoid the machinery noise next to a kitchen or other work area. The ice is created inside a cylinder and then pushed out through a door into either a bin or onto an ice conveyor. The cold water is changed into steam which is pushed up through pipes back inside the building. The steam is then turned back into cold water through the condenser coil which is cooled by an external fan blowing air over it from outside of the cylinder.

Outstanding features


If you’re concerned about your budget, air-cooled commercial ice machines are a great option. They are affordable in terms of both price and energy consumption. This means you can get the ice-making power you need without breaking the bank or spending too much on your monthly utility bills.

Easy maintenance

Air-cooled condensers don’t require as much routine maintenance as other types of commercial ice machines do. You’ll only need to clean these units every few weeks, and they work with minimal supervision.

Ease of use

Air-cooled ice makers are simple to operate by any staff member, even if they aren’t trained in the operation of commercial appliances. All an operator needs to do is fill the unit with water, turn it on and let it go to work making fresh ice for your customers.

Ease of installation

These units are lightweight, so they can be set up almost anywhere without costing you a fortune. They can also be mounted on casters so that you can move them into different areas of your store or retail location.


Air-cooled ice machines have some drawbacks that make them less desirable for certain applications. Here are some of the disadvantages of this type of ice maker:

Inadequate airflow

The condenser coils on an air-cooled ice machine need to be in a well-ventilated location to work properly. If the machine is installed in a tight space or against a wall, it won’t function as intended and could overheat.

Poor ice quality

Inadequate ventilation will also result in poor ice quality. The mechanism that generates the cubes needs cold air to keep operating, so if it’s not getting enough air, it won’t produce high-quality cubes. This can also lead to frequent breakdowns and other problems with the machine itself.

Lack of mobility

Air-cooled ice machines are generally larger than their water-cooled counterparts, and they’re also much heavier because they include fan and condenser coils. This makes them difficult to move once they’re installed, so you need to be sure where you want to put them before you get started.

High energy consumption

Fans consume electricity while they’re running, which adds up over time and can increase your utility bills substantially. Air conditioners also tend to use more energy than water

Hard water problems

One of the biggest drawbacks to these machines is that they are not set up for hard water use. While most ice makers will have a water filter, it’s typically only there to keep out larger sediment before the ice freezes. This means that mineral deposits and scale will start building up in the machine, especially in areas with hard water.

Releasing heat

The other problem with air-cooled ice machines is that they actually release heat into your kitchen while they run. Most of those machines have fans on them to push warm air away from the unit and to help the ice freeze faster. However, this also means that you’re going to have a hot spot in your kitchen if you use one of these units.


Finally, these units are usually very noisy when they are running, which can become an issue if you’re trying to serve guests at your bar or restaurant.

Water-Cooled Ice Machine

Water-cooled ice machines are ice makers that use water for cooling. This type of ice machine is used to make large amounts of ice, and is often found in hospitals, schools, cafeterias, hotels, and businesses that need a reliable amount of ice. The main advantage of this type of ice machine over an air-cooled one is that it prevents the buildup of heat, which can cause a refrigeration unit to work harder.


Ice machines are not a new invention by any means. They have been around since the early 1800s when they were first patented in the United States. These early machines were generally designed as ice makers that would be placed on top of a refrigerator or freezer box so that they could make and store ice in one place. In the 20th century, refrigeration became more widely used, and the focus on ice machines moved towards making large quantities at once.

How it works

Water-cooled ice machines work in much the same way as air-cooled models: cold water is pumped through pipes into an insulated container where it freezes into sheets of ice. However, with water-cooled models, this process must be done slowly because the water used to cool the coils circulates through a closed system before being utilized. When the water is pumped slowly, the coils do not work as hard and heat does not build up as fast.

Water-cooled ice machines are generally classified according to their size, which ranges from small units that hold less than 1,000 pounds of ice (known as ‘mini-ice makers’), totaling less than 10 cubic feet of volume to large models that can hold more than 100 cubic feet of volume (known as ‘commercial ice makers’).

Outstanding features

Stainless steel exterior

The durable stainless steel exterior of the water-cooled ice machine makes it easy to clean and maintain. A stainless steel case helps prevent rust, dents, scratches, and other damage that can be caused by harsh chemicals.

Superior performance

Water-cooled ice machines have high levels of food safety and sanitation. They have built-in drainage systems to prevent water leakage and antimicrobial coatings to prevent bacterial growth.

Excellent condenser design

The water-cooled ice machine has a unique “excellent condenser design”. The heat exchange area of the condenser is large, which can make the heat exchange between the refrigerant and the water more sufficient; the water resistance is small and the heat exchange efficiency is high; it uses stainless steel casing so that the condenser will not corrode due to long-term contact with water.

Unbreakable ABS scoop

The front door of our water-cooled ice machine adopts high-grade ABS antifreeze material, which can be opened and closed for a long time without freezing, and has no risk of cracking. The door comes standard with a metal scoop for easy removal of ice cubes.

Easy Cleaning

It is very easy to clean a water-cooled ice machine, as there are fewer parts inside this device. There is no need to disassemble the entire ice machine in order to clean it. You can just use a wet cloth or sponge to clean the dirt and stains on the surface of the machine. However, you should never use any cleaning chemicals or detergents on the surface of your water-cooled ice machine. Water is enough to keep your ice maker in good condition.

Advanced control panel

The new generation of water-cooled ice machines comes with advanced control panels that allow you to set up all the necessary parameters for making different types of ice cubes. The control panel also allows users to easily customize their settings according to their needs and preferences, as well as adjust all other options. The main advantage of using an advanced control panel for a water-cooled ice machine is that it makes this device’s operation much easier than before.


Water-cooled ice machines have a few drawbacks that some customers may be concerned about.

The potential of lost water

This is one of the main drawbacks of a water-cooled ice machine. Water could be leaking out if the system isn’t installed correctly. This results in wasted water and higher utility costs for you. The problem can be even greater in commercial kitchens with multiple ice machines.

Water consumption

A major disadvantage of a water-cooled ice machine is that it uses a large amount of water to function properly. An ice machine with this type of cooling system may use up to 25 gallons per 100 pounds of ice produced. In commercial kitchens where an ice machine is running constantly, this can add up quickly, increasing your utility costs and using an unnecessarily large amount of natural resources. This is especially true in areas that are prone to droughts and have severe restrictions on the amount of water used by businesses.

Cost of water

Another drawback to a water-cooled ice machine is the cost associated with producing the ice. Depending on your location, you could be paying as much as $10 per 100 pounds produced, which is almost three times more than an air-cooled machine would cost you to run. That’s why it is important to take into account the amount of ice you will be using before purchasing your machine.

Key Differences Between Air-Cooled And Water-Cooled Ice Machine

Life Expectancy

Air-cooled ice machines have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. Water-cooled ice machines can run eight to 10 years longer than air-cooled systems — 20 to 25 years in total. This is due to less heat and moisture, which are present in air-cooled systems, around the evaporators, where it is most susceptible to corrosion and scale build-up.

Energy Efficient

Water-cooled ice machines are slightly more energy-efficient than air-cooled units. A water-cooled condenser operates at 55 degrees F whereas an air-cooled condenser operates at 85 degrees F. This makes the water-cooled system 30 percent more efficient in rejecting heat from the refrigeration system.

Water-cooled machines do require more water than their air-cooled counterparts, however, so additional costs may be required for a dedicated water line or plumbing connection.


Compared to a water-cooled machine, an air-cooled machine has fewer moving parts to maintain and no water pump to service. An air-cooled condenser will last longer than a water-cooled condenser because it doesn’t rely on a water pump that can break down over time.

Air-cooled machines also have evaporators that are much easier to clean than the harder-to-reach areas of a water-cooled evaporator. Air-cooled machines produce lower production rates and smaller harvests per cycle so the evaporator does not get as dirty as fast as a water-cooled machine.

Overall Cost

Air-cooled ice machines are less expensive to purchase and install than water-cooled ice machines. However, this advantage can be negated by costly repairs or replacement parts needed for air-cooled models due to overheating, which are necessary more often than those needed for water-cooled models.

Ice cubes

Because their refrigeration systems work more efficiently, water-cooled ice machines make smaller cubes with a larger surface area. This creates faster melting and reduces the amount of time the ice is in contact with the warmer air in your establishment. Less surface area also means less flavor transfer from one cube to another.

Air-cooled units produce larger cubes, which last longer on the shelf but melt slower than water-cooled cubes.

Which One Is Better?

Which One Is Better

To be completely honest, it’s hard to tell what’s better – air-cooled or water-cooled ice machines. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, and there are no definite answers here. However, the choice between the two is usually defined by your budget and by whether you need a portable or stationary ice maker.

So here are some tips for making the right choice between air cooled and water cooled:

  • If you’re looking for an affordable portable ice machine – choose an air cooled option. Air cooled ice machines are cheaper than water cooled ones and can be used both in residential and commercial settings.
  • If you need a compact stationary ice maker for a small business, consider an air-cooled one. This type of machine is suitable for small kitchens in restaurants, bars, cafes and pizzerias.
  • If you want to install an industrial grade ice maker in your restaurant kitchen – go with a water-cooled model. This type of device is more expensive than its air cooled counterpart, but it’s also more reliable and suitable for large businesses.
  • If you need a great deal of ice for you business – water-cooled is the way to go. This type of machine can produce ice much faster than its air cooled counterpart, and it’s more efficient. However, it’s more expensive as well.

Depending on your needs, you can choose between air-cooled and water-cooled machines. However, both types have their advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before making the final decision.


In the end, there are many factors that may make one ice machine choice better than another for your particular needs. Nevertheless, having at least a basic understanding of the differences between air-cooled and water-cooled ice machines should prove useful in the moment making of decisions regarding ice machine purchases.

Air-Cooled Vs. Water-Cooled Ice Machine: What Is The Difference?

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