Tips to Service, Repair, and Maintain Ice Machines
Keep It Clean to Keep It Running
The most important approach to an ice machine repair to keep in mind is to remember that it is part of the HVAC family. What this means is that most ice machines stop working due to being dirty, either the air or water aspect part of the machine.
First and foremost when troubleshooting a unit is to isolate the problem. Is it a mechanical, electrical, or refrigeration issue that is the problem?
Know how the machine is supposed to operate and function, and how it is currently acting or not acting. Asking the customer how the machine was operating prior to when it started malfunctioning or stopped working is always a helpful tip for the tech. Even then, a fresh start is always good practice.
If a machine is without an ice machine filtration system, then the life expectancy of the machine will be shortened and the expense of repairs will be higher. This is always passed on to the owner's customers — reduced reliability, more downtime, and poor service to customers.
Keeping an ice machine serviced and sanitized is just as important as having clean eating utensils to eat with. An unsanitary machine can get people sick the same as poor hygiene practices with food handling. Many ice bins are being touched constantly throughout a workday by customers and hotel/restaurant personnel, who do not always wash their hands, which can carry dirt, germs, feces, or other contaminants.
The most common repairs on ice machines are due to water filters not being changed. Hard water quickly affects the water inlet valve, which usually leaves the water valve stuck open, and the float valve weighed down. Both can cause issues leaving the machine stuck in harvest or never allowing ice to develop on the ice plate.
The way ice machines make ice varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Although the principle remains the same, the way it is designed to harvest the ice is usually different, and the way the machine cycles may vary regarding timing of the freeze cycle and harvest cycle.
The best way to become competent at ice machine repair is to become familiar with how it is supposed to operate in each phase of its start cycle to its harvest cycle. Refrigeration supply house’s usually carry the repair and service manual for each type of ice machine they sell. Find the distributor and ask them for a repair and service manual whenever possible. The manual will provide a beginning to end approach to servicing, repairing, and maintaining the machine per manufacturer’s specifications.
One cannot be detailed enough when it comes to charging an ice machine. They are critically charged, meaning they have to be properly charged to the ounce or they will not operate within correct time frames and may time out. Ice machines are very time consuming to clean, service, and repair, which leaves the tech having to know and have a good understanding of what is going on with the machine and being able to recognize anything out of the ordinary with how the machine is functioning.
Here are some basic examples of the most common things to look for when approaching an ice machine:
First, does it have power? Second, does it have water? Is the incoming water warm or normal room temperature? If the machine is water cooled, is it running water through the condenser to cool the compressor? If it is air cooled, is the condenser coil plugged or is the ambient air hot at above 90°F in the kitchen or next to an oven or stove? Is the water inlet valve constantly running while the machine is trying to make ice in freeze mode? Is there too much or too little water running out of the condenser drain line while the ice machine is running? If so, think of what type of conditions will take place when these issues exist, and what are the possible causes that created these conditions. This type of thinking should put one on the right path of finding the problem causing the operation of the ice machine to not function as intended.
The most common mistakes found on ice machines made by tech’s are: not changing water filters; improperly adjusting water pressure regulator valves; improper bridge thickness switch settings; not cleaning the ice machine condenser coil; not cleaning the internal water side of the machine; changing water inlet valves when they can be taken apart to clean out the muck or calcium flakes holding it open; water turned off; high ambient temperature; an unlevel ice machine; using the wrong cleaner for the type of ice plate metal; and using the wrong type of refrigerant.
Ice machines take 30 minutes minimum usually to cycle each time. Let the customer know this happens per each adjustment, and that it takes at least an hour to correctly clean and take apart an ice machine and put it all back together, and start it up. Keeping the customer informed will help keep them from getting impatient. Make sure you always change the water filter and clean all parts of the machine before leaving, or a call back may be waiting to happen. Let the customer know they should change the water filter every six months if the water is really hard, or once every 12 months if it is not. Also, let them know the ice machine should be serviced once every six months in order to keep it clean and sanitize the bin, including the panels and surrounding areas, along with the internal parts of the machine, such as the water trough, water tubes, water curtain, float valve, bridge thickness switch, and condenser if air cooled.
Last but not least, always reset the power to the circuit board, so the memory of the machine is cleared of errors, in order to prevent the ice machine from stopping at the same number of cycles as it did before the repair. This must be done twice by pushing and holding down the power button until all lights on the circuit board power on and off. After doing this two separate times, restart the machine.
Publication date: 4/6/2015