The most common customer complaint associated with commercial ice machines is that the machine isn't making enough ice. Each day the customer runs short of ice. This can be the result of several different problems - not all necessarily related to a defect with the machine itself.

One possible cause could be its location. The capacity of an ice machine is based on the temperature of the air surrounding it. The warmer the air temperature, the less ice the machine will produce.

Most manufacturers will state a maximum air temperature to which a machine should be exposed. A machine exposed to temperatures higher than this maximum temperature can exhibit problems with its operation.

Location Situations

At times, this could present a tricky situation for a technician. If the ice machine is installed in a kitchen, the air temperature there may be acceptable during mild outdoor ambient conditions, such as in spring and fall.

However, during summer months the kitchen temperature may rise well above the ice machine's maximum operating temperature and cause a problem with the ice machine's capacity - of course, at a time when the customer's demand for the ice is greatest.

Most ice machine manufacturers will also specify a minimum ambient temperature to which an ice machine should be exposed. If a machine is exposed to temperatures lower than specified, it can cause the ice machine's production to suffer.

A technician should look for these potential situations when called out to service an ice machine. Many times machines are installed in a very hot kitchen or very cold basement, and the technician is faced with a problem he cannot solve without relocating the ice machine.

Just Too Small

Another scenario a technician may encounter is an ice machine with a capacity that is simply too small for the needs of the customer. The ice machine may have been sized properly when the customer's business first started, but now that the business has grown, so has its ice requirement.

When this occurs, it is often beneficial for a technician to determine the machine's actual ice production.

Start by recording the cycle time and weight of the ice produced from one cycle; then use the formula at right to determine the machine's capacity.

This will show the amount of ice produced in a 24-hour period, which is how most ice machines are rated.

Let's say we measure a cycle time of 20 minutes; the weight of ice produced from one cycle is 6 pounds.

This machine will produce 432 pounds of ice in a 24-hour period. If this is relatively close to the stated capacity of the machine, it is working normally and the problem lies with the current needs of the customer, not the actual operation of the ice machine.

Of course, if the machine isn't working up to its stated capacity, the technician needs to troubleshoot for an actual system defect. However, he needs to be alert to these other diagnostic possibilities when servicing ice machines.

Joe Marchese is owner of Coldtronics of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at 412-734-4433,, or

Publication date: 03/14/2005