One of the many types of refrigeration equipment a technician may be asked to install is the self-contained, commercial ice machine. Installing this type of ice machine isn't normally difficult, but does require a technician to follow the directions as outlined in the manufacturer's installation literature. Reading and following the directions will ensure the proper operation of the ice machine and prevent future problems from developing. This is an important part of the process.

There are some general installation guidelines that apply to many self-contained commercial ice machines. Reviewing some of these common guidelines may help technicians avoid some of the common problems encountered with installations.


It is generally a good practice to verify that the capacity of the ice machine meets the needs of the customer. Verifying this with the customer before installing the ice machine may help technicians avoid installing one that has an ice production capacity that is too small for the customer.


Before installing the ice machine, make sure the location is adequate for the installation. Make sure the ambient air temperature does not fall outside the manufacturer's guidelines. If the area is too warm or too cold the ice machine may not operate properly. Also make sure that there is sufficient clearance surrounding the ice machine for both service and ventilation purposes. This is especially important for a machine with an air-cooled condenser. There must be adequate airflow through the machine's condenser for proper operation. If the location is not adequate, notify the customer and discuss an alternate one.


Another concern while installing an ice machine is the supply water line. Verify that the supply line is of the proper diameter and that the inlet water temperature will not exceed the limits as specified by the manufacturer. As the inlet water temperature increases, the ice production of the machine will decrease. For maximum ice production, cooler inlet water is preferred. It is also generally recommended that an appropriate style water filter be installed in the supply water line. The type of water filter installed is normally based on the condition of the water being supplied to the machine. Again follow the manufacturer's guidelines for recommendations.


The drain line must also be properly configured and installed. It is important to also follow any local plumbing codes as well as the manufacturer's instructions. Normally ice machine drains are connected to an open type drain with some type of air vent teed into the drain line.


When installing the ice machine, make sure it is level. This will ensure that water will not be lost from its water trough. It will also ensure that the water will drain properly out from drain lines.


Once the machine is installed, a technician should allow it to operate for at least two batches before leaving the job. During this time the technician can go over with the customer the proper cleaning procedure for the machine. It is important for the technician to stress the importance of cleaning the ice machine on a regular basis. Regular cleaning is the No. 1 way to prevent future failures.

Following these basic guidelines and those covered in the manufacturer's installation manual will help to avoid some of the common problems associated with ice machine installations.

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

Publication date: 03/06/2006