Here's the inside story of the Kitchenaid ice maker.
I am not a fan of lower quality residential refrigeration equipment masquerading as commercial equipment. This is not the case with the Kitchenaid ice maker. They were around long before some brands of commercial ice machines. Although they are used in restaurants there intended purpose is home use. It is a quality piece of residential refrigeration equipment.
These machines have been around many years and sold under many names simultaneously. They use the same technology as the early ones. This has been perfected over the years. No other ice machine maker use a wire grid anymore. In this machine it worked so well and was so dependable, they never changed it.
These small ice makers that bridge the gap between small commercial units and refrigerator freezer ice makers. The commercial ice machine manufacturers are going after the residential market by making smaller machines. These machines are sometimes of lower quality and use technology that doesn't adapt well to small machines.
The Kitchenaid ice makers have a proven track record longer than some of the commercial ice machine manufacturers have been in business. Residential refrigeration equipment continues to evolve and get more complex, often not for the better. They hasn't happened with this machine.
It doesn't have a secret blend of space age metals, it doesn't have microprocessors, ultrasonic sensors or complex diagnostics. They got this ice machine RIGHT a long time ago and kept it that way. This makes it the machine to beat for the high tech newcomers to the residential ice machine market.
The machines come in widths of 15 and 18 inches. The door opening options are to the left, right and straight down. You planned location might dictate these choices for you. There are also indoor and outdoor options. The outdoor unit can be used indoors. The color choices are aesthetic but if it is outside, lighter colors will absorb less heat if in the sun.
The amount of ice produced is often the most critical consideration. Both widths of machines can make up to 50lbs of ice a day. The hotter the day, the less ice it will make. The 15 inch model can store 25 lbs of ice and the 18 inch model can store 35 lbs of ice.
For hotel catering it is estimated that 1 lb of ice is needed per person. So the the smaller model could handle a 25 guests and the larger model 35 guests. There will be more ice than that available since the machine will be making it as it is used at a rate of about 2 lbs per hour.
Note that in both cases the production is actually 50 lbs a day.
The machine shuts of when the 25 or 35 lb bin is full. So it is possible to remove the ice to a
freezer a freezer or ice chest to allow for maximum production before your
Outdoor kitchens are becoming more popular. It makes sense to have the ice machine on the patio or deck where the people are. If properly installed this is not a problem in mild weather and the owner’s manual even gives instructions for this.
Be aware that on days above 90 Degrees Fahrenheit ice production will be reduced. Being outdoors will also cause the condenser to become dirty faster and that can reduce ice production and overwork the compressor. Cleaning the condenser coils regularly will allow for regular operation.
When the night time weather drops below 45 Degrees Fahrenheit, the bin thermostat will think think the bin is full of ice and will prevent the machine from running.
When the ambient temperature increases during the day the machine will start running and making ice again. Cold inlet water and cold ambient temperatures could case water to start to freeze in the trough creating an ice dam and preventing water from getting to the pump.
The real problems start when the temperatures drop below freezing. Minor damage to the supply water line busting can occur. Major damage to machines interior water lines, the water trough, pump and other components could occur.
During cold weather the machine can be moved indoors. If left outside it should be winterized by disconnecting the water supply, unplugging it and draining all the water from it. Before doing this is a good time to clean the water circuit and the bin.
As with any commercial ice machine many service calls can be prevented by simply cleaning the machine. These service calls will not be covered by the warranty. The owner’s manual goes into illustrated detail on how to do this maintenance. So here I will just give you an overview and explain why these things need to be done. The WHY isn't in the manual.
Minerals build on the ice freezing plate. The buildup is called scale. This can be slowed by using water filters but it will still happen. High mineral content in the water can cause gray or soft ice. Scale build up on the freezer plate can make it hard for the ice to be released after it has frozen. Much of it could be melted before releasing or it could stay stuck and another sheet of ice would be made on top of it. Cleaning with ice machine cleaner is the only way to remove this scale.
Wild yeast lives in the air outside and sometimes inside. When brewed beverages such as beer are opened cultivated yeast escape into the air. An ice machine makes an ideal home for them, dark, cool and wet. The brown slime often found in ice machines is yeast. Cleaner will not kill them. Ice machine sanitizer will but you must have 100% coverage of the ice area of the machine including the water circuit and bin. If any survive the colony will repopulate.
The most expensive and vulnerable component in most
refrigeration equipment is the compressor.
It's job is to move the heat out of the water and reject it out through
the condenser coil. As the condenser
coil gets dirty this becomes harder and the machine makes less ice. It could be a mild day but a dirty condenser
coil could be making the compressor work as hard as it would on a record
setting hot day. This reduced compressor
life, lowers ice production and increases electricity usage. The condenser coils can easily be cleaned
with a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment.
For the first three years the warranty will cover parts and labor on all repairs caused by defects in materials and workmanship. That means that if it is installed, operated and user maintenance is done in accordance with the owners manual all the repair costs are covered.
For the next two years only the sealed refrigeration system is covered. That includes the two most costly components the compressor and evaporator. It also covers the condenser, strainer, drier and the refrigerant lines. Only parts are covered and not labor which would be substantial.
This warranty is excellent and better than many commercial
ice machines. But if this machine is
used as a commercial ice machine the warranty is invalidated. You also must have proof of purchase date to
make a claim.
For warranty repairs I would recommend getting a referral to a local company. Ask for the one that does the most warranty work. Then when you call the company ask for the appliance technician with the most experience on your machine.
This will help insure the repair is correctly done the first time. It will reduce the chances of problems with the warranty paperwork. It also makes it more likely the repair technician will have the parts on the truck.
Once the warranty runs out you can continue to use the same service company or another one. If there isn't one locally that does a lot of work on these machines I would consider getting a real refrigeration technician to do the repair rather than an appliance technician.
Parts for very old Kitchenaid ice makers are still being made by third party companies. The machines are very well supported.
Most of the ice machine articles on this site apply to the
Kitchenaid ice maker.