Commercial ice makers are an indispensable part of the modern business landscape. Their many types of ice can keep drinks cold, perishables bagged, produce fresh, and even help compress injuries. Their versatility is amazing, but it also means that you’ll likely have many questions and decisions when looking to buy one. We’re here to help you with that.

When making a big investment, like an ice maker, you’ll need to know what features are important, the ice you’ll need to make and store, and the costs involved in keeping it running smoothly.

Let’s break the ice and get right down to it.

Commercial Ice Maker Types

As the needs for ice are many and varied, so too are the machines that supply them. The ice maker you choose will depend primarily on how much ice it can produce and how quickly, or how much ice can it store.

Ask yourself:

  • How much ice do you use daily?
  • What is your consumption on peak days and in certain seasons?
  • Do you have a separate ice storage compartment?

Depending on how you answered these questions, one of these types will likely eke out an edge.


Modular ice makers are easily identified by their square shape. Their sole purpose is to make ice, and they need to be attached to a dispenser or storage bin to function properly. These ice makers offer you versatility, not only in placement, but also in the various types of ice they produce. They’re heavy-duty, too, generating anywhere from 500 to 800 lbs. of ice daily.

Some modular ice makers can be stacked so you can make different types of ice or more of it simultaneously.


The name says it all. These machines are designed to fit under bars and restaurant counters. They are self-contained, making ice and storing it, allowing the staff to access ice at any time easily. While their capacity isn’t as high as other ice makers, their self-sufficiency and small size make them a welcome addition to any establishment.


Standalone ice makers are truly varied and versatile. What sets them apart is their larger size. Some serve as industrial ice bins, while others can be found near guest rooms in hotels. There are even dual-function ice makers that have a water dispenser feature. Their ice production and price will also vary from model to model.


Ice makers that fit on a counter won’t have high output, but they offer staff and guests instant access to ice when needed. Their lever or button activation offers a sanitary solution to potentially hundreds of daily users. For example, the countertop machines we offer produce up to 125 lbs. of ice daily and even have a generous storage capacity of 15lb.

Types of Ice

Every type of ice has a role, so the ice you’ll need will make a huge impact on which commercial ice maker you’ll buy. While a standalone or countertop ice maker can only produce one or two types of ice, you can use a few modular ice makers as a flexible way to produce the ice you need. Here are some major types of ice:

  • Ice cubes: The ice that probably first comes to mind. Aside from its use in drinks, cubes in various sizes can also be used for packing and storing perishables. They’re versatile, uniform, and solid.
  • Nugget ice: Layers of flaked ice are frozen together to form this soft, chewable, and highly absorbent ice. It’s prevalent in drinks and often found in the food and drink industry.
  • Flake ice: This ice can often be seen in drinks or keeping seafood fresh. Its light, flaky consistency makes it easy to mold.
  • Crescent ice: This ice’s crescent shape is designed to easily fit the contours of packing bags and drink glasses.

Demands of a Commercial Ice Maker

Not only can ice makers be an expensive investment, but they also come with a whole host of requirements that may impact your purchasing decision. Here are some major ones:


The filters of an ice machine must be regularly changed. The three major types of filters sediment—phosphate, and carbon—will all need to be replaced every six months. Depending on the quality of your water, you may need to install more than one filter.

To avoid costly outages and breakages, you’ll also need regular maintenance at least twice a year on your machine, to keep it running optimally. These will be more expensive depending on the size of your machine, its filtration, and whether it has remote air cooling.

Cooling Budget

Ice makers use condensers that are cooled either by air or water. Air cooling is the most popular choice, using an extractor fan and vents to get rid of heat. Larger units even offer a remote extractor that can be set up externally, cutting down on noise and heat inside a venue. This is more budget-friendly up-front but can increase noise and power usage.

Water cooling uses pipes of water to absorb heat, dumping this water externally. This is less bulky than air cooling, but uses high amounts of water and can be quite wasteful.


The bigger the ice machine, the larger your electricity bill. Look for ice makers with an Energy Star seal of approval, or smarter ice makers that can regulate their power use. Most ice makers will either use 115V or 220V connection. Make sure to check beforehand.

Drainage and Sanitation

Ice will melt. Even if an ice machine isn’t water-cooled, larger models will need an area to drain ice that may fall. This can either be through piping or a floor drain nearby. The dampness and heat of an ice machine, not to mention the water quality, may lead to a buildup of scale and mold. They will need to be cleaned regularly. It may take more time for a larger ice maker to defrost and be cleaned.

For countertop ice makers, their levers and buttons may need to be regularly sanitized to keep them dirt and germ-free. Some of our countertop ice makers offer self-cleaning systems and silver-based antimicrobials to prevent unwanted growth.

Be Cool When Choosing

An ice maker is a long-term investment. When making your decision, be sure to examine your needs, your usage, and your space beforehand. There are many ice makers to choose from, with ice for different functions. All of these can do the job, but they’ll need to do your job before you buy.

If you need some more advice, why not ask us? At Kelly Office Solutions, we’ve been providing over 70 years of expertise to customers in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte, and other areas in North Carolina.

If you want a company with an extensive range of commercial ice makers to help you find the best possible solution for your business, contact us today.