Ice makers for home use have become an increasingly popular household appliance, providing a convenient and efficient way to enjoy your favorite ice-cold beverages. Because so many options are available, we’ve developed this guide to help you select the perfect ice maker for home use.
Choosing an Ice Maker for Your Home
Selecting the ideal ice maker for your home involves considering several important factors:
- The various types of ice available
- How to determine the appropriate production capacity
- Size and portability considerations
- Cleaning and maintenance tips
- Installation requirements for built-in models
- Price comparisons
Types of Ice Cubes
Surprisingly, different sizes and types of ice can affect the overall enjoyment of your drinks. This is why the type of ice cubes produced is one of the first factors you’ll most likely consider. Ice cube styles include:
- Crescent ice resembles a crescent moon and is a popular shape in home refrigerator ice makers as well as commercial restaurants. Its compact shape makes it ideal for stacking in most beverage containers and provides a large surface area to enhance cooling.
- Crushed ice, as the name implies, is crushed or flaked ice melts fast.
- Bullet ice is relatively small and resembles tiny cylinders. It can be produced quickly and also has a rapid melt time.
- Nugget ice is what some of our clients call Chick-Fil-A ice, as the ice comes in small, soft-textured pellets that make it easy to crunch.
- Block ice is a solid chunk of ice that comes in a rectangle or square. It is slow-melting.
- Clear ice is “gourmet” ice because it is crystal clear and without impurities, which makes it visually appealing. Since clear ice melts slower, it also means the drinks are less diluted.
Production Capability vs. How Much Ice Do You Need
To choose the right ice maker, it’s crucial to assess your ice consumption needs and select a model with a production capacity that matches those requirements. Ice makers come in various production capacities, from compact models producing smaller quantities of ice to larger machines capable of producing 26 pounds of ice (or more) per day.
Consider factors such as the frequency of usage, the number of people in your household, and the purpose for which the ice will be used. For example, if you frequently host parties or gatherings, you may need a higher-capacity ice maker to ensure a steady supply of ice for your guests. On the other hand, if you only require ice for daily use by a few family members, a smaller-capacity ice maker might be more suitable.
Size: Countertop Ice Makers vs. Built-In
When selecting an ice maker, it’s important to consider its size and portability. Countertop ice makers, such as the popular nine-bullet models like the Silonn countertop ice maker, typically take up about half the counter space of a small microwave oven. A countertop ice maker is portable and can be easily stored away when not in use, which makes it a popular choice for those with limited space.
On the other hand, built-in ice makers are designed to be installed under a countertop and require more space and specific installation requirements, such as water supply and drainage connections. These models may also have larger production capacities and additional features like water filtration systems. Most major appliance manufacturers make these. Models we like are Uline nugget ice machines, Marvel ice machines and makers, Zephyr, Perlick clear ice and cubelet ice makers and a few others.
When choosing an ice maker, consider the available space on your countertop and any storage or installation requirements. This will ensure that your ice maker fits seamlessly into your home setup without causing any inconvenience.
Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance
Another factor to consider when selecting an ice maker is the ease of cleaning and maintenance. Proper cleaning is essential to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Some high-end ice maker models offer a dedicated self-cleaning cycle that can be run with a water and bleach mixture. For most ice makers, however, manual cleaning and draining will be required.
Installation Requirements and Considerations
It’s essential to consider the installation requirements and considerations for built-in ice makers. These models typically require the following:
- A powerful source of electricity, such as 115V or 220V, depending on the model
- A clearance of 5 to 14 inches on each side for installation
- Adequate water pressure, usually at least 15 psi, with a static pressure not exceeding 80 psi.
Additionally, a drain line is mandatory for built-in ice makers. These factors may rule out a built-in ice maker for your home unless, of course, you are undertaking a complete kitchen remodel where you can include this appliance into the kitchen design.
Lastly, it’s essential to compare the prices of various ice makers before deciding. Higher-priced models may offer additional features or better durability, so weighing the costs against the benefits is important.
Ice makers that produce different types of ice include:
- Countertop bullet ice cube makers can be purchased for less than $200; however, in the kitchen remodels we do in Northern Virginia, we mostly see built-in under-counter models. A decent one starts around $1,200.
- Nugget ice makers tend to be more expensive than bullet ice makers, in part because their advanced technology produces higher-quality ice. We have seen countertop models that start around $300; however, as mentioned above, we typically install under-counter models. For this style of ice, there are a few makers priced under $2,000, but most of the good ones are priced at $3,00 and up.
- Clear ice makers are also more expensive due to their specialized ice production capabilities.
When considering the price of an ice maker, weigh the cost against any additional features you’ll enjoy and the longevity to ensure you’re getting the best value for your investment.
Additional Home Ice Maker Features to Consider
In addition to the factors discussed above, there are several other features to consider when choosing an ice maker.
The noise level of an ice maker can impact the overall user experience, particularly if placed in a common area where people spend a lot of time.
Using a water filter in an ice maker can enhance the taste and quality of the ice, prevent mineral buildup, and extend the equipment’s life. Some built-in ice makers have an integrated water filtration system, while others require filtered water to achieve clearer ice. Minerals in unfiltered water can lead to cloudiness in the ice.
When selecting an ice maker, consider whether it includes a water filter (and the cost of the filter replacements) or if you’ll need to use filtered water to achieve the desired ice clarity and taste.
Energy efficiency is another factor to consider when choosing an ice maker. Energy Star-rated batch-type ice makers are estimated to be approximately 10% more energy efficient and 20% more water efficient than standard models. This helps reduce your energy consumption and contributes to a more eco-friendly household.
Home Ice Makers: Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth it to get a countertop ice maker?
For those who need fast and versatile ice production, a countertop ice maker is worth considering. It produces ice faster than trays and frees up space in your freezer. This type of ice maker is perfect for those who need a lot of ice quickly, such as for parties or large gatherings.
What is the difference between an ice maker and an ice machine?
Ice makers produce moderate volumes of ice cubes and are ideal for families. In contrast, ice machines are smaller versions of full-scale restaurant or hotel machines, standing alone solely to produce ice cubes.
What types of ice can ice makers produce?
Ice makers can produce bullet, nugget, and clear ice types, ensuring plenty of options for different user needs. These ice types can be used for various purposes, from cooling drinks to making ice sculptures. They can also be used to make ice cream and other frozen treats.
Choosing the perfect ice maker for home use involves considering a range of factors, but armed with the knowledge provided in this guide, you’re now well-equipped to make an informed decision and enjoy refreshing, ice-cold beverages with the perfect ice all year round.
Editor’s Note: This post reflects prices for ice makers as of August 2023.