Jun 13, 2023

Buying a Used Ice Machine: The Dos and Don’ts

The reduced price of a used ice maker over a new one is an obvious benefit, but the cons may be less clear. Used ice machines can be rife with problems. A business owner can inherit those problems by buying used without knowing what to look for. Follow this advice to choose the best used ice machine.

As the ice machine experts, we cannot stress enough the importance of ice machine maintenance. We frequently double the expected life of our ice makers by performing all suggested preventive maintenance. During maintenance, a service technician should inspect all vital components and note any small issues. Problems that start small can turn into major, expensive repairs when not addressed.

Failing to maintain an ice maker or discover small issues can lead to major mechanical problems and a shortened useful life. Without maintenance records, it’s unclear whether the used ice maker has been neglected. That increases the new owner’s liability.

In the records, look for at least two preventive maintenance visits from an experienced service technician per year. This is the industry standard minimum. If the unit was installed in a business with high levels of airborne contaminants (flour, yeast, grease, dust), look for additional maintenance visits (at least one per quarter).

Speaking of where the ice maker was installed, as with real estate, location matters! This applies to both the type of business as well as the immediate environment. Ice makers in businesses with the airborne contaminants listed above include breweries, bakeries, carpentry businesses, kitchens with fried food menus, and warehouses. These environments are tough on ice makers, and filter replacement and maintenance are absolutely critical.

Airborne contaminants such as flour, dust, dirt, grease, or sawdust can enter through the vents of air-cooled ice makers, the most common type used in a business setting. Once inside the ice machine, the foreign substances cling to the condenser and create an insulated cover on it. The condenser struggles to release heat and can overheat the ice maker. Thus, the whole system must work harder to produce each batch of ice.

Look inside the ice maker to check its condenser. Is it covered in dirt? This means at minimum it needs a professional cleaning. The residue could also signify an owner who didn’t care for the ice machine.

Yeast is another enemy of ice makers. In bakeries and breweries, yeast can enter the ice maker through the air where it turns into food for mold or slime. Mold and slime feed off organic material like yeast and sugar. These substances may not be dangerous to most people, but they are gross. Don’t just look for mold or slime in the obvious areas like the ice bin. It can also hide in areas like the drop zone.

Was the ice maker installed in an ideal space? The immediate environment around the ice maker can have a major impact on its performance and lifespan.

Did it have one foot of space on each side and above it or were things stacked against and on top of it? Was it installed in a small cubby or closet? Ice machines need proper ventilation to not stress their components.

Was the room’s ambient temperature around 70 degrees? Was the ice machine installed near another heat-producing piece of equipment like an oven? If the air was consistently above 90 degrees around the ice maker, that unit’s components had to work extra hard to cool for the ice-making process. A two-year-old ice maker may seem like a good deal, but if it was running in a 100-degree room, it might have the same wear and tear as a five-year-old machine.

Any of these factors can reduce the expected lifespan of an ice machine and depreciate its value.

Evaporators are one of the most critical components of an ice maker. The ice freezes to the evaporator and then drops off into the bin. Due to the evaporator’s constant exposure to water, it can succumb to scale. Scale is a hard, chalky substance formed by minerals in the water.

When scale adheres to the slick surface of the evaporator, ice has a harder time forming. An evaporator rough with scale can also produce malformed ice and has a harder time releasing the formed ice. Delays in the evaporator’s process cause lower ice production. This component is expensive to repair. Be sure to check the evaporator for scale buildup.

Some ice machine issues can’t be ignored if they cause the ice maker to slow or stop production. But other issues may not create such a “loud” problem and can be easily overlooked by irresponsible or negligent owners. Issues like these should be discovered in a maintenance appointment before they have a chance to wreak havoc inside the ice maker. But without regular maintenance, the problem persists.

One such problem is an internal water leak. This causes water to drip onto the interior housing. Eventually, it can start to corrode the steel.

Inspect the used ice maker for corrosion by removing the front faceplate and looking inside. If rust or corrosion is visible, consider buying another ice maker. Otherwise, all corroded pieces will need to be replaced and the leak may still need fixed.

Be sure buying an ice maker is the best choice out of all the options for obtaining equipment. If business owners are facing low cash flow or other financial reasons for not purchasing a new ice maker, there are alternatives to get the reliable ice supply they need. Rentals and leases are available, as well as the easiest and most financially sound option: a monthly ice maker subscription. It’s important to explore all options to find out which one fits business needs and goals best.

Business owners considering purchasing a used ice maker should heed these tips to choose a unit that will produce clean, clear ice for as long as possible.