Ask REC: Air-Cooled vs. Water-Cooled Ice Machines

“I’m looking at ice machines. Air cooled vs water cooled ice makers… what is the advantage of one over the other?”

The advantages (and drawbacks) of an air-cooled or water-cooled ice machine will depend on the specifics of your restaurant, including the kitchen environment, water source, and even where in the country you’re located.

You probably already know the difference, but for the sake of being thorough, let’s quickly describe the difference between the two. An air-cooled ice machine draws in and cools ambient air from outside the refrigerator and uses that to cool water into ice. And what do water-cooled ice machines use? Ah, forget it. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Alright, fine–a water-cooled ice maker uses cooled water to lower the temperature in the ice maker. And now, the pros and cons of each:


Pros: Since air is free and water costs money, air-cooled units are, on average, cheaper to operate. Since they don’t require a separate water line for the cooling system, they’re also easier to install.

Cons: Air-cooled ice makers will not perform well in especially hot and humid areas. Also, these units need space on all sides so the vents can draw in air to use. This also means that air-cooled units need to be cleaned fairly often to keep the filters operating efficiently. Failure to clean will result in ice yields that are less than expected.


Pros: Although they use a lot more water, the condensers on water-cooled ice machines use less electricity. And because these units don’t rely on ambient air, which means they’ll provide more consistent results. Like we said, if you live in a hot/humid area, water-cooled is probably the way to go. They also run more quietly, which is a nice added bonus.

Cons: Oh boy, they use a lot of water. Like hundreds of gallons a day. Like so much water that, if you live an area with water restrictions, you probably will need to go with an air-cooled unit. They also require a separate water line to be installed, which is kind of a pain.

Closing Thoughts

Well, here we are at the end of the blog post, and we hate to say it, but we can’t say definitively which is better. We don’t know you. Not via blog post, anyway. Our sales reps know you. They’ll help weigh out these considerations to figure out what works best for you. But as a general rule: if you’re in a cooler climate, and you have the space and maintenance time for an air-cooled unit, it’ll probably be cheaper. But, if you live in a hot area, or an area with low utilities costs, you’ll probably enjoy a water-cooled unit.

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