What Ice Machine should I Buy and Why?

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So you want to buy an ice maker? What ice maker issues and considerations are important, and which ones are not? Well, Scotsman reminds you of a kilt; Hoshizaki has a penguin on their logo, Cornelius sounds like a vegetable, Ice-O-Matic sounds Irish, and Manitowoc machines have an interesting name. So maybe if you like penguins, your decision will be easy. But unfortunately, wise decisions are not made on such grounds. So on what grounds is a wise ice maker purchase decision made; If not penguins, then what?

First of all, we will clearly state that the only ice makers that we will consider are the ones manufactured by Manitowoc, Hoshizaki, and Scotsman. There are many other ice maker manufacturers, including Cornelius and Ice-O-Matic, but being in the refrigeration business for over 50 years has taught us that these three makers make up the great majority of ice machine purchases for a reason. Manitowoc, Hoshizaki, and Scotsman are reputable, well-designed, and backed by dependable service warranties. So now the question is: should I buy a Manitowoc, Hoshizaki, or a Scotsman? In a moment,we will look at a detailed comparison between Manitowoc, Hoshizaki, and Scotsman ice makers. We will specifically consider their ease of repair and their evaporators (the ice maker’s crux component).

Ease of repair is a big deal. No one likes their car in the shop for a long time, and similarly, no one likes an Ice Maker that’s out of commission for a while. No ice, or not enough ice, means warm drinks and stagnant profits. What issues are important when thinking about ice machine up-time?

One of the major advantages of the Manitowoc machines is their ease of repair. No matter how good a manufacturer’s engineering is, every machine has problems at some point during its service life. Problems mean repair work, and if that repair is tedious and frustrating it will make you wonder why in the world you purchased such a machine. For starters, Manitowoc and Scotsman evaporator plates are easily accessible. Now, if you know anything about ice makers, you will know that the evaporator is the apex of the machine. It is the component whose durability and engineering will directly affect the dependability of the machine. The evaporator plate is the heart and soul of the machine. And believe me, no one wants an ice maker that doesn’t have soul. If the evaporator is easily accessible, then service calls can be short and sweet. The Hoshizaki, on the other hand, has an extremely hard to access evaporator plate.

Accessibility aside, the actual quality of the evaporator plate is important as well. The Hoshizaki evaporator plate is constructed of stainless steel. Of all three evaporator plates, the Hoshizaki is the highest quality. So it is important to remember that, although the Hoshizaki evaporator plate is hard to access, it is the least likely to malfunction by flaking off. Both the Scotsman and the Manitowoc evaporator plates are coated. The Manitowoc plate is coated in nickel, while the Scotsman plate is dipped in hot-tin. Both plates are made of copper, which is then dipped in the manufacturer’s liquid metal of choice. Copper is a great metal for constructing evaporator plates because it conducts heat extremely well. In fact, the only other metal that conducts heat better than copper is silver. Now, because ice is made by cooling the evaporator plate, the quicker the plate is cooled, the less energy it takes to produce ice. So a copper evaporator plate equals quicker cooling which equals quicker formation of ice which equals less energy to make ice. Compare this with the Hoshizaki stainless steel evaporator plate and you will see why Scotsman and Manitowoc claim to be energy efficient.

Stainless steel does not conduct heat nearly as well as copper. In fact, it is nearly 30 times slower! So then, a stainless steel evaporator plate equals slower cooling which equals slower formation of ice which equals more energy to make ice. So if you decide to purchase a Hoshizaki because of its durability, you are simply sacrificing energy efficiency for that durability.

Of the two coated evaporator plates, it is our opinion that the Manitowoc is better. Manitowoc has nickel plated their evaporators for a long time and they have succeeded in mastering the art. Scotsman on the other hand, has just recently started dipping their evaporator plates in hot-tin. There still may be some kinks in their technology that need to be worked out.

Therefore, since Hoshizaki makes the most durable evaporator plate, they don’t have much motivation to make it highly accessible. The Scotsman hot-tin dipped plate is advertised as “99.4% reliable over 5 years”. What about after 5 years? Most owners expect makers to last 10+ years. Don’t all business owners hope to have a larger business after 5 years? Manitowoc has nickel-plated their evaporator plates for a long time and has proven themselves in making a durable, easily accessible unit.

Related to ease of service issues is ease of cleaning. If you don’t keep your machine clean, then it will damage the components and cause service downtime. So it is in your best profitable interest to keep your ice machine in a clean condition. The Manitowoc machines have a 6 step cleaning process that takes 24 minutes to complete. The closest competing cleaning process is 26 steps! The Hoshizaki machines, since their evaporator plates are made of stainless steel, require a heavy-duty acid cleaner to be used in the cleaning process. Granted that the stainless steel evaporator will take longer to get all gunked up, but when it is gunked, boy is it gunked! This is why Hoshizaki cleaning cycles involve empty ice bins and abrasive acids. For Manitowoc and Scotsman, emptying the ice bin is unnecessary in order to run the clean cycle.

So after these issues are considered, you are better enabled to make in informed decision regarding your ice maker needs. Again, these distinctions are sometimes technical and do not effect your final decision for various reasons. Always remember, saving money up front may mean losing money in the long run. And nobody likes to lose money.
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