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Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled Ice Machines

Air-Cooled vs Water-Cooled Ice Machines

When it comes to commercial ice machines, your compressor is a key component to its function. It’s doing all the legwork when it comes to removing heat from your unit, and without it, your unit’s efforts in maintaining a constant cool temperature are in vain. Compressors come in three main types: air-cooled, water-cooled, and remote-cooled. Choosing between the three is dependent on your restaurant’s specific needs.


As the name implies, air-cooled units utilize air by drawing it up and over the condenser and expelling it from the unit through the use of fans and ducts. This draws heat off of the refrigeration lines, helping to cool the unit. While most restaurants are able to use this type of machine, there are a few pros and cons to keep in mind:


  • Installation: Air-cooled machines are easy to install and require only fans and vents as opposed to water lines.

  • Cost: Because the installation requires so little, it’s much cheaper than its water and remote-cooled counterparts.

  • Utilities: By not using water as a method for cooling, air-cooled units can save on water bills!


  • Space: Because the unit will need to expel air, you’ll need to ensure that there’s clearance above, behind, and around the unit itself.

  • Cleaning: Consider that dust and airborne particles can build up in the vents. You’ll need to clean out the unit often to ensure that it has the maximum possible area for airflow and that its free of dirt and grime.

  • Heat: The exhaust air can make your kitchen hotter since it’s expelled into the immediate surroundings.


Water-cooled units utilize water alongside the compressor to draw heat out of the lines. One line feeds into the ice-making compartment, and another line runs alongside the refrigerant.


  • Ambiant Air: Because these units don’t use air to cool the system, its success is not dependent on the ambiant air temperature. At the same time, it doesn’t heat up your kitchen with hot air expulsion. Because of this, these units work well for operations that are in hot, humid climates.

  • Electricity: What it costs in your water bill, the water-cooled system can make up for in electricity. It uses less electricity than its air-cooled counterpart.

  • Quiet: With no fans, this unit tends to be quieter.


  • Water Usage: Because this system utilizes water, these are not ideal for climates with water shortages.

  • Installation: A separate water line is required for installation, making it a little more of a hassle.

  • Regulations: Some municipalities have restrictions on water-cooled ice machines, so check your local offices for any of these laws.