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Q: What is a commercial ice-maker?

A:  A typical commercial ice-maker, which usually lasts about 7-10 years, consists of a case, insulation, refrigeration system and a water supply system. It produces ice cubes or crushed ice for hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other commercial buildings.

Q: How many commercial ice-makers are there in the United States?

A.  There are approximately 1.2 million commercial ice-makers in operation, consuming an estimated 9.4 billion kWh annually. Associated energy costs are approximately $700 million with a conservative estimated average annual energy cost per unit of $450-500 per year.

Q: What are the types of ice made by commercial ice-makers?

A.  There are four categories:
  • Cube - clear, regularly shaped ice of a certain weight.
  • Flake - ice formed into chips or flakes that contain up to 20 percent liquid water.
  • Crushed - ice that consists of small, irregular pieces made by crushing larger chunks of ice.
  • Nuggets - ice made by extruding and freezing slushy flake ice into small pieces.
Q: What are the different kinds of ice-makers?

A.  Ice-making head units

Standard ice-makers with the ice-making mechanism and the condensing unit in a single package, but with a separate ice storage bin.

Self-contained units

Models in which the ice-making mechanism and the storage compartment are in an integral cabinet.

Remote condensing units

Split-system models in which the ice-making mechanism, the condensing unit, and the ice storage bins are in separate sections.

Q: Who uses this equipment?

A.  Hospitals account for 39.4 percent of all commercial icemaker purchases, followed by hotels (22.3 percent), restaurants (13.8 percent), retail outlets (8.5 percent), schools (8.5 percent), offices (4.3 percent) and grocery stores (3.2 percent).

Q: How do commercial ice-makers work?

A.  A typical ice-making cycle consists of the following:
  • Step 1: Water fills the sump. The sump usually contains 10-40 percent more water than required to make a given batch of ice.
  • Step 2: The refrigeration system is activated and sump water is circulated over the evaporator plate. During the freeze cycle, the compressor, condenser fan (for air-cooled machines) and the water circulating pump are activated.
  • Step 3: The water is cooled and gradually freezes on the evaporator plate.
  • Step 4: Ice builds up on the plate to the proper ice batch weight.
  • Step 5: Upon reaching the prescribed ice weight, the machine switches to the harvest mode. Most machines use hot-gas harvest, in which hot refrigerant vapor warms the evaporator and melts the ice, freeing it on the plate. Once free, the ice falls into the storage bin below.
  • Step 6: During the harvest process, water remaining in the sump is purged from the system and fresh, potable water is flushed through the system to remove impurities.
  • Step 7: Water fills the sump and the system returns to the freeze mode as detected by evaporator temperature and/or time.
Q: Who manufactures commercial ice-makers?

A.  The four major manufacturers are: Manitowoc, Scotsman, Hoshizaki and Ice-O-Matic.

Q: What is the distribution chain for commercial ice-makers?

A.  Manufacturers of commercial ice-makers work through regional sales offices or manufacturers' representatives to sell equipment to dealers or beverage and food distributors. Distributors and dealers then sell equipment directly to end-users.

Q: How many new units are sold annually

A.  based upon the U.S. Census data from 2002, there were 294,535 commercial ice-makers sold in 2001

Q: How does CEE measure energy usage for commercial ice-makers?

A.  The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) publishes a voluntary energy usage test standard for commercial ice-makers. This standard, based on an earlier ASHRAE test method, determines efficiency using the ice harvest rate, energy use and water use. After receiving ARI certification, the product is added to the Directory of Certified Automatic Commercial Ice Cube Machines and Ice Storage Bins. This database is updated every six months.

Q: What voluntary efficiency specifications are available for commercial ice-makers?

A.  In the U.S., there are two voluntary specifications available: Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). The FEMP recommendations were launched in 1996 and updated in 1999. In December 2002, CEE developed a two-tiered specification. Tier 1 is approximately equal to the FEMP specification and Tier 2 is 20 percent more efficient than Tier 1. At this time, there are no commercial ice-makers on the market that meet Tier 2.

Q: When using equipment that meets these specifications, what are the potential energy savings?

A.  For ice-making heads (the most widely sold type of equipment) savings are approximately 250-800 kWh/year for Tier 1 and about 600-2,200 kWh/year for Tier 2. Savings estimates depend on equipment size and capacity

Q: Does ENERGY STAR ® promote commercial ice-makers?

A.Currently, ENERGY STAR does not have a specification for commercial ice-makers.

Q: What organizations are promoting commercial ice-makers?

A.NYSERDA is the only sponsor currently providing incentives for commercial ice-makers. Under its Smart Equipment Choices program, a $50 rebate is provided directly to the end-user for units that meet CEE's Tier 1.

Q: What technologies are currently available for improving efficiency in commercial ice-makers?

A.Ice-makers use a substantial amount of energy in order to freeze water and maintain the ice as separate cubes. Reductions are possible with the use of high-efficiency motors in condenser fans and compressors, thicker insulation and reduced evaporator thermal cycling. The energy use in a commercial ice-maker varies from product to product, depending on the condenser and the type of ice produced.

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