Mike Dell, head of preventative maintenance, Clark Service Group, Smoketown, Pa.
FE&S: Do these units require an extensive cleaning regimen?
MD:This depends on the water conditions, but most units are sealed well and there is not a lot of maintenance aside from wiping the outside of the unit and cleaning the condensing coils. Because these are located on the back of the ice machine, coils are easy to overlook. Brushing or vacuuming this area once a month is typically sufficient. A service agent will blow out and chemically clean washable filters when units are serviced.
FE&S: Should operators attempt to clean ice bins themselves?
MD: As these are typically always filled with ice, bins can be a challenge to clean. Service agents will typically take care of this during their twice a year service calls. For operators looking to do this themselves, it’s important to use NSF-approved sanitizers and avoid cleaners that leave a residue.
FE&S: What is the most common mistake operators make when cleaning ice makers?
MD: A regular de-limer cannot be used to clean nickel-coated evaporator plates or the coating will be stripped off. Nickel-safe cleaner is required for this component.
FE&S: What are the signs an ice maker will soon need replacing?
MD: These units typically last between 8 and 12 years. Even when using the correct cleaner, the evaporator plate eventually loses its nickel coating and needs replacement at some point. Also, any leakage can produce rust, which will cause a problem during health inspections.
FE&S: What is the rule of thumb when deciding to retire an ice machine?
MD: Ice makers lose production over time. Also, compressors will get noisier before failing. Older machines also are inefficient in terms of energy usage, especially at the end of the service life. If a unit is eight or more years old and repair costs equal half the price of a new unit, the ice maker should be replaced.
FE&S: Are there any other factors that impact an ice machine’s service life?
MD: One of the big things we see is lack of proper water treatment. Operators who are purchasing a new ice maker should consider water conditioning, as mineral deposits are very difficult to remove. A quick water test will determine the hardness of the water and mineral content. We’ll typically specify a standard water filter and move to a more comprehensive type if needed. Using the correct water filter can add years onto the service life of an ice machine.