Did you know that in the past, people would have to place bulk orders for ice through a delivery service? They would never even have to think, “How does an ice maker work?” as all they did was place a call and have it delivered to their home.

Could you imagine hosting a birthday party or backyard barbecue and not having access to free ice whenever you needed it? Instead, you would have had to order it out of state or from a refrigeration plant.

Unfortunately, this was the only choice homeowners had, and as a result, manufacturers decided to create convenient built-in and standalone units that give you the ability to make ice at home.

Learning how ice is made might not seem necessary, but it certainly is, especially if your ice maker becomes problematic in the future. Each machine is different, but they have similarities that can make it simple to troubleshoot issues and repair them on your own.

How Does an Ice Maker Work? The Inner Components of Built-In and Freestanding Ice Makers

There are three main types of ice makers, those built into refrigerators, those you’d find in commercial properties, and convenient portable units. All are useful tools to have at your disposal, but they all have their differences in terms of how they operate.

How a Built-In Refrigerator Ice Maker Works

There are several unique components to a built-in refrigerator ice maker that give you the ability to have access to refreshing cubes at every second of the day, including:

  • Solenoid Water Valve: At the beginning of the ice making cycle, a current is sent to the solenoid water valve to force it to open so it can bring water from the pipe to the fridge.
  • Ice Mold: As the water travels from the water valve to the fridge, it then begins to fill the ice mold. It is equivalent to a refillable ice cube tray, just simply inside of your refrigerator and it is what molds the cubes into a specific shape and size.
  • Cooling Unit: After the mold is entirely filled with water, the cooling unit is then responsible for freezing all of the water. This does not happen inside of the ice maker itself, in fact, the ice maker has a special thermostat that tells it what the temperature of the water is and when it’s at the optimal freezing point.
  • Heating Coil: Once the special thermostat inside of the ice mold alerts the ice maker that the ice is entirely frozen, a small jolt is sent to the heating coil. At this point, the heating coil uses warmth to loosen the cubes, so they are ready to be removed from the mold.
  • Ejector Blades: To help ensure that ice cubes aren’t stuck in areas where they shouldn’t be, a motor will trigger ejector blades that work as ice scoops. They pick up the cubes from the mold and transport them into the ice maker, commonly referred to as the ice bucket or ice reservoir.

How a Commercial Ice Maker Works

If you’ve spent time in a hotel or a large office building, you’ve undoubtedly seen a commercial ice maker and wondered, “How does an ice maker work?” They are traditionally large and are standalone units that give you the ability to either fill ice into a bucket by pressing a button or manually scoop out ice.

Much like the ice maker on your fridge, several parts work together to create ice in a commercial appliance, such as:

  • Water Pump: The water pump is what gathers the perfect amount of water from a collection sump and pours the liquid over an ice tray that is already chilled to the appropriate temperature. As the water moves, it will freeze and create ice cubes in the bottom of the tray.
  • Solenoid Valve: Once the ice has been created, the ice maker will send a jolt to the solenoid valve in order to warm up heating coils, which are required for preparing the ice cubes to be loosened. This is another process that is quite similar to how ice is made in a built-in unit.
  • Cylinder Piston: Depending on the type of commercial ice maker you use, either the trays will be slanted to easily allow the ice to slip out when they’re ready, or it will include a cylinder piston. The cylinder piston is required to literally shove the ice out of the trays in order to get them loose.

How a Portable Ice Maker Works

If you’ve never had the ability to use a commercial ice maker and if you don’t have a fridge with a built-in ice maker, you might be interested in figuring out, how does an ice maker work? More specifically, how does a portable ice maker work?

Portable ice makers are specifically designed to give you access to on-demand cubes for parties or personal enjoyment. Not to mention they’re easy to store and bring with you on long trips, as they don’t require a water valve connection, only a source of power.

Some of the most important components that work to create ice in portable units include:

  • Water Reservoir: In order to begin the ice making process, you will need to manually add water to a water reservoir. In most cases, your ice maker will have a fill line that tells you the perfect amount of water needed to make regular batches of ice.
  • Water Pump: In order to get the water into the freezing tray that is conveniently located at the top of the unit, the water pump is responsible for carrying all of the fluid. In most portable ice makers, the water pump won’t be able to monitor how much water is needed to make ice, and so any excess water will simply travel back into the reservoir on its own.
  • Heat Exchanger Prongs: Once the refrigeration cycle is ready to begin, the heat exchanger prongs will be lowered into the water that has collected in the freezing tray and then force ice to form within minutes. Depending on the portable unit you have and the size of the ice you choose, the length of time the prongs are in the water will determine the size of the cubes. For example, if you select large ice cubes the ice making cycle will be longer.
  • Reversal of Heat Exchanger Prongs: Now that the prongs have cooled the ice, they then revert their process and begin heating up so the ice can loosen from each of the prongs and fall into the ice bucket located at the front of the unit on top of the water reservoir.

Understanding how ice is made is not only fascinating, but it can also give you a clear idea as to what areas should be maintained and the parts that could be the cause of poor ice production. The next time you think “How does an ice maker work?”, you’ll know all of the intricate steps involved in creating the perfect cooled cubes for any beverage.

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