Except when it’s not. There are actually some variations in the methods used to make ice, especially when it comes to commercial ice production. Clear ice makers, for example, don’t freeze whole pockets of water at a time like your refrigerator ice maker does. Instead, they lay down thin layers of water, freezing from the inside out, sort of like icicles form, so that there are no microscopic cracks from escaping particles and the ice stays clear.
A portable ice maker works a little differently, too compared to commercial ice makers. So how does a portable ice maker work exactly? Instead of filling an ice mold with water and then putting the ice mold into a freezer, a portable ice maker freezes the water directly, so it takes much less time to complete a batch of ice. Here’s a detailed explanation of how an works.
1) Water is added into the unit’s water reservoir, up to the fill line. Because these units are meant to be portable, they’re not connected to a water line and must be filled manually. That means you just pour the water directly into it with a faucet, bucket, jug, etc.
2) The water is pumped via a hole in the bottom of the reservoir through a water filter and up to an ice tray at the top of the unit. Any overflow spills back into the reservoir.
3) When the refrigeration cycle begins, the 1/2-inch prongs on the heat exchanger are lowered into the water of the ice tray. These submerged spikes get cold very quickly, and ice begins to form on them in a matter of minutes.
4) The size of the ice cubes depends on how long the prongs are left in the water. A longer cycle means thicker pieces of ice. Small ice usually takes about 6 minutes, while large ice is about twice that, though freezing times can be affected by the ambient temperature and how long the unit has been running.
5) When the ice has reached the proper size, the ice tray empties any remaining water back into the water reservoir. At the same time, the heat exchanger reverses itself and the spikes start to heat up – just enough so that the ice pieces slide off the prongs and tumble into the ice bin that’s above the water reservoir.
6) A second sensor on storage basket monitors the amount of stored ice, and shuts off the system if it gets too full.
Here are some important tips on how to use an ice maker:
- A portable ice maker is not a freezer. Once the ice is made, it will not keep stored ice frozen. Either use it right away, or move it into your refrigerator’s freezer to keep it from melting.
- Ice that melts in the storage bin will drain back into the water reservoir for reuse.
- Because the freezing element of a portable ice maker is placed directly in the water, it can make ice much more quickly than a regular freezer, which lowers the air temperature.
Now that you know how countertop/portable ice makers work. You may be wondering about what to purchase. I've had mine now for a year and half and purchased it on Amazon. Works like a charm. You just have to remember to clean out the inside once a month and the mechines 2-3 times a year. Wo without further ado; I present to you two things. The ice maker I use myself and a video tutorial on how to clean it out so you can extend the life as long as possible.