Most water-cooled ice machines use a once-through cooling system, where the water used to cool the machine issubsequently dumped down the drain. This wastes tons of water and generally causes water bills to skyrocket. Water-cooling does have some advantages, though. It is a more effective method of cooling and will keep the heat out of your building. It uses significantly less energy than air-cooling. However, these advantages rarely make up for the much higher water and wastewater costs.
Choose an air-cooled ice machine. In general, air-cooled systems are better for the environment and for your utility bills. Although the heat from an air-cooled machine makes your air conditioning work harder, the higher air conditioning costs are small compared to the costs of water-cooling.
If you invest in a remote condenser, the heat exchange will occur outside and the air-cooling will not significantly increase your air conditioning costs. A remote condenser can be placed on the roof of a building or on a ledge along the side.
Because of water shortages, many cities have discouraged the use of water-cooling systems, usually by offering rebates for air-cooled machines and/or banning single-pass water-cooling systems. The following cities are just a few examples:
While water-cooled machines can waste a tremendous amount of water, they do use less energy than air-cooled machines. Water-cooling can be more cost-effective than air-cooling in a few regions, where energy is expensive but water costs very little.
Generally, compared to air-cooled models, water-cooled ice machines use an extra 100 gallons or more of water per 100 lbs of ice. Usually they use about 2-4 kWh less electricity per 100 lbs of ice. Determine how much ice you will need and perform a cost-analysis before you choose a machine. Remember that the extra water use in a water-cooled machine increases your wastewater bill as well as your standard water bill. For this reason, in the large majority of cases, an air-cooled machine is more cost-effective.
Use a closed-loop water-cooling system. As opposed to a once-through system, a closed-loop cooling system reuses the water that cools your ice machine. If you have access to one, a water-cooled ice machine can actually be more efficient than an air-cooled model. According to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), it will use less energy without wasting water. However, for the large majority of commercial kitchens, such a complicated cooling system is not an option. For some bigger establishments or restaurants located in a large-scale building, it might be worthwhile to install a closed-loop water-cooling system or to use one that is already available.