The Ice Machine - its one piece of equipment that almost every athletic training room uses. Whether you're filling coolers with water and ice for practice, a whirlpool for to use as a cold soak or just an ice bag to be used as treatment ice - nearly every athletic training room uses ice. A lot of ice. Sometimes several hundreds pounds per day.
So what are the main considerations in a sports medicine setting for purchasing an ice machine? Having literally sold hundreds of ice machines to athletic training room settings - and learning a lot about them along the way - we're here to offer you a few tips on selecting the best ice machine for your facility.
As you're trying to determine the best ice machine for your facility one of the key factors to keep in mind is how long it will take the ice machine to refill - this is known as the production time and is generally measured in a 24 hour period. It's important to remember that ice machines are most efficient when the ambient temperature in the room is about 70 degrees and the water temperature is around 50 degrees. These are considered ideal conditions for an ice maker to make ice.
Most ice machines will give you a rating in it's technical specs that will read something like - 24 hr production: 525 lb @ 70/50 and 380 lb @ 90/70.
That rating is stating that if the ambient temperature is 70 degrees and water temperature is 50 degrees, that unit will produce approximately 525 lbs in 24 hours. With football and other sports going - if you'd normally go through fifty 10# bags of ice per day this ice machine sounds ideal.
Note though as the ambient temperature increases and the water temperature increase - the production goes down significantly. In example above - you would realize a 27.7% decrease in ice production if the temperature in the room and water supply both rise by 20 degrees. Instead of producing 525 lb of ice in 24 hours, your machine would only produce 380 lb of ice - leaving you short of the ice you planned on having.
You should consider where this ice machine is being placed. If it's going into an air conditioned facility with consistent water temperatures - this machine is probably ideally suited. However - if you're going into an outbuilding that is not temperature controlled - you should plan for this unit to struggle to fully recover over night and you may want to plan for a larger machine or even a second machine to meet all of your ice needs.
Air Cooled vs Water Cooled
How an ice machine is cooled can also affect it's production. An air-cooled machine cools itself by venting into the room around it. The higher the ambient temperature in the room the less the machine will cool itself through venting - and the less ice it will produce. In a small room, an air-cooled ice machine will struggle to cool itself - the harder it works, the more the temperature and humidity in the room will rise.
Ice machines that are working hard are very loud and venting that heated air into your athletic training room. This can make your room very uncomfortable. Additionally the ever-present humidity created by an ice machine venting into your athletic training room, over time - can have an a negative affect on your supplies and equipment.
A water-cooled machine uses it's water supply to cool itself - which its important to note that it does use more water. This can be a critical deciding factor for an institution where sustainability is an important consideration. A water cooled machine will be much quieter however and will generally have less trouble reaching it's production potential because it's not contributing to the ambient temperature like an air-cooled machine does.
Types of Ice Makers
Ice Makers come in a variety of sizes and then are set on a bin. Occasionally ice makers will require an additional kit to fit a particular model of ice maker onto a particular bin. It's important to choose an ice maker that creates the type of ice you want in the quantity you need.
There are generally three types of ice - although some manufacturers may offer further variations. The main three are cubed ice, flaked ice and nugget ice.
- Cubed ice - Due to the density of the ice, cubed ice retains its temperature for a long period of time and will take much longer to melt. Cubed ice is generally considered ideal for filling coolers. It is not as ideal for treatment ice as cubed ice doesn't conform well around knees and elbows. Sometimes cubed ice can develop sharp edges as well and poke holes in your ice bags.
- Flaked ice - While ideal as treatment ice due to how it will conform around any body part, flaked ice has much less density and will melt quickly. A bag full of flaked ice will reduce to water in hot conditions very quickly and it won't keep your coolers cool nearly as long on a hot day.
- Nugget Ice - The nugget is a hybrid of the cubed ice and the flaked ice. While generally more expensive due to the mechanism required to create the unique shape, nugget ice is small enough to serve as treatment ice but large enough to retain it's temperature over a prolonged period of time. It will serve you well as both treatment ice and for servicing your coolers, whirlpool ice and other athletic training room needs.
Types of Bins
There are really two main considerations in choosing the best bin for your ice needs. The first is capacity. If you want a little extra ice over the production capacity of your ice maker, this is where you can add a little more storage. During those slower times your unit will fill to capacity leaving you some extra ice during your heaviest usage periods. Choosing more storage is certainly a less expensive option for increasing your ice capaicty than choosing more production.
The second consideration is the footprint of your ice machine. Bins come in a wide variety of sizes - it's important to pick one with a width and depth that fits the space you have allotted in your athletic training room.
While there are a lot of options to consider when choosing the best ice machine for your athletic training room, please do remember that we've sold hundreds of these machines. We're here to assist you and are available as a resource whenever you have questions. Please call us for a quote.
Lastly, we're including a copy of the latest Scotsman Ice catalog which may be a good resource for you as you consider your next athletic training room improvement.
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