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Strategies to Find Leaks That Pool in Ice Bins


“My ice machine is making some ice but there's a bunch of water in the bottom”

Fresh ice, and plenty of it, is mandatory for hotels and restaurants throughout the year, and especially during the warm season. When the ice machine makes ice, but leaves a pool of water in the ice bin, something is wrong. It’s time to get to the bottom of the problem.

First, check the obvious trouble-points.

Ensure there are no ice jams in the dispenser chute. Check the water lines and tighten any loose connections. Determine whether the ice chute guide is properly aligned. Any of these issues could cause water or melting ice to leak into the ice bin.

Clear the ice bin drain of any clogs. The bin is, essentially, an insulated cooler with a drain. If the drain is clogged, it pools in the bin. Be sure to check underneath the machine to ensure a stray towel or other item isn’t blocking the floor drain and causing water to backflow.

If the ice machine can’t access a drain easily and therefore uses a drain pump, check the pump to ensure it is working and that it is sized properly. This includes having a reservoir large enough to hold the ice machine’s effluent, as well as an adequate pumping capacity in terms of gallons per minute and horsepower to move water upslope.

Level the ice bin. It can become tilted if the installation surface – the floor or counter – is sloped, if the legs of the machine are damaged from dragging during moves, or if the bin itself was warped. Each situation could cause the drain to be higher than the base of the bin, thus preventing complete drainage.

Additionally, if the bin is warped, or the liner is bubbling or separating from the bin, water may seep inside and cause pooling.

Check for air gaps. Often, especially when ice machines are installed by volunteers rather than professional service technicians, the machines aren’t properly air-gapped to prevent backflows. Ice machines require two air gaps – one to protect the municipal water supply and the other to protect the ice machine’s water supply. The first air gap should be between the ice machine’s drain lines and the facility’s water supply to prevent any backflow from contaminating the municipal water source. The second should be between the ice machine and the sewer drain, to prevent sewage water from backing up into the ice machine.

Also inspect the water reservoir and the recirculation pump for leaks.

If water still pools in the bin, more complicated solutions may be needed.

Perform a thorough cleaning to help you narrow the possible trouble points. Start by cleaning the evaporator. Make sure it is dry and inspect it for lime scale buildup. If lime scale is evident, descale the evaporator and sanitize the machine.

Check the water solenoid valve. Does it open and close properly? Are water inlet valves it properly sealed? Test the float switches and water level probes, too, to ensure they sense water accurately. If the ice machine isn’t level, their readings won’t be accurate, which can cause too much or too little water flow.

A faulty control board also may be behind the problem. Consider this a last resort, though, and check the sensors that feed information to the control board before replacing it. So many problems are blamed on control boards that Manitowoc considers it one of the most commonly misdiagnosed problems among ice makers.

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