What’s the best way to make ice at home? Most people would probably say their freezer. It’s there, it’s convenient, and it usually has an automatic ice maker built right in. But if you want a lot of ice, enough so that you never run out, then you should ditch your refrigerator ice maker and get a portable ice maker instead. Portable ice makers produce more ice in less time than refrigerator ice makers—approximately 23 and a half pounds more.

NewAir Countertop Ice Maker Portable Ice Maker

Photo taken by @stirandstrain

The difference in the amount of ice they both make has to do with the way each one makes ice. Let’s dive into the details.

How Refrigerator Ice Makers Work

Your refrigerator’s ice-making cycle begins when the machine sends an electrical signal to the refrigerator’s water valve that opens it and releases water into a specialized mold in your freezer. The valve is normally open for about seven seconds, just enough to fill the mold, which usually holds enough room for 6-9 ice cubes. Once the mold is filled, the valve shuts off and the water slowly freezes through the process of convection.

Refrigerators with ice makers use air as a heat conductor, which is notoriously known as being a slow way to transfer heat in the cooling process. Even at temperatures of 0°F, the recommended average temperature, it takes water over an hour to freeze into ice. Once it has, the rest of the process is fairly straightforward.

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NewAir 400 Count Climate Controlled Electronic Humidor CC-300H

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NewAir 250 Count Cigar Humidor, Climate Controlled with Opti-Temp™ CC-100H

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NewAir 400 Count Cigar Humidor CC-300

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NewAir 250 Count Cigar Cooler CC-100 Stainless Steel Electric Cigar Humidor

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Automatic ice makers have a built-in thermostat that monitors the water’s temperature while it in the mold. Once it’s reached a preset level, approximately 9°F in most cases, it actives a heating coil under the ice mold that breaks ice free of the mold. Then a rotating ejector blade swoops down and scoops the ice out into an ice tray below, where it’s stored until you decide to use it. Then the circuits send another signal to the water valve and the whole process starts over again.

How Portable Ice Makers Work

In order to speed up the ice making process, portable ice makers make ice cubes using conduction instead of convection. Once the pump has brought the water up from the reservoir to the ice case, a rotating plastic tray where the ice is formed, a set of metal prongs is lowered down into the water. The prongs are connected to the compressor’s evaporator coils, which keeps them extremely cold. Because metal is an excellent heat conductor, the prongs begin freezing the water almost immediately. The heat gets drawn into the prongs and picked up by the refrigerant in the coils, which is pulled back down into the compressor, heated, and then cooled again as it passes back up into the coils again. This cycle of cooling keeps the prongs freezing cold at all times and the ice builds up around them in layers.

NewAir Countertop Ice Maker Portable Ice Maker

Photo taken by @squeaksandcheeks

Once the ice reaches a certain thickness, the ice tray pulls back, and the prongs switch from cooling to heating. This loosens the ice’s grip on the prongs, causing them to pop off and slid down into the ice try below. Any leftover water is drained down into the reservoir and becomes part of the next batch.

In a NewAir portable ice maker, this process takes approximately 5-15 minutes. That’s 36-48 cubes every hour, 28-50 pounds of ice per day. Here’s how they break down compared to ice makers from leading refrigerator manufactures.

Portable Ice Makers vs. Refrigerator Ice Makers

Twenty-eight to fifty pounds of ice is enough to fill a cooler. It’s enough for a party. It’s enough to make homemade ice cream or provide cool drinks for a sports team. It’s enough to ensure you never have to worry about running out of ice no matter how much you use. That’s something refrigerator ice makers can’t promise. They’re just not built to for large households or large parties with lots of people.

Things to Consider When Buying A Portable Ice Maker

Though portable ice makers outperform ice makers in refrigerators in terms of ice production, they do have some limitations that are worth mentioning. The biggest is their inability to store the ice once it’s been generated. Portable ice makers aren’t refrigerated. In order to reach the ice maker’s full capacity, you’ll have to empty the ice into a cooler or place it in your freezer whenever the ice basket fills up.

NewAir Countertop Ice Maker Portable Ice Maker

Photo taken by @stirandstrain

Refrigerator ice makers also have access to a steady stream of water. Portable ice makers don’t. They have to be refilled manually whenever they run low. Because they’re not refrigerated, portable ice makers are also more susceptible to external temperatures. Placing them in high heat or direct sunlight can slow down the ice making process, reduce ice cube size, or cause the ice in the ice bucket to melt faster. They operate best in cool, shady spots.

Who Are Portable Ice Makers Right For?

NewAir Countertop Ice Maker Portable Ice Maker

Photo taken by @chels_leighton

Portable ice makers are designed for people who love ice and use ice. They’re made for large households, hot climates, and people who entertain. They’re made for people who want ice immediately, whether they’re sitting in their living room, on their patio, or stationed in their RV on a camping trip. They’re for people who are tired of the hassle and expense of buying large ice bags. Portable ice makers provide flexibility and convenience that can’t be matched by refrigerator ice makers.

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1 comment

  • I just bought one for my camper van. It’s better than a mini fridge. I prepack my cooler with ice then the ice maker comes with me, it only draws 1.5 amps/120 watts from an inverter. When I get to my destination I feed my ice maker cheap bottled water and turn it on. I dip ice out as I need it and every time I take ice the ice maker makes another batch automatically. Ice for my cooler is in gallon zip lock freezer bags. When the ice in the bag melts I dump the water from the freezer bag back into the icemaker and it get remade into ice. After my trip I pull the drain plug on my icemaker and unplug it and open the lid to dry it out. Who needs a stinky mini fridge in the van/camper?

    Bill Jackson on

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