Nowadays, almost everyone across the developed world is pretty much used to refrigerators and freezers. This is because these machines are common in many households. Many people also know what these machines do and their uses.
However, the case is different with portable ice makers; many people are not familiar with them. Although portable ice makers work somewhat like refrigerators and freezers, they are relatively new and they are not common in many households.
Read my comprehensive review of the best ice makers for your home here. The top portable ice maker pick will surprise you.
This article is an explainer article that answers the question “How does a portable ice maker work?”
How Does A Portable Ice Maker Work?
1. Water Is Added Into a Tank. Most portable ice makers have a water tank or reservoir that needs to be filled manually for them to make ice. They have a reservoir instead of a water line hook-up because they are portable and not fixed like commercial freezers.
2. The Water Is Pumped Into a Freeze Tray/ Ice Tray. Most portable ice makers make their ice in a freeze tray. So when they are switched on, they pump water from their tanks to their freeze trays.
3. Special Prongs Are Lowered Into The Freeze Tray. Most portable ice machines make ice using special 2-inch prongs. So when water moves into their freeze trays, they lower the prongs into the water to make ice. The prongs are often connected to a heat exchanger/ evaporator and can, therefore, get very cold very fast. When they get freezing cold, ice starts forming on them within minutes.
4. Ice Cubes Are Made. In several minutes, the portable ice maker prongs can make small (bullet-shaped)ice pieces. With more time, they can make bigger ice cubes
5. Ice Cubes Are Dropped. Once ice cubes form, they are dropped into the freeze tray. This happens automatically and it is usually preceded by the remaining water in the freeze tray being drained back into the water tank/ reservoir. For ice maker prongs to drop the ice formed on them, they usually heat up just a bit. This also happens automatically. Portable ice makers do many things automatically because they have got sensors and timers that guide them.
6. System Is Shut Down. Most ice makers automatically shut down once they make enough ice.
After the sixth step above, your ice is ready. You can fetch the ice from the ice tray and use it for whatever purpose you have in mind.
How the Ice Maker Prongs Get Cold: The Refrigeration System
As mentioned above, most portable ice makers make ice using special 2-inch prongs. So how do the prongs get freezing cold to turn water into ice? Well, all portable ice makers use a refrigeration system to make their prongs freezing cold.
A refrigeration system is made up of four different components – compressor, condenser, inlet valve, and evaporator through which it transfers heat utilizing a coolant. The system is set to use the compressor to compress the coolant into a hot gas with plenty of pressure, and the condenser to dissipate the heat from the gas and transform the coolant into high water pressure.
The inlet valve component of the system is set to release the coolant’s high pressure and convert it into vapor and further lower its temperature. Lastly, the evaporator component, which is a series of heat-exchanging pipes, produces cold air when the now cold coolant passes through them.
In portable ice makers, evaporators are connected to prongs enabling them to get cold very fast and to form ice when immersed in water.
Why Your Portable Ice Maker Is Not Working
Your portable ice maker has different components and systems that enable it to make ice. In case there is a problem with any of the components or systems, your machine will probably make poor ice or not make any ice. If your portable ice maker is not working, the most likely cause is:
1. Power Supply. An incorrectly plugged ice maker will not work. And neither will an ice maker connected to a broken circuit breaker. So if your ice maker is not working, confirm if you’ve plugged it correctly and if your circuit breaker is working.
2. Broken Pump. A broken pump will not transfer water from your ice maker’s tank/ reservoir to its freeze tray. This will make it impossible for it to make ice. If you suspect your ice machine’s pump is broken, call the manufacturer for further instructions.
3. Leaking Coolant. As I have mentioned in the previous section, the coolant is what your ice maker uses to freeze water into ice. If your ice maker’s coolant is leaking, it will probably not make any ice. If you suspect this, call the manufacturer for further instructions.
4. Leaking Water. In the case water is leaking from your machine’s reservoir or freeze tray, it will probably make little or no ice. If you think your portable ice maker is leaking, call the manufacturer for further instructions.
5. Water Temperature. If the water you add to your portable ice maker is warm, then it will probably not make ice quickly or not make any ice at all. Therefore, to make sure your machine works, add cold or room-temperature water.
If you have experienced any of the above problems and you cannot fix them on your own, you should contact the customer service department of the company that made your machine. They will provide you with the assistance you need. Many reputable manufacturers have got decent return policies. So in case they cannot resolve your ice maker’s problem or problems, they will allow you to return it for a replacement or a refund.
How Does a Portable Ice Maker Work FAQs
What Quantity of Ice Do Portable Ice Machines Produce?
It depends on the machine and its capacity. Many decent portable ice machines can make about 1lbs of ice every hour.
For How Long Do Portable Ice Machines Keep Ice Cold?
Portable ice makers are meant to make ice on demand. They are not designed to keep ice cold. Therefore, only use them to make ice when you need it. If you do not use the ice your ice maker makes it will melt. However, it will not spill because it will be channeled back to the reservoir.
Who Needs A Portable Ice Maker?
A portable ice maker is the opposite of a commercial ice maker. Most portable ice makers are designed for non-commercial use at home. Therefore, if you love to make icy drinks in your minibar or in the kitchen, then you should get one. Because portable ice makers are portable, you should also get one if you love holding outdoor parties and summer BBQs. This is because if you have one in such scenarios, you can simply carry it outside and get ice quickly when you need it. If you love camping or you love living the RV life, you should also get one to make ice when you need it.
Do Portable Ice Makers Have a Water Line Hook-Up?
No, they don’t. Since they are portable, it is illogical for them to have a water line hook-up. But they do have a water tank or reservoir that you can fill using any portable water source.
Do Portable Ice Makers Need Cleaning?
Absolutely! Ice is food. Therefore, you must make it in a clean environment. If you don’t and you end up consuming dirty ice, you will become ill. I have written a whole article on how to clean portable ice makers. Please read it to find out everything you need to know about cleaning portable ice makers.
Is Getting A Portable Ice Maker Worth It?
Because I am an ice machine aficionado, my answer to the question “Is getting a portable ice machine worth it?” is yes. It is totally worth it! This is because I just love ice and using it to make icy smoothies and cocktails.
However, I obviously do not speak for you. To find out if it is worth it for you to get a portable ice maker, answer the following questions:
- Do you always serve your go-to drink on the rocks?
- Do you regularly buy ice when you go shopping or camping?
- Do you love having friends over for summer barbeques and drinks?
- Do you love making icy smoothies?
- Do you have a freezer that you do not like opening frequently for ice cubes?
If you said yes to any of the above questions, then it is worth it for you to get a portable ice machine. Get a quality one now from a reputable brand to be able to make quality ice and to avoid the common portable ice maker problems discussed above.
A Final Word
Ice makers are brilliant machines. They produce clear ice for making icy drinks and for other purposes as well. Unlike refrigerators and freezers, ice machines make ice pretty quickly. Within ten minutes, they can make enough ice for several drinks. Portable ice makers are the best ice makers for people who like outdoor BBQs, camping, and living the RV life.
In this article, I have shared with you exactly how portable ice machines work and highlighted the common portable ice machine problems and their fixes. If you are interested in getting a portable ice maker, make sure you get a quality one from a reputable brand. Check out my article on the best portable ice makers. You will certainly find one that you will like.