Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions that homeowners have about portable ice makers. Click on your question to go directly to the answer, or browse around to learn more.
- What is a Portable Ice Maker?
- How does a portable ice machine work?
- How do you clean a portable ice maker?
- How long does it take to make ice?
- Do portable ice makers need a dedicated water line?
- Do portable ice makers need a dedicated drain line?
- Does it matter what type of water I use?
- How does ice production differ from ice storage?
- Is a portable ice maker a freezer?
- How much electricity does a portable ice maker use?
- Do these work with standard 120v wall outlets?
- What do I need to do before using the ice maker?
- Who makes the best countertop ice maker?
- What is the best portable ice maker?
- Where can you buy a portable ice maker?
What is a Portable Ice Maker?
How does a portable ice machine work?
Portable ice makers operate by quickly making small batches of ice from water that you pour into the unit. Once a batch is ready to serve, the machine will drop the ice down onto the tray for you to scoop out when needed. Simply plug it in, pour in some water and you’ll have ice within a few minutes.
However, unlike other types of ice makers, portable units don’t have a drain, so as the ice begins to melt, the water simply drips back down into the basin whereupon it is turned back into ice.
The cycle repeats until there is no more water in the ice maker.
How do you clean a portable ice maker?
Cleaning your portable ice maker is a simple task, and just about the only maintenance needed to keep it operating in an efficient manner.
Every ice maker will have their own specific cleaning instructions in the manual that came with the device. You may also be able to download them from the manufacturer’s website.
If you don’t have access to the cleaning instructions for your specific model, you can follow these steps:
- Unplug the ice machine.
- Empty all water or ice.
- Disassemble interior pieces and wash separately.
- Clean the interior with a towel.
- Pour a generous amount of vinegar into the unit with some water.
- Allow device to run a few cycles and discard all ice with vinegar.
- Allow machine to dry before using.
- Add fresh water and enjoy.
Note: You can substitute vinegar with a cleanser made for ice machines.
How long does it take to make ice?
This will vary between different models, but generally, a portable ice maker will produce ice within 7-15 minutes after you add water.
It’s important to note that there are a few other variables that can play a role in slowing down production of an ice maker.
- The type of water you use.
- How often you clean the ice maker.
- The age of the ice machine.
- Frequency of use.
If you use hard water and don’t clean your ice maker on a frequent basis, then it is likely that mineral build-up will start to happen inside the device. This will slow down production time and quality.
Do portable ice makers need a dedicated water line?
No. A portable ice maker does not need or even require a dedicated water line to work. As the name suggests, this appliance is designed to be portable, allowing you to plug it in when and wherever you need it.
When you want it to produce ice, you simply plug it into an outlet and fill the reservoir with water. The unit will start producing ice relatively quickly.
This lack of a water line is one of the main differences that sets a portable ice maker apart from other types of ice machines. This may be considered both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on how you plan on using it.
Do portable ice makers need a dedicated drain line?
No. A portable ice maker does not need or require a dedicated drain line to operate. Much like a dedicated water line, a built-in drain line would make it less portable.
Due to how this type of ice machine works, it has no need for a drain line. As the ice melts, the water goes back down into the basin where the machine turns it back into ice. This process repeats until you have consumed all the ice, or add more water.
Note: To ensure that your ice is fresh and tasty, it would be wise to drain any water that has been sitting in the unit for more than a day.
Does it matter what type of water I use?
Yes, to some extent. The overall quality of the ice produced by the machine is largely determined by the quality of the water you pour into it. But, the type of water you add to the unit can also play a role in its ability to produce ice, how often you have to clean the unit, and its overall lifespan.
Obviously, the water should be potable. If it’s not safe to drink, then there’s no reason it should be inside an ice machine. But outside of whether it’s safe to consume, determining the “best” type of water is going to be subjective.
- Hard Water — Generally, it would be wise to avoid “hard water,” as it will eventually lead to mineral build-up inside your ice machine and diminish the quality of ice that is produced. This applies to all appliances.
- Distilled Water — While this type of water has less minerals, it may also cause performance issues with some ice makers. This is due to the usage of sensors inside most portable ice machines that rely on mineral content to determine whether more ice needs to be made.
- Filtered & Purified Water — These fall somewhere in the middle. The mineral content will be lower than hard water, but not low enough that the sensors inside are unable to perform their duty. The water quality is usually better, which means you should get ice that smells and tastes fresh.
With all of that said, the best type of water should always come down to the experience you get from the ice.
How does ice production differ from ice storage?
Often overlooked, the product/storage capacity are two considerations that one must take into account before buying any type of ice maker. All manufacturers will have these listed somewhere in their spec sheet.
- Storage — This defines the maximum amount of ice the unit can have ready to serve.
- Production — This defines the maximum amount of ice the unit can produce in a day.
This is also another major difference between portable ice makers and other types available. Because they are designed to take with you on-the-go, portable units will be significantly lower in both capacities.
Is a portable ice maker a freezer?
No. This type of ice machine is not a freezer, nor is it a suitable alternative to a freezer.
While the design will vary from model to model, all portable ice makers have an insulated exterior to help keep the ice frozen and ready to consume. However, there are no portable machines that double as a freezer. This means that the ice will slowly start to melt the moment it hits the tray.
Once it melts, the water goes back down into the basin where it is used to make another batch of ice.
How much electricity does a portable ice maker use?
Like all appliances, the amount of electricity will differ between brands and models, as well as how you are using the device and the frequency you clean it.
For the most part, portable ice makers are not known to be very energy efficient. We are unable to find any portable ice makers that are EnergyStar certified.
However, that doesn’t mean that they are going to cost a lot to run. In fact, they use far less electricity than undercounter ice machines or refrigerators with an ice maker built-in. And if you only plug it in when you need ice, then it is very unlikely that you’ll notice any increase in your utility bills.
For more insight, we would encourage you to read this article from Wired Mag where they analyze, calculate and estimate precisely how much it would cost to use an ice machine.
Do these work with standard 120v wall outlets?
Yes. All portable ice machines will work with a typical 120v wall outlet commonly found in homes and offices. You should not need any other equipment to make ice.
What do I need to do before using the ice maker?
Once you unbox your portable ice maker, it is recommended that you make a few batches of ice and discard it. This will remove any possible dust or debris that may have gather inside the unit during packaging or shipping.
Who makes the best countertop ice maker?
We try to stay impartial when it comes to brands. Certainly, some brands are going to be more reputable than others, just based on how long they’ve been manufacturing this type of product. Of course, this is not an indication of a “better” brand, but does offer a glimpse at how reputable a company is.
To help you determine which brand is best for you, make sure you look over the warranty that comes with the product, as well as the return policy from where you purchased it. Also, take some time to read over some reviews that customers have left. While the reviews are never going to be an accurate assessment of the brand, you may gain more perspective of what to expect from that brands’ customer service.
What is the best portable ice maker?
There is no correct answer to this question. The best portable ice maker is going to depend on your needs. And for many homeowners, a portable ice maker may not even be the best fit for them.
To find the best portable ice maker, you should do careful research on the brands and models available within your budget, and then compare their features to narrow down the one you deem to be the best unit for you.
Where can you buy a portable ice maker?
You can buy portable ice maker from a wide variety of retailers, both online or in stores. You’ll find that you have a better selection online.
Before you buy a portable ice machine at Walmart or Home Depot, we would recommend browsing your options online and narrowing down which model would be best for your home. You don’t have to buy online, but you’ll at least have comfort in knowing that you made an educated buying decision.