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Ice Maker Buying Guide

Your guide to picking the coolest ice maker for your home

Amanda Scott
Amanda Scott
Ice Maker

Today, the ice makers built into your standard refrigerator are great for filling a couple drinking glasses, but they rarely hold up to the demand of hosting a dinner party or loading up a large cooler. Adding an ice maker to the design of your kitchen or home bar is a great way to ensure you’ll always have plenty of ice to serve up refreshing drinks to friends and family, or fill a cooler for a day on the go.

With so many different sizes, styles, features, and cube styles to choose from, it can be daunting to select the right ice maker. This guide will go over what to look for and how to incorporate the appliance into your home design.

Ice Maker Styles

Ice makers come in a wide array of styles to choose from, ranging from compact, portable designs to undercounter systems that enhance the functionality of a busy kitchen or home bar area. Understanding the difference in styles and the benefits of each will help you determine which style of ice maker best fulfills the needs of your home or business.

Undercounter Ice Makers

When you’re looking to seamlessly integrate an ice maker into the design of your indoor or outdoor kitchen, an undercounter ice maker makes the ideal choice. This style is designed to fit into the space of a lower kitchen cabinet, making it easy to design into an island or home wet bar. These ice makers typically feature vents in the front, much like your refrigerator, to promote proper air circulation and cooling.

Undercounter ice makers

If you are selecting an undercounter ice maker, either choose one with a finish that coordinates with the rest of the appliances in the area or select one that is panel ready. Panel-ready ice makers are virtually undetectable because you can place a cabinet door panel directly over the ice maker door, concealing the appliance from view and making it look like just another cabinet.

Portable Ice Makers

When you’re looking for the ultimate in versatility, there’s no better option than a portable ice maker. These compact designs are easy to store between uses and can easily be placed on a porch, patio, kitchen counter, or taken to the venue of your event. When you are choosing a portable ice maker, take into consideration the finish, size, and production capacity of the unit to ensure it will accommodate the demands of your day.

portable ice makers

Portable ice makers are also a budget-friendly way to increase your ice production without needing to add a drain or rearrange the design of your kitchen or bar. The portable design allows them to be unplugged and stored in a pantry or closet between uses. Many even feature built-in timers and self-cleaning features. While portable ice makers are incredibly convenient, they are not truly freezers, which means that their bins are highly insulated but will not keep ice frozen indefinitely.

Freestanding Ice Makers

You’ll never run out of ice when you outfit your kitchen, outdoor kitchen, or garage with a freestanding ice maker. These large units provide a high output of ice in minimal time, so you’ll always have plenty of ice when you need it. They are fully finished and ready to plug in. Typically, freestanding ice makers require drainage, so professional installation may be required if you are adding a unit for the first time. Their large, utilitarian design makes them ideal for a garage or back room of a commercial property.

freestanding ice makers

Modular Ice Makers

When you have a commercial space, such as a restaurant or bar, modular ice makers are one of the most versatile options. They come in a wide array of sizes and are designed to stack either with other ice makers or other appliances in your kitchen or bar. Their design is typically industrial and utilitarian, making them strong enough to hold up to heavy daily use. When selecting your modular ice maker, pay careful attention to the other appliances the design is compatible with.

Modular ice makers

Cube Type

With at least 6 different cube styles as an option, it is easy to enjoy the ice cube shapes of your preference in your drinks. Each ice maker will list a cube shape for the ice it produces. Review the available shapes to help determine which one will become your favorite. The larger the surface area of the ice cube, the longer it will take for the ice cube to melt.

ice types

If you are using the ice to cool a drink, larger ice cubes will last longer and help prevent your drink from getting watered down. If you like chewing on ice, smaller cubes stay softer and easier to chew. Consider the reason you use the ice the most and choose a maker that produces a shape to suit that need.


Crescent ice cubes feature a half-moon shape with a flat edge and a curved edge. This shape provides ample space around the ice cubes, preventing them from becoming too compact. This makes them a great choice for drinks because the liquid can flow through easily, but the ice is large enough that it melts slowly.

Full Cubes

The full cube is one of the most common ice cube shapes for ice makers. Their large shape makes them slow to melt, making them ideal for beverages. This versatile shape is also great for use in coolers because it melts slowly.

Half Cubes

These rectangular ice cubes are half the shape of full cubes. The smaller size makes half cubes a great choice for use in a cooler because they are easier to pack in and move around cans or containers.


Nuggets are one of the smallest shapes of ice cubes available. These little ice cubes are not uniform in shape. Their small size allows them to melt quickly and a popular choice for anyone who enjoys chewing on their ice. Nugget ice cubes are also great for coolers, especially when you are going to be adding fresh-caught fish, because they are easy to mold around the items you place in the cooler.


Bullet-shaped ice cubes are rounded-off cylinders that have an opening down the center. The unique shape makes them an attractive choice for use in beverages, making them a popular choice for bar ice makers. The indentation allows the liquid to flow inside, providing a rustic, visually interesting look to drinks featuring bullet-shaped ice cubes.


Gourmet are large, tapered or top-hat shaped ice cubes that are virtually crystal clear because of the way the water is compressed This makes it an artistic choice for cooling down beverages. The slow-to-melt shape makes it ideal for use in alcoholic beverages you don’t want to water down. The gourmet shape allows it to cool liquids quickly but makes it harder to use in small coolers or decorative ice buckets.

Features to Take into Consideration

Choosing the right style of ice maker is only the first step. Next, narrow your search by looking for selling features that appeal to your needs. Some features to take into consideration include:

  • Size: Take careful measurements of the size you have available for your new ice maker and choose one with the proper dimensions. Measure height, width, and depth of the space available and compare it to the dimensions of the unit you’re considering.

  • Production: The specifications of the ice maker should tell you what the total production of the unit is. This will help you determine how much ice is produced per day. Some also have speed-production modes for last-minute ice on demand.

  • Capacity: The capacity refers to the maximum amount of ice the unit can store at a time. The capacity of the unit will differ from the production capabilities of the unit. To reach total possible production, the internal storage area may need to be emptied throughout the day.

  • Finish: If the ice maker is going to be stored in a visible area, the finish will play a big role in the look of your room. In a kitchen or home bar area, choose a finish that best coordinates with the rest of your appliances. Black and white ice makers easily blend into cabinetry while stainless steel ice makers with a modern design can act as a style element in your space.

  • Door: Some ice makers feature doors that are reversible, allowing you to determine whether the door opens to the right or to the left. If you choose an ice maker without a reversible door, make sure to consider if the direction of the door swing will accommodate the space you have available.

  • Drainage: Some ice makers need to be installed with proper drainage while others, such as portable models, do not require a drain. If you purchase a unit that requires drainage, you may also need to consider professional installation or preparation of the area.

  • Filtration: Some ice makers offer integrated filters that eliminate contaminants from the ice prior to freezing, which is a great feature for ice you’ll use in beverages.

  • Efficiency: Running your ice maker all day takes energy. Choose an ENERGY STAR rated ice maker to keep operating costs and the carbon footprint of your home as low as possible.

  • Accessories: Many ice makers come with accessories, including removable bins that make it easy to transfer ice and ice scoops.

  • Weather Resistance: If you’re using the ice maker on a deck or patio, check the specifications to ensure it is CSA certified for outdoor use. This ensures the finish and construction of the ice maker will hold up to heat, humidity, and exposure to the elements.

  • Warranty: Typically, the larger and more heavy-duty the unit, the longer the warranty that comes with the machine. Take a look at the manufacturer warranty when narrowing it down to the last few models to aid in your decision about which ice maker to purchase.

Enjoying the Convenience of Your New Ice Maker

drinks with ice

Your ice maker is sure to become one of the most convenient appliances in your home. Use it to present bar-quality drinks to your friends and family at home. With the additional ice on hand you’ll be able to fill the ice bucket on your home bar without a trip to the convenience store. Complete your home bar area with a mini fridge for your favorite beverages or a wine refrigerator for your growing collection.

If you’re an avid outdoorsman, having an ice maker at home means you will always have the ice you need to load up the cooler and head out for a day on the water, at the beach, or in the mountains. Adding a portable ice maker to your RV or boat means you’ll always have the ice you need for an extended camping trip, tailgate, or fishing trip.

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