You are here

Covered Product Category: Air-Cooled Ice Machines

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for air-cooled ice machines, which are covered by the ENERGY STAR program. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies meet these efficiency requirements in all procurement and acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

Meeting Efficiency Requirements for Air-Cooled Ice Machines

ENERGY STAR set efficiency requirements for air-cooled ice machines in its product specification. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. For the most up-to-date requirements and list of qualified products, visit the ENERGY STAR website.

Defining the Product Category

This product overview and associated ENERGY STAR product specification applies to air-cooled self-contained, remote-condensing or ice-making head type machines that use either the continuous or batch ice making process. Air-cooled remote condensing units connected to rack compressors, ice and water dispensers, and water-cooled ice machines are excluded from the ENERGY STAR specification. Learn more about water-cooled ice machines, a FEMP-designated product category.

In the federal sector, ice machines are typically used in commercial food service operations like cafeterias in General Services Administration (GSA) buildings, kitchens in penitentiaries, and commissaries on military bases. They are also used for patient care in Veterans Affairs medical centers and hospitals operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Federal supply sources for air-cooled ice makers are GSA and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells air-cooled ice makers through its Multiple Awards Schedules and online shopping network, GSA Advantage! DLA sells them through its online supply network, DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with 13-digit National Stock Numbers (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). When buying air-cooled ice machines through DLA sources, look for models with the ENAC "GC" attached to the end of the NSN.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for use in eCommerce. It contains over 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each having a unique eight-digit, four-level (i.e., Segment, Family, Class, Commodity) identification code. Using the UNSPSCs will assist buyers with identifying covered product categories and improve record keeping. The UNSPSC for ice machines is 24131901.

Reducing Energy Costs: Save More Than $1,500 When You Buy Energy Star-Qualified Products

FEMP has calculated1 that the required ENERGY STAR–qualified product is cost-effective if priced no more than $1,515 above the less efficient alternative. The most efficient level saves the average user more money: $1,620. The complete cost-effectiveness example and associated assumptions are provided in Table 1.

  Best Availablea Model Required Model Less Efficient Model
Annual Ice Production (lb) 100,000 100,000 100,000
Energy Consumption Rate (kWh/100 lb) 6.8 7.0 9.8
Annual Energy Use (kWh/year) 6,800 7,000 9,800
Annual Energy Cost $612 $630 $882
Lifetime Energy Cost $3,680 $3,785 $5,300
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $1,620 $1,515 ======
a More-efficient products may have been introduced to the market since this information was published.


Determining Cost-Effectiveness

An efficient product is cost-effective when the discounted savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR and FEMP consider up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels so that federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR–qualified and products meeting FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. However, users wishing to determine cost-effectiveness for their application may do so using ENERGY STAR's Commercial Kitchen Equipment Savings Calculator.

For most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed the federal efficiency requirements, as shown in the Best Available column above.


Products meeting FEMP-designated efficiency requirements or ENERGY STAR performance specifications may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for natural gas or electricity.

Complying with Contracting Requirements

These requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including guide and project specifications; construction, renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance contracts; lease agreements; and solicitations for offers. Energy performance requirements should be included in all evaluations of solicitation responses.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires federal agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 in solicitations and contracts that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products. FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into both the technical specification and evaluation sections of solicitations. Agencies can claim an exception to these requirements through a written finding that no ENERGY STAR–qualified or FEMP-designated product is available to meet the functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for a specific application.

Buyer Tips: Choosing Efficient Products

The type of ice maker purchased has significant energy use implications. Ice making head (IMH) units do not contain storage bins, but are generally designed to accommodate a variety of bin sizes. Federal buyers should be aware that the additional energy use associated with the storage bins is not included in the reported energy consumption for IMH units. Careful attention to storage bin size is important. In most cases, a smaller bin is more energy efficient.

Self-contained units (SCU) have an ice making mechanism and storage bin integrated into the same cabinet or housing. Remember to compare the energy use of a SCU with the combined energy use of an IMH plus its storage bin.

Remote condensing units (RCU) have a condenser located separately from the ice making mechanism, usually outdoors or in an unconditioned equipment room. An advantage to this arrangement is that heat from the ice making process is discharged outside of the conditioned space, thereby not adding to the building's air conditioning loads and costs.

The type of ice made also has an impact on water use.

  • Cube ice, which is harder and clearer than other types, has benefits for use in beverages. Its clear appearance, thermal properties, and long-lasting nature are ideal for cooling beverages without diluting them. In addition, the absence of minerals and sediment reduce the impact it has on the taste of a drink, which is important for some alcoholic beverages. Cube ice is typically made in batch type machines that require more water than other ice makers.

  • Flake ice is softer and cloudier than cube ice. These properties make it ideal for use in food processing and displays such as those in grocery stores and fish markets.

  • Nugget ice is flake ice that has been compressed into larger pieces. As such it can be used in much the same way as cube ice, especially for beverage cooling when appearance is not an issue and some dilution can be tolerated.

Flake and nugget ice are made using the continuous process while cube ice is made using the batch process. Since nugget ice is easier to chew, it is frequently used in healthcare facilities because it poses less of a choking hazard to patients.

In situations where an ice maker can be connected to a cooling tower that operates year round, federal agencies can save additional energy by using water-cooled ice machines. For more information, see the FEMP-designated product overview for water-cooled ice machines.

User Tips: Using Products More Efficiently

Due to their high electricity demand, ice machines should be operated during off-peak hours if possible. This requires purchasing larger storage bins and installing a clock or timer to prevent the machine from making ice during peak hours (usually between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m.). This operating strategy can reduce demand charges, resulting in additional cost savings.

Air-cooled ice makers need sufficient clearance around them to ensure proper airflow. Air-cooled ice makers draw ambient air into their refrigeration systems to remove the heat from the ice making process. Obstructing this airflow, for example by positioning the unit too close to a wall or a low ceiling, will negatively impact this heat transfer and lower the efficiency of the unit. Each manufacturer has a different location (i.e., front, rear, left, right, or top) for the air intake and exhaust on their products. Staff need to be aware of this so they don't block the air inlets and outlets.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.

Updated August 2014

1 Based on the following assumptions: Assumes an air-cooled ice machine producing 800 pounds of ice per day, 250 days per year. The performance of the less efficient model represents what is commonly used in commercial kitchens, while that of the required model meets the ENERGY STAR eligibility criteria. The performance of the best available model was obtained from the ENERGY STAR list of qualified products.

The annual energy use is based on the federal standard for this product category. The assumed rate of electricity is $0.09 per kWh, the average at federal facilities throughout the United States. Lifetime energy cost is the sum of the discounted values of annual energy cost with an average air-cooled ice machine life of seven years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are based on Federal guidelines (NISTIR 85-3273-28) and are from the Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709, Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life Cycle Cost Analysis - 2013.