Purchasing Energy-Efficient Air-Cooled Ice Machines

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The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for air-cooled ice machines, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for air-cooled ice machines applies to self-contained, remote-condensing, or ice-making head-type machines that use 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 this ENERGY STAR specification.

Water-cooled ice machines are covered by separate FEMP-designated efficiency requirements and acquisition guidance.

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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This acquisition guidance was updated in January 2018.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides ice machine efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-certified ice machines.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save More than $1,200 by Buying ENERGY STAR

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-qualified air-cooled ice machine saves money if priced no more than $1,211 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves up to $1,375. Table 1 compares three types of air-cooled ice machines and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Air-Cooled Ice Machine Models
Performance Best Available ENERGY STAR Less Efficient
Annual Ice Production 75,000 lb 75,000 lb 75,000 lb
Energy Consumption Rate 6.6 kWh/100 lb 7.0 kWh/100 lb 9.8 kWh/100 lb
Annual Energy Use 4,965 kWh/year 5,250 kWh/year 7,350 kWh/year
Annual Energy Cost $443 $468 $655
Lifetime Energy Cost $2,863 $3,027 $4,238
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $1,375 $1,211 ======
View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1
Performance Column

Annual Ice Production: Assumes an air-cooled ice machine produces 400 lb of ice per day, 250 days per year, duty cycle of 75%.

Energy Consumption Rate: A measure of kilowatt hours used per 100 pounds of ice made.

Annual Energy Use: Based on the federal standard for this product category.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities.

Lifetime Energy Cost: The sum of the discounted values of annual energy cost with an average air-cooled ice machine life of 7 years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis–2017: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 (NISTIR 85-3273-32).

Lifetime Energy Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

Calculated based on the ENERGY STAR List of Qualified Products. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.

ENERGY STAR Model Column

Calculated based on current ENERGY STAR eligibility criteria. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Based on ENERGY STAR’s assumption for "Conventional Model."

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Commercial Kitchen Equipment Cost Calculator

Users who wish to determine a product’s cost-effectiveness for their application may do so using the Savings Calculator for ENERGY STAR Certified Commercial Kitchen Equipment.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Air-Cooled Ice Machine Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers energy-efficient air-cooled ice machines through Schedule 73 (Food Service).

DLA's ENAC for air-cooled ice machines is "GC."

The UNSPSC for ice cube makers is 24131901. The UNSPSC for ice flake makers is 24131903.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

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

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and its member utilities have developed an efficiency specification for commercial ice makers that exceeds ENERGY STAR requirements by approximately 10%. Federal agencies looking for even more efficient models should consider products that qualify for CEE Tier 2. Learn more about CEE’s Commercial Kitchens Initiative and High Efficiency Specifications for Commercial Ice Machines, and get a list of qualified products.

Many states and electric utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives. FEMP’s Energy Incentive Program helps federal agencies take advantage of these incentives by providing information about the funding-program opportunities available in each state.

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. See FEMP’s product overview for water-cooled ice machines.

User Tips: Use 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 p.m. 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 by positioning the unit too close to a wall or a low ceiling, for example, 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. Building personnel need to be aware of this location so they don't block the air inlets and outlets.

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