The Best Ice MakerUpdated December 6th, 2019
Take a look at the two ice makers below. Notice anything interesting about them?
If you noticed that their exactly the same size and shape, you’d be correct.
Now take a look at a side view of the same two machines.
Critical steps to take before you buy.
Before we get to our reviews of the best models we tested, let’s first go over the most important features you need to look out for when buying an ice maker. These same features served as the criteria for selecting the top three models we recommend you buy. For example, the best model we tested, the NewAir AI-100, provided the best output (the first feature we’ll cover) of all the ice makers we tested. It also did very well in terms of durability (the second feature on the list below) and cleaning difficulty (the fourth feature below). Let’s get to it.
We define an ice maker’s output as the quantity of ice it’s capable of producing every day (every 24 hours). Most machines on the market are capable of producing either 26 or 28 lb. of ice per day. These are the machines we tested for this review, most of which had either design 1 or design 2, as outlined above.
Now, just because a machine is capable of producing a certain quantity of ice every day doesn’t mean that it will actually hit that exact manufacturer specified target - 26 or 28 lb. – every day or on any day, for that matter. How much ice the machine will actually produce in a real world setting can differ quite dramatically from the manufacturer specified 26 or 28 lb. per day.
Our testing showed that output varies depending on the following factors:
The build quality of the unit’s internal parts
All of the ice machines we tested were rated (by the manufacturer) to be able to remove either 26 or 28 lb. of ice per day. In our real world testing some of them actually did slightly better than the manufacturer specified output rate while others did much worse. The only difference between them? Their internal parts.
An ice machine, like a refrigerator, has a compressor, a condenser, an evaporator, and refrigerant lines filled with highly compressed refrigerant. The quality of these parts and the care with which they’re put together affect the machine’s actual output compared to its manufacturer specified output.
Naturally, we selected the three models with the best tested (actual) output rates (and therefore with the highest quality and most efficient internal parts) as the top three models we recommend you purchase.
Another major factor that affects how much ice you can expect an ice maker to realistically make in a day is the length of time between when the ice machine automatically shuts off and when it is manually turned back on again.
The less this downtime, the greater the production per hour
So when and how does an ice maker automatically shut itself off?
First, it can happen when the unit’s ice collection basket fills up. Near the top of the machine’s reservoir is a small sensor that detects when the basket is full. When activated, the sensor, shuts off ice production automatically. You’ll have to empty the basket and manually power off, then power the machine back on before it will resume normal operation.
The ice machine will also automatically shut off when its reservoir’s almost empty. You’ll have to add water, power down the machine, then power it back on before it will start making ice again.
Downtime is up to you but also the design of the ice maker
We said earlier that the less the downtime, the greater the ice machine’s output. Of course, the biggest factor affecting your ice machine’s downtime will be you. If you leave the machine unattended for several hours it’s sure to make less ice than if you were to keep a close eye on it and empty it when it fills up with ice or fill it with water when its water level gets low.
That being said, some machines will make your life easier by filling up with ice less often and running low on water less often. Those same machines have bigger ice collection baskets and larger reservoirs. The top two units we recommend have the largest collections baskets and the largest reservoirs of all of the ice machines we tested. This is one of the main benefits of design 1.
Finally, the three factors listed below also affect output:
The temperature of the water you pour into the machine
The temperature of the room in which the machine is used
The higher the temperature (of both the air in the room and the water poured into the machine), the lower the production per hour
The cube size selected when first turning on the machine
The larger the cube size selected, the lower the production per hour
Note that while the first two factors (build quality and downtime as it relates to ice collection box and reservoir size) helped us distinguish between the best and the worst units, these last three factors did not. All machines were tested in the same space using the same temperature water and with the same ice cube size selected. All machines did not have the same build quality and downtime.
Ice maker consumer reviews are littered with users complaining that their machines don’t work anymore – sometimes after just a few days of use. Why do consumer reviews seem to indicate that ice machines are inherently flawed in their design? Why, when reading these reviews, does almost every ice machine on the market appear to have extremely low durability and almost nonexistent reliability?
Well, the answer is simple really. Most consumers fail to use their ice maker properly.
Proper use and care of an ice machine is absolutely crucial to ensure its longevity. Using it incorrectly will break it. And yes, sometimes it’ll break it even after just a few days of use.
So, how do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
First and foremost it’s imperative that you realize that an ice machine contains all of the same parts as a refrigerator, just on a much smaller scale and used in a different way.
Your refrigerator is a large heavy machine that, because of its large size and weight, is rarely moved around and is always kept on a flat surface. This ensures that its internal parts work correctly at all times. A portable ice maker, by contrast, is a small, light machine. It can easily be picked up and moved around and doesn’t look odd sitting on a surface that isn’t perfectly level (more on this later). If it is mishandled or misused, it’s internal parts are likely to malfunction, just the same as if you tried to run your refrigerator while it was turned on its side, for example.
It is our firm belief that the vast majority of negative consumer experiences involving ice makers (as documented by negative consumer reviews) are due to their mishandling and misuse. We believe that if these same consumers were more informed about how their machines work and were better made aware of the five precautions we list below (with a more complete user manual), they would have nothing but positive things to say about their machine’s durability.
Ice Maker Precautions
Follow these five guidelines to ensure your ice maker’s longevity (and that of its internal parts
Wait at least 24 hours after receiving your ice maker and having it in a fully upright position before turning it on for the first time. Most manufacturers recommend you wait only an hour or two but we advise that you wait a full 24 hours just to be sure the refrigerant inside the unit has settled properly for its first use.
Make sure you only use the machine on a level surface.
Be careful not to fill the machine’s reservoir past maximum capacity – doing so puts extra strain on the unit’s internal pump – a recipe for early pump failure.
Be careful not to leave the unit unattended for several hours. When an ice maker runs out of water (in its reservoir), the Add Water LED will illuminate and the machine will stop making ice. But, it will still continue to try pumping water every 20 minutes or so. This puts a tremendous strain on the unit’s internal pump and is another cause of early pump failure.
Be careful to wait at least 3 minutes before turning the unit back on after turning it off. When the unit fills up with ice or runs out of water it will automatically stop making ice. But it will not automatically turn off. You will need to manually power it down. Only power it back on after waiting a minimum of 3 minutes. This allows the unit to properly reset so it can start at the beginning of the ice making cycle when it resumes operation.
Some ice makers are still more durable than others
With all of the above being said (about following precautions to greatly increase reliability), some ice makers do absolutely last longer than others. So what did we look at when evaluating the units we tested to determine whether one unit was more durable than another?
To evaluate each unit’s durability and potential reliability we looked at the following:
The build quality of
- the control panel, including buttons and LEDs
- the hinge that supports the top lid of each unit
- the internal components including the compressor and fan
- the chassis that holds all of the internal parts
In addition, we also took a very close look at consumer reviews. Yes, we do believe that a large percentage of consumer reviews for this particular product do not accurately reflect its durability because they come from the perspective of a consumer that didn’t handle the product properly. However, consumer reviews still give us insight into specific problems unique to each model we evaluated. Consumer reviews also give us insight into how each manufacturer deals with troubleshooting problems and servicing defective units. We talk about that next.
Warranty and Customer Support
Our criteria for scoring each of the units we tested in this category are the following:
Units with longer warranties receive a better score
Points subtracted for unreasonable requirements (such as requiring the customer to pay for shipping)
Not only when dealing with warranty claims but also when troubleshooting common problems
A warning about third party warranties
Because of the supposedly poor durability of most ice machines on the market (a myth we dispelled earlier but one that still affects the thousands of consumers that won’t read this guide), it’s common practice for consumers to purchase a third party warranty in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty included with product itself. Unfortunately, many if not most of these warranties don’t become active until after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. This means that while the manufacturer’s warranty is active, you’ll need to depend on the manufacturer to provide good and proper service under the guidelines of the given warranty.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to find an ice maker manufacturer with good customer support. After spending countless hours researching all major brands on the market we found only one such manufacturer- NewAir. NewAir is also the manufacturer that makes the overall best ice maker we tested.
Claiming a warranty can be expensive
You might be surprised to hear that almost every manufacturer’s warranty for almost every ice maker on the market requires that you, the consumer, pay for shipping, not only to return the defective machine to the manufacturer, but also for the manufacturer to ship a replacement back to you. Because of the large size and heavy weight of these appliances, it can be cost prohibitive to see a warranty claim through – that is if the warranty requires you to pay for these shipping costs.
So, how do you combat this potential liability?
- Make sure you purchase a unit with above average durability and reliability (the three top units we tested are also the three most durable units we tested)
- Take these extra potential costs into account when budgeting for your ice maker purchase
After you’re done using your ice maker you’re going to need to clean it. Yes, you’re only running water through it, but water very often contains calcium and trace amounts of other minerals that can accumulate inside the machine and affect its performance (in a negative way) over time. So, even if you use it every day try to clean it at least once every few weeks. If you don’t use it every day clean it after you’re done using it.
To clean an ice maker most manufacturers recommend the following procedure:
- Drain the unit by unplugging the drain plug
- Wipe the inside of the machine down with a soft cloth (using warm water and a diluted detergent)
- Dry the interior of the unit
- Wipe the outside of the machine down with a soft cloth as well
Three things make this process more or less difficult. In other words, these three things make an ice machine more or less difficult to clean:
- Interior size
- Drain plug assembly and location
- Exterior color and/or finish
Two of the top three models we recommend are larger than most other ice machines on the market. Their larger size gives them a larger interior. This larger interior makes cleaning them easier because it’s easier to reach all of their interior compartments and little nooks and crannies, especially for people with larger hands.
The top two models also have a drain plug located on the side of the machine, as opposed to the bottom. As we noted earlier, it’s very important that you use your ice machine on a level surface. It’s also crucial to its longevity that you don’t tilt it on its side and try to keep it upright as much as possible, even when it’s unplugged and you’re cleaning it.
In our testing, we found that units with a drain plug located on the side of the unit allowed us to drain them without tilting them. On the other hand, it was extremely difficult to drain units with bottom mounted drain plugs without tilting them.
Finally, the color and/or finish of the machine also makes a big difference as to the cleaning difficulty of the machine. A machine with an easy to clean finish and a color that doesn’t pick up smudges easily was scored better in our tests.
Larger ice makers are easier to clean but they are slightly less portable. In addition to size we also looked at weight to distinguish between the portability of the ice machines we tested. Smaller, lighter machines were scored better in this category than larger, heavier machines.
Our reviews for the three best ice makers on the market.
The AI-100 has a manufacturer specified output of 28 lb. per day. But how did it do in our tests?
For you to better understand its test results, we first have to quickly explain how the machine actually works.
The process by which an ice machine actually makes ice consists of the following four steps:
- Water is pumped from the bottom of the machine’s reservoir up to a holding basket at the top of the unit.
- Nine ice cold evaporator “fingers” dip into this holding basket filled with water
- Nine ice cubes slowly form around these cold “fingers” for a period of about 7 to 10 minutes
- Ice is released from the “fingers” into a perforated ice collection basket. At the same time the excess water that didn’t get frozen is also released back down into the unit’s reservoir
This whole process, which we define as one cycle of making ice, takes about 7 to 15 minutes. Whether it takes closer to 7 or closer to 15 minutes depends on the following three factors:
The model ice maker
Some models have shorter or longer cycles than others
The ice cube size selected
The larger the ice cube that needs to be made, the longer the cycle
Whether it’s the first cycle or whether it’s subsequent cycles
When the machine is first powered on, the first cycle takes longer than any subsequent cycles
During testing, the AI-100 required about 12 cycles, on average, to fill up its ice collection basket. The basket would fill up about 3 times per fill-up (reservoir filled to Max line). Each basket contained about 2 lb. of ice. Thus, total output per reservoir was 6 lb. of ice.
Applying some math to the data listed above we find the total tested output for the AI-100 to be:
- 1.2 lb. of ice per hour
- 28.8 lb. of ice per 24 hours (per day)
Note that these rates do not take into account downtime. Earlier, we defined downtime as the time period from the moment the machine automatically shuts off (when full of ice or out of water) to the moment it’s turned back on.
The rates above assume that the machine never turns off; which, in a real world setting, simply isn’t realistic. The machine will turn off when it’s full of ice. And, several minutes will go by before you realize it’s full, empty it, and turn it back on. The machine will also turn off when it runs out of water. And, once again, at least several minutes will go by before you see the ADD WATER light go on and refill it with water before powering it back on. Depending on how closely you’re monitoring the machine, this can add up to a lot of downtime, in which the machine isn’t actively making ice.
The AI-100 limits downtime compared to other models by limiting the frequency with which it occurs. It does so providing you with a larger ice collection box and a larger reservoir.
The larger the box, the more time goes by before the box fills up, the less frequently the machine stops when full of ice.
The larger the reservoir, the more time goes by before it empties, the less frequently the machine stops for lack of water.
Most other ice makers we tested were much smaller than the AI-100 with much smaller ice collection boxes and reservoirs. These units require a much more hands-on approach when making ice because they constantly fill up with ice and run out of water, requiring the user to empty the ice and refill it with water much more frequently than what is required with the AI-100.
The NewAir AI-100 was by far one of the most well-built ice machines we tested. Both its internal refrigeration components and its external chassis were of a noticeably higher quality than that of comparable parts on most other models we tested.
In addition to visually inspecting each unit’s internals and all of its exterior components (chassis, control panel, etc.), we also carefully noted each unit’s noise output, specifically noting fan noise and compressor noise. The AI-100 was by far one of the most quiet ice machines we tested.
Finally, we also carefully inspected consumer reviews for this unit. We found no common thread of one specific part being problematic and/or being susceptible to breaking over time. We believe that most negative consumer reviews indicating poor durability were likely the result of mishandling and/or misuse of the product.
Warranty and Customer Support
We looked over countless consumer reviews for each ice maker we tested, and even for some we didn’t. And what struck us about many of these reviews more than anything else was the alarmingly high rate of complaints about poor customer support.
As we’ll talk about later, many ice machines on the market are not actually manufactured by the company that sells them. The end result is that the brand with its name on the box and on the ice machine itself, isn’t the same brand that offers customer support or processes warranty claims.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case with NewAir ice machines. NewAir themselves, not a third party, will deal with you directly should you have any problems with the machine or need to file a warranty claim. They provide several means of contact including a phone number and email support. The AI-100 comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty, a fairly standard length compared to the warranties included with the other machines we tested.
The NewAir AI-100 was one of the largest portable ice makers we tested. This makes its interior very easy to clean. All of its interior compartments are easy to access to wipe down and dry. The unit features a drain plug on its side, which is much better than having it on the bottom of the unit like some other units we tested.
The side drain plug allows you to place the unit next to a sink and drain the water left over in its reservoir into a sink quite easily. You don’t have to tilt the unit to access the drain plug or drain the reservoir. On bottom drain plug units you have to tilt the unit to access the drain plug. It’s also more tricky to drain such units once you’ve removed the plug as you have to hang them over a sink to drain them.
A small volume of water will always stay behind in the reservoir even if you run your unit until it stops automatically when the Add Water LED lights up. This makes using the unit’s drain plug a requirement when cleaning it and/or before storing it (you can’t flip the unit upside down to remove the leftover water).
Finally, the unit’s silver plastic finish was easier to clean and much easier to keep clean than the exterior of most other ice machines we tested. The silver finish not only cleans very easily but was also much more resistant to picking up smudges and other residues during our testing.
The NewAir’s large size provides for several benefits including a larger ice collection box and a larger reservoir. However, it also reduces the unit’s portability, at least compared to some other units we tested.
The NewAir AI-100 was the best ice maker we tested. Yes, its design is common to a lot of other ice makers on the market, but, with good reason. The large oversized interior of this unit allows for a large oversized ice collection basket and a much larger than average reservoir. Both of these design features limit the number of times you’ll have to check in with this unit when making ice. They also allow for minimal downtime which maximizes the unit’s ice production over the course of your average day. The unit is also easy to clean with large interior compartments and a conveniently located drain plug. We give the AI-100 nothing but our highest recommendation if you’re looking to purchase a portable ice maker in 2020.
This particular model has a well above average size reservoir with a maximum capacity of exactly 1 gallon. Technically, you should be able to fill it right up to the max. line with a full gallon of water but we recommend that you err on the side of caution and use slightly less than a gallon instead. Overfilling the reservoir puts extra strain on the unit’s built-in pump and filling it with exactly 1 gallon is cutting things a little too close, in our view at least.
Yes, absolutely. It’s common practice to remove the ice collection basket to add water to the machine while it’s running. Just make sure that you do so well before an ice making cycle ends. If a cycle ends while you’re adding water, the freshly made ice will drop right back down to the reservoir (instead of the collection box that has to be removed to add water) where it will have to melt before being pumped back up to be made into ice again.
This particular machine goes through a full tank in about 5 to 6 hours. If you don’t want it running out of water you’ll need to fill it at least once every 4 hours or so.
This particular machine makes slightly more than 1 lb. of ice per hour. Its ice collection basket has a maximum capacity of about 2 lb. and fills up about three times before the unit runs out of water. That equates to about 6 lb. of ice per reservoir.
Yes, all three recommended units come with a plastic ice scoop.
If you make ice with any ice maker straight out of the box then there is certainly a chance of it having a plastic taste. However, we strongly recommend that you clean your machine before using it for the first time. After a quick wipe down the ice the machine makes shouldn’t have any taste added from the machine itself. The ice will taste exactly like the water it was made from.
Yes, absolutely. All of the machines we tested can be used outside. Do note that if you use them outside ice production rate will go down. Most of our tests were conducted indoors at around 70 degrees F. We did perform minimal testing outdoors in 90 degree weather and saw about a 20% decrease in output rate.
Since all of the ice machines we tested work by the same mechanism – nine evaporator fingers dipping into a box of water - the ice cubes they make all have the same hollow cylinder shape. Some models do make smaller or larger cubes on the same setting.
The Igloo ICE103, according to its manufacturer, can produce up to 26 lb. of ice per day. Compare this production to the top rated NewAir AI-100 with a manufacturer specified 28 lb. of ice per day.
Our testing garnered the following real world results:
- Approx. 1.1 lb. of ice per hour
- Approx. 26.4 lb. of ice per 24 hours (per day)
Note that, as was true for the NewAir AI-100, these numbers do not take into account downtime – the time between when the unit shuts off when its full of ice or has an empty reservoir and when it’s powered back on again.
Like the NewAir, the Igloo does have a larger than average ice collection basket and reservoir. Its basket can hold about 2 lb. of ice while its reservoir can hold just under 1 gallon of water. The large size of each of these components allows the unit to run longer than most other units we tested before it automatically shuts off (from being full of ice or running out of water).
The biggest culprit in making the Igloo less efficient than the NewAir, in terms of output, is its cycle length. Recall that we define one cycle as the time period in which one round of ice cubes are made.
All of the units we tested have nine evaporator “fingers” so all of them make nine ice cubes per cycle. The only difference between, in terms of performance, is how quickly they make that ice – how quickly one cycle, on average, is for each unit.
The Igloo ICE103’s components were observed to be very similar in quality to that of the NewAir AI-100’s. This observation applies to both internal parts and all exterior components.
These observations were all but confirmed when we measured the ICE103’s noise output. Its fan noise and compressor noise is almost identical to that of the NewAir AI-100.
Warranty and Customer Support
So far we’ve shown that the ICE103 is only slightly less efficient in producing ice and just as durable as the NewAir AI-100. And so far you’d be right to assume that these are two very similar ice makers.
The similarities between them end quite abruptly, however, when you take a look at each unit’s warranty and, more specifically, the customer support behind that warranty.
All customer support for the NewAir AI-100 is provided by NewAir. Customer support for the Igloo ICE103 is not provided by Igloo. Instead, it’s handled by Curtis. The Igloo’s manual makes this very clear as it explicitly lists Curtis as the company to contact for warranty claims. It further states that “Igloo and (the) Igloo logo are trademarks of Igloo Products Corp. and used by Curtis International Ltd under license.”
So, the Igloo ICE103 is an Igloo product by name only. In reality, it’s a Curtis product. And Curtis is the company that deals with all warranty claims and customer support for this product.
Now this, in itself, isn’t a problem. One company paying another for use of their logo isn’t even really that uncommon. If the ICE103 is a good product for which you can receive good and proper customer support it doesn’t really matter whether Igloo provides that customer support or anyone else. What is problematic, however, is the fact that Curtis, quite unfortunately, appears to provide well below average customer support.
We went to great length earlier in this guide explaining how misuse of portable ice machines is largely to blame for the abnormally high failure rate of this product type. But, whether it’s the customer’s fault or not, substandard customer support when dealing with issues related to product failure simply isn’t acceptable. And this, quite unfortunately, is exactly the case with Curtis and the ICE103.
We read one consumer review after another for the ICE103 in which customer support was heavily criticized. This isn’t something we can turn a blind eye to.
That all being said, these types of customer support issues are not unique to Igloo ice machines or Curtis, for that matter. Almost every single ice machine we looked at, including machines by Avalon Bay, Edgestar, Magic Chef, and Della, garnered more than its fair share of poor reviews as the result of poor customer support. The one exception? NewAir.
So yes, customer support for the ICE103 does appear to be poor. However, the machine itself is very well built and should last well past its one year warranty if used properly.
Cleaning the inside of the ICE103 is just as easy as it is for the NewAir. Both units are oversized which makes it easy to reach all of their interior compartments and both units have a side drain port which makes it easy to drain them.
When cleaning the exterior of the ICE103 you’ll be met with its stainless steel finish. While this finish is pleasing to look at, it is more difficult to clean than the NewAir’s plastic finish. It also picks up dirt and smudges more easily which makes it difficult to keep looking clean if you’re not constantly wiping it down after using it.
Like the NewAir the ICE103 is larger and heavier than most other units we tested. This makes it less portable than those units but only by a slight margin. Like the NewAir, the Igloo is still small enough and light enough to pick up and move around without much trouble.
The Igloo ICE103 is a large oversized ice maker. This gives it several benefits including a large ice collection basket and reservoir – both features that allow for maximum real world ice production. What holds this unit back compared to the NewAir AI-100 is Curtis customer support. It’s also slightly more difficult to clean and keep clean and its ouput is slightly worse than that of the NewAir.
The RCA RIC102, like the Igloo ICE103 is rated by its manufacturer to be able to remove up to 26 lb. of ice per day. Our testing showed that it can even surpass this mark under ideal conditions. Not accounting for downtime, the RIC102 was able to produce ice at a rate of 1 lb. 2 oz. per hour or 27 lb. per day (24 hours) in our tests.
These numbers are less impressive when you consider the fact that the RIC102 has a smaller ice collection basket and a smaller reservoir than both the top rated NewAir AI-100 and second best rated Igloo ICE103.
The NewAir and the Igloo each have a reservoir with a capacity just a little bit less than 1 gallon. The RCA’s reservoir only holds 0.63 gallons of water. The NewAir and the Igloo come equipped with an ice collection basket that can hold about 2 lb. of ice while the RCA’s basket can only hold about 1 lb. 4 oz. of ice.
This means that the RCA shuts off (from being full of ice or from running out of water) much more frequently than both the NewAir and the Igloo. A higher frequency in these downtime events results in less output in normal day to day operation, as we explained near the beginning of this guide.
On the positive side of things, the RCA does cycle faster. While the NewAir takes about 8 minutes and the Igloo takes 10 minutes to make one batch of nine ice cubes, the RCA only takes 7 minutes. This means you’ll have a greater number of cubes faster with the RCA. Do note that the ice cubes that the RCA produces are smaller and lighter than the same sized cubes that the NewAir and Igloo are able to produce on the same setting (the Small Ice setting).
The RCA’s build quality wasn’t observed to be any more or less than that of the NewAir or the Igloo. We did in fact observe components of very similar build quality in all three units.
Warranty and Customer Support
Like the Igloo ICE103, the RCA is a Curtis product. The RCA’s manual makes it clear that Curtis is using the RCA logo by permission and that all product inquiries should be directed at Curtis, not RCA.
Since the Igloo and RCA are both made by the same company, much of what was said about the Igloo applies just the same to the RCA. Yes, if the majority of consumers are to be believed you’re likely to receive poor customer support should you have to deal with Curtis. But, we strongly believe that you won’t need to deal with them at all if you use this machine properly.
Because it’s smaller, it’s more difficult to reach the RCA’s interior compartments and clean them than it is for both the Igloo and the NewAir.
Also not helping this unit’s cleaning difficulty is the location of its drain plug. The plug is located at the front and bottom of the machine. This makes it very difficult to get eyes on, without tilting the unit backward or to the side. The alternative is feeling around the bottom of the unit until you can locate it by touch. Although we found it near impossible to unplug without actually looking at it while doing so.
Once unplugged the unit drains straight down which means that you have to either place it inside the sink or hanging over the edge of your sink to drain it. Side drain plug units like the NewAir and Igloo can be placed to the side of the sink to drain them.
The RCA ice maker we tested features a very similar color and finish to that of the NewAir. It’s just as easy to clean and keep smudge-free. Note that this unit is also available in a variety of other colors, the most popular of which is red.
The RCA really shines when it comes to portability. Because of its smaller size and weight it was noticeably easier to carry than both the NewAir and the Igloo.
The RCA RIC102 has a design common to many other ice makers on the market, including the Hamilton Beach PIM-1-2A, the Della 048-GM-48185, and the very popular Avalon Bay AB-ICE26S. Compared to these other units, we found the RIC102 to have the best performance and durability of the lot. That being said, this same design, while providing great portability, reduces the unit’s real world ice production and the ease with which it can be cleaned compared to larger units such as the top rated NewAir AI-100 and Igloo ICE103.
Our bottom line recommendations.
The NewAir AI-100 was the best ice maker we tested, but not by an extremely wide margin. Both the Igloo ICE103 and RCA RIC102 are very good ice makers. Are we concerned about their reliability? No. We explained why earlier in this guide. Are we concerned about dealing with Curtis customer support should something with them go wrong? Yes, we definitely are. Which is perhaps the biggest reason why we recommend the NewAir over either Curtis manufactured unit.
Even though you can’t really go wrong purchasing any one of these three ice makers, the NewAir and the Igloo have some very clear advantages over the RCA. Their larger size makes for more production and easier cleaning. This isn’t a guess. It’s a fact substantiated by hours of testing and hands-on experience with all three units. On the other hand, the RCA does provide a few benefits of its own – most notably faster cycle times for quicker, albeit smaller and lighter ice.
Get the NewAir AI-100 if you’re looking for the best ice maker on the market and want the best performance and long term ownership experience possible.
Get the Igloo ICE103 if you can find it for a lower price than the NewAir and you don’t mind the slightly reduced output rate.
Get the RCA RIC102 if you don’t mind that it produces slightly less ice per hour and you also don’t mind that you’ll have to empty it and fill it with water more often.
When an ice maker fills up with ice it will automatically shut off and its ICE light will illuminate to let you know that you need to empty its collection basket before it can resume normal operation.
But what if you don’t empty it immediately? How long will the ice collected in the basket stay frozen? Normally, at least 6 to 12 hours (depending on the ambient temperature of the room in which you’re using the machine). The ice will slowly melt over time but even after several hours you should still have reasonably sized ice cubes left in the basket.
The interior of an ice maker gets very cold while it’s working. It is making ice, after all. But this active cooling stops when it shuts off, either from filling up with ice or running out of water.
What keeps ice inside the machine frozen for such a long time is the fact that the machine itself is very well insulated. After it shuts off, think of an ice maker as a cooler instead of a freezer. While it’s not actively cooling like a freezer, it is doing a pretty good job of keeping things cold, like a cooler.
The ice that these machines make is wet. Storing this type of ice in a freezer will fuse all of the cubes together in a solid block.
Note that this applies to all portable ice makers on the market.
While we don’t recommend you place the ice collection box in the freezer (there’s no point since the ice inside of it will fuse together), it does appear to be freezer safe.
These machines don’t have an auto-restart feature. You will have to manually turn them back on.
This is a tough question because it depends on a lot of factors. For one, it will depend on how much ice each person uses every time they get ice. Secondly, it will depend on how often they need a refill of ice.
All the machines we tested can’t produce more than about 1 lb. of ice per hour. Even the largest units can’t “store” more than 2 lb. of ice at a time. If you believe that you’ll need more than this quantity of ice at any one particular time you’ll need to start making ice well before you need it and then store it in a cooler as you make it.
No, none of the units we tested make crushed ice and neither is such a unit available on the market.
All of the ice makers we tested can make ice with both filtered/distilled water and tap water. Note that the ice will taste the same as the water it came from. If your tap water has a bad taste, the ice made from that water will taste bad also.
While we didn’t test doing so, it is our strong recommendation that you don’t attempt to do so with the machine you end up purchasing. These machines are only designed to work with pure water.
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