When you are purchasing a new or used soft serve ice cream machine, you have two options to consider before anything else: a water cooled machine or an air cooled machine.
They cost about the same, but do have significant differences. Which one is right for you? Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each type to find out…
Benefits of Air Cooled Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines
An air cooled soft serve machines uses a fan and condenser to cool itself. They circulate air through the condenser, pulling heat away from the machine and allowing the refrigerant to recirculate and keep the product cold. A soft serve ice cream machine that is air cooled does not require a main water supply line or drain so you have more options for the placement of the machine. You will not have the restriction of being close to a drain or water line. By default, this makes the installation much easier.
Drawbacks of Air Cooled Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines
One of the main drawbacks of an air cooled ice cream machines is the heat that is released. The internal fan needs to blow the heat away from the machine and into the room. Having multiple machines in one location can noticeably raise the temperature in the room. Since the fan is constant, you will also notice that air cooled machines are noisier than water cooled machines. Because of the required air flow, you will need three to twelve inches of space around each machine, making placement an slight issue. They will also use more electricity, multiplied by the quantity of machines you have.
Benefits of Water Cooled Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines
There are a few significant benefits to a water cooled unit. Water cooled units, as you might have guessed, use water to cool the condenser, allowing the refrigerant to cool the ice cream properly. The water flows through the system and then runs out the drain. This is beneficial since the machine does not throw off any heat. The second is that they are much quieter than air cooled machines, making them a better option if you want a more relaxing environment for your customers. Water cooled is pretty much the only option if you plan on having multiple machines in your location.
Drawbacks of Water Cooled Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines
Water cooled ice cream machines may offer lower electricity bills than their air cooled counterpart, but the main and only significant drawback is you will be using a large amount of water. Water will be circulating 24/7 through these machines and water is only getting more expensive. There are alternatives such as water condensing systems and glycol cooling systems, which reuse or replace the water entirely.
Glycol Cooling Systems
Glycol cooling systems are one of the best long-term solutions to eliminate water usage for ice cream machines. It is an expensive upfront investment, but the usual ROI is under a year and then the savings really rack up. A glycol chiller and pump is usually installed on the roof of the building and recirculates food-safe glycol through the water lines of the machine. This is as effective as water, but with zero water waste. The chiller is a series of fans which removes the heat from the glycol and the process starts all over again. An added benefit is not having any scale buildup in the water lines and a much more efficient operation.
We will always recommend water cooled systems to our customers unless you operate an ice cream truck where water is not an option.
Want to learn more about the differences and costs air cooled and water cooled ice cream machines? Give us a call and one of our experts will be glad to explain further.