Shopping for an outdoor ice machine for your patio, outdoor kitchen or outdoor bar?
You’ve come to the right place.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Ice Machines: What’s the Difference?
Most ice machines are designed for indoor installation and use. Their ice making performance and longevity go down quitedrastically if they are exposed to open-air elements and extreme outdoor temperatures.
In most cases, you’ll actually void the machine’s warranty if you install it outdoors.
An outdoor ice maker, on the other hand, is designed and approved for both indoor and outdoor installation.
Outdoor ice machines have a wider ambient temperature operating range. They are constructed with materials that have a higher resistance to factors such as UV rays, humidity and other such elements.
The compressor can start up quickly when it’s cold and doesn't overheat easily when it’s hot.
That said, outdoor ice machines still have certain limitations regarding where you can install them. You still have to protect it from direct exposure to the elements, and extreme temperatures can affect ice making performance.
Where Can You Install an Outdoor Ice Maker?
An outdoor ice maker is great for sheltered outdoor areas such as a tiki bar, patio, deck, or outdoor kitchen.
Check the user manual for the ice machine for specific installation requirements.
What’s In This Buying Guide?
In this in-depth buying guide, we review the best outdoor-approved ice machines. We also explain what to look for when buying an outdoor ice maker.
Best Outdoor Ice Machines
- Best gourmet ice maker
Gourmet/top hat ice
14.9W x 22D x 34.4H in
1yr residential warranty
- Best no-drainage
14.9W x 20D x 33.3H in
GE Appliances UNC15NJII
- Best nugget ice maker
14.8W x 22.7D x 33.8H in
1yr warranty + 5yrs compressor warranty
- Best high-capacity nugget ice maker
14.8W x 22.7D x 33.3H in
1yr warranty + 5yrs compressor warranty
- Best for large families
Clear ice cubes
14.6W x 24.8D x 33H in
1. Best Gourmet: Scotsman CU50PA-1A Gourmet Cube Ice Maker
If you want gourmet ice for your outdoor bar, deck or kitchen, we recommend the Scotsman CU50PA-1A ice machine.
It is UL-approved for outdoor installation and comes with everything you need to start making ice, including a pump drain.
Gourmet ice, also called top hat ice, is great for spirits like whiskey, brandy, and Vodka. That’s because it is crystal clear (looks great in a glass) and extra-dense, meaning it melts slowly.
You can sip your drink leisurely without worrying that it’ll get watered down by the ice.
The Scotsman CU50PA-1A ice machine produces up to 65 lbs of gourmet ice per day, more than enough for most households. That’s also enough ice for a big party.
The integrated ice bin stores up to 26lbs of ice. Because this is gourmet ice, it takes longer to melt in the bin compared to ordinary ice. But it’ll still melt after a few hours if you don't scoop it out.
The ice machine will automatically refill the bin, ensuring you always have ice on hand.
Its installation is quite quick and straightforward. The Scotsman CU50PA-1A can be installed under-counter or left freestanding on the floor.
You’ll need to connect a water source, as well as drainage. The Scotsman CU50PA-1A uses a pump drain (instead of a gravity drain), so it’s not an issue if you don't have access to a floor drain.
The manufacturer-recommended ambient temperature range is 50F to 100F, and the water temperature range is 40F to 100F.
The Scotsman CU50PA-1A comes with a 1-year residential installation warranty.
Issues & Limitations
Gourmet ice makers are typically more expensive than ordinary ice makers, and the Scotsman CU50PA-1A is no exception.
If you are shopping for a budget outdoor ice machine, the Scotsman CU50PA-1A may not be what you are looking for.
Many users also say it’s noisy, but that should not be a serious concern if you are planning to install it outdoors.
The other issue is the warranty. The Scotsman CU50PA-1A has a 1-year parts and labor warranty plus a 5-year warranty on the compressor. But this applies only to commercial installation.
If you install the Scotsman CU50PA-1A in your home, you only get a 1-year parts and labor warranty.
The Scotsman CU50PA-1A is best for: Anyone looking for an outdoor-approved gourmet ice making machine.
Avoid if: You are shopping for a budget ice maker.
2. Best No-Drainage: EdgeStar IB250SSOD Outdoor Ice Maker
If you are looking for an outdoor ice maker that doesn't require any drainage, we recommend the EdgeStar IB250SSOD. It’s perfect for outdoor spaces without access to a drain.
The EdgeStar IB250SSOD can be easily installed under the counter and comes with a modern, aesthetically pleasing silver finish that matches other appliances. The rust-proof stainless steel door is reversible, so you can install it on whichever side of the machine is most convenient.
You’ll need to connect a water line, but drainage is not necessary. That’s because the EdgeStar IB250SSOD has a freezer ice bin.
Unlike other ice machines that have an insulated bin, the EdgeStar IB250SSOD has a built-in freezer that keeps the ice solid for as long as you’d like. That means the ice never melts. Thusthere's no need for drainage.
The EdgeStar IB250SSOD makes up to 25lbs of crescent ice every day. Not a lot for an under-counter ice machine, but enough for most families. The freezer bin stores 20lbs of ice.
Note that the production capacity depends on ambient and water temperature. The recommended operating range is 50-90F for ambient temperature and 41-90F for water temperature.
Issues & Concerns
The main issue with the EdgeStar IB250SSOD is price. It makes as much ice as small portable ice makers but is several times more expensive.
For its production capacity, the EdgeStar IB250SSOD is pricey. Larger families may want to get a bigger ice machine that makes more ice.
We like the integrated freezer bin. It saves a lot of water that would have been drained away. The only downside of keeping the ice in the freezer is that it clumps together. You have to break it apart before using it.
The EdgeStar IB250SSOD is best for: Anyone looking for an outdoor ice machine that doesn't need a drainage connection.
Avoid if: You want an ice machine that makes lots of ice.
3. Best Nugget: GE Appliances UNC15NJII Nugget Ice Maker
If you want Sonic-style nugget ice for chewing or adding to your mixed drinks, we recommend the GE Appliances UNC15NJII nugget ice maker.
It’s pricey, but it makes a whole lot of nugget ice - enough for a big family or a big party.
Sonic ice is popular for its soft, crunchy and chewable texture. You can enjoy it right at home with the GE UNC15NJII.
The GE UNC15NJII makes Sonic-style nugget ice that’s great for chewing or chilling mixed drinks like cocktails and margaritas.
It produces up to 65lbs of nugget ice a day, plenty enough for a big family or a party. The large bin can hold up to 26lbs of ice.
You can install the GE UNC15NJII under the counter or freestanding. It has a standard 15-inch width, so it should fit under most countertops.
You’ll need to connect a water line as well as drainage. The machine comes with a gravity drain, but you can order a pump drain separately if you don't have access to a floor drain.
The GE UNC15NJII is approved for outdoor use and can tolerate temperatures between 50F and 100F. But it performs best within a range of 60-80F.
Issues & Limitations
The GE UNC15NJII ice maker is expensive. But it’s the best outdoor nugget ice maker we could find.
There are cheaper portable sonic ice makers, but they are not suitable for outdoor use.
What makes the GE UNC15NJII even pricier is the fact that you have to buy a door panel and drain pump separately.
Make sure you get a stainless steel panel if you plan to install this ice machine outdoors.
As for the drain pump, it’s only necessary if you don't have access to a floor drain.
The GE UNC15NJII is best for: Anyone looking for an outdoor nugget ice maker.
Avoid if: You are looking for a cheaper nugget ice maker. Get a portable one instead, though you won’t be able to use it outdoors.
4. Best High-Capacity Nugget: Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS 15" Brilliance
If the 65lbs/day capacity of the GE UNC15NJII is not enough, Scotsman sells an even bigger nugget ice maker. The Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS makes 80lbs of true nugget ice a day.
It’s great for big families, home parties and small businesses.
The Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS is a great addition to an outdoor bar or kitchen. The Sonic-style chewable ice it produces goes well with mixed drinks, soft drinks, fruit juices and smoothies.
It absorbs flavors from the beverage, and you can chew the ice along with your drink.
Nugget ice from the Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS is also great if you love chewing ice. It’s soft, crunchy, and perfectly safe for your teeth.
As we mentioned, the Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS cranks out 80lbs of ice per day, though this can be lower if it gets too hot outdoors.
The ice machine has a 26lb storage bin with overfill protection. The bin comes with a couple of accessories: an ice scoop and interior lighting.
As for installation, you have two options. You can set up the Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS under the counter (it has a standard 15” width) or use it as a freestanding unit.
The Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS is approved for outdoor use, but you must still shade it from the elements and extreme temperatures.
The recommended operating temperature range is 50F to 100F.
Issues & Limitations
The main issue with the Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS is its price. It’s one of the most expensive residential ice machines.
If you are shopping for a budget nugget ice maker, consider getting a portable one instead.
The Scotsman SCN60GA-1SS is best for: Anyone looking for an outdoor nugget ice maker that makes lots of ice.
Avoid if: You are looking for a budget ice machine.
5. Best For Big Families: Blaze BLZ-ICEMKR-50GR
With a daily production capacity of 50lbs, the Blaze BLZ-ICEMKR-50GR is a great choice for large households that go through bags of ice each day.
If you find that your family uses bags of ice each day or that the freezer ice maker cannot keep up with ice demand, the Blaze ice machine makes plenty of ice and is perfect for your household’s large ice consumption.
It produces up to 50lbs of clear ice cubes a day, and the large integrated bin can hold up to 25lbs of ice.
You always have plenty of ice on hand.
The Blaze BLZ-ICEMKR-50GR comes with several accessories. The most important one is the in-line filter that ensures the best quality ice and protects the ice machine.
You also get a premium stainless steel ice scoop (most ice makers come with a cheap plastic scoop) and interior lighting in the bin.
The ice machine is built to withstand harsh environments. It’s cladded in stainless steel, protecting it from rust.
The compressor can operate in a wide temperature range between 50F and 100F. Note that the hotter it is, the less ice the ice machine will make.
You can install the Blaze ice machine as a freestanding unit or set it up under the counter. It has a standard 15” width and 33” height, so it should fit easily under most kitchen and bar counters.
The control panel is protected behind the door and includes buttons for on/off, self-cleaning, and ice size adjustment.
Issues & Limitations
The ice bin is not refrigerated; it’s only insulated. While it holds a lot of ice, it won’t keep it solid for long.
If you don't scoop the ice out, it melts, and the ice machine automatically refills the bin with more ice. If you often go for hours without using ice, the machine will end up wasting a lot of water.
If you want to eliminate wasteful drainage, get the EdgeStar IB250SSOD ice maker. It has a refrigerated bin that keeps ice solid.
Alternatively, store ice in your freezer and then turn the ice machine off until you need more ice.
The Blaze BLZ-ICEMKR-50GR is best for: Large households that need an outdoor ice machine that makes lots of ice.
Avoid if: You don't need 50lbs of ice each day. There are smaller and cheaper ice machines you can get.
Outdoor Ice Machines Buying Guide
What Makes an Ice Machine Suitable for Outdoors
You cannot use just any ice machine outdoors. There are specific models designed for outdoor use. They look almost similar to ordinary indoor ice machines, but there are key differences.
If you are not sure whether an ice machine is suitable for a patio, outdoor bar or deck, check whether it’s described as UL-approved for outdoor use. UL is a product safety certification.
How Does an Outdoor Ice Machine Work?
When it comes to the process of making ice, there’s no difference between outdoor and regular ice machines. They make ice the same way - by freezing water into solid ice.
However, different types of ice machines freeze the water differently to produce various kinds of ice.
For example, nugget ice is made from thin sheets of ice that are compacted together. Clear ice is made by water constantly flowing over an evaporator, ensuring the ice comes out dense and clear without trapped air (which is what causes cloudy ice).
Ice makers have a compressor, just like a kitchen refrigerator. This is what allows them to freeze water into ice so quickly.
Once the ice is made, it’s dumped in a bin from where you can scoop it out. If you don't use the ice immediately, it’ll melt and go down the drain. Then the machine will make more ice as long as there’s a water line connected.
What to Look for in an Outdoor Ice Machine
Here’s what to consider when shopping for an outdoor ice maker.
Only buy an ice machine that’s certified by UL or ETL for outdoor applications. This certification guarantees that the machine is safe to use outside (within certain limits).
If an ice maker doesn't have a UL or ETL-approved label, assume that it is unsafe to use outdoors. In fact, you can void the warranty of an indoor ice machine if you install it outdoors.
Type of Ice Maker
Next, decide which type of ice maker you want to buy depending on the type of ice you want to enjoy at home.
Clear ice makers are the best for most families. They make ice that is suitable for a wide range of uses.
If you want an ice maker for your outdoor bar, consider a gourmet ice machine. It makes top hat or gourmet ice that’s perfect for spirits like whiskey.
If cocktails and mixed drinks are more your thing, get a nugget ice machine. It makes soft, chewable, Sonic-style ice.
Because virtually all outdoor ice machines are under-counter or freestanding units, they typically have a high production capacity. Most units can make at least 30lbs of ice a day, with some making well over 50lbs.
The ideal capacity depends on how much ice you use at home each day. If you have a big family or often hold parties, you should get a higher-capacity ice machine.
Don't forget to check the size of the ice bin. A large ice bin ensures you always have enough ice around. A 25lb bin is adequate for most families.
Installation & Drainage
If you want an ice maker you can install under the counter, be sure to get an under-counter or built-in ice machine. It’ll have vents at the front.
Check the dimensions of the machine to make sure it’ll fit in the space you have.
Also, check plumbing requirements. This includes the waterline and minimum & maximum water pressure.
It also includes drainage. Most ice machines come with a gravity drain, which only works with floor drains.
If you don't have a floor drain, get a unit with a pump drain or buy a pump separately and add it to the ice machine.
Some models, specifically EdgeStar, don't require drainage. That’s because they have a built-in freezer. Thus there’s no meltwater to drain.
Finally, check the terms of the warranty.
Most brands offer a standard 1-year warranty, with a 5-year additional warranty for the compressor.
Check the terms of the warranty to see if it’s valid for residential installations. Some commercial ice machines are only covered if they are installed in a business. The manufacturer offers reduced or no coverage for residential users.
Here’s a general guide to installing an outdoor ice machine. Refer to your user manual for specific instructions. Note that you may need to call a pro to do the plumbing.
Check the machine’s operating range for ambient temperature, humidity, water temperature, and water pressure.
Stick within the recommended ranges to get the best ice making performance.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Most outdoor ice machines have a self-clean function, making maintenance easy. All you need is the recommended ice machine cleaner.
When the clean indicator comes on, follow the cleaning instructions in the manual. This usually involves opening up the machine, adding a cleaning solution to the reservoir, and running the self-clean program.
Every week or two, sanitize the bin, evaporator and any other parts that come into contact with the ice. You can use an ice machine sanitizer or make your own at home using bleach and warm water.
Pros and Cons
The obvious advantage of outdoor ice machines is that you can use them outdoors. They are great for an outdoor kitchen, a backyard bar, a deck, or a patio.
They can withstand more extreme temperatures, UV exposure and are corrosion-resistant.
Most outdoor ice machines are high-capacity ice makers. If you need lots of ice, you’ll have no trouble finding an outdoor ice machine that can meet your needs.
The Not So Good
Outdoor ice machines are expensive. One reason for this is their tougher construction. Another is that they are typically high-capacity units.
The other issue with these machines is their lack of variety. All the outdoor ice machines we’ve featured in this buying guide are under-counter/freestanding units. We haven’t found a portable or countertop ice maker that’s rated for outdoor use.
In fact, most portable ice makers come with the explicit warning not to use them outdoors.
The third downside is capacity. It’s hard to find an outdoor ice machine that makes more than 100lbs of ice a day.
Because it tends to be hotter outdoors, these machines have a lower production capacity compared to indoor units.
If you need 100+ pounds of ice a day, you have to make do with an indoor ice maker.