Portable Ice Makers vs. Refrigerator Ice Makers: Which Ice Maker is Best For You?

In this article, we want to give you a little help to guide you in determining which ice maker you should purchase: a refrigerator ice maker or a portable ice maker.

It’s frustrating to make a purchase only realizing later that you’ve made the wrong decision. There are so many factors that come into making a decision like this, and so we want to give you all of the stats, numbers, figures and reasons to help you make an informed decision.

Breaking Them DownFacts and Figures
Refrigerator Ice Maker
VS
Portable Ice Maker
Ice ProductionAverage
5-10 lbs per day
VS
20-50 lbs per day
PriceBest Average
$1500
VS
$400
PortabilityCamping, Car or Boat?
VS
Ice VarietyWhich Has the Most
VS
Water FilterBuilt-in Filtered Water
VS
Outside UseOutside Kitchen Use
VS
Nugget IceOffers Chewable Ice
VS
Water DispenserWater and Ice
VS
Space SaverNeeded Appliance
VS

Before we can determine which ice maker you should purchase, we need to understand how each ice maker works. 

How Does a Refridgerator Ice Maker Work?

A refrigerator’s ice cycle begins when a valve allows water into a mold. A small electrical signal opens the valve and closes it when the mold is full.

Once the mold is full of water, which usually takes about 6 seconds, it begins the freezing process. Once the freezing process is complete the ice maker will produce about nine ice cubes.

How Much Ice Do Refrigerator Ice Makers Produce?

Refrigerator ice makers take several hours to make ice and only produce 3-7 pounds of ice each day. Most of the time, this is the perfect amount of ice, but there are times when this just isn’t enough.

Below are estimates of how much ice different types of refrigerators produce:

  • Side-By-Side: 4.5 lbs/day
  • Top Mount: 3.5 lbs/day
  • French Door Bottom Mount: 3.5-3.9 lbs/day
  • Bottom Mount: 3-4.5 lbs/day
  • Dual Ice Makers: 6.2 lbs/day

This means that a refrigerator ice maker will produce enough ice to fill about 12 beverages a day.

What Type of Ice Do Ice Refrigerator Ice Makers Produce?

Most fridge ice makers produce cubed or crushed ice cubes.

The Liebherr CS1400RIM refrigerator ice maker produces half-moon, crescent ice, which is perfect for a variety of beverages. The Samsung RS25H5111SG fridge has an ice maker that produces cubed ice and is also equipped with a water dispenser, so you can also enjoy a cold glass of water anytime you want.

The LG LRFVS3006S refrigerator creates a new type of ice called craft ice. This type of ice is a giant ball of ice that’s designed to melt slower than regular ice, so it never dilutes your beverage. All you have to do is drop the ice ball into your glass, and it will immediately begin to cool it down.

One important note, is that fridge ice makers do not produce nugget ice which is a very popular ice for ice chewers. If nugget ice is a deal breaker for you, then you would have to choice a portable ice maker (The Opal Nugget Ice Maker), or an undercounter ice maker.

How Do Portable Ice Makers Work? 

Portable ice makers work in a much simpler way than refrigerator ice makers. Water is pumped into a small cup or container where refrigerated cylinders are placed into the water. Over time, ice begins to build up around the cylinders, and it starts to form ice that resembles a hat or bullet. 

Once the ice reaches it’s desired size, the ice maker uses heat to free the ice, and it’s directed into an ice storage bin. 

As the ice melts, the water drips back into a water reservoir where it’s used to make more ice. 

Portable ice makers do not require any installation. All you have to do is fill the water reservoir with water, plug in the unit, and begin the ice cycle – it’s that simple.

To learn more about how portable ice makers work, please read my article here.

If you are interested in purchasing a portable ice maker, then I would suggest you read our complete guide here.

How Much Ice Do Portable Ice Makers Produce?

Portable ice makers can produce anywhere from 20-50 lbs of ice each day. This is significantly more ice than a refrigerator ice maker, but lower than an undercounter ice maker and a commercial ice maker.

Smaller portable ice makers are perfect for camping, RVing, or using on a boat, and will produce between 19-26 pounds of ice each day.

To find the perfect ice maker for your boat, RV, camping trip or tailgate party, check out our top picks here.

The Magic Chef MCIM22B portable ice maker produces about 27 pounds of ice each day, where the Whynter IMC491DC Portable Ice Maker produces about 49 pounds of ice daily. The difference between the two units would be bulkiness and overall weight. 

What Type of Ice Do Portable Ice Makers Produce?

Portable ice makers typically produce a type of ice called bullet ice. This is ice that is shaped like a cap or bullet and is pretty hard to chew.

To learn more about the different types of ice, click here and read more.

Though portable ice makers usually produce bullet-shaped ice, portable units will provide other types of ice as well.

The Opal Nugget Ice Maker produces soft, chewable nugget ice that is perfect for your drink. The Opal Nugget Ice Maker is the only portable ice maker that produces nugget ice. 

Should I Purchase a Refrigerator Ice Maker or a Portable Ice Maker? 

Determining which ice maker will work better for you all comes down to how you are planning on using the ice maker.

When is a Refrigerator Ice Maker a Good Idea

Refrigerator ice makers are great because you do not need an extra appliance for ice production. If you are planning on purchasing a new refrigerator anyway, it would be good to buy one with an ice maker.

If you are looking at purchasing a new refrigerator for your home, then I suggest that you check out the deals at Appliances Connection here. They are a trusted source for appliances with free shipping all over the USA. Appliances Connection ships about 300-400 orders a day and offer a no-hassle, 30-day return policy.

The Cafe CYE22TP4MW2 is a 36 inch, smart freestanding counter depth french door refrigerator with 22-feet total capacity.

This fridge has many great smart features that you will love: wifi connectivity, connects with Amazon Alexia and Google Assistant, and has a water dispenser that serves hot and cold water. 

This fridge comes with a feature called Frost Guard. Frost Guard shields frozen items from freezer burn by observing freezer door openings and defrosting only when needed. 

The ice maker is easy to use, and it produces both cubed and crushed ice. 

If you’re looking to purchase a new fridge and want the advantage of a state-of-the-art ice maker, I suggest you check out the GE GFE28GYNFS by clicking on the link and head over to Appliances Connection.

This fridge is a 27.8 cubic foot fridge with these great features: external water dispenser, crisper drawer, frost guard defrost, Energy Star Certified, ADA compliant, ice maker, TwinChill Evaporators, adjustable shelves, door alarm, UL Certification, child lock, exterior electronic touch controls, CSA Certified, and sabbath mode.

This ice maker creates beautiful, crushed, and cubed ice that will be perfect for your home.

When it comes to refrigerator ice makers, you need to remember that these units will need to be installed. A water line will need to be connected to the fridge for the water dispenser and the ice maker. These ice makers do not need drain lines because the freezer will keep the ice frozen at all times. This is great because you always know there will be ice available.

Refrigerator ice makers can be installed for about $50 to $100. This is why we recommend using Appliances Connection because, for a small fee, they will install your ice maker and have it ready for ice production before they leave. 

If space is a concern and you are planning on purchasing a new fridge anyway, I suggest you buy a refrigerator with a built-in ice maker. Purchasing a refrigerator ice maker will save you space and provide you with clean, great ice for your family.

The only negative aspect of purchasing a refrigerator ice maker is that the ice production is low and it doesn’t produce nugget ice.

When is a Portable Ice Maker a Good Idea

There are scenarios when purchasing a portable ice maker is the best choice. First, if you already have a refrigerator and are not planning on buying a new one anytime soon, then I suggest looking at getting a portable ice maker for your home. 

Portable ice makers are much cheaper then refrigerator ice makers. They don’t need any setup or installation, and they are portable, so that means you can take them with you.

If you want an ice maker for camping, RVing, your boat, or a tailgate party, then a portable ice maker is your best choice. These units are small enough to be carried and don’t need any water or drain lines. A portable ice maker can weigh as little as 20 pounds.

Portable ice makers are also great for rentals, where the landlord is not willing to purchase a refrigerator with an ice maker for you. If you live in an apartment, basement apartment, a rented room, or a dorm room, a portable ice maker is your absolute best choice if you want an appliance that produces ice.

A portable ice maker also produces more ice than fridge ice makers. Some portable ice makers can produce up to 50 pounds of ice each day, which is a significant amount of ice. Larger portable ice makers are great for larger families, parties, or any gathering where several people will be adding ice to their beverage.

The Magic Chef MCIM22B is a small, compact ice maker that’s perfect for transport. It produces 27 pounds of ice each day and will create ice in as little as 7 minutes. 

The best feature of this small ice maker is that it only weighs 20 pounds. This means that you can bring this ice maker anywhere to make ice as long as you have water and power. 

For more ice production, the Whynter IMC491DC portable ice maker is a great choice. It’s a beast for ice producing 49 pounds of bullet-shaped ice each day. This is a great option for larger families or those that just use a lot of ice. 

When Shouldn’t You Buy A Portable or Refrigerator Ice Maker

There are times when you need a lot of ice and a portable ice maker, or a refrigerator ice maker isn’t going to cut it.

If you are looking for an ice maker for commercial uses, healthcare, or a restaurant, we suggest that you always purchase a commercial ice maker.

Commercial ice makers are significantly larger, but they produce a lot more ice daily. You can read more about which commercial ice maker you should purchase for your business here.

Built-In Ice Makers

Another time you wouldn’t need a refrigerator ice maker, or portable ice maker is when you are looking for a build-in ice maker for your cabinetry. 

You can get some gorgeous ice makers that produce soft, chewable nugget ice that builds right into the design of your new kitchen. 

The Scotsman SCN60GA1SS undercounter or freestanding ice maker is a good example. This ice maker produces 80 pounds of nugget ice every day and comes in an elegant stainless steel finish.

Refrigerator ice makers are not a good idea for outside use, Portable ice makers would work well and can be placed on a table or countertop outside. You can also read my article here, and learn more about the best ice maker for outside use.

If you are looking for the best portable ice makers in Canada, click here to get our top choices.

Conclusion 

If you are struggling over which ice maker you should purchase, consider where you’re going to put your ice maker, the type of ice you want and how much ice you’ll need each day.

If you are looking at purchasing a new fridge and don’t have the room for an extra appliance on your countertop, then a refrigerator ice maker is a good fit for you. Remember that you will need to have it installed, and the type of ice it produces is limited. 

Portable ice makers are perfect if you live in a location where you can’t purchase a new fridge – such as a rental or dorm room. Portable ice makers come in a variety of sizes and designs and make bullet-shaped and nugget ice. 

Portable ice makers are also great because they can be brought outside during a BBQ or travel with you on an RV, camping trip, or boat. 

If you need an ice maker for a commercial or business application, then we suggest that you purchase a commercial ice maker. If you want to build an ice maker into your home bar or kitchen design, then an undercounter ice maker is your best choice.

We hope that this article has helped you design which ice maker is right for you. If you have any questions about refrigerator ice makers or portable ice makers then please use the comment section below.

Ice Maker Geeks are ice enthusiasts that review ice-making appliances, research ice-related topics, and do their best to help you make an informed decision before you make a purchase. Over the years of running this website, they have learned a lot and are excited to share that knowledge with you. The article you just read is just a small sample of the work that they have been doing over the last several years.

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