The Curse of the Cheap Ice Maker

Categories: Refrigerators


A cheap ice maker can cause your ice to clump up into one solid block.

Many people are familiar with the phenomenon in which their ice maker produces a huge block of ice cubes that have all stuck together. This tends to happen on lower-end models that simply dump the ice into a bucket. What happens is called “accretion”, where moisture in the air between the ice cubes joins them together. This is essentially the same thing that’s happening when icicles form on tree branches during a cold night. More expensive ice makers and refrigerators will use sensors to detect the level of ice and stop the ice maker once it’s reached a certain capacity. Some models will also include a stirrer to prevent ice cubes from sticking together, which would explain some of those mysterious noises you may have heard coming from your kitchen at night. It turns out that your fridge isn’t haunted, it’s just stirring the ice.

The Cool Physics Behind Ice Makers

Only a century ago, ice was a rare luxury for many parts of the world. These days most of us take ice for granted, even on the hottest days. If you just want to make a single tray of ice, throwing some water into the freezer will get the job done. Most people, however, prefer to have ice on demand–which is why they use ice makers. Ice makers are devices that consistently churn out ice, and in practice they take a bit more engineering than a simple ice tray. Here’s a quick look at the physics behind your ice maker.

How It Works

Ice makers typically involve a tray with some sort of semicircular or rectangular depression. Above this lies a valve that controls the flow of water into the tray, allowing water to fill the tray when a new cube is ready to be made. As the water freezes, a sensor inside the ice maker measures the temperature of the water and waits for it to reach about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the water is completely frozen, the ice maker uses a small heating element to loosen the ice just enough for removal. A thin layer of water helps lubricate the ice so that the ice maker’s motorized arm can push the ice out into a holding bucket. Finally, the tray is filled with water again and the cycle repeats.

Ice Makers from Appliance Distributors Unlimited

Looking to install a new refrigerator or ice maker in your home? Appliance Distributors Unlimited is the premier resource for kitchen appliances in the mid-Atlantic. Since 1982, we have been helping home builders, kitchen designers, contractors, property managers and homeowners create dream kitchens that are masterpieces of form and function. If you need help choosing the best kitchen appliance package for your remodeling project, don’t hesitate to request a quote online or contact us at any of our five convenient locations in Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, Linthicum, York, or Chantilly. Feel free to visit our online appliance store at