Does An Ice Maker Need a Water Line?

If you’re thinking about bringing some form of ice maker into your home or workplace, it’s easy to get carried away thinking of all the uber-refreshing iced coffees you’re going to make and forget about the practicalities of the installation.

You know that where there’s ice, there must first be water, but it doesn’t occur to you right away that you may have to provide the source of water yourself.

Eventually, the thought does pop into your head, and you’re wise to have looked it up before dedicating to any purchases.

Whether an ice maker needs to be hooked up to a water line is actually a very common query, and the answer depends on what sort of ice maker you’ve got your eye on.

Types Of Ice Maker: Which Of Them Require A Water Line?

Advertising should make it pretty clear whether an ice maker or refrigerator with integrated ice-making facilities needs to be connected to a water line to function, but if not, you can usually figure it out another way.

All you have to do is ask yourself (or the seller of the ice maker) if it comes with a reservoir or not.

Ice Makers With Built-In Reservoirs

Typically speaking, ice makers with integrated reservoirs don’t need to be hooked up to a water line, making them the easiest to install.

There’s no need to fork out to get a plumber in; simply plug it into an AC outlet, and voilà; prepare yourself for some sweet, sweet cold coffee and cocktails!

How Do Ice Makers With Reservoirs Work

The ice maker uses its own internal water line to draw moisture from the reservoir into the ice-making tray or cavity and gets to work. It’s an efficient, self-contained system, but you will have to refill the reservoir manually when the water supply dwindles.

How often you’ll need to top the reservoir up depends on the capacity of the reservoir, the capacity of your ice maker, and how often you use the ice.

Some people suggest that you should boil the replacement water once or twice to optimize the quality of the ice, as it’s said that it will make the cubes more clear (think the ice on Coca-Cola commercials), but I’m not sure how accurate this is.

What is true of boiling the water is that it will be sterilized, which is always good.

You might also take this opportunity to clean your reservoir. Most manufacturers advise you to clean your ice maker in full at least once every six months, but I’d recommend bumping that up to at least once every 3 months.

Ice Makers Without Built-In Reservoirs

Whether you’ve got your eye on an under-counter ice machine, or a refrigerator with ice-making facilities, if it doesn’t have a reservoir, then I’m afraid it will need to be plumbed into your main water system.

There’s just no other way for it to draw the water it needs to form the ice cubes.

As you’ll have to call a professional in, you should factor installation fees into your budget, which may mean that you’ll have to go down a model or perhaps scrap your initial plans and choose something with a built-in reservoir.

That said, if you shop around, you may be able to find a manufacturer that offers free installation, which would be a lovely little perk.

Alternatively, if you have a DIY spirit and some experience working with pipes, there’s no reason why you can’t install your reservoir-less ice maker yourself. You may even be able to find an instructional video specific to your ice maker model online.

How Do Ice Makers Without Built-In Reservoirs Work?

Much like ice makers with built-in reservoirs, machines without them rely on a water inlet valve to deliver water to the ice-making facilities, but the pipeline connected to the valve runs to a port or line on the back of the unit.

Piping is then used to connect the port with your water line. Water travels through the pipe, enters an interim filter that clears away any impurities, and eventually finds its way into the ice maker, engaging the phase change.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a water line in the area you’re trying to install your ice maker, as a plastic line can be routed all the way from your copper pipe mainline to wherever the ice maker is going to sit in your living or workspace.

Although these kinds of ice makers are usually more expensive to buy, and installation can be a faff, they take care of business from there on out, making them the more practical option in the long run.

How To Run A Water Line To An Ice Maker

If you are interested in installing your ice maker yourself, here’s how it’s done…

  1. Turn your water off at the mains.
  2. Plan the water line’s route to your ice maker.
  3. Tap the nearest vertical cold water line with a T-shaped push valve or copper T valve.
  4. Drill any holes required to run the line through walls, cabinets, floors etc.
  5. Run the line to the ice maker.
  6. Thread a nut and sleeve on your new line, and connect it to the ice maker’s line or line port.
  7. Tighten the connection up with a wrench.
  8. Turn the water on and check for any leaks along the length of the line and where it connects to the ice maker.
  9. If there are no leaks, plug in your ice maker, and let it get to work!
  10. If your line doesn’t include a filter, discard the first batch of ice to avoid consuming any impurities picked up by the water as it travels through the new line.

What About Portable Ice Makers?

Portable ice makers will almost always come with a small integrated reservoir. They don’t make that much ice, but the only way to increase the yield would be to use a bigger reservoir, and the larger the reservoir, the less portable a unit becomes.

So, if you’re having an outdoor party, it pays to have a faucet around somewhere or at least to bring along plenty of bottled water for top-ups.

Some lower-end portable ice makers may not need a reservoir or a water line, as the water will be decanted manually into the ice-making mechanism.

These are the least practical, as they have to be topped up each time you want to use them, but they’re very cost-effective.

Do Ice Makers Require A Drain?

With the water line debacle covered, your next question is likely something to do with drainage.

The good news is that it’s very unlikely you’ll have to install any sort of drainage system, as only under-counter ice machines need one.

Unlike refrigerator ice makers that either use the freezer section or cold air circulation to keep water frozen, under-counter ice machines have no way of keeping the ambient temperature cool enough to prevent melting. As such, some form of drainage is needed to siphon water away.

Summing Up

That’s all there is to it, folks — If your ice maker has a built-in reservoir, you don’t need to worry about hooking it up to your water line, but if it doesn’t, you will need to route a line from your cold supply.

It’s not such a difficult task, and it doesn’t require any specialist plumbing equipment, but if you’re not much of a DIY person, don’t hesitate to call a professional in to install your ice maker for you.