The Best Portable Ice Maker (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Find the perfect portable ice maker for your needs with this informative Review and Buying Guide
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON November 2, 2020
If there’s one sure thing about traveling in the heat, it’s that ice melts. If you’re far from a convenience store, then it’s pretty safe to say that most of the ice you bring simply won’t last. A popular way to keep ice handy while you travel is simply using a portable ice maker. All you need is a generator (and some water) to keep ice on hand. From chilling injuries to cooling drinks, ice offers endless value. Of course, it works best if you have a quality portable ice maker.
You want something that works quickly, makes enough ice, and is built to last. Portable ice makers have come a long way in a short time, technology-wise. Newer models make more ice faster and use less energy than their predecessors. With those advances has also come a surge in popularity as people realize the benefits of not only having a portable ice maker when they travel, but at home for parties and gatherings also. To help make your search of the best portable ice makers easier, we’ve curated a list of the top options available. Let’s check out the leading selections.
This ice maker features a streamlined and elegant design that complements any home décor. It is capable of making up to 24 pounds of ice in 24 hours.
- Convenient window on the front of the unit allows you to easily see how much ice is in the bin
- Produces its first round of ice in just 20 minutes
- The ice cubes are the soft, crunchy kind that tends to melt quickly
- One of the heavier units available
This compact, portable unit is capable of producing up to 26 pounds of ice per day, with a new batch ready every 6-8 minutes.
- Choose from small or medium-sized ice cubes that will fit in any size opening of your water bottle
- Weighs less than 20 pounds
- Basket holds only 1.5 pounds of ice, so you need to empty it frequently
This unit is capable of making 28.7 pounds of ice in 24 hours and uses up to 40 percent less energy than other models to do it.
- Fun retro-style is compact and lightweight
- Weighs less than 20 pounds
- Ice basket is one of the smallest, so it needs to be emptied frequently
- Only comes in one color
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Benefits of Portable Ice Maker
- Cost savings. Over time, a portable ice maker can save you hundreds of dollars over having to continually purchase bags of ice from the store. While it will be more of an initial investment, depending on how often you buy ice, a portable ice maker can easily pay for itself in less than a year.
- Space savings. With a portable ice maker, you don’t have to worry about large bags of ice taking up valuable space in your freezer. This is a great option if you don’t have a large freezer or a stand-alone freezer unit.
- Portability. With many units that weigh less than 20 pounds, portable ice makers are exactly that: portable. You can take them with you in your RV, or to a vacation rental or hotel. You can lend it to friends and family for parties or large gatherings. It’s a very convenient appliance.
- Quick. Many portable ice makers produce ice in as little as six to eight minutes, making them a very efficient and fast-acting appliance to have. Another benefit is that you can store unused ice in your freezer and the unit will continue producing ice until it is full or shut off, so you could have an almost endless supply of ice whenever you need it.
- Low maintenance. Portable ice makers have built-in drains that recycle melted ice and unused water. This enclosed and self-sufficient system only requires occasional cleaning to maintain its production capacity, making it one of the more low maintenance household appliances.
- User-friendly. Portable ice makers are very easy to use, with just a few intuitive buttons that cause it to function. With automatic sensors that alert you to low water in the reservoir, you just add water and wait for the ice to come out.
Types of Portable Ice Makers
Countertop Ice Maker
This is really the only form of a portable ice maker. This model sits on top of a counter and is plugged into a grounded, 120-volt outlet. This type of ice maker unit usually weighs between 19 and 45 pounds so that you can move it around from space to space and even from one home to another, or to an RV, hotel room, etc. It’s usually compact in size so that it doesn’t take up your whole kitchen and can easily be stored away when not in use.
Under-Counter Ice Maker
Under-counter ice makers are usually compact and are built into your cabinetry. However, they are not portable. They require a dedicated water line and a larger ventilation system, and are similar in size to a bar fridge. They’re capable of storing a larger capacity of ice and of keeping it frozen continuously, unlike the countertop ice maker models.
General Electric is the oldest electrical company in North America. Founded by the father of electricity, Thomas Edison, it has been a global leader in electrical innovation for over 150 years. Its line of home appliances is one of the largest selling lines in the world. It’s known for such cutting-edge products as the GE Profile Smart Refrigerator and its line of Smart Washing Machines.
Frigidaire was founded in 1916 in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is now headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. It’s another long-time and trusted corporation that makes a well-designed line of kitchen and home appliances, like the Frigidaire Gallery Induction Ranges and the Frigidaire Gallery French Door Refrigerators.
Igloo got its start in 1947 as a metalworking shop that made metal water coolers for blue-collar workers. Its headquarters are in Katy, Texas, and it is now one of the most trusted names in coolers in North America, with products like the IMX 70 Qt Cooler and the BMX 52 Qt 5-Day Cooler.
hOmeLabs is a newer player in the small appliance industry. It specializes in offering affordable and reliable appliances backed by strong customer service. While it is most widely known for its line of portable countertop ice makers, it also produces a portable induction cooktop and a line of compact room dehumidifiers.
NewAir began in founder Luke Peters’ garage in California over 15 years ago. Its goal is to be the most trusted name in compact appliances in America. Its line of compact wine and beer fridges is popular, as is its line of energy-efficient space heaters.
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Portable Ice Maker Pricing
- Below $120: This price range is the base starting range for most portable ice maker units. It will get you a compact unit that produces ice quickly, but is generally made by lesser-known manufacturers who are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry.
- $120 to $150: This price range will include some larger, more durably-constructed portable ice makers from manufacturers whose names you recognize, and some you don’t. Ice makers in this range start to vary more in size and capacity, giving you more options.
- $150 to $250: This is the upper echelon of portable ice makers. Brought to you by trusted names in the appliance industry, this price range includes some of the most technologically advanced and efficient ice makers available.
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This is a key feature for anyone who doesn’t want to assign a ton of valuable counter space to another countertop appliance. Some portable ice makers are definitely smaller than others, so measure the space you plan to use ahead of time and don’t get something that will be too big to fit there. With that being said, you also don’t want to purchase a unit whose basket is too small to hold the amount of ice you will need, so be sure to measure that against the overall size of the ice maker.
Usually measured in pounds per day, this is how much ice your particular model is capable of making in a 24-hour period. If your requirements aren’t that high, you can likely get away with a smaller, less expensive model, but if you’re buying an ice maker to supplement a larger need for your family, or if you like to host frequent social gatherings, you’re going to need an ice maker that can keep up with that. What good is an ice maker if you have to have a backup bag of ice in your freezer anyway?
This is a key factor for a lot of people. Many people consider purchasing a portable ice maker in order to save money on buying multiple bags of ice. That doesn’t mean you want the upfront cost of the ice maker to be prohibitive. Deciding ahead of time if your budget is $120 or $250 will greatly help to narrow down your search and make your decision a lot easier when it comes to picking the ice maker that is ideal for you.
A good ice maker will have few maintenance requirements for continued and reliable use. Keeping it full of water and cleaning the system on occasion should be all you need to do in order to maintain the working parts of your portable ice maker. A good ice maker will also be backed by a solid manufacturer’s warranty that will easily and quickly take care of any defects or malfunctions.
- Weight. If you’re planning to use your portable ice maker on frequent trips like camping, road trips, etc., then the weight of it will be very important. A 20-pound ice maker is much easier to move and carry than a 50-pound ice maker, which is still considered “portable”.
- Look. This can and should be a major consideration for many people who care about matching their kitchen’s look and design with their appliance choices. Do you want a retro-looking, fun ice maker, or a sleeker, more modern design?
- Ease of Use. While most portable ice makers are pretty straightforward when it comes to using them, some are definitely simpler and more intuitive than others. Do you want one that you just have to fill with water and turn on, or do you want one that you can control remotely and choose which size of ice cubes you want?
Best Portable Ice Makers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Be sure to keep an eye on your ice maker so that forgotten ice isn’t just sitting in the basket melting and being wasted. This will keep your ice maker functioning at its optimal capacity and making as much ice as possible throughout the day.
- Keep your water clean and fresh in order to produce the best quality ice cubes possible. No one wants cloudy or odd-tasting ice. If you have hard water deposits, consider using bottled water so that you can clean the unit less often.
- Choose the location for your portable ice maker carefully. Set it in a place that is close to an outlet, but away from a wet or watery area, like beside the sink. Water around the electrical cord is bad for obvious reasons. Also pick a spot where it’s less likely to have things dropped on it or spilled into it, so not directly below the most-used cabinet in your kitchen.
- Store already-made ice frequently. This will give you some reserves for those times when company comes and you have more people visiting. While portable ice makers are a great alternative to buying ice, they are still limited in their production capacity, so planning ahead by storing extra in your freezer ensures you will run out less often.
- Try your unit out as soon as you get it to ensure it’s free from manufacturer’s defects and that it produces ice the way you want. With many models, there is a limited return time from the time you receive the unit, so be mindful of that.
- Be sure to read online user reviews prior to purchase so that you can make an informed decision and not set yourself up for any unpleasant surprises when the ice maker arrives and you try to use it for the first time.
What is the best portable ice maker to buy?
A: The best portable ice maker is one that will easily fit in your designated space and that will readily produce the correct amount of ice to meet your specific needs. It will also come backed by a solid warranty to protect your investment.
Q: Can I leave my portable ice maker on all the time?
A: Many portable ice makers feature automatic shut-off when the reservoir is dry or the ice basket is full, so while you could leave it on all the time, it’s not recommended. As unused ice melts and is recycled back into the reservoir, it will continue to use that water to make ice over and over, adding unnecessary stress to the motor and fan components, shortening the lifespan of the unit, and wasting energy that you’re paying for.
What is the best ice maker for home use?
A: A portable, countertop model of ice maker is the best for home use. They come in a wide variety of sizes, capacities, colors, that are suitable for any home, large or small.
What kind of water do you use in a portable ice maker?
A: While you can use regular tap water, it’s best to use filtered drinking water or even bottled water that has a higher purity content. This will not only produce a better quality ice cube, but it will run less hard water deposits through the system, necessitating fewer deep system cleans.
With the ever-increasing popularity of portable ice makers, they are constantly becoming faster, more compact, and more affordable. Now is a great time to buy a portable ice maker for your home, whether you choose the GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker, the NOVETE Portable Ice Maker, or something in between, you can be sure to find one that fits your needs and your budget.