The vapor-compression refrigeration cycle used in a home ice maker is the same that is used in an air conditioner, refrigerator, or freezer. It’s based on the scientific principle of thermodynamics, which explains the transfer of heat during evaporation. When a coolant, like a refrigerant, transforms from a liquid into a gas, it is able to absorb the surrounding heat during the transformation. The coolant then releases that heat when it changes back into a liquid to complete the so-called ice maker refrigeration cycle.
A refrigeration system has four main components that facilitate the transfer of heat via the coolant.
Components of an Ice Maker:
Compresses the coolant, turning it into a hot, high-pressure gas.
A set of coiled pipes on (or near) the exterior of the unit that dissipates heat as the coolant transforms into the high water pressure.
Expansion Water Valve
Also known as an inlet valve, releases the pressure on the coolant, turning it into vapor again and lowering the temperature of the coolant.
Another set of heat-exchanging pipes on the interior of the unit makes the interior of the unit cold
Here is a diagram of how the system works in principle:
With a freezer or refrigerator, the cold air produced by the evaporator is collected in the unit’s insulated interior. In an air conditioner, the cold air is distributed throughout the room by means of a fan. In a portable ice maker, however, the cold produced by the evaporator is concentrated in the prongs attached to the evaporator, so that ice forms on them when they are immersed in freshwater.
Keep in mind that those prongs can get very, very cold, avoid touching them when the unit is plugged in and operating!