4 Simple Tips to Protect Your Commercial Refrigerator

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commercial refrigerator

It’s the weekend rush, the busiest time of day for your business and customers are coming and going at a fast clip. Your kitchen is working at full steam as the comforting sound of “order up!” calls through the pick-up window. A smile spreads across your face. Despite the stress of the working conditions, you are satisfied with your food service operation. Everything is going great and satisfaction settles in.

Then, a worried voice shouts from the back of the kitchen. It’s coming from somewhere near the walk-in cooler. Your mind vaguely registers the words as they call into the air: “The walk-in isn’t cold.”

Quickly, you walk towards the voice and step into the walk-in. Indeed the familiar blast of cold is gone. A flood of panicked thoughts overcrowd your former sense of satisfaction. You wonder, now what? How much will a repair guy cost at this hour and on the weekend? How did this happen?

This scenario is a familiar tale often passed down from seasoned restaurant owners to newbies. The moral of the story is if something is going to break, it’s going to bust on the weekend, during the breakfast, lunch or dinner rush.

So how do you prevent such a nightmare from occurring in your commercial kitchen? Follow these simple tips to protect your commercial refrigerator and keep it running in top form for years to come.

It all comes down to dust, corrosion, drainage and gaskets.

Rid Your Condenser of Dust

When dust or any other matter accumulates on the compressor coils, it clouds the compressor’s ability to work efficiently. This not only creates spikes in the utility bill, but it also forces the compressor to work harder than necessary. When the compressor works too hard for too long, the result is burn out. In short, your compressor is kaput.

Learn more about to maintain a dust free condenser »

Keep Acidic Foods Covered

Covering the inventory in your refrigerator is a food safety standard. However, stopping the spread of cross contamination is only one good reason to do so. The high levels of acidity in many foods can also contribute to corrosion in your commercial refrigeration unit. Foods such as tomatoes and pickles will emit acids that eat through refrigerant lines over time. To avoid this, store your entire refrigerated inventory in plastic non-corrosive food storage containers and use lids that seal well.

Keep Drains Clear

At the base of a commercial refrigerator is a drain. This drain serves as a pathway for all interior condensation to escape. Once the excess liquid leaves the drain, it travels to a drip pan where the water is heated and evaporated. If the drain is blocked in anyway, the condensation builds up and has nowhere to go. This creates flooded interior spaces in refrigerators and frozen build-up in freezers. Both instances will create a harsher environment for the condenser to work properly, causing it to run harder than normal and risking burn out.

Prevent unnecessary repairs and flooding and clean the drain of your refrigeration unit every day. This is especially critical for prep tables. Keep all crumbs, oils and storage containers free from the drain opening. Mop down the interiors of walk-in coolers daily and take special care to assure the drain area is free of obstructing materials.

Check Gaskets Weekly

A small rubber seal can mean all the difference in your utility bill and the overall performance of your commercial refrigerator or freezer. Precious and expensive chilled air will escape through tiny cracks. When air escapes, the compressor and condenser have to constantly work at an above average pace to maintain a constant temperature. This can easily lead to over-taxing the unit, resulting in the coils burning out. In plain English, it raises the utility bill and can break your fridge or freezer. Clean and check your gaskets weekly. If you notice that any part of the gasket is peeling away from the door, cracking or not sealing flush when the door is closed, then it is time to have the gasket replaced.

Keep your refrigeration units working in tip-top order and prevent costly repairs by implementing these easy steps into your daily, weekly or monthly routine.

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About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

13 Comments

  1. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to keep your condenser dust free. Doing so can help prevent future problems, as well as keep your refrigerator running more efficiently, therefore reducing its energy usage. How frequently do you suggest checking the condenser for dust build-up? Thanks for the great post!

    • Nicole Castellano
      Nicole Castellano on

      We’re glad you appreciate the tips. To answer your question, about 90 days or so. It ultimately depends on how dusty or greasy of an environment your refrigerator is in.

  2. I really like the suggestion you give to keep the drains clear because I feel like this is something that can often get overlooked. You talk about how the drain provides a pathway for condensation to escape, and if this is covered, then it could cause backup and problems with your fridge. Thus, I can see why this would be a very important step to take to maintain the fridge and make sure that it is always working properly. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Brilliant tips! And you know, these tips are good not only for commercial refrigerator, but for house ones too! I have 2 Siemens fridges in my cafe kitchen (this model http://pc24.de/siemens/ka58np95.html). They are very qualitative and efficient, but also very expensive! So I try to care about them a lot, always keep them clean and dry. It is really very important to cover food to avoid acid emanation and as a result corrosion in your refrigeration unit. Also try to clean fridge walls with wet sponge if there is any water or juice inside it. And you equipment will work for many years!

  4. I agree that it’s important to regularly check the gaskets on commercial refrigeration systems. One reason I say this is because of how often they are moved around. Additionally, if they don’t work then often the first thing assumed is that the refrigerator needs to be replaced when in reality it is not working as well because of improper maintenance of gaskets.

  5. I didn’t know that if dust accumulates on the compressor coils, it clouds its ability to work efficiently. Thus, I can see how regularly cleaning this out will help your fridge to always be working properly. Plus, it will help you to avoid any serious maintenance issues with your fridge and help you maintain the appliance’s lifespan, too. Thanks for the insight!

  6. I’ve been noticing that my utility bill has been rising and today my sister (who helps me in my cafe) mentioned that she thought that our walk in freezer wasn’t feeling as cold as usual. I wonder if it is our gasket! I haven’t been cleaning and checking them weekly as you recommend. I’ll have to check them and get them replaced if there’s an issue because the utility bill is really concerning me. For the future, do you recommend a specific way to clean them, or is a cloth and mild cleaning solution enough?

    • Nicole Castellano
      Nicole Castellano on

      Hello Janelle- Sorry to hear about your rising utility bill. Walk-in refrigeration is typically oversized and a leaky door gasket usually would not be enough to cause the box to warm up. I would suggest having a tech look at the system and determine if a leak or something similar is occurring.

      For cleaning just mild soap and water will help keep the gasket clean. Make sure it is completely dry when you are done cleaning. Thanks for reaching out! Good luck.

  7. Thanks for sharing all of these tips on maintaining your commercial refrigerator! I had no idea that simply covering your acidic foods could help prevent your refrigeration unit from getting damaged. That seems like such a small thing! I guess it goes to show that you need to do your research about your appliances, even if you think you know a lot about them.

  8. I’m a bit of an amateur chef. I’ve never worked in a commercial kitchen, but I’m sure having your walk in cooler could be the start of a very bad day. It’s important to keep specific ingredients like raw seafood and meats refrigerated so your restaurant doesn’t end up in the newspapers. You make a great point about setting up a checklist for your kitchen and making sure that you make sure the gaskets are air tight and that your condenser is clean. I’ll be sure to implement this into my restaurant’s policy if I decide to start one.

  9. Ridding the condenser of dust is something that my father has always advice me to do. That’s because of what happened last night when he came over to my house and took something out of the fridge. He saw that there was food buildup and dust inside the commercial refrigeration unit.

  10. To me, I think that the biggest things that people for get to do is clean the condenser and keep the drains clear. With the condenser, it is important that it stays clean. When it’s dirty, it has to work harder thus putting more stress on itself. With the drains, you don’t want the water just sitting there which can and will cause problems.

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