Walk-In Cooler Care 101

Opening up your first cafe or small-scale restaurant is a complex process. If you have recently invested in your equipment, you probably want to know how to make the most of that investment. One of the first things you should understand is how to take care of your walk-in coolers. After all, not only is the cooler itself a significant investment, but it also protects your next major investment: the food. Here are some best practices to maintain your walk-in cooler and everything you put in it.

Keep The Cooler Area Clear

Especially in smaller commercial kitchens, space is a premium. This often leads people to store things anywhere they can find space. For example, you might think that it's no big deal to store pizza boxes or empty takeout boxes on top of the walk-in cooler as a convenient way to handle your overstock until you need it. The fact is that storing things on top of the walk-in can impede air circulation around the unit and prevent it from working at its most efficient.

Avoid Excess Energy Use

One of the biggest things that can hinder your walk-in cooler's lifespan is forcing it to run more than it needs to. If the area where your cooler is doesn't stay generally cool, that will lead to excess energy consumption and cause the motor to run unnecessarily. Even something as simple as the lights in the cooler area can cause heat buildup in the space, and the cooler would have to work harder to compensate for that additional environmental heat.

Do Your Preventative Maintenance

Maintaining your walk-in isn't a hands-off process. There are a few things that you should keep up with a couple of times a year. For example, all of the hinges should be lubricated periodically unless you've chosen a walk-in model that has self-lubricating hinges. This is important because a seized hinge could hinder your cooler's functionality.

In addition, you need to keep the condensing coil and the evaporator clean. Every few months, remove the cover and wipe these down with a damp, clean rag. Those components can draw dirt and dust, and when they are dirty, they won't cool nearly as efficiently as they should.

The drain lines should also be part of your routine maintenance. They need to be inspected and cleaned out a few times a year. Since any kind of debris or bacteria in the drain lines can lead to backups and clogs, this shouldn't be ignored.

Another common place for bacteria, as well as mold and mildew, is along the door gaskets. During your routine maintenance, clean those gaskets thoroughly. It is essential that they are kept clean and in good condition, because they play a vital role in the door sealing and keeping the temperature consistent in the cooler.

Schedule Professional Inspections

Your walk-in coolers should be professionally inspected at least once, if not twice, every year. During this inspection, the technician will ensure that the temperature is consistent inside the cooler, that the electrical connections are in good condition, and that the motor and fans are all working properly.

In addition to these routine inspections, you should also call for an additional inspection if you ever hear any kind of noises coming from the cooler's motor. If a bearing is bad or there are other internal component problems, you need to address the right away to avoid potential failure.

When it comes to protecting your walk-in cooler investment, these steps are the best place to start. Your commercial refrigeration technician can tell you about any other specific needs that your equipment requires based on the brand, model, and typical use. The better prepared you are, the longer your investment will last you.