Most refrigerators and walk-in coolers seem virtually indestructible and trouble-free, but you’ll get a longer life by following these safety and maintenance tips. Clean door gaskets and hinges regularly. Door gaskets, made of rubber, can rot more easily if they are covered in food or dirt, weakening their sealing properties. They can be safely cleaned with a solution of baking soda and warm water. The hinges can be rubbed with a little Vaseline to keep them working well. Dirty coils force the refrigerator to get hotter, which shortens the life of the compressor motor. They should be cleaned every 90 days, preferably with an industrial vacuum.
Entry floors can be damp mopped, but should never be hosed down. Too much water can get into the seals between the floor panels and damage the insulation. A refrigerator only works as well as the air that can circulate around its contents. Stacking food containers so there is not an inch of free space around them doesn’t help. Also try to keep containers (especially cardboard ones) from touching the cabinet walls. They can freeze and stick to the walls, damaging both the product and the wall. Use a good rotation system: first in, first out (FIFO) is preferable. Or put colored dots on food packages, a different color for each day of the week, so everyone in your kitchen knows how long each item has been in the fridge.
WALK-IN REFRIGERATORS AND FREEZERS
A walk-in cooler is just what the name suggests: a fridge big enough to fit inside. It can be as small as a closet or as large as a good-sized room, but its primary purpose is to provide refrigerated storage for large quantities of food in one central area. Experts suggest your operation needs a walk-in service when your refrigeration needs exceed 80 cubic feet, or if you serve more than 250 meals per day. Again, you’ll need to determine how much you need to store, what container sizes the storage space should accommodate, and the maximum number of produce you’ll want to keep on hand. The only way to use the entrance space wisely is to equip it with shelves, arranged in sections. Exactly how many square feet do you need? The simplest formula is to calculate 1 to 1.5 cubic feet of storage space for each meal you serve per day. Another basic calculation: Take the total number of linear feet of shelves you’ve decided you’ll need (A) and divide it by the number of shelves (B) you can fit in each section.
This will give you the number of linear feet per section (C). To this number (C), add 40 to 50 percent (1.40 or 1.50) to cover “spillover” volume increases, wasted space, and bulky items or loose products. This will give you an estimate of the total linear footage (D) needed. However, linear footage is not enough. Since the shelves are three dimensional, you need to calculate the square footage. So multiply (D) by the depth of each shelf (E) to get the total square footage (F). Finally, double the figure (F) to make up for the hallway space. Approximately half of the cold room space is aisle space. Another popular formula is to figure that for every 28 to 30 pounds of food you store, you’ll need 1 cubic foot of space. When you get that number, multiply it by 2.5. (The factor 2.5 means that only 40 percent of your warehouse space will be used as storage space; the other 60 percent is aisles and space between products.)
The result is the size of the cold storage area you will need. For a walk-in walk-in, simply divide your walk-in space by two. Larger kitchens, serving more than 400 meals a day, may need up to three walk-in coolers for different temperature needs: one for produce (41 degrees Fahrenheit), one for meat and fish (33 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit), and one for dairy (32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit). The walk-in is most often used to store bulk food. Since this often means moving carts or dollies in and out, the floor should be level with the kitchen floor.
This leveling is accomplished through the use of strips (called screeds) that are applied to the floor. Refrigerators do not come as a single unit; are built on site. The walls, ceilings and floors are made of individual panels. Wall panels must be insulated to a rating of R-30, which means a thickness of 4 inches. They come in various lengths and widths, with 12-by-12-inch corner panels at 90-degree angles. They can be as short as 71?2 feet or as tall as 131?2 feet. The most common type of insulation inside the panels is polyurethane, and the exterior walls of the panels can be made of stainless steel, vinyl, or aluminum. Stainless steel is the most expensive, and aluminum, because it is the least expensive, is the most popular choice. If the walk-in is an outdoor installation, aluminum is the most weather resistant.
The installer will ensure that the unit has interior lighting. Walk-in closet floor panels are similar to wall panels. Load capacities of 600 pounds per square foot are the norm, but if you plan to store very heavy items (like beer kegs), a reinforced floor with a load capacity of up to 1000 pounds per square foot can be purchased. The single room refrigeration system is a more complex installation than a standard refrigerator, mainly because it is so much larger. It’s best to let the professionals match the system (and its power requirements) to the dimensions of the vault and its projected use, but it’s important to note that a vault that is accessed frequently throughout the day will require a compressor. with greater power to maintain its interior temperature than one that is rarely accessed.
A 9 square foot walk-in would need at least a 2 horsepower compressor. The condenser unit is located at the top of the chamber (directly above the evaporator) or up to 25 feet away, with lines connecting it to the chamber. The latter, for obvious reasons, is known as a remote system and is required for larger than normal condensing units with capacities up to 7.5 horsepower. In a remote system, the refrigerant must be added at the time of installation. For smaller walk-ins, there is also a plumbing setup called a quick coupler system, which ships from the factory fully charged with refrigerant. This definitely simplifies installation. However, you may need the extra power of a remote system if your kitchen has any of these drains on cabinet cooling capacity: frequent door openings, glass display doors, multiple doors per compartment, or one temperature. kitchen environment close to 90 degrees. Fahrenheit.
Modern walk-ins sometimes offer a frozen food section in addition to the usual cooler space. There are pros and cons to this concept. It can ease the load on the freezer, because it is already located inside a cold air space; but it also can’t help but reduce the overall usable space, because it requires a separate door. You can also order your walk-in closet with a separate reach section that has its own door and shelves. Although this can save the cost of buying a built-in cabinet separately, some reviewers claim that a built-in cabinet is not designed to do a built-in cabinet job, such as storing uncovered desserts. Do you really want them in the same environment as lettuce cartons and other bulk storage items? There may be cleanliness or food quality factors to consider.
Doors should open outward, not into the cooler itself. The standard door opening is 34 by 78 inches. Several door features are important to the proper operation of the door. These include: A heavy-duty door closer. Door hinges with automatic closing and lifting by cam. If the door can be opened beyond a 90 degree angle, the cam will hold it open. High resistance stainless steel threshold. Installs over the galvanized channel of the door frame. A pull type door handle, with a cylinder door lock and space to use a separate padlock if required. Pressure sensitive vents, which prevent vacuum buildup when opening and closing the door. An internal security release so no one can get (accidentally or otherwise) locked inside the cooler.
Other smart features that can be ordered for cameras are: A thermometer (designed for outdoor use, but mounted inside the cooler) with a range of 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A monitoring and recording system that maintains a printout of the refrigeration or discharge temperature to a computer. Glass, full-length door panels (such as those in supermarkets and convenience stores), sometimes called merchandising doors, either hinged or sliding. High resistance plastic strip curtains on the inside of the door. (One manufacturer claims 40 percent energy savings with this feature.)
A pedal, which allows you to open the door by pressing a pedal or lever with your foot when both hands are full. Three-way interior lighting, which can be turned on from outside or inside the cooler, with a power indicator light on the outside. Inside, the light itself should be a vapor-proof bulb with an unbreakable globe and shield. When space is at a premium, consider whether it is practical to install an outdoor unit with a walk-in closet. This is an inexpensive way to add space without increasing the size of your kitchen, and you can buy ready-made freestanding structures with electricity and refrigeration systems installed. They come in standard sizes from 8 to 12 feet wide and up to 50 feet long, in 1-foot increments.
They range in height from 7.5 to 9.5 feet. Look for a unit with a weather resistant sloped roof, weather cover and fully insulated floor. Outdoor walk-in closets are about half the price of installing an indoor kitchen walk-in closet, so this is a money-saving idea if it works in your location. If your demands for walking space are seasonal, consider renting a refrigerated trailer, available in most metropolitan areas on a weekly or monthly basis. They can instantly provide 2,000 cubic feet of additional storage space, which can be kept at any temperature from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They use basic 60 amp 230 volt three phase electricity. Ask if the lease includes hookup at your site and service if something goes wrong.