Commercial fridges and freezers can seem like scary, complicated contraptions and it can be difficult for many people to get their heads around them.
Luckily, we’re here for when things go wrong. In this case, if your commercial refrigerator can’t keep its cool, we’ve got you covered – with a list of what you need to check before calling in the experts.
Beginning with the basics
- Is it on?
It may sound obvious – but, in the rush and hurry of a fast-paced kitchen, it’s easy to forget the basics. Check around the back and ensure that the plug is in the wall – and, if it is, that it’s all the way in. Then, check the power switch on the fridge.
If the plug’s in and the switch is set to on, but your fridge is still not working, you may want to use a volt meter to check whether there really is power flowing into your appliance. If you’ve done so (or if you don’t have a volt meter), move on:
- Check the doors
Are they shutting properly? Something inside may be causing an obstruction - preventing the seals around the door from closing. Or perhaps wear and tear has got to the seals or hinges. Give them a once over.
If all looks fine, the problem may be habitual. Think about it: your staff may simply be leaving your fridge doors open too long.
While commercial fridges are designed to be durable and powerful, they aren’t air conditioning units - they can’t cool a room. If it’s the door letting you down, turn the fridge off and get it fixed ASAP. If not, carry on:
- Check the temperature gauge
It’s easy to nudge or bump into temperature gauges as you use your fridge – and this may have turned the gauge too far one way or the other. Make sure your temperature is set to your fridge’s ideal. In doubt about what that ideal is? Check your manufacturer recommendations and your equipment manual.
If you’re sure your fridge is in its comfort zone,
- Think positioning
Is there ample room for exterior air-flow or is your appliance smothered against the wall?
Your refrigeration may be suffocating. Remember that its cooling components work in part by drawing air in from the surrounding area. Too close up against a wall or another appliance, and your fridge’s vents will struggle to cool its contents - make them struggle too much and they may well give up the ghost a lot sooner than they should. Give that machine some room to breathe. A nice 10cm should do.
If your fridge is feeling roomy,
- Is it being treated well?
It can be easy to end up cutting corners at peak times. But if cutting corners means putting hot foods straight into the fridge to cool down, it’s a definite no-no. Pick up a bad habit like this and your commercial fridge will not thank you.
In order to cool those hot plates, your refrigerator will have to work extra hard to get down to temperature while hot food will also cause condensation which can damage components and obscure presentation if using the unit for display purposes. Work your fridge too hard and it will, eventually, let you down.
Once you’ve run through the basics, dig a little deeper:
- Are the components clean?
To work efficiently, your fridge’s vents, filters, condensers and coils need to be kept clean. If they become dirty – or if they freeze over – the efficiency of the refrigerator will be significantly reduced.
In the long term, forever-dirty components will reduce your refrigerator’s life-span – as the build-up of dust mean that your machine has to work harder and harder until, one day, they’ll simply stop functioning.
So, get them spic and span every six months or so – keeping time with the seasons.
To prep for cleaning: clear out the fridge, turn it off, and consult your manual – every piece of commercial refrigeration is different and the location of components can vary from appliance to appliance.
Your filter, for instance, maybe on top of your fridge and you may need a step ladder - or it could be round the back behind a panel, and you may need some tools to get to it.
Once you’ve got at them, clean your components using a soft bristled brush and a vacuum cleaner, taking it slow.
If cleaning doesn’t crack it, you may be missing something major:
Location Location Location
- Is your fridge right for the room?
Commercial refrigeration is designed to operate within a specific ambient temperature range. These temperature ranges, or climate classes, will be printed on their rating plates or in their manuals and they’ll tell you where the manufacturer recommends you keep your fridge.
There are four main climate classes – Normal (N), Tropical (T), Sub-Normal (SN) and Sub-Tropical (ST) – and a few variants (N-ST, N-T, SN-T, and SN-ST ) which are used to label both domestic and commercial fridges and freezers with their correct operating temperatures. Find out more about what climate class means.
For now, however, we’ll focus on the additional aspects of climate class which only commercial units get: the numbers. The class numbers 3, 4 and 5 denote the maximum ambient temperatures and relative humidity (RH) which the appliance in question can handle.
If your appliance has a Class 3, as many commercial storage fridges do, ensure it is operating in a maximum ambient temperature of 25C with 60% relative humidity (RH). If you’ve got a single door catering fridge or double door catering fridge with a Class 4, your fridge shouldn't be in a room with an ambient temperature of more than 30C and 55% RH. Catering fridges with Class 5 will need it kept below ambient temperatures of 40C and 40% RH.
Take the temperature of the room, and the immediate surroundings of your appliance, and use the climate classes to suit your fridge to its position in your kitchen.
If you’ve made sure your catering fridge is a Class 5 for use in the kitchen or that your store room cooler is a Class 3, but you’re still having difficulties, it may be time to call in the engineers. They can check the tricky stuff – like whether your gas is running low or whether your refrigerator’s components are faulty.
If you’re in need of any further advice on any aspect of care for your business’ refrigeration, we are happy to help, just get in touch.