Commercial refrigerator maintenance is important. Additionally, in house and professional maintenance of kitchen equipment can reduce the risks of equipment breakdown. Therefore performing routine cleaning and maintenance reduces both the health and financial risk associated with unclean kitchen equipment, and can extend the life of your equipment.

Today we will be focusing on commercial refrigerator maintenance and cleaning.

Our tips for extending the life of your commercial refrigeratior

Make sure that you take the following precaution before you perform any maintenance on your commercial refrigerator:

Isolate (Unplug) unit from power source and wait at least 15-20 minutes to allow unit to cool down.

In addition to this precaution, please be mindful that refrigeration systems have moving parts and only the front of the condenser is to be cleaned. Any cleaning within the refrigeration system i.e. behind the condenser, must be completed by a Qualified Refrigeration Technician.

Tip #1. Inspect and clean the condenser

After locating the condenser, take a soft brush and remove the dust and debris from the fins. Be careful to brush your brush in the direction of the coils as it is important not to damage or bend the fins. After carefully brushing the fins, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any remaining dust from the fins and off the floor. The video below shows you how you can clean a condenser.

Please be mindful and take care of yourself when you perform any maintenance on your refrigerator. In particular when you are cleaning your condenser make sure to wear:

  • Gloves – there may be sharp edges
  • Goggles or safety glasses – the dust may get in your eyes
  • A face mask – If the condenser is heavily soiled it poses a risk of dust inhalation

Cleaning condensers can be particularly dusty, so make sure all your food is covered. The best thing would be to wait until close or wait for a quiet time to do this.

Tip #2. Inspect and clean the door seals (aka gaskets)

  • These are like tires on a car and will wear out so must be kept clean and in good condition
  • Seals are important to keeping the cool air in and hot air out
  • Carefully check all four sides of the door seal for rips or tears
  • Use warm water to clean the seals (an old sanitised toothbrush is useful for brushing food out)
  • Make sure to replace seals that don’t seal properly or are torn

Tip #3. Inspect and clean the evaporator drain hole and drip pan

  • Locate the drip pan and then empty and clean it
  • Some drip pans have bits of cardboard to help absorb the water, if these are mouldy order new ones and replace them
  • Check the drain hole to make sure it is not clogged or blocked

If you don’t know where to find the condenser or evaporator drain holes or pan; google the make and model of your commercial refrigerator to find the manual.

Here is some background on the workings

Key principles of refrigeration:

  1. There is no such thing as dark and cold. Darkness is the absence of light (e.g. closing curtains to block out the light), and cold is the absence of heat.
  2. Following this logic, a refrigerator is a piece of equipment that removes heat from the air. Therefore, ice machines, coolers, chillers, freezers and cool rooms are all types of refrigeration.
  3. When you remove heat from the air you produce moisture and of course heat

Refrigeration equipment relies on liquid coolant/refrigeration gas to cool the surrounding air.

As the gas pressure decreases, the gas expands and cools.

By increasing the pressure on the gas the temperature rises.

These changes in state can also be called evaporation and condensation. This is how evaporator coils and condenser coils get their names.

Key parts of refrigeration equipment:

  1. Expansion valve to reduce the pressure on liquid coolant
  2. Evaporation coil where the liquid coolant becomes gas absorbing heat from surrounding air
  3. Compressor that pressurises the gas
  4. Condenser coil in which the heated gas becomes a liquid, releasing its heat to the outside air

If you want some more in depth information on the workings of a refrigerator you can look at; how refrigeration works, or how do condenser and evaporator coils work? The latter is focused around air-conditioning, but the principles remain the same.

Here is an illustration of the structure:

commercial refrigeration explanation diagram

Courtesy of air and water

Understanding the importance of commercial refrigeration maintenance:

Condenser coil:

  • Due to a fan positioned here to help remove heat, the coil attracts dust, food particles and other bits and pieces that can act as an insulator keeping in the heat the refrigerator is trying to remove
  • Blocked condensers can cause problems such as: increased power consumption, burnt wiring, failed condenser fan motor,  or a failed compressor
  • These problems can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace, and looking after the coil is a few minutes of work once a week to reduce the risk

Door seals or gaskets:

  • Are designed to keep cool air in and the warm air out which is vital to the efficiency of your fridge
  • Should be kept clear of all food particles as food bits contain acids that can cause corrosion in the seals
  • Damaged/torn and seals cause issues such as: increased energy consumption, or your refrigerator not maintaining temperature

Evaporator drain holes and pans:

  • Need to be clean and free from food waste
  • If they are continuously full or overflowing, then there is a problem and you should call a technician before things get worse
  • Should be kept clear so that moisture can flow freely and be removed
  • Problems that can be caused due to blocked drain holes or pans include a leaking or a flooded fridge

Professional Commercial Refrigerator Maintenance:

  • Your commercial refrigerator is like a car and needs appropriate servicing and maintenance to ensure and prolong it’s life
  • The technician will service the hard to reach parts of a refrigerator and check the overall condition
  • Professional maintenance of refrigeration should be done every 3-6 months depending on use
  • If you are interested in professional maintenance or repairs, book a repair online here.

Looking after your commercial refrigerator by maintaining and regularly cleaning it, will help your unit to work efficiently and effectively over it’s lifespan. Poorly maintained and cleaned refrigerators are more likely to consume more energy than necessary and may cost you more than you need in repairs and replacement parts.

So, make sure to follow our tips to make sure your refrigeration equipment continues to work efficiently for the remainder of the refrigerators life.

Get more tips on commercial refrigeration maintenance below

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