In house and professional maintenance of kitchen equipment can reduce the risks of equipment breakdown. In addition to this, 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 refrigeration maintenance and cleaning.
Our tips for extending the life of your commercial refrigeration equipment
Before doing any of the following, make sure that you take precaution:
Isolate (Unplug) unit from power source and wait at least 15-20 minutes to allow unit to cool down.
Caution – 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 done by a Qualified Refrigeration Technician.
1. Inspect and clean the condenser
- Find the condenser and inspect it
- Clean the coil using a soft brush to remove the dust following the direction of the fins. Special care must be taken not to damage or bend the fins.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to remove other particles
- Have a look at the video below, which shows you how to clean a condenser.
Caution for condenser cleaning:
- Wear gloves – there may be sharp edges
- Wear goggles or safety glasses – the dust may get in your eyes
- Wear a face mask – If the condenser is heavily soiled it poses a risk of dust inhalation
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- An expansion valve to reduce the pressure on liquid coolant
- An evaporation coil where the liquid coolant becomes gas absorbing heat from surrounding air
- A compressor that pressurises the gas
- A 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:
Courtesy of air and water
Understanding the importance of maintenance:
- 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:
- Door seals are designed to keep cool air in and the warm air out which is vital to the efficiency of your fridge
- Food particles contain acids that can cause corrosion in the seals, so it is important to remove all food bits
- Damaged/torn and seals that don’t seal can cause issues such as: increased energy consumption, or your refrigerator not maintaining temperature
Evaporator drain holes and pans:
- Drain pans also need to be clean and free from food waste
- If drain pans are continuously full or overflowing, then there is a problem and you should call a technician before things get worse
- Drain holes need to be kept clear so that moisture can flow freely and be removed
- If there are problems with the drain holes and pan, then you may have problems such as: a leaking fridge or a flooded fridge
- Your refrigerator is like a car and needs appropriate servicing to ensure and prolong the life of your equipment
- The technician will clean all the parts of the refrigerator that you can’t get to; top up coolant/refrigeration gas; ensure that there are no blockages and more
- 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.
It is quite clear that poor maintenance and irregular cleaning will decrease the lifespan of your fridge whilst also increasing electrical consumption and potentially costing 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.