If you operate a commercial facility - or even have a large residential facility - it may be a good idea to invest in a walk-in cooler. Walk-in coolers, or freezers, are pretty much are what they sound like - places to refrigerate or freeze stored food products in advance of preparation. They're much larger than standard freezers or coolers, which make them ideal for large food storing purposes (keep in mind that if you're running a restaurant, it's estimated you'll need about 1.5 cubic feet of storage space per every meal you serve on a daily basis). In fact, most walk-in coolers range in size from as small as 16 cubic feet to sizes as large as 400,000 square feet. You can even purchase multi-level walk-in cooler units for yet even more storage room, or have one custom built to fit specifically into a space within a supermarket, for example.
As you can see, in the right setting, walk-in coolers are a wise - and largely essential - addition to a commercial facility. Here's a further look at some of the key benefits of walk-in coolers so that you can judge whether or not one is suitable for your situation:
- Purpose built: Walk-in coolers these days are built with industrial strength. Typically, they are manufactured with either stainless steel or galvanized aluminum (wall widths generally vary from 3.5 to 4 inches) and foam insulation is bonded in between the materials to prevent temperature loss from within. Cooler doors are also built to meet industrial standards, as this is the part of the cooler that receives the most amount of stress upon its regular use, particularly during loading, unloading and regular entrance into the unit to retrieve food items. Usually, walk-in coolers are built on a rigid, reinforced door frame and with heavy-duty hinges for premium durability. What's more is that these units are safe, often offering the likes of inside door releases and deadbolt locks in order to ensure that operators don't get trapped in and can restrict access to the cooler when appropriate.
- Energy savings: If you need large-scale refrigeration, and are attempting to standardize consumer refrigeration to a commercial facility, not only are you likely sacrificing the performance of the equipment for its intended purpose, but you're also not doing yourself any favors as far as efficiency goes. Yes, for a commercial facility that needs a walk-in cooler, the costs to power the appliance are one of the facility's major expenditures. However, with an industrial-grade walk-in cooler, the appliance's internal components are designed to work better and designed to higher standards than standard consumer gear. Hence, you can also experience some noticeable cost savings compared to the alternative. So just what can you expect to pay in monthly energy costs for a walk-in cooler or freezer? For a 6 x 6-foot cooler, for example, it's an estimated $66 per month. For a walk-in freezer of the same size, cost is significantly higher at about $228. With this being said, there are ways to further reduce operating costs beyond what is estimated above. For instance, a walk-in cooler equipped with extruded polystyrene insulation is the best type of insulation there is and will likely reduce energy costs. Walk-in curtains also help minimize heat gain during loading or unloading of goods. Finally, regular maintenance of the unit, such as checking door sweeps and gaskets for wear, and replacing when necessary, can also help minimize energy costs.
- Cooling power: To piggyback off the above point, just because walk-in coolers can save a facility money on energy costs doesn't mean that they lack in quality. Most small walk-in coolers are powered by a 1/2-horsepower compressor to cool the unit to around a 35-degree temperature. Walk-in freezers, on the other hand, will normally utilize at least a 1-horsepower compressor to keep temperatures as high as 10 degrees to as low as 0.
- High tech: It seems that every major appliance these days can be designed and engineered to offer enhanced connectivity - today's more modern versions of walk-in coolers are no exception. Many of these units have begun integrating Bluetooth technology into their makeup, thereby enabling the unit to automatically alert facility managers if temperatures fluctuate beyond the normal settings. Many coolers also often feature interior, motion-detecting lights rather than light switches to further reduce power consumption. And finally, temperature recording systems are another attractive feature, and can help prove safety measures have been taken when it's inspection time.
- Maintenance: Most walk-in cooler units need about as much maintenance as your standard residential or commercial air conditioning unit. Specifically, it's recommended that airflow and cooler ventilation is checked at least once a year, and that condenser coils are cleaned annually by a certified technician. Additionally, it's advised that the cooler walls are cleaned routinely as well. Stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain, while aluminum tends to dent easier and is somewhat more difficult to adequately clean.
While the aforementioned are some of the key benefits, there are also a few other things to know about walk-in coolers. For instance, when it comes to installation, these units can be installed on top of a solid concrete floor, as the flooring style provides adequate stability. With that said, it's still recommended that an insulation barrier is installed underneath the walls of the unit to minimize condensation. Insulation barriers are a necessity if the cooler is going to be installed over a wood floor, as regular condensation can rot the floor over time.
One potential drawback regarding walk-in coolers is their high cost. It's not uncommon for these appliances to cost several thousand dollars, perhaps even as much as $10,000. It's unquestionably a sizable investment - and not a price that everyone may be able to pay for. If you're uneasy about the cost of a walk-in cooler, however, there are alternative options. For instance, you can buy used, or put a bid on a used appliance in a qualified industrial goods marketplace.
For more information about walk-in coolers and acquiring them from a credible source such as Bid on Equipment, contact us today.