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Walk-In Cooler/Freezer Buying Guide



Walk-in coolers and freezers cool with a condensing unit and an evaporation coil. The condensing unit is located outside of the unit while the evaporator is inside. A compressor compresses gas into a liquid which is then pumped through the condensing unit coil. A fan blows outside air through the coil. The gas is condense to a liquid and then pumped through a copper pipe into the evaporator coil. In the evaporator coil the liquid can expand back into a gas, which causes a rapid chilling of the evaporator. The air inside the walk-in is blown across the coil. The coil absorbs the heat from the walk-in. The gas exits the walk-in through a larger cooper pipe to the condensing unit where it is again compressed and cooled to a liquid state. It's then returned to the evaporator coil where the cycle begins again. A walk-in cooler, freezer or a combination is an essential piece of equipment in the food industry. A walk-in is large enough to accommodate the storage of bulk perishable foods while making foods easy to locate, load and unload. How to purchase a walk-in cooler or freezer probably isn't something you've had a need to know, until now. It's a large expense and one you don't want to regret. To help you find the walk-in cooler, freezer or combination that fits your needs and budget, we've outlined some of the most important options and facts below inFrequently Asked Questions to assist you in your decision:

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I know before shopping for a walk-in?
You should know how much storage space you'll need, make sure you can have enough space to put a walk-in that will be convenient to work areas, check to make sure that accessible drain lines are available, determine the condition of the floor so you'll know whether it can bear the weight of the model you need, and make sure you can properly ventilate the heat that the system will produce.
How much will it cost?
The size of a walk-in has a lot to do with the price. Walk-ins can range from 4 x 4 to the size of a warehouse. The average in-door walk-in coolers or freezers will cost somewhere between $4,400.00 to $12,000 on average, depending on the size, material and various features. A low up-front cost may be what your looking for, but you might end up paying what you would have for a larger and more efficient high-end model in energy bills over the life of the unit.
Are there different types of walk-ins?
Yes, there are walk-ins that cool and walk-ins that freeze foods and there are also combination units that do both. Walk-ins can be located inside or outside of the facility, on existing floors or prefabricated flooring. Condensers can be placed inside or outside of the facility. Outside condensers are often called remote condensers.
Can I install it myself?
Yes, "do it yourself" walk-ins are constructed of prefab, precision formed, modular panels for an accurate fit. Make sure the refrigerate system is one that does not require charging with refrigerant, control wiring or plumbing. However, depending on the size and make it may be necessary to use a forklift to handle the panels. The forklift must have the capacity to support panels weighing two pounds per square foot each.
How do I know what size walk-in I should purchase?
On the average 1 cubit feet of open storage area will accommodate about 28 pounds of solid food.
Walk-ins are made with different types of material. Which one is the best one?

Most walk-ins are made with prefabricated panels that have urethane insulation sandwiched between aluminum, stainless steel or other type of material, like high-density urethane or fiberglass. All manufacturers rate panel insulation with a "R-value". Most major manufacturer's panel's are rated at R-30, which is about 4 inches of insulation. You can purchase panels that have 5 or 6 inches of insulation with higher R values, which are more energy efficient.

Panels are available in 1, 2 and 4 feet wide and heights from varying heights from 7 1/2 to 9 1/2 feet, depending on the manufacturer. Most feature tongue-and-groove edges that lock together.

The outer material of a walk-in is referred to as a "skin". Skins vary as do their benefits.

Aluminum Skin- Aluminum dents easily, but is resistant to corrosion, with the exception of salt spray. The price of a walk-in made with an aluminum skin may fluctuate due to the price of raw aluminum.

Stainless Steel- The strongest and least corrosive of all skins. It is also the most expensive. You can choose different finishes, such as brushed or polished. Brushed finishes reduces the visibility of scratches.

G90 Galvanized- This is the least expensive material, but remains resistance to corrosion and dents. It can develop "white rust" that will eventually turn red if it isn't handled correctly while installing or with the use of caustic cleaners. G90 galvanized floors are not approved for manufacturing by the National Sanitation Foundation for food service.

Painted G90 Galvanized- Its more expensive than G90, but is also more resistant to corrosion due to a painted overlay and provides the option of various colors.

Galvalume- Made with a combination of aluminum and galvanized material, galvalume is as strong as steel, but is 12 times more corrosive than galvanized. It is more expensive than aluminum and G 90 galvanized.

What are the differences between putting the compressor/motor condenser outside or inside of my building?
An indoor compressor/motor condenser system will cost less to install and is easier to maintain and clean, but the heat from the unit will be ejected into the same room. The heat will increase the room temperature causing your air conditioning system to work harder. An outdoor compressor/motor condenser system will prevent heat buildup and eliminate noise. The system will also operate more efficiently in cooler weather. Although an indoor installation is less expensive, the energy savings may be worth installing your compressor/motor condenser outside, not to mention the reduction of noise that may bother your patrons and employees. Be sure you check with your landlord, building or city that may have restrictions on outdoor use, prior to purchasing.

Helpful Tips

  • Be sure to tell someonebefore stepping into a walk-in and try to work with a buddy.
  • Don't depend on your cell phone to get you out of trouble. Your cell phone may not operate in a cold environment.
  • Cold temperatures canaffect you mentally and physically!
  • Before entering a walk-in, check to make sure that the door latch will open and check it hourly to make sure it doesn't freeze shut.
  • Don't be tempted to change the temperature. It can lead to food spoilage.
  • Keep coats, mittens and hats outside the walk-in for ease of use.

Did You Know?

  • The optimal temperature of a walk-in cooler isbetween 28-40 degrees, while walk-in freezers should maintain a temperature below 28 degrees. Brrrrrr.
  • 20% of your total energy consumption in a commercial kitchen results from refrigeration.
  • A walk-in cooler/freezer should be located in the coolest part of the building. Doing so will cut down on utility bills and decrease the run time on your machine, which will increase its life.
  • G90 galvanized is the most economical and popular "skin".
  • Wire racks allow cold air to circulate around food , however, freezer burn is more likely.
  • Solid shelving prevents spills from dripping onto other foods in shelves below.
  • By replacing light switches with low temperature occupancy sensors, can reduce lighting energy consumption by 1/2.
  • A pressure release value will eliminate the vacuum effect created when warm air enters the cooler air inside the walk-in, which makes it difficult to open the door.
  • Ensuring proper airflow and routine cleaning of condenser coils by a certified technician prevents problems and increases the life of the unit.
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