Walk in chillers are an essential item for any catering and food businesses. Restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and even food trucks will all find it extremely difficult – and probably impossible – to function without these food-saving vaults.
As you might expect due to their size and purpose, walk in chillers don’t come without an initial major cost output either. For both of these reasons – necessity and cost – it is essential to keep on top of maintenance of your walk in chiller.
Here at Batchelor we carry out regular maintenance of chillers for a number of clients in food and other industries. This is regardless of whether we initially installed the chiller or not.
The reason we stress how important maintaining walk in chillers regularly is because we know how important they are to your business. Cleaning and checking your walk in cooler – monthly, for some parts – prevents them breaking down and means it is easier to spot any potential problems that might arise at a later stage.
However, an overall professional inspection by experienced walk in chiller installers every six months to a year is essential. That way you know the entire refrigerator is being checked.
So, what kind of checks and maintenance chores can owners carry out themselves in between scheduled professional maintenance? We have described some of the more essential maintenance chores in this article, together with a quick checklist.
Walk in chillers, what are they?
But first, if you’ve never had one before, you may be wondering what exactly we mean by describing something as a ‘walk in chiller’ (or cold room).
What it isn’t, is a walk in freezer. This is a room which can operate at temperatures less than minus 40 degrees Celsius. In other words, everything inside is frozen. The majority of commercial walk in chillers, on the other hand, operate at an average temperature between 0°c and 5°c. This is just above the freezing point of water, making them appear rather like a large walk in refrigerator. And is, of course, exactly what a walk in chiller is.
This means that these cold storage rooms are ideal for keeping the likes of food and pharmaceuticals. The goods inside remain cold, prolonging their use. And, when taken out, can be used immediately because no defrosting is necessary.
Maximising space in your chiller
Get the most out of the space in your walk in cooler by using storage to best effect. Shelving units make the most of vertical space and are, in fact, essential for storage.
Piling boxes on top of one another can prove disastrous for certain foodstuffs. Not only will it ruin the quality of the food in question, but it can also lead to cross contamination – something as a commercial company you definitely want to avoid.
A study by US magazine Forbes, found that restaurants spent around one third of their overall budget on food ingredients. What it needed is to leave enough space between individual food items on the shelf. That way you will ensure the air flow and cooling distribution is reaching where it needs to go. If it doesn’t then some foodstuffs may not be cooled enough while others might suffer freezer burn. The end result in both cases is wastage and, ultimately, a hit to your bottom line.
A two-inch gap between different food stuffs on the shelf in walk in chillers is usually enough space to ensure air distribution. Make sure too that the food isn’t sitting against the wall or on the floor.
Meat should always be stored separately on the bottom shelf so that juice doesn’t drip down from containers onto other foodstuffs. Try and keep categories of foodstuffs together and on their own shelves. Label well to save time and energy when retrieving them. This will also make stock-taking easier.
And, on that note, rotate foods regularly so that you’re not missing sell-by dates.
Walk in chiller DIY maintenance
Check the condensing unit
This unit contains the compressor, condensing coil and the condensing fan motor and is the most critical part of your walk in chiller for day to day running.
The first thing to do is to actually locate your condensing unit. It could be underneath, on top of the unit or sitting remotely. Once you’ve managed to find it though, cleaning it is pretty straight-forward. Simply cut off power to it and hoover off the dust and other debris which has built up. Try and do this on a monthly basis for best results.
Clean your chiller inside and out
While cleaning your condenser, you might as well do inside the chiller at the same time. So, also once a month, put some mild detergent in lukewarm water and get cleaning with a cloth. Use a little bleach and water on the cabinet.
Wipe clean the evaporator fan
This fan helps circulate the air inside your walk in chiller and, at the same time, gets rid of any heat. It also helps drain away water. This should really be cleaned thoroughly once a year.
To do this you will once again need to disconnect the power to your walk in chiller. Removing the drain pan makes it easier to clean as well.
Make sure the seals are clean
The seals for walk in chillers should also be inspected annually. That’s because over time they can become brittle and which, in turn, makes them easier to rip.
Listen to the temperature controls
If you notice a change to the normal operating noise of the chiller, or are finding that the temperature doesn’t seem to be quite right compared to past experience then there probably is a problem. Don’t start tampering around with it yourself. This is definitely one area where it literally pays to get a professional like ourselves at Batchelor to come and take a look at what’s going on.
Quick check list of maintenance tips
The following is a quick list of maintenance tips that walk in chiller owners can carry out for themselves:
1. Wipe clean the condenser coils
2. Wipe clean evaporator coils
3. Wash and wipe dry fans and fan grills
4. Ensure thermostat is working via the check of thermometer
5. Wash interior of the chiller and the door gaskets with mild detergent
6. Clean and dry all drain lines
7. Make sure there is nothing blocking the unit – either from inside or out
8. Ensure the door latch is opening and closing as it should
9. If there is ice on any coils then make sure this is melted
10. Make sure the noise of the chiller sounds like normal
Get in touch with the team at Batchelor
To keep your walk in chillers in tip top condition then have them maintained regularly by professionals such as ourselves here at Batchelor.
The more your chiller is maintained, and regularly, the longer your chiller will last. It really is as simple as that. We have been installing and maintaining walk in chillers and freezers for more than four decades. Within that time, we have learned all there is to know concerning their maintenance.