Walk-in refrigeration units are convenient and often necessary for commercial kitchens. And though the process of getting one can be overwhelming it is important to have all of your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed when ordering a walk-in unit because even the tiniest detail can affect the outcome. The key is to work with your seller and be sure that they have all of the information they need to give you what you need.
First the size and location of your unit need to be determined. Manufacturers will provide scaled drawings of all of their models to help ensure that the room will fit where you plan to put it. Once the size of the model has been determined then you will need to figure out the size refrigeration unit you need. When deciding this think about how often employees will be walking in and out of the cooler and how long the door could potentially be left open. If the answer to this is generally “a lot” then it might be best to oversize the refrigerant. You can also purchase a door closer which will ensure the units door is not left open to loose cold air.
Next you will need to consider some simple math. All manufacturers will boast of how their walk-in units have the best insulation but the main thing you need to focus on is the R-factor. In your equation the R stands for thermal resistance, meaning the higher your R value is the better the insulation is at resisting heat. So a unit that is R-32 insulated is better at keeping things cool than an R-29 insulated unit.
Now, if your head isn’t spinning already then it will be after the next question. Does your walk-in cooler or freezer need to have a floor? And no, you cannot sit your walk-in unit on the grass. If you have a concrete pad that is approved by your local health regulations then you can opt for a floorless unit. However, if the concrete is too thin you run the risk of freezing the ground beneath it, causing the moisture buildup to freeze which can eventually push your box upward. It is recommended that your concrete pad be increased by 4-5” thick or add a floor on top of the concrete before installing the unit. Walk-ins with floors are usually constructed of 18 or 16 gauge stainless steel.
Will the walk-in unit be installed outside or inside? Walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers are comprised of different sections of panels that are locked together. When it rains water can leak through these seams if the unit is outside. Outdoor walk-in units have a rain cap for this purpose, which is a rubber cover on the roof of the unit.
Last but not least is your refrigeration unit’s installation. You can choose to have remote refrigeration in which the evaporator sits inside the unit while the condensor is installed on the roof or outside of the box. The other option is drop-in, which will have a complete refrigeration unit installed within the walk-in box. Keep in mind that the condenser will produce hot air which can blow into confined work areas, especially if the unit is installed within the building. This hot air can not only make it uncomfortable for workers but can also decrease the efficiency of your refrigeration unit and raise your energy costs.
There are many other options for walk-in refrigeration such as door ramps, kick plates and temperature warnings which all will depend on your unique needs and budget. A walk-in cooler or freezer is not small expense and major manufacturers like Masterbilt and Kolpak will require the customer’s sign-off on blueprints to protect themselves from liability. That’s why it’s important to double and triple check your information so that you don’t have to repeat this exhausting process twice.