The restaurant walk-in cooler is a workhorse that can limp along for years without much complaining. But regular maintenance makes it far more reliable, keeping inventory safe and reducing energy costs. With observation and corrective action, walk-in coolers can serve your restaurant clients long and well.

By N-Lange.de (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe following issues signal it’s time for them to call a service technician.

Ice Buildup
Over time, ice can build up on the cooling coils. A properly functioning evaporator regularly defrosts, melting the ice and draining it away. But on older units the ice may not melt completely. When a coil becomes covered in ice, heat transfer plummets, and the compressor has to work harder and longer. If ice buildup is excessive the compressor runs constantly, but the unit still can’t maintain temperature.

Trapped Moisture

During a properly functioning cooling cycle, ice will form in your freezer, then melt and drain away. Sometimes a blockage prevents the water from draining. Trapped water can seep into cracks, then refreeze and expand, causing structural damage. Stalactites and stalagmites of ice in a freezer are a signal for swift action to avoid costly damage.

Inadequate Ventilation
The condenser coil removes heat from the refrigeration system. When the condenser is located in an enclosed or cramped space, it may not have sufficient air flow to efficiently remove heat. This leads to a higher temperature around the compressor, requiring it to work harder.

A condenser needs a well ventilated area to do its job. If it has to be kept in an enclosed space, use a fan to move additional air through the area to aid cooling. Directing exhaust directly outside also reduces ambient heat.

Check condenser coils regularly for dust and debris – these insulate the coil, reducing the heat transfer and airflow, causing the compressor to run harder and longer.

Leaks and Overcrowding
Inspect the refrigerator shell regularly for leaks which can lead to excess moisture in the system. Make sure doors seal properly to keep out moisture and warm air. Watch for frost buildup on doors, which can keep them from closing, or possibly freeze them shut. Also avoid overcrowding, which leads to poor air circulation. If the contents of the fridge block evaporator fans, the unit won’t perform at peak levels.

Regular maintenance solves problems before they become destructive, and it keeps energy bills from skyrocketing.

Find a helpful Walk-In Cooler/Freezer Diagnostic Protocol on the Contracting Business website and if you have any other tips, let us know in the comments.