5 Commercial Refrigeration Tips To Consider Before Buying

Last updated on November 10th, 2023 at 03:48 pm

We’re navigating the labyrinth of commercial refrigeration – where every chill counts and choosing the right refrigerator is the difference between kitchen harmony and chaos.

In this blog, we have insights to simplify your quest for the perfect commercial fridge.

Whether you run a cozy cafe, a bustling restaurant, or a niche food truck, we’ve got your cooling needs covered. From deciphering perplexing acronyms like NSF and HACCP to demystifying the art of compressor placement, we leave no refrigerated stone unturned.

If you’ve ever wondered about the nuances of commercial refrigeration, you’re in the right place – where expertise meets simplicity, and the ideal fridge for your business awaits.

Firstly, let’s dive into a broad overview of how restaurants use commercial refrigerators. Later, we can dial in on what fridge your business needs!

1. What are you storing?

If you’re using a commercial refrigerator for food storage, make sure it has the right NSF rating for the type of food you’re keeping. Some models are good for packaged and bottled products, while others are safe for open food items.

The National Sanitation Foundation rating for commercial refrigeration refers to the ability of a unit to protect food items from physical contaminants and properly refrigerate them to avoid pathogen development.

An NSF rating also ensures the unit will be able to be properly and thoroughly sanitized to prevent harmful bacteria growth on the interior of your commercial refrigerator.

To learn more about NSF ratings, check out this blog!

What does the NSF mark mean? Find out here at the burkett blog.

However, you may need to follow different guidelines for commercial refrigeration based on the size of your business. And what meals you offer.

This table shows a few examples of the differing needs of food service businesses.

Business SizeSpecialized ItemsFood Safety
Small (cafes, food trucks, sandwich shops)Delicate pastries, dairy products, deli meats.Local health department guidelines for temperature control
Medium (bistros, casual dining)Fresh produce, diverse protein selection and menu optionsFDA food code requirements for safe food storage
Large (restaurants, fine dining, fast and fast-casual)Bulk meats and vegetables, dairy products, seafood, fine wine.HACCP principles for systematic food safety management and documentation
Extra-large (hotels, schools, hospitals)Catering supplies, specialty deserts and beverages.NSF-rated refrigerators for specific and specialized food categories

In the food world, different places need different fridges.

Small cafes, for instance, focus on pastries and dairy. They follow rules set by the local health department.

Moving up to bigger spots, like casual dining, where there’s lots on the menu. They stick to FDA rules for safe storage.

In large restaurants dealing with heaps of meat and veggies, there’s a safety method called HACCP. It’s like a plan to keep everything safe from start to finish.

Extra-large venues, like hotels, schools, or hospitals use fridges approved for specific foods.

Finally, food trucks, face a challenge with less space for food. They follow local health codes to make sure everything stays safe, especially when they’re on the move.

In the world of food, choosing the right fridge is like picking the right tool for the job. Each place has its own way, and knowing what works best is key for a successful kitchen.

2. Where will your commercial refrigeration live?

From reach-in refrigerators and freezers to chef bases, where you place your commercial refrigerator can have a major impact on the way it performs.

  • Breathing room: Placing a fridge too close to your range or cookline can cause it to run less efficiently. Generally, refrigeration in your kitchen, should be kept in its zoned area to optimize efficiency.
  • Indoor or outdoor: Some commercial refrigerators are designed to be used outdoors and may carry a UL rating for that function.
  • Ambient temperature: Furthermore, other fridges, like open-air merchandisers, may need to be placed in areas where the ambient temperature will not exceed a certain level.

Understanding your commercial refrigerator’s intended purpose and capabilities will prevent poor food quality, overworked refrigeration systems, and costly repairs down the line.

3. Compressor Location

The location of your commercial refrigerator’s compressor impacts a lot of things you may not realize.

Above all, your compressor needs proper airflow to function properly and not burn out.

If your fridge or freezer has a rear-mounted compressor, you will want to avoid placing it directly against a wall. Still, a good general rule is to allow around six inches of clearance for proper breathing.

The most common compressor locations are top and bottom mounted. Each option has its own benefits and downfalls.

  • Top-mounted compressor: This compressor configuration prevents it from collecting dirt and debris while cycling air. Consequently, the heat from the fans and refrigeration system doesn’t rise into the unit, leading to potential energy cost savings. Additionally, a top-mounted compressor typically translates to more storage space inside the unit. However, it’s worth noting that this type of unit may not perform well near the cook line, as it has the tendency to pull in greasy steam that could potentially clog the condenser coils.
  • Bottom mounted compressor: Servicing and cleaning the compressor is easy and won’t require a ladder to reach. Temperatures on the floor can be up to 15 degrees lower than those near the ceiling, which means the unit won’t have to work as hard to pull air in. This type of unit can be used at the cookline without damaging the coil. But, the bottom-mounted fan is more likely to collect dust and debris from the floor. However, insulating the bottom floor of a unit with a bottom-mounted compressor to prevent hot air from rising into the unit can raise production costs.
  • Front breathing: Building a cook line becomes a breeze when you opt for a front-breathing commercial refrigerator. This innovative system is featured in sandwich or pizza prep tables. Additionally, certain undercounter or worktop refrigerators are front-breathing. Ideal for units placed directly against a wall or integrated into an existing prep line, this configuration requires only the space between the unit and the floor to be clear for proper ventilation. Notably, this space should be kept clean for optimal performance.
Equip your cook line with front-breathing sandwich prep tables from burkett.

4. Energy Efficiency

Your commercial refrigerator’s insulation, door type, and the type of motors used to distribute air all impact energy costs.

Door type also ties into insulation since the seal or gasket around the door as well as the insulation of the door itself can prevent or allow air to leak in or out. Self-closing doors, tempered glass, and positive seal gaskets are all common features that help commercial refrigerators retain their cold air. 

Fan motors enhance efficiency. Consider this: while regular fan motors can be improved, commutated motors outshine them in efficiency. These motors actively pair with off-cycle defrost systems and advanced temperature controls, cutting down on the need for frequent cycling and decreasing energy usage throughout the day.

The ambient temperature of the area the refrigerator will be placed in can also affect energy efficiency. Hotter ambient temperatures force the unit to work harder to pull and cool air. Commercial refrigerators placed near cook-lines and cooking equipment will need to cycle more often to retain food-safe temperatures, making them less efficient on energy costs.

ENERGY STAR rating is the most reliable way to know your commercial refrigerator is energy efficient. Learn more about ENERGY STAR ratings and what they mean to ensure your commercial kitchen is reducing energy costs wherever it can.

Insulation acts as a barrier, stopping heat from seeping through the cooler’s walls. A reduction in hot air infiltration means the interior requires less effort for cooling. Currently, foamed-in-place insulation stands out as the most popular and efficient choice in commercial refrigeration insulation. To gauge the effectiveness of insulation in preventing air leakage into the unit, one can measure it using the R-value.

So what is R-Value?

R-Value is the rating system used to grade insulation products or a material’s insulating properties. The “R” stands for “resistance” and refers to the resistance a material has to heat flow, or temperature conduction. When a product or home has a high R-Value, this means it is well insulated. – USA Insulation

Let’s break it down:

R stands for “Resistance,” and the value represents how resistant a material is to letting heat pass through it. So, when we talk about the R-value of insulation in commercial refrigeration, it’s like knowing how strong your shield is in protecting your fridge from the heat trying to get in.

In simpler terms, the higher the R-value, the better your insulation is at keeping the cool air inside and the warm air outside, making sure your fridge stays at the right temperature.

5. Commercial refrigeration brands

Purchasing commercial refrigeration is a big investment.

Quality refrigeration is crucial for maintaining the freshness and quality of your business’s products. When selecting commercial refrigeration, opt for trusted brands known for reliability.

Some prioritize affordability, while others focus on high-tech, energy-efficient models. Many brands offer comprehensive warranties covering parts and labor.

Commercial refrigerators play a vital role in preserving food quality and safety while minimizing energy costs.

Understanding how these appliances function will guide you toward the right purchase for your business needs. Prioritizing a fridge that maintains optimal temperatures efficiently is key to running a successful establishment.

Burkett offers a wide variety of products to fit even the most specific refrigeration needs from top-of-the-line brands like True Refrigeration, Delfield, Turbo Air, and SEAGATE.

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