If you have a walk-in cooler in your commercial kitchen or restaurant, it’s important to treat it like an investment. A failure to do so could prove to be costly (and even dangerous in some scenarios).
How to Keep Your Walk-In Cooler in Tip-Top Shape
Depending on the size of your cooler and chosen installation method, a small commercial walk-in cooler will cost you somewhere in the $5,000 to $12,000 range. On top of that, you have to think about operating costs. Size, location, and use (opening and closing) obviously have a major impact on this latter expense.
However, on average, small coolers (6×6) carry an average cost per month of $70, while larger coolers (10×12) cost around $151 per month.
In other words, a walk-in cooler is a major investment (both upfront and ongoing). So it makes sense that you’d keep it in tip-top shape.
The question is, how do you maintain your walk-in cooler so that it remains as safe, clean, and efficient as possible? Well, here are a few of our top suggestions:
1. Clean the Condensing Unit (Monthly)
If your walk-in cooler had a heart, it would be the condensing unit. This assembly contains a number of vital parts for your cooler, including the compressor, condensing coil, and condensing fan motor. If any of these parts are compromised, the entire cooler will cease to function properly.
Start by familiarizing yourself with where the condensing unit is located. In most systems, you’ll find it either on top of the cooler, on the outside, or possibly even underneath the unit.
Once the unit is located, set a schedule to clean it on a monthly basis. To do so, shut down the power to the unit and vacuum out all dust and debris that may have accumulated over the past 30 days. You can also reverse the airflow (if you’re using a shop vac) and blow out any particles that may be stuck.
2. Clean and Inspect Door Seals (Yearly)
The door seals on your walk-in cooler are vital to proper temperature control. They ensure no air seeps through the small gaps around the edges of the door. Regularly inspecting them takes no time at all, so we recommend doing this every month. As for cleaning, this is something you can do annually.
Door seals are pliable, yet strong. If you notice they’ve become brittle (or there are any tears in the material), order a replacement seal from a company like Walk-In Parts Express. They’ll quickly send you a replacement so that your system can continue to run efficiently.
3. Clean the Surfaces (Monthly)
From a cleanliness and hygiene perspective, it’s a good idea to clean the hard surfaces on the inside and outside of your walk-in cooler on a monthly basis. (Though you may need to do weekly cleanings if there are any noticeable spills.)
When cleaning, avoid using harsh chemicals. Instead, opt for a mild detergent and water solution. Apply with a gentle scrub and clean off with a rag.
4. Turn Lights Off When Not in Use
Make it a point to always turn off lights to your walk-in cooler when it isn’t being used. Lights create heat, which forces your system to work harder and use more energy. (Not only does this increase costs, but it also puts additional strain on your system.) Train your team to turn the lights off each time they leave the cooler.
5. Keep an Eye on Temperature Control
The temperature control settings on your walk-in cooler are obviously important. However, you should avoid messing with them on your own. If the unit has been properly set up by a technician, you shouldn’t need to adjust it frequently. If you’re hearing strange noises or noticing sudden changes in operation, it’s probably worth bringing someone out to inspect it.
Don’t Fall Behind!
Cleaning and maintaining your walk-in cooler isn’t the most exciting part of running a commercial kitchen or restaurant. (There are dozens of tasks that are more fun and rewarding.) However, it’s one of the most important in the long run.
Avoid taking a reactive approach to cooler maintenance. Doing so could create big/expensive problems for you. Instead, stay on top of your maintenance and be proactive with cleaning and replacing parts. It’ll require more time upfront, but you’ll experience fewer serious issues down the road.