Indoor vs Outdoor Walk-in Cooler Location

Location is Everything

Choosing the location of your walk-in cooler to be indoors or outdoors is a very important decision. Once the walk-in cooler or freezer is installed it will be a large hassle and waste of money if you change your the location. Here are some considerations to take into account before making your decision.

indoor walk-in cooler location
Indoor walk-ins can take up precious usable area. Find the best location for your walk-in cooler!

Space Requirements – Whether your location is indoors or outdoors you will have to account for the amount of space needed. For indoor walk-ins you need at least 6 inches of airspace above the walk-in and 2 inches on all sides for proper airflow. An indoor condensing unit needs to be easily accessible for cleaning and repairs and should have plenty of airspace all around it. Some customers request hatches in their walk-in’s ceiling to easily access top-mount units. You may consider an outdoor walk-in if your indoor space is limited or if you’d like room to grow in the future. Be sure your property is large enough to house the size of outdoor walk-in you require.

outdoor-walk-in
Outdoor walk-in butted against the building.

Butted vs Freestanding – A freestanding walk-in will be a separate structure and have a door that opens to the outside. A butted walk-in will usually have a door opening to the inside of your building. The panels of a butted walk-in will be butted up against the building on one or more sides. Butted walk-ins will not require a drip cap and the door and its hardware will last longer since it’s not exposed to the elements. Freestanding units should be equipped with locks as they are susceptible to theft.

Condensing Unit Location – If you own a restaurant or any other consumer-based business, you don’t want a loud refrigeration unit ruining the ambiance. There are refrigeration units designed to be quiet, but most of the time a remote refrigeration unit is your best option. A remote unit allows you to locate your condensing unit outside the building, even if your walk-in is inside. Condensing units also give off heat which is not optimal when you’re trying to cool your building. Keep refrigeration units away from any heat sources such as vents, fryers, or ovens and anything that can get the unit dirty or greasy.

Maintaining Your Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

Whether you run a restaurant, convenience store or a supermarket, your walk-in is an important investment. It should be taken care of to ensure many years of efficient usage. Here are tips from walk-in manufacturer U.S. Cooler for maintaining your walk-in cooler or freezer.

How to keep your walk-in operating efficiently:

torn gasket
Torn gaskets can let warm air infiltrate your walk-in cooler or freezer
  • Close the door when not in use. Do not block or prop the door open for extended periods of time. Make sure it is closed at all times except when entering and exiting the walk-in.
  • Periodically (minimum of twice a year) clean the evaporator and condensing coil. If located outside, the coils should be cleaned more often. Clean the fan blades to reduce drag.
  • Make sure fan motors are running at optimum speed.
  • On outside condensing units, maintain clear and adequate airflow. For example, do not allow trash or weeds to accumulate around the walk-in.
  • Make sure there is nothing stacked around the coil to prevent restricted airflow.
  • Do not pile anything on top of the walk-in. This could cause damage to the ceiling panels.
  • Occasionally have a service technician check all electrical connections to make sure they are good and tight. Loose wires could cause high amperage, which will cause your unit to use more energy.
  • Check for damage or decay in the insulation on suction lines between the condensing unit and evaporator coil. Replace as needed.
  • Hinges should be lubricated once a year to ensure they close properly. (Some hinges utilize self-lubricating nylon cams, so this will not be necessary if that is the case.)
  • Make sure the lights are off when exiting the walk-in. Lights produce heat, which will cause your unit to run more to hold its optimal temperature. Make sure your walk-in has a switch with a pilot light so you can tell if the light is on without opening the door.
  • Check the door sweep for tears and make sure it is sealing properly against the threshold.
  • Periodically, check gaskets between panels to make sure they are not cracked or weathered. Replacement of damaged gaskets will ensure your walk-in is efficient and up to local health codes.

How Walk-in Panels Create an Airtight Seal

stacked walk-in panels
Modular panels are equipped with cam locks and double barrel panel gaskets.

Air infiltration, or lack thereof, plays a major role in an efficient walk-in cooler or freezer. Walk-ins are manufactured to be air-tight because any cold air that escapes will lower efficiency and any warm air that enters can cause condensation and icing problems. Air and moisture infiltration can damage panel insulation, causing it to lose R-value and reduce the life of the walk-in. It seems like a walk-in constructed of numerous separate panels would be prone to air leakage, but this isn’t the case. So how do manufacturers of walk-ins create an airtight seal between panels?

gray screeding
Screed for the base of walk-in panels

Manufactures have different methods of sealing panels, but at U.S. Cooler, we use precision-cut tongue & groove insulation between two metal skins (of galvalume or stainless steel), cam locks and panel gaskets. The interlocking design of our panels ensure they fit together like puzzle pieces and are held tightly in place by aligning and tightening cam lock mechanisms. Double-barrel compression gaskets line the inside and outside of each panel. When the panels are locked into place with a cam wrench, the gaskets seal against each other and create an air and moisture barrier. Walk-in coolers without an insulated floor are inserted into a vinyl channel (screed) to prevent air from entering when mounted on concrete.

Refrigeration Solutions for Craft Breweries

brewery countThe craft brewery industry has seen exponential growth this decade, fueled by consumer demand for full-flavored beers. According to the Brewers Association there are 3,040 breweries operating in the U.S., 99% of which are small, independent craft breweries.1 With thousands more breweries in the planning stages, this trend shows no sign of slowing.

The logistics of how to keep beer cold and fresh before shipping to the consumer is vital to the success of any craft brewer. That’s why Brew Cave by U.S. Cooler is introducing their new line of walk-in coolers for the brewery industry. Brew Cave is best known for its walk-in kegerator for residential bars, but now produces everything from keg storage warehouses to tap house coolers.

tapped kegs
Kegs rigged up to supply a tasting room.

Every brewery has unique needs and budgets. Brew Cave’s flexible design process allows them to easily create custom walk-in coolers. Whether the cooler needs to be angled, have reach-in glass doors, operate with minimum sound, be located outdoors or any other special case, Brew Cave is up to the task. Their parent company U.S. Cooler has been in operation since 1986 and its employees have extensive experience catering to a wide assortment of industries from bars, convenience and grocery stores to scientific and manufacturing facilities.

Diagnose Walk-in Cooler & Freezer Refrigeration Problems

A systematic approach to walk-in cooler and freezer maintenance is the technician’s best guide.

The ubiquitous walk-in cooler or freezer is an essential part of many cafeterias, restaurants and convenience stores. It is also a large energy user in these facilities but is rarely considered until problems emerge.

Problems include failure to maintain pressure and compressor failure, both of which can result in expensive losses to the products stored in the cooler. These problems, as well as unnecessarily high energy use, can be avoided by observing equipment and taking corrective action.

Evaporators
Moisture from the air freezes onto the evaporator coils (the cooling coils in the freezer) and forms an insulating barrier to heat transfer. Airflow also decreases as the passages narrow due to ice buildup. Each evaporator has a defrost cycle to melt frost/ice that has built up on the evaporator coils. Water from the melted ice is drained from the freezer . . . ideally.

11 Tips for Purchasing a Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

It’s important to carefully select your walk-in because it’s a major purchase that will have a lasting effect on the operation of your business. Before diving headlong into this purchase, here are a few items to consider before making this decision.

  1. Storage Space – If you’re running a restaurant, you will need approximately 1.5 cubic feet of storage space for every meal you serve per day. Read this article for a more in-depth sizing formula. It’s better to have too much storage space than not enough. However, your walk-in shouldn’t be exorbitantly large because your monthly operating cost generally increases as its size increases.
  2. Location of Box – Whether you’re going to locate your walk-in indoors or outdoors, make sure you have adequate space to accommodate the box. Outdoor walk-ins will require a rainroof, refrigeration hood and a drip cap for over the door (if the door doesn’t open from within the building). Assess the floor to make sure it’s suitable for load-bearing. If you have a concrete floor, a walk-in cooler can be placed on it. If the walk-in is going on a wood frame floor, it will require floor panels. A walk-in freezer always requires an insulated floor.
  3. walkin remote refrigeration
    A walk-in with remote refrigeration.

    Refrigeration System – Confirm that you are getting a refrigeration system that is sized correctly for your walk-in. If your system is underpowered it will run often and wear out quickly. If your system is overpowered it will not cycle enough to effectively remove humidity from the box and may cause icing. There are different types of refrigeration systems with different purposes and benefits. For example, remote refrigeration can be located outdoors when your walk-in is located indoors. This is beneficial because you’re not adding heat or noise to the room where the walk-in operates. It’s also important to know the voltage requirements for your building (single or 3 phase power). In general, commercial buildings will use 3 phase power and residential will use single phase. Learn more about the different types of refrigeration for walk-ins.

The Brew Cave on NBC’s Take It All

U.S. Cooler’s Brew Cave had the wonderful privilege to be featured as a prize on a number of high profile game shows in December, one of them being “Take It All”.

On December 10th, the Brew Cave was a round 1 prize on the premiere of NBC’s week-long event Take It All. Take It All, hosted by Howie Mandel, is a “Yankee swap” style game show in which contestants can take an opponent’s prize or get an unknown prize from the “dream screen”.brew cave take it all

The Brew Cave is a walk-in kegerator for the consumer market that features a LED lit glass door, 4” thick insulation, an external tap and storage space for over 30 cases of beer and 6 kegs. Follow Brew Cave on Facebook or Twitter.

Replacing Your Hinges and Latches

When replacing hinges and latches for walk-in refrigerators it is important to get an exact or comparable replacement part. The back of the part will stamped with a series of numbers and letters called a mold number. The back may also read “flush” or have the offset size (e.g. 1-3/4″). It is important to have that number on the back to ensure you get the proper replacement. Additionally, having the serial number of your walk-in (often located in the door jamb on the hinge side or in a corner inside panel) can be a huge help if you’re ordering the replacement part from the walk-in manufacturer or your parts supplier.

hinge with serial number
Call the walk-in manufacturer or get the mold number off the back of the part.

Hinges

Walk-in cooler and freezer hinges are either flush or offset. The easiest way to determine which style you have is to place your hand on the outside wall of the walk-in and slide it towards the door. If the door stops your hand from moving across the door, then you have an offset door. If your hand slides across the door, it is flush.

Determine the offset measurement by measuring from the wall surface to the door surface. The offset measurement combined with the mold number on the back will ensure you receive the correct hinge.door offset