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Routine Refrigeration Maintenance

By Carla Landi

fridgemaintpicThe last thing any foodservice operator wants is trouble with their refrigerator or freezer.  The catastrophe of lost food and time resulting from failed refrigeration can be harmful to a foodservice operation.  Thankfully, this foodservice nightmare can be avoided with simple, routine refrigeration maintenance.

With a little research we found that many service calls for refrigerators and freezers report a dirty condenser coil as the probable cause for the problem.

A dirty condenser coil can lead to the following:

  • Condensing unit on refrigerator or freezer runs for prolonged period or continuously.  This is a problem that will surely spike your energy bills.
  • Refrigerator or freezer cabinet temperature is too high.  This could result in serious food waste and/or food safety issues.
  • Refrigerator or freezer compressor will not start.  It hums and trips on overload protector. This is slowly reducing the lifespan of the unit.

Routine maintenance on your refrigerator and freezer can prevent the aggravations mentioned above, provide significant energy savings and prolong the life of your valuable equipment.

It may seem like a lot of extra work in an already busy schedule.  But, it’s a lot easier than it appears, and the alternative is too costly to ignore.  It’s a good idea for staff in any operation to know the importance of equipment maintenance so they can keep an eye out for any potential issues.  Operators should ensure that staff are designated to perform the preventative maintenance procedures and checks.

Refrigerator and freezer condensers should be cleaned monthly. Below are three easy steps to cleaning a condenser.

  1. Disconnect the electrical power to the unit.
  2. Remove the louvered grill.
  3. Vacuum or brush the dirt, lint and paper from the finned condenser coil. If you have significant dirt build up you can blow out the unit with compressed air.

Quick Exams and Helpful Tips
CondenserCleaner(Watch the video at right for a demonstration)

Feel the outside of the refrigerator for cold spots. Cold spots indicate that the insulation has either shifted or is waterlogged and should be adjusted or replaced.

Check the gaskets regularly. If a piece of paper inserted between the door and frame can be pulled out easily, the gasket is not sealing properly and should be replaced.

Check the evaporator for frost. Ice build-up robs the evaporator of its effectiveness.

Most units have automatic defrosters. They can be reset to defrost after operating hours.

Defrost whenever ice buildup exceeds 1/4″.

Keep refrigerators at least 4″ from walls so that air can circulate freely around the condenser coils.

Keep the refrigerator level. This helps the doors to fit correctly.

Everyday Cleaning

All refrigeration requires constant cleaning.  Wipe interiors as often as possible and wipe down the gaskets daily by using a mild detergent and soft cloth or sponge.  Dirty gaskets lead to loss of refrigerated air, increased electricity cost and premature failure of the gaskets.