Read This Before You Buy a Reach-In Refrigerator or Freezer
It is one of the most critical components of a healthy restaurant or food service venue. One of the many pieces of restaurant refrigeration you will find yourself purchasing is a reach-in refrigerator and freezer.
Before purchasing a reach-in refrigerator or freezer, there are some questions we always like to ask our customers, so we thought we’d share these questions so you can ask yourself before walking into a commercial food service equipment store.
1. What size am I looking for? Many people only consider width and depth when searching for a reach-in. Don’t forget to consider the height as well. Top-mount compressors require a minimum clearance of 18 inches from the top of your reach-in to the ceiling.
2. Is my kitchen extremely hot or is it air conditioned? Hot kitchens (usually defined as above 75 degrees F) will need a refrigeration unit with a higher ambient temperature rating to help ensure the unit can maintain the desired internal temperature in very warm kitchen environments. Be sure to consider the temperatures surrounding your reach-in!
3. Do I need a holding or working box? A “holding box” refers to refrigeration equipment dedicated to storing food overnight or is simply not used frequently during a restaurant’s hours of operation. A “working box” refers to refrigeration equipment that is opened and shut many times throughout the day.
The significant difference involves the box’s design and the compressor’s ability to maintain a consistent, internal temperature while being used frequently by the restaurant’s kitchen staff. Decide which type of box you are buying, then make sure the specifications match it’s intended use by checking the spec-sheets or asking one of our product specialists.
4. Do I need a top or bottom mount compressor? Generally, refrigeration with it’s compressor mounted on top (top-mounted unit) is preferred in dusty areas or bakeries and pizza shops where there may be a lot of flour that settles towards the floor. The reason for this is because a bottom-mounted compressor draws air from close to the floor, therefore pulling the dust or flour along with it. This can reduce the effectiveness and life of the compressor.
Reach-in refrigerators with bottom mounted compressors are preferred in hot kitchens (above 75 degrees). Since heat rises, a top-mounted compressor will have to work harder to keep the unit cool, whereas a bottom mounted compressor will be able to draw cooler air near the floor.
5. Are there any local certification requirements that I need to consider? One of the first things you should do when beginning your search for commercial refrigeration is to research which local certification requirements your food service equipment will be required to meet. Although NSF, UL and ETL certifications all meet the same ANSI standards, some localities will only recognize an NSF certification. This may have an impact on which brands or reach-ins you have to choose from.
For example: In Columbus, Ohio – your equipment must be listed as “Commercial,” and be NSF, UL and/or ETL certified. Certifications can vary by location, so be sure to check out which certifications are acceptable where you are opening your venue. Columbus, Ohio has provided a very helpful document on their website, columbus.gov. The PDF is entitled, “Starting a Food Business.” It’s definitely worth a read-through.
6. Do I have a brand preference? This one is simple. Based on your previous experiences with commercial refrigeration equipment, do you have a favorite brand? For example, some of our customers prefer Berg reach-ins because they are inexpensive, yet have the added-value of stainless steel interiors. Some foodservice managers prefer Turbo-Air because their units have built-in condenser cleaners, making maintenance more convenient.
Sometimes it’s just best to stick with what you know. Of course, it’s not always convenient or possible to purchase the exact same brand, but you definitely want to communicate the brand and what you liked about your previous reach-in to our product specialists. We can help match you with a brand or model that is designed to the profile and specifications that previously worked in your restaurant’s kitchen.
In closing, asking yourself these questions before purchasing commercial refrigeration will not only allow you to make more informed choices; it will also allow you to purchase a reach-in refrigerator with confidence and peace of mind.
It can be a tricky decision, so if you find yourself at an impasse, you can always visit one of our brick and mortar, warehouse stores, call us at 1-800-235-3325 or reach us through our online chat. We’ll be happy to discuss your specific needs and help answer your questions!