A walk-in unit is a major purchase for your business, so it is crucial that you make a careful, informed selection. Before making a purchase, consider the following:
Location of the Box
It is important to make sure that you have adequate space to accommodate your walk-in cooler. If you plan to have an outdoor unit, you will need a rain roof, outdoor refrigeration, and a drip cap over the door, unless the door opens from within the building.
You also need to assess your flooring to make sure it will be suitable for load-bearing. For concrete floors, you can place a walk-in cooler on them. If you have wood frame flooring, you will require floor panels for installation. It is also important to note that a walk-in requires an insulated floor.
Available Storage Space
Restaurants require at least 1.5 cubic feet of storage space per meal you serve per day. It is best to have more storage space than you need, rather than not enough. You do want to be careful not to get too large of a walk-in cooler because your monthly operating costs will generally rise as your walk-in cooler size increases.
Refrigeration System Sizing
Make sure the refrigeration system you are purchasing is correctly sized for your walk-in box. If you have an underpowered system, your system will have to work overtime, resulting in it wearing out faster. On the other hand, if the system is overpowered, it will not cycle enough to remove the humidity, leading to icing.
It is also important to know the voltage requirements for your commercial building. Typically commercial buildings use 3 phase power, whereas residential buildings use single phase.
EISA or the Energy Independence and Security Act was put into effect on January 1st, 2009, and sets the stand for walk-in coolers and freezers. Some manufacturers are not complying with these requirements, selling boxes with insulation that doesn’t meet the R-value requirements, which are R-25 for coolers and R-32 for freezers, or they are selling refrigeration that doesn’t meet the required efficiency standards.
When shopping around, check that the manufacturer is following the EISA requirements. Current requirements are that they use insulation at a minimum of four inches thick of foamed-in-place polyurethane or extruded polystyrene.
Accessories and Design Features
Whether you need a temperature alarm, a strip curtain, or an internal ramp to help make wheeling carts into the cooler easier, there are several accessories and design features to choose from. Be sure to make a list of the accessories you want with your walk-in. It is best to bundle your add-ons with your walk-in purchase to save money.
Quality of Your Walk-in
Quality is the one place where you can’t compromise when purchasing a walk-in cooler or freezer. When you purchase a cheaply made box, it can lead to issues such as inflated electricity costs. You want to look at walk-in coolers that feature top-quality LED lighting and refrigeration, which may cost more upfront, but they will save you on energy costs in the long run.
It is also important to look at the type of insulation used and how it will affect the walk-in cooler’s efficiency. Look for walk-in refrigeration with a high R-value but be sure to determine how much of the R-value will be retained by the walk-in over its lifespan.
Warranty and Filing a Claim
Before purchasing your walk-in determine the warranty for the refrigeration, walk-in hardware, and panels. 5-year compressor warranty is standard, but you can also add on full parts & labor warranties for an upcharge.
Choosing a Manufacturer
There are several walk-in manufacturers on the market, with some selling at a local, national, or international level. Manufacturers vary based on price, EISA compliance, design options, and quality.
If you already have a preferred equipment supplier, ask them for manufacturer recommendations. If you don’t have a preferred supplier, be sure to research manufacturers you’re considering online. When you find a few you are interested in, give the manufacturer a call or email them with your questions.