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10 Strategies to Prevent Refrigeration System Failure

Reading Time: 11 minutes

In commercial cooling systems maintenance, regulating the operational temperature of commercial refrigeration units is paramount to safeguarding food products. Too many commercial refrigeration operators are left questioning their life choices when equipment breaks or is not operating. Worse is complete product loss, or the health inspector finds a food safety problem first.

“The most common cause of commercial refrigeration failure to maintain the needed conditions is a lack of planned maintenance PM). When PMs are completed competently, many unscheduled failures or maintenance ceases.”

 

Outlined below is a guideline for the safe temperature brackets for commercial walk-in chillers and freezers:

Refrigerator: 34°F to 40°F (1°C to 4°C)

Freezer: -10°F to 0°F (-23°C to -18°C)

 Do you think this is all we need to think about?

Commercial refrigeration training

 

We’ll discover that commercial refrigeration is not that simple!

In addition to temperature requirements, humidity control is critical in commercial cooling systems’ operations, balancing sensible heat (temperature) and latent heat (moisture energy) to optimize food preservation and system efficiency. Excessive humidity can lead to ice buildup and increased wear on refrigeration components, potentially causing premature system failures and unnecessary energy consumption. Maintaining humidity levels between 55% and 60% is often recommended for commercial walk-in chillers and freezers. This range helps to prevent the overtaxing of refrigeration units while ensuring the quality and longevity of stored food products by minimizing moisture loss from evaporation. Implementing and regularly monitoring these humidity parameters can significantly contribute to commercial refrigeration systems’ energy-efficient and cost-effective operation.

The expanse of possible applications within commercial refrigeration necessitates a nuanced understanding of specific onsite requirements tailored to the nature of the goods being stored or processed. For instance, a banana ripening room would necessitate not only a higher temperature, typically set around 64°F to 70°F (17.8°C to 21.1°C), but also a substantially higher humidity level, often in the range of 90% to 95%. Such conditions are essential to trigger the natural ripening process of bananas, facilitating the conversion of starches into sugars without inducing premature spoilage. This example underscores the importance of HVAC and refrigeration professionals possessing a comprehensive knowledge base encompassing varying storage needs, including the optimal temperature and humidity specifications for a diverse array of perishable goods. Customizing cooling systems to align with these precise specifications ensures the quality and safety of the products and contributes to the energy efficiency and longevity of the refrigeration equipment.

Contractors, technicians, and local side personnel are advised to familiarize themselves with the critical information presented in this article to ensure the efficient functioning of cooling systems. Adhering to the guidelines and maintenance strategies outlined will not only prolong the lifespan of the equipment but also prevent costly downtimes and repairs. Knowledge of these maintenance practices is crucial for maintaining optimal operational temperatures and ensuring the safety and quality of stored food products.

Routine temperature and humidity monitoring of your walk-in cooling systems, primarily during peak business hours when utilization is at its maximum, is of utmost importance. Factors like ill-configured settings, malfunctioning components, and external conditions can bring about temperature inconsistencies. The following section delves into the five key issues causing unsteady or deficient temperature regulation in commercial refrigeration units.

What are the chief maintenance issues that impact temperature control?

Inadequate Maintenance: Negligence in routine upkeep can accumulate dust and detritus on the condenser coils, leading to diminished efficiency and temperature variations. Temperature deviations during periods of high ambient heat are natural due to a dip in performance at elevated temperatures. Inadequate maintenance only compounds these matters.

Flawed Door Seals: Doors failing to seal correctly can admit warm air into the system, leaving the refrigeration system struggling to hold a stable temperature.

Erratic Thermostat: A faulty thermostat can lead to an incorrect temperature display, culminating in deficient chilling or system freezing. It is crucial to learn the critical methods of adjusting temperature systems and thermostats, such as digital controls, low-pressure controls, etc. They do not perform identically!

Insufficient Insulation: Inferior insulation, or the absence of it in walk-in refrigeration units, can let warm air in, making it challenging for refrigeration.

Poor Air Flow: Obstructed vents and air ducts can inhibit the cold air flow, causing temperature variations in distinct sections of the refrigeration unit.

External Variables: Severe external temperatures, like high heat and humidity or extreme cold, can affect the operation of commercial refrigeration units, resulting in unstable temperatures.

Installation location and external conditions are vital considerations when installing a walk-in chiller or freezer.

Regular upkeep, appropriate installation, and monitoring of external conditions can assist in averting these issues and ensuring your commercial refrigeration units operate within safe temperatures. Also, remember to educate your staff on proper usage and equipment care to avoid potential temperature regulation issues, such as keeping the door(s) closed and adhering to product stacking limits.

EXTRA GUIDELINES FOR UPKEEPING SAFE TEMPERATURES

Besides monitoring temperature standards and dealing with any arising issues, here are some extra guidelines to bear in mind concerning the maintenance of safe temperatures in your walk-in chillers and freezers:

  • Keep the doors shut as frequently as possible to block warm air from entering the system.
  • Inspect and replace door seals if they fail to seal correctly.
  • Regularly clean and maintain condenser coils for efficient refrigeration unit operation.
  • Train employees on appropriate usage and equipment care, including modifying temperature settings.
  • Any temperature regulation issues must be addressed promptly to avert potential hazards or costly future repairs.

Maintaining walk-in chillers and freezers at the correct temperatures is crucial to safeguard food and ensure efficient equipment operation. Problems can arise due to irregular cleaning, doors failing to close properly, or a dysfunctional thermostat controlling the temperature. Frequently check the temperatures, keep doors shut as often as possible, and ensure everything is clean and functioning well. Any issues that arise must be resolved promptly to prevent food spoilage or equipment breakdown.

Real World Examples

In the real world, commercial refrigeration technicians often encounter scenarios that underscore the critical importance of routine maintenance and timely issue resolution.

For instance, a supermarket in Phoenix experienced a significant loss in perishable goods during a heatwave when its walk-in chiller failed to maintain the necessary temperature due to worn-out door seals and clogged condenser coils due to insufficient routine maintenance. The compressor for one of the chillers was offline due to excessive discharge temperature.

Economic Consequences of Equipment Failure in the Phoenix Supermarket

The economic repercussions of the walk-in chiller’s failure in the Phoenix supermarket during a heatwave were multifaceted, impacting immediate financial stability and long-term business reputation. The primary economic consequences included:

  • Loss of Perishable Goods: The immediate and most tangible impact was the loss of perishable goods. Products such as dairy, meat, and produce requiring strict temperature controls were rendered unsellable, leading to direct financial losses from spoiled inventory.
  • Increased Operational Costs: Attempting to remedy the situation required emergency repairs, which often come at a premium cost. Expenses related to labor, replacement parts for door seals, and condenser coil cleaning added unforeseen operational costs.
  • Customer Trust and Loyalty: The failure to maintain proper temperatures resulted in product losses and potentially compromised food safety, risking customer health. This can erode trust and loyalty, which are complex and costly to rebuild.
  • Regulatory Penalties: Businesses are subject to health and safety regulations, including maintaining proper storage temperatures for perishable items. Non-compliance due to equipment failure can result in fines, further adding to financial burdens.
  • Resource Diversion: Addressing the crisis necessitated reallocating resources, including staff time and finances, from other productive activities.
  • Insurance and Litigation Costs: Depending on the specifics of the incident, there could be increased costs related to insurance claims.

In summary, the economic impact of failing to maintain essential refrigeration temperatures extends beyond the immediate inventory loss, affecting operational costs, customer relations, regulatory compliance, resource allocation, and potential legal implications. This underscores the need for routine maintenance and timely intervention when issues are detected to safeguard against substantial economic losses.

In another scenario, a seafood restaurant in Miami faced an emergency when their freezer’s thermostat malfunctioned, reading temperatures 10°F higher than the actual internal temperature, leading to partially defrosted inventory. These examples highlight the necessity for constant vigilance, adherence to preventative maintenance schedules, and the quick addressing minor issues before they escalate into major problems.

Outline the economic consequences for the seafood restaurant in terms of a minor problem becoming a huge and expensive problem.

Preventative Measures to Control Economic Consequences

  1. Routine Maintenance Schedule: Establish and adhere to a strict maintenance schedule for all refrigeration units to identify and resolve minor issues before they escalate. Regularly cleaning condenser coils and checking door seals can prevent the most common failures.
  2. Thermostat Calibration and Monitoring: Implement routine checks to calibrate thermostats accurately. Over time, the constant slamming of the cabinet doors causes analog thermometers to go out of adjustment. Digital thermostats are the much choice over dial thermometers attached to the chiller cabinet. Consider installing remote temperature monitoring systems to provide real-time alerts if temperatures deviate from set parameters, allowing for immediate action.
  3. Employee Training Programs: Develop comprehensive training programs for staff on refrigeration equipment’s proper use and daily maintenance tasks. Empower employees to identify and report potential issues promptly.
  4. Emergency Response Plan: Create a detailed emergency plan for equipment failure, including a list of qualified technicians for immediate repair and a strategy for temporarily storing perishable goods.
  5. Insurance and Warranty Review: Regularly review insurance policies and equipment warranties to understand coverage limits and conditions. Ensure policies cover potential losses from equipment failure, including spoilage, business interruption, and health risks.
  6. Regulatory Compliance: Stay informed about health and safety regulations regarding food storage and refrigeration. Compliance not only avoids regulatory penalties but also ensures customer safety and trust.

By implementing these preventative measures, specifically trained HVAC and ice machine professionals can significantly mitigate the economic impact of equipment failure. Proactive maintenance, efficient operational practices, and preparedness can transform a potentially catastrophic situation into a manageable incident, preventing minor issues from becoming huge and expensive problems.

eTech HVACR Training Centers and natecertifications.com provide economical commercial refrigeration training. Click here if you would like to read about these training programs.

Summary

  • Economic Impact of Refrigeration Failures: Refrigeration malfunction in commercial settings like supermarkets and restaurants leads to substantial economic consequences, including loss of inventory due to spoiled perishables, increased operational costs for emergency repairs, diminished customer trust, potential regulatory penalties, resource diversion, and possible insurance and litigation expenses.
  • Criticality of Maintenance: Routine maintenance on HVAC and refrigeration systems is vital to prevent minor issues from escalating into more significant, costlier problems, emphasizing the importance of regular checks on equipment such as thermostats and coils.
  • Monitoring Systems: Implementing advanced thermostat calibration and remote temperature monitoring systems can provide early warnings for temperature deviations, allowing for swift corrective actions to avert potential spoilage and ensure compliance with food safety standards.
  • Staff Training and Preparedness: Educating staff on proper refrigeration equipment usage and maintenance, coupled with a clear emergency response plan for equipment failures, ensures preparedness and quick action, minimizing downtime and financial impact.
  • Insurance and Legal Preparedness: Regular review of insurance policies and warranties related to refrigeration equipment ensures adequate coverage for losses from equipment failure, highlighting the importance of staying informed about legal liabilities and regulatory compliance.
  • Resource Alternatives: Directing professionals to resources like eTech HVACR Training Centers and natecertifications.com offers access to affordable commercial refrigeration training, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adherence to industry best practices.

 

This article summarized

  1. Economic Impact of Refrigeration Failures: Refrigeration malfunction in commercial settings like supermarkets and restaurants leads to substantial economic consequences, including loss of inventory due to spoiled perishables, increased operational costs for emergency repairs, diminished customer trust, potential regulatory penalties, resource diversion, and possible insurance and litigation expenses.
  2. Criticality of Maintenance: Routine maintenance on HVAC and refrigeration systems is vital to prevent minor issues from escalating into larger, costlier problems, emphasizing the importance of regular checks on equipment such as thermostats and condenser coils.
  3. Monitoring Systems: Implementing advanced thermostat calibration and remote temperature monitoring systems can provide early warnings for temperature deviations, allowing for swift corrective actions to avert potential spoilage and ensure compliance with food safety standards.
  4. Staff Training and Preparedness: Educating staff on proper refrigeration equipment usage and maintenance, coupled with a clear emergency response plan for equipment failures, ensures preparedness and quick action, minimizing downtime and financial impact.
  5. Insurance and Legal Preparedness: Regular review of insurance policies and warranties related to refrigeration equipment ensures adequate coverage for losses from equipment failure, highlighting the importance of staying informed about legal liabilities and regulatory compliance.
  6. Resource Alternatives: Directing professionals to resources like eTech HVACR Training Centers and natecertifications.com offers access to affordable commercial refrigeration training, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adherence to industry best practices.
Commercial Ice Machine training program by eTech Academy

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