Manufacturers estimate the average lifespan of a walk-in cooler or freezer to be 15 years. However, with decent care and maintenance, they can last well beyond that. Sometimes all it takes is a little refurbishment. “If the box is sound, it still holds temperature, has no water infiltration into the insulation and no air leaks, refurbishment can make sense,” one manufacturer says.
Where’s The Wear, Tear?
Doors, floors, walls and refrigeration systems take the most abuse. Depending on the condition of the rest of the unit, replacing any of these specific components may be enough to keep your existing unit in service for years more.
Doors are one of the components that need replacing most often. “The unit’s interior and refrigeration system may be just fine, and all it takes to keep it functioning properly is a new door that maintains the seal,” says a rep.
He estimates that a simple door-for-door replacement could take only a couple of hours. Some manufacturers offer replacement doors only for their own brand of walk-ins, while others offer new doors for any brand. Replacement doors for different brands sometime cover the existing door frame and mount to the walk-in’s outer surface. More complicated replacements may take a little more time to complete.
Floors are the high-traffic areas, and they’ll show excessive wear before other walk-in areas. Most manufacturers offer a variety of flooring, each designed to handle different weight loads. If canvassed, most employees don’t know that weight limit or even if they did, they don’t know the weight of the loads they’re stocking. A walk-in cooler installed with a flooring system designed for lighter loads is going to buckle and dent if employees use carts to transport beer kegs and then drop them on the floor, for example. Overloaded shelving might buckle the floor, separating the surface from its insulating foam. If employees spill liquids and don’t clean them up quickly, they can seep into flooring seams, again separating flooring from foam.
Typically, you have two options for repairing the floor: remove and replace the original or lay a new floor over the old.
Damage happens less frequently to walls than it does to doors and floors, but it does happen and should be monitored. Bumper rails can help avoid the abuse, but they take up room around the walk-in perimeter. Stainless diamond-pattern wall finishes are another line of defense.
Refrigeration System Replacement
Like the walk-in boxes themselves, the refrigeration systems that provide the low temperatures inside last on average 15 years with the potential for many more. Like doors, floors and walls, these systems are replaceable without requiring the installation of an entire walk-in unit. One manufacturer says that a unit in need of both structural and refrigeration repairs, however, is probably a good candidate for total replacement.
When refrigeration systems aren’t working, several components could be culprits. Condenser coils can take about four hours to replace. Evaporators, located inside the walk-ins, are subject to the same corrosion from foods as the walk-in interior; all of that acidity and salt gets sucked through the evaporator coils. An evaporator can take a couple of hours to replace.
Failed fan motors may only require a half-hour to replace. Even replacing an entire refrigeration system (generally installed on top of a walk-in unit) may only take a few hours. Remote systems may take longer, but location and how easy it is for servicers to get to the system play a role in replacement time.
If you can keep the doors to the cooler or freezer closed during a repair, chances are you won’t have to move product out to temporary cold storage—but you have to monitor temperatures throughout the repair process.
Copyright FER September 2017
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