Walk-In Do’s and Don’ts

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Walk-in coolers and freezers are steady, seemingly simple workhorses and operators often take them for granted when dealing with the hustle and bustle in the rest of the kitchen. Ignore them at your peril, say seasoned service agents from around the country. Not paying attention to the little things can result in big problems.

1. Don’t use too much water when cleaning the floor. Power washers, hoses— even mops that aren’t wrung out well—leave excess liquid on the floor which seeps into floor seams. In freezers, liquid underneath the floor freezes, expands and causes floor panels to curl, making it even easier for liquid to drain into the floor, as well as creating tripping hazards.

Additionally, moisture in the floor could lead to mold and mildew and the foul odor they create. “Smell is a big issue,” says Dan Poulin of Pine Tree Food Equipment. “When that smell gets bad, you’ll need to cut out the floor and rebuild it. That can get very expensive.”

2. Don’t leave the door open for convenience. Not only does this let heated air in, causing the refrigeration system to needlessly work harder and less efficiently, it creates moisture buildup in the cavity. Moisture buildup seeps into cracks in the floor and wall panels creating some of the problems previously mentioned.

If you see a rope or long piece of cellophane hanging from the door handle, your employees most likely are tying the door to something to keep it open, says Scott Hester of Refrigerated Specialists. A hydraulic or spring-loaded closing mechanism is an inexpensive method of keeping the doors closed; it doesn’t take more than an hour to install.

Dave Fitch of EMR adds that door curtains could help reduce the entry of moisture and hot air. “Lots of chefs hate them, but they’re a necessary evil because they work,” he says.

3. Don’t stack product any higher than 12 inches below the evaporator. Leave this space so that air moves freely and hot air exits. “If you see sweating on the ceiling, you know that air isn’t recycling properly,” says James Riggins with Elmer Schultz.

4. Do inspect all evaporator and condenser coils on a regular basis. Dirty coils work less efficiently and make the refrigerant system work harder than it should. Scheduling a visit from a service agent at least twice a year for cleaning helps ensure the system works properly and avoids high-cost emergency calls.

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