Walk-In Cooler Maintenance: 20 Things to Look For

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Performing regular maintenance checks on your walk-in cooler can save you hassle and money. Maintenance checks keep your cooler running smoothly year in and year out. While maintenance checks may require a small budget here or there for cleaning supplies or part replacement, a new compressor can cost thousands of dollars.

Quarterly cleaning of walk-in panels, doors, and accessories as well as yearly refrigeration service by a licensed refrigeration company is recommended at a minimum. 


How Often to Conduct Maintenance Checks

Given the diversity of cooler options on the market and breadth of uses, individual maintenance requirements will vary. Many factors influence how frequently you should check in on your walk-in. Important questions to ask include: 

  • Is product being stored correctly? Large amounts of improperly stored product might create uneven airflow. 

  • Where is the condensing unit located? When condensing units are installed outdoors, they are exposed to extreme temperatures and the elements, requiring more frequent maintenance.

  • What is the air quality like in your location? The amount of dust or level of humidity can play a role in the health of your cooler. 

Based on your responses and observations of your system, decide on a schedule to perform your maintenance checks. Whether it’s monthly, quarterly, or annual, keeping an eye on the walk-in cooler system will keep it running smoothly!

walk ins
[Image via Arctic Walk-ins]

 

Walk-In Cooler Maintenance Tips

When you’ve determined how often to conduct your walk-in cooler maintenance checks, there are both parts of the unit that should be closely inspected and some that should be routinely cleaned. Here, we’ve provided a list of the top twenty things to look for during your inspection and some that should undergo cleaning.


Inspect and Check Unit

The first step is to inspect your unit. A thorough top-to-bottom lookover of the entire walk-in will help you spot problems early and often.

  • Leaks: During your inspection, look for leaks in any tubing or pipes. Use an electronic leak detector for especially suspect areas.

  • Corrosion: Inspect the entire unit for corrosion. Check all the cabinets, tubing, and joints!

  • Oil Stains: Keep an eye out for oil stains on the headers, return bends, and on the evaporator and condenser coil fins

  • Drain Pan: Check the drain pan to ensure that the drain is clear of debris, obstructions, or ice buildup. As a bonus, test the drain to make sure it works flawlessly.

  • Doors: This may come as a surprise, but the most frequent reason for walk-in cooler repair is door damage. Without a properly functioning door, the cooler’s performance can decrease dramatically. Above all, check that the door seals tightly and holds the right amount of tension. 

Pro Tip: Close the door on a thin piece of paper. You should feel resistance when you try to pull the paper out.

refrigeration cycle diagram

 

Pay Attention to Electrical Components

Each and every electrical component in your unit is vital: they keep the walk-in running smoothly. Make sure to clean and inspect these routinely.

  • Electrical Connections: Look over all the electrical connections, keeping an eye out for frayed wires, damaged cords, and any burning or corrosion.

  • Fan Operation: Make sure the fans are balanced. To do this, observe the fans while the cooler is operating to look or any odd vibrations or inconsistencies. If you do observe an imbalance, check the motor and blade carefully.

  • Motors: Make sure that all motors are on secure mounts. If necessary, lubricate the motors.

Pro Tip: Do not lubricate permanently sealed motors.

walk-in maintenance
[Image via Arctic Walk-ins]

 

The Right Temperature

Your walk-in is designed to maintain an ideal temperature range – so give these components the attention they deserve!

  • Thermostat Function: Compare the thermostat settings to the actual temperature using a thermometer. Ideally, the temperature of the thermostat matches the thermometer’s reading.

  • Defrost Cycle: Check to make sure the cooler’s defrost cycles are running consistently and efficiently.

  • Airflow: Do a full walk-through of your walk-in! Check all the nooks and crannies to make sure the airflow and temperature are even throughout the cooler.

  • Refrigerant Level: Your walk-in cooler won’t function properly if the refrigerant is not kept to an acceptable level. Different walk-ins use different types of refrigerant, so double-check the best refrigerant options with the manufacturer of your specific cooler. More info on charging your refrigerant can be found here.

Pro Tip: Organize your product to allow complete circulation around each item and be sure to not block the coils. 

 

Coils and Fan

While some cleaning can be safely done while the walk-in cooler is running, it’s often a good idea to turn the electricity off. Especially when cleaning parts like the condenser coil and evaporator, have the unit unplugged before starting maintenance.

  • Condenser Coil: Think of the condenser as the heart and soul of the walk-in cooler’s refrigeration system, and that will hopefully give you some good perspective on the importance of keeping it clean. These coils cool and condense the refrigerant from a gas back to a liquid. Unfortunately, if the coils are clogged or dusty, they can’t efficiently release the heat. Consequently, the compressor has to work much harder to keep the cooler at temperature, shortening its lifespan. Located in the back of the condensing unit or across the bottom, clean the condenser coils with a shop vacuum on reverse airflow or with a power sprayer. Be careful not to damage the aluminum fins.

  • Evaporator Coil and Fan: Similar to the condenser system, the evaporator has a coil and a fan that both benefit from routine cleanings. Use a shop vacuum to get out loose debris and dust. Next, carefully wipe surfaces down with a damp cloth, using water or a mild cleaner.

  • Fans: There could be one or multiple fans in the evaporator coil inside a walk-in. First, clean the debris off the fan blades. Second, check the fan grills and give them a wipe down too! As is the theme, reducing the build-up of dust and debris in your walk-in will increase efficiency and life span.

evap coil in walk-in cooler
[Image via Arctic Walk-ins]

 

Panels and Doors

Panels (wall, ceiling, and often floor) and entry doors are crucial parts of the walk-in and allow the unit to retain colder temperatures.  Maintaining and cleaning the panels, doors, and gaskets are vitally important. 

  • Door Gaskets: For the same reason you inspect the entire door of the walk-in to make sure it’s sealing properly, doing some light cleaning can help too. Clean the door gaskets with warm water and mild detergent to reduce abrasive wear.

  • Internal surfaces: Proper cleaning and upkeep are very important for the longevity of your walk-in. It’s best to keep all surfaces free of any liquid or solid spills (especially since they can become very slippery). For the best results, use warm water and a mild detergent to clean surfaces. Wipe up spills immediately and dry thoroughly.  When cleaning walk-in floor panels, use only a damp mop (do not soak or saturate the floors) and remember to dry thoroughly. 

      • Pro tip: Do not use caustic or abrasive cleaners and do not hose down walk-in floor panels.

 

Be Wary of Water and Ice

Water and ice, when not in their proper locations, can be a major hassle for your unit. Make sure to stay on top of maintenance items that involve these two pesky problems!

  • De-ice frozen coils: Sometimes, ice can form in blocks on the coils. Consequently, the ice can start reducing the efficiency of the refrigeration system. To combat this, take advantage of built-in defrost systems, or perform a manual defrosting. To do this, remove all product from the cooler. Then, turn the thermostat to zero and open the doors to allow warm air to start flowing through. Dry the inside of the freezer (including the evaporator coil) with a soft cloth. Lastly, be sure to empty the water collection tray!

  • Drain lines:  Check the drain lines to ensure they are secure and show no signs of leaking. You can clear the drain lines with a pressure cleaner to make sure they don’t have residual condensate.

Now you have your maintenance routine locked down and scheduled into your routine! For more information on upkeep for your walk-in cooler, Arctic Walk-Ins provides outstanding customer service for their premium walk-in cooler systems.