Now that you're ready to make the investment in a walk in cooler, where do you start? Without the necessary up front research into the exact type of walk in cooler you will need, this could be a very costly mistake. Purchasing a walk in cooler for your business is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. In this article we will go over the steps you will need to take to insure your initial investment will last many years and give you a good return for your hard earned dollars.
So where to begin? One of the first things you will need to consider is space requirements. How much square footage have you set aside for the walk in cooler? Room size is critical. For example most all walk in coolers need a certain amount of space around them for air circulation. This is vital for the health and safety of your food handling. It's not a good idea to rest or have a panel of your walk in cooler against and interior wall. This could result in condensation forming on the other side of your wall causing structural damage. Is the size you are looking at convenient for staff to enter and exit? Is it accessible for deliveries if that is part of your business plan? Do you need a ramp? In consideration of space, what are your food storage needs? It is a common rule of thumb that you will need 1 cubic foot of space for 28 lbs of food. Did you plan for growth when choosing the correct size? It would be a poor investment if you did not plan for growth with your new purchase.
Let's spend a few moments of the various types of materials walk in coolers are made from. It would be easy to assume that all boxes are built in a similar fashion. What's the big deal? Isn't just some insulation with some metal covering them? This couldn't be farther from the truth. There are some companies that use an insulation materiel called "extruded polystyrene". This is the same material you'll see at your local home remodeling store. This is what is called in the industry an "all foam box". The problem with the all foam box in a word is support, or lack of. Most all walk in coolers use a cam lock system to attach the panels to each other. The cam locks in an all foam box are not mounted into anything but foam. So the likely hood of a panel failure is much higher. It's very easy to damage an all foam box with a fork lift or even a hand truck. This may not be the best long term investment for your business.
What other options are out there? Polyurethane is another type of insulation used today in walk in coolers and freezers. Some companies will try to sway you towards an all foam box because it's cheaper. However cheaper up front does not mean cost effective for long term results. Polyurethane offers a better R value when compared to polystyrene. In addition there is the wood frame to consider. All foam boxes do not have a wood frame, so again the likely hood of a panel failure is much greater with an all foam box. A box with a wood frame will last a lot longer and provide better support to the cam lock system. This is not only a safer but a better long term investment.
Refrigeration for Walk In Coolers
What about refrigeration? There are many different types of refrigeration systems available for your walk in cooler, for example. They can be a "remote" system where the compressor is outside the building. This allows the heat and noise to be outside the building which is always preferable. A standard "top mount" is a fully self contained unit that sits on top of your walk in box. Also a "side mount" system is similar to a top mount. Keep in mind this will contribute some heat and noise inside your building. Pre-assemble remote systems is another good choice. You will need a licensed refrigeration contractor to install any type of system.
As we mentioned earlier doing your homework here is essential to making a wise purchase. The average life span of walk in coolers is around ten years, maybe longer for heavy duty units. Reading and understanding your proposal is critical as well. For once your check has cleared and the unit is shipped to you, it's very difficult and time consuming to send it back, redo, or change your order. It's important to ask questions, don't assume just because the company rep says it's good! Compare at least three quotes. If your refrigeration rep is worth his/her salt they will take the necessary time to explain the differences and benefits to your business. Be very wary of a company that only sells one type of walk in box and it happens to be the cheapest on the market. Make sure your walk in cooler meets all local requirements for food safety. Last but not least are warranty concerns. What exactly will the warranty cover? Who is responsible if something fails and what are the time to repair expectations. Hopefully this information will give you a good start on narrowing your decision on this major investment in your business.