What's Your Old, Worn-Out Commercial Freezer Doing When You're Not Looking?

3 Hidden Costs of Your Outdated Commercial Freezer

Your dinged-up, decades-old commercial freezer may not be much to look at, but it's still doing its job, right? Food kept there stays cold and there's room to keep a lot of your frozen items, so why spend the money to replace it? Your outdated reach-in freezer may be costing you more than you realize, and it may be a wise decision to replace that old beater sooner rather than later.

1. Wasting Energy

Equipment that's past its prime is almost certain to be less energy efficient than newer models. This is due to one or more factors. First, older equipment just wasn't built to the same energy efficiency standards as modern ones. That could simply be because the technology wasn't around. Refrigeration technology has come a long way in the past several decades, and those advancements mean that modern equipment can hold the same temperatures as older models without using nearly as much electricity.

Also, government regulations that set energy efficiency guidelines have likely been strengthened since your dinosaur freezer was built. A quick way to know for sure is to look for the blue ENERGY STAR logo. The Environmental Protection Agency issues the ENERGY STAR certification to equipment that uses significantly less energy than comparable models in the same category, so newer ENERGY STAR freezers should help you cut utility costs and may last longer, since their refrigeration systems do their work more efficiently.

Other reasons for a loss in efficiency are due to simple wear and tear. Just like the parts under the hood of your car, as refrigeration components become worn, they no longer perform as accurately or efficiently as they used to. This can lead to longer run times, slower pulldown times, and trouble keeping contents at temperature, all of which can add up to higher-than-necessary energy consumption for a relatively simple machine.

It's not just the internal components that can cause wasted energy. The cabinet itself and the insulation used to seal in cold temperatures can become worn and allow heat from the kitchen to leak in. Modern refrigerators are made with rigid foam insulation that does a great job of efficiently insulating the cabinet. Even if there's no visible damage to the cabinet itself, the insulation within older equipment is inferior to what's used today, and can settle overtime, causing parts of the cabinet to lose protection and become exposed to external temperatures.

2. Risking Your Customers' Health

Your old freezer could also be sacrificing the quality of your food or, worse, allowing for bacterial growth. An effective freezer should hold temperatures of at least 0 degrees F with very little variation from that number. Older freezers tend to not be as responsive to temperature changes, meaning they can allow temperatures to fluctuate widely from the target point. That fluctuation in temperatures can lead to a freeze/thaw cycle that will cause your food to degrade prematurely in quality, meaning food will suffer in texture and taste.

Part of the problem is that old equipment tends to leak refrigerant after it's accumulated some wear and tear. Besides having to run for much longer to achieve the desired temperatures, your freezer will eventually be unable to adequately cool products at all. If it's not detected in time, a leak can even cause an entire freezer's worth of product to spoil and leave you with a shortage of supplies. In worst case scenarios, temperatures inside your freezer could become warm enough to allow bacteria to resume growing. This means you risk serving food that could cause foodborne illness.

3. Slowing Down Your Kitchen

Your old freezer may be costing you some capacity for storage and putting a major kink in your operations. The design of older units often fails to take into account standard packaging sizes, or even exclude features considered vital by today's standards, like pan slides. Those exclusions mean your kitchen may be struggling to store items that you really need in your reach-in freezer, perhaps causing you to rely too heavily on your walk-in, which should really only be used to store bulk items as you receive them, not as a box that's accessed frequently throughout the day. If your staff has to make more than just a couple of trips to the walk-in during service, chances are your reach-in is doing you a disservice.

Older units also tend to contain less usable space versus new ones because their refrigeration components are bigger and take up more of the cabinet. Newer commercial freezer models offer significantly more storage capacity over older units of the same size. Similarly, outdated units, especially budget-priced ones, were rarely built to create the optimal airflow throughout their cabinets. That design flaw means that temperatures may not be even throughout the cabinet, so some foods may not reach the correct freezing temperatures, and some products may experience the quality-sacrificing freeze/thaw cycle described earlier.