Before you begin shopping, it's good to have a few key pieces of information in mind so you'll know how to choose the box that's right for you. First, decide how many shelves you think you'll need in your unit. Shelf sizes vary by manufacturer, so start off with a ballpark estimate. Next, determine exactly where in your building your new box will be installed. Will it be in a hot kitchen or a cooler storage room? Finally, get an idea of how often you'll be accessing the unit. Will it be opened a few times a day to access bulk items, or will your staff need to be in it several times in an hour?
Number of Sections
A dual-temp is available in up to three sections. Each section is separated from the others with an insulated wall and includes its own door. This separation can help conserve energy, because individual sections do not lose cold air when the others are open. Different sections can also provide a convenient way to organize foods.
Some manufacturers measure the capacity of their boxes in cubic feet, but measurement methods vary between companies, so it's better to think of these boxes in terms of shelf space. Most units include four shelves, and can accommodate extra ones if you're going to store smaller items. Keep in mind that models are also available with pan slides instead of shelves, which can save a lot of time in kitchens that do most of their cold storage on metal pans.
If you're unsure about how many sections you need, it is better to go with the larger size instead of overfilling a smaller unit. A unit that has been filled beyond its capacity will not be able to maintain safe temperatures and it may even break down under the strain.
Solid or Glass Doors
Most commercial refrigerator freezer models are available with either solid or glass doors or a combination of the two. In most cases, the solid doors are more energy efficient; because the doors are made of the same insulated materials as the rest of the box, they can maintain internal temperatures better. Glass doors are great when it would be beneficial to see the contents of the box without opening the door. This can actually save on energy costs in the long run by cutting down on the length of time that the door will be open.
The refrigeration process depends on a component called the compressor, which is responsible for compressing refrigerant and sending it through the evaporator coils to remove heat from the box. This component will either be mounted on the top or the bottom of your box, and it's important to consider which you'll choose because each has its advantages and disadvantages. For a detailed discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of each, visit our Learning Center and read about top-mounted vs. bottom-mounted compressors.
Dual-Temp Working Boxes
'Working Box' is a common name for a refrigerator that can hold up in demanding environments where they're open and closed frequently. These are the best units for use in kitchen prep lines where temperatures are hot and chefs are regularly moving things in and out. These units are able to keep up with the demand because they include a component called an expansion valve, which controls the amount of refrigerant that passes through the system, letting more through when the system needs to work harder.
In addition to bottom-mounted and top-mounted compressors, there is also the option of remote refrigeration. With this technology, the refrigeration system is moved to a remote location, often to the roof or the outside wall of your building. This can cut down on noise and reduce ambient heat in your building. This option can help save on energy costs and is great where kitchens are already hot and noisy.
The interior of your commercial refrigerator freezer will be made with one of three common materials:
- ABS Plastic interiors are made of one-piece construction and their seamless design with coved corners makes them easy to clean. They're quite durable and won't corrode, but can be punctured with enough force
- Stainless steel is the most durable of the interiors. It's resistant to scratching and denting, and can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth
- Aluminum is a more economical metal. Like steel, it can be wiped clean with a cloth, but it isn't as resistant to scratches and dents.
Pass-thru and Roll-in Boxes
Pass-thru boxes include a door on both the front and back of the unit, allowing staff to pass food in one side and out the other. These can be installed so that one side faces the dining room and the other faces the kitchen, so wait staff can have access to items like appetizers, desserts, and side items.
Roll-in units are designed to accommodate full pan racks of food which can be rolled in and stored without having to be unloaded. This is great for businesses that store large quantities of refrigerated items on pans like bakeries or places that do high-volumes of steak.
Additional Options for Your Combo
Other specialty options include HACCP record keeping components, which will monitor and record temperature levels over time to ensure that food has been kept at safe conditions. Digital thermometers can provide a precise readout of internal temperatures. Stay-open doors are available that will remain open while you stock your fridge. Slim-design units are built for kitchens where space is limited, and space-saver coils will help maximize the interior capacity of the box with a refrigeration system that doesn't take up as much as space as a regular one.