Walk-in Location Requirements
Walk-in coolers are highly customizable pieces of refrigeration equipment, capable of being built into oddly-shaped spaces in rooms of nearly any size. They can also be placed outside, and their condensing units can be located with the cooler itself or remotely, like on the roof of the building. This flexibility in size, shape, and location can make specifying the right options tricky, and one aspect that many don't consider is geographic location. Even if the walk-in will be installed inside, your location may still have an impact on the accessories and build required.
One of the first issues you will need to consider when selecting a walk-in refrigerator or freezer is the average ambient temperature where it will operate. For most indoor applications, walk-ins are made to operate in ambient temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, while outdoor refrigeration is rated for temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, though the standard is closer to 100.
In especially hot regions, walk-ins have to be made to withstand greater temperatures. Even an indoor unit with its condenser on the roof of the building may require more powerful refrigeration, while outdoor boxes may need additional insulation. The areas these conditions apply to are defined by temperatures gathered by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and include much of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. See the temperature chart below to find the average high temperatures in your location.
Some parts of the country are occasionally subject to severe weather like hurricanes and blizzards, so walk-in refrigeration in those locations must be built to withstand those circumstances. For example, coastal areas, especially those along the Southeast's Atlantic coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, will need to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds if they are installed outside. The wall panels will require additional locking mechanisms and extra anchors to secure them to the slab. Depending on the local building codes, there may be a limit on how large the unit can be and it may also be necessary to flash the unit to the building for additional stability.
For locations that get substantial amounts of snow, having a sloped roof is very important. Sloped roofs are made at angles that allow heavy snow loads to slide off, instead of building up to dangerous weights.
Another factor that must be taken into account is seismic activity. Because earthquakes affect the interior of the unit as much as the exterior, all walk-in coolers installed in areas prone to them must be built to withstand temblors, regardless of whether they are installed indoors or outdoors. There are no hard and fast rules about what changes should be made to make a cooler more stable, but each municipality or county will have building codes that must be taken into account. In California, where earthquakes are common, many counties refer back to the Los Angeles Research Reports, which evaluates structures and approves them for use in the city. Once a unit is evaluated, changes such as additional anchors or different building materials may be needed.
Any walk-in cooler installed outdoors will require a membrane roof if it will not be under an existing roof. The membrane roof is made out of rubber to help repel rain and debris, and the rubber is usually white to deflect heat. A rain hood, also called a drip cap, extends out over the door to help prevent rain from making it into the unit when the door is opened.
The most important step to take when planning to install a walk-in cooler is checking your local building codes. If you are working with a general contractor, it is wise to speak with him or her throughout the process, as well. Local codes may dictate the width of the door, where a ramp may be placed, or how large an outdoor walk-in can be. There may also be rules about where locks can be placed and where alarms are required.