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Walk-in refrigerators are available two different ways. Custom walk-in refrigeration is made to your specifications, meaning it can be built to suit the exact needs of your establishment. ”Quick-ship” boxes are made to pre-engineered dimensions, so manufacturers have their components ready to ship when an order for one is placed. Both types require assembly when they reach their destinations.
The smallest quick-ship models are around 6 feet in each dimension. Custom boxes can be built to virtually any size you need. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you should subtract 8 inches in each direction to know the actual interior dimensions. Each insulated wall will take away about 4 inches from the interior.
To save money both up front and on energy costs in the long run, get as close an estimate as you can to how much space you'll need inside. With a walk-in cooler that's too big, you'll be paying to cool space you don't need. If you overfill a box that's too small, it won't be able to maintain safe temperatures.
It is best to plan your shelving around the specific dimensions of your commercial refrigerator. Since the doors of most walk ins are about 30-inches wide, the aisle inside doesn't need to be much wider than that, unless you want enough room inside to turn a cart around. As an example, a common overall width is 9 feet. This leaves 8 feet of interior space, with 2 feet on each side for shelving and 4 feet in the center to maneuver a cart.
The height of most boxes is between 6 and 8.5 feet. Shorter models are sometimes chosen for indoor installations, while taller one are better outdoors, where vertical clearance for a top-mounted refrigeration system is not a concern.
Two main types of walk-in refrigeration systems are available. Self-contained systems offer the simplest installation and operation. These come with the evaporator and condenser in one unit that bolts onto the side or top of the box.
With a remote refrigeration system, the condenser unit can be placed in a location away from the unit, including on your building's roof or in another area of your facility. This can be a great option in tight indoor spaces where you might not have room for the refrigeration system and in outdoor installations where the ambient temperature decreases the efficiency of the unit.
If you decide to go with remote refrigeration, there are two options in condensers: unassembled and preassembled. Unassembled models come as a box of parts and require substantial assembly by an installation expert, but come at a lower initial cost. Preassembled models come with most parts already put together.
The exterior of a walk-in fridge takes a lot of abuse. There are two common materials used to build them:
- Aluminum is the most economical choice. It is lightweight and will not rust, although it is less resistant to dents than a galvanized exterior
- Galvanized steel exteriors are heavier and more durable. They can stand up to more abuse, but will show discoloration over time due to weathering and contact with chemicals and products. Steel will resist rust unless it is scratched or damaged.
Walk-i9n refrigerator models are available with and without floors. The best floor for one of these units is a concrete pad, because it can be thick and won't easily transfer cold out of the box. However, if that isn't an option because, for instance, you're installing one into an existing building or on an upper floor, an insulated floor can provide a durable base and will not absorb ambient heat. If you'll be storing large, heavy items like kegs and cases of frozen food, a reinforced floor may be required. Floors are also recommended if items will be taken in and out on carts.
While many operators install their units indoors, others don't have the space. The outdoor walk-in cooler is a popular choice, but models of this type require some special considerations. They'll need to be equipped with a weather kit to protect them from the elements, which includes winter controls and weather-proof housing for the condensing unit.
If the door to your walk-in refrigerator will be outside, consider lockable doors to deter thieves. A locking bar is also available that goes in front of the door and is secured by a padlock.
This type of walk-in refrigerator will have two sections separated by a wall and door, with one side dedicated to refrigeration and the other held at proper temperatures for a commercial freezer. These can save space and money over buying one of each, but keep in mind they'll need two condensing units, which means additional wiring over a single-use box.