Open-Air Merchandiser Buyers' Guide
Air curtain refrigerators, a popular way to increase impulse buys, can be vertical or horizontal. Regardless of the style of merchandiser you choose, all have one feature in common: no doors. In place of the insulation that doors provide, these units have a wall of air that constantly circulates in front of the products, keeping refrigerated items at the proper temperatures and ensuring product safety. This air wall not only helps to maintain temperatures, it also prevents dirt, insects, and other unsanitary material from entering the unit. Because nothing is blocking the customer's view of the cooler's interior, your products will receive better exposure.
Horizontal Open-Air Coolers
A horizontal air curtain refrigerator, which is between 42- and 46-inches tall, puts the products it is merchandising at about waist height. In some models called dual service coolers, unrefrigerated shelves made for holding dry goods add to this height. Cooler widths range from 28- to 120-inches wide and have two or three levels to display products.
Horizontal units are available with white, black, and stainless steel exteriors. Many models have glass sides to give customers maximum visibility of the products inside. Most manufacturers have standard fluorescent lighting, but some use LED lighting, which are brighter and more energy-efficient. To help conserve energy at night or when your business is closed, most models will have a night curtain available either standard or as an add-on purchase.
Vertical Open-Air Merchandisers
Vertical models are shaped more like a conventional display cooler. These units range in size from 57- to 82-inches tall, with widths varying from 30 to 97 inches. These size differences combined with the number of shelves - usually three to five - can greatly impact the amount of products the merchandiser can hold.
Many vertical air curtain refrigerators offer a lit signage area, which lets you customize the unit to draw attention to the items it holds. Some models also offer shelving with adjustable angles for optimal product visibility. Most units will come standard with a night curtain or offer it as an option, so you can conserve energy and protect your products when your business is closed.
Island-Style Open-Air Coolers
Another type of open-air merchandiser is the island-style cooler. These models are often a combination of the vertical and horizontal types, with a low base that can hold products and two to four shelves in the center of the unit. These units are not made to be placed against a wall, instead offering 360-degree merchandising.
Compressor and Exhaust Location
It is always important to consider the compressor location when making a commercial refrigeration purchase. Most air curtain refrigerators have a bottom-mounted compressor, which allows convenient access for maintenance and raises the bottom of the refrigerated area high enough that customers do not have to stoop to reach items on the bottom shelf. Another option is a remote compressor, which costs more to install but results in less heat and noise being generated in the building.
When considering which size of merchandiser to purchase, you must account for the overall dimensions and the clearance needed for the air intake and exhaust. Check each model's clearance requirements to ensure that you will have room to install the unit properly.