One-Section Reach-In Refrigerator Buyers' Guide
A one-section reach-in refrigerator is a great way to add some cold storage in your kitchen without sacrificing too much floor space. Learn more about the options available to find the right fit for your kitchen.
Despite all having one section, the interior space available in a one-section refrigerator can be as little as 12 cubic feet or as much as 34.3 cubic feet. This difference translates into a variation in exterior dimensions, so be sure to know where your reach-in refrigerator will be installed and keep the dimensions of that area in mind as you shop.
Just as important as the interior dimensions is how that space inside the refrigerator is used. Be aware of how many shelves come with each model and the intervals at which they can be adjusted. If you hope to store full-size pans, pay attention to the interior depth to be sure that the pans will fit, and if you plan to store mostly pans, you may want to consider finding a model that includes or is compatible with pan slides.
Commercial refrigeration units can feature either solid or glass doors. Solid doors provide better insulation, but prevent staff from seeing what is inside when they're closed, which can lead to the door being open longer and more frequently than it would be on a glass model. Glass doors allow you to locate the item you need before the door is opened and are double- or triple-paned. They're usually heated to prevent condensation from obscuring the view of the refrigerator's interior.
Some reach-in refrigerators feature half-doors, also called Dutch doors. While these only allow you to access half of the refrigerator's contents at a time, it has the benefit of limiting the amount of cold air that escapes each time a door is opened.
Compressor location is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing commercial refrigeration. Top-mounted compressors are best used in cool kitchens away from cooking equipment, as rising hot air can cause the compressor to strain to cool properly, resulting in reduced energy efficiency and increased wear and tear. Top-mounted compressors can also draw in grease-laden vapor as it rises, which can cause damage to the motor. Because refrigerant lines don't need to be run down the back of the equipment, top-mounted units have the most interior storage space.
Bottom-mounted compressors have the physical benefit of raising the bottom of the refrigerator's interior, so you don't have to stoop as far to retrieve items stored low. This compressor type should not be used in kitchens that use a lot of flour, as the flour in the air can be sucked into the compressor as it settles toward the ground. Bottom-mounted compressors sometimes need more maintenance than top-mounted ones, but they are easy to access, leading to shorter and cheaper service calls.
Some commercial refrigeration units offer special features that can be very helpful to have in some kitchens. A roll-in refrigerator is made to allow an entire rack of pans to be rolled in at once, saving labor and time on loading the refrigerator. A pass-through refrigerator has a door or set of Dutch doors on the front and back, allowing for extra access in a busy kitchen, or creating an easy way for the kitchen to pass cold items off to the serving area.
If your refrigerator will be used as a working box, meaning it will be used to hold frequently-needed items and opened often, you may wish to consider a refrigerator that uses expansion valve refrigeration instead of a capillary tube system. Expansion valves portion the amount of refrigerant that circulates through the system, which allows the system to recover faster when the temperature rises due to the door being opened or new products being added.