Three-Section Reach-In Refrigerator Buyers' Guide
If your foodservice operation needs to maximize its available cold storage space, consider investing in a 3-section commercial refrigerator. Learn about the available options these models have and find the right three-section commercial refrigeration for your kitchen.
Size and Storage
Because of the number of sections they are equipped with, these refrigerators will be between 77 and 83 inches wide. In addition to considering how much space will be required in your kitchen to fit a three-section model, you'll want to consider how much interior storage space each model offers. For example, an 81-inch refrigerator may offer 72 cubic feet of storage space.
In order to get the most out of your three-section commercial refrigerator, think about how the interior space will be utilized. Every model comes with a specific number of shelves, generally three per section, that are adjustable in certain increments. If you know the dimensions of what you will be storing, take the time to ensure those items will fit inside properly without limiting the necessary circulation of air inside the box.
Three-section commercial refrigeration units are available with a number of different door styles. Solid doors provide more efficient insulation, but don't allow the kitchen staff to see what's being stored inside without opening them; this can lead to the doors being open longer and more frequently. Glass doors are usually double- or triple-paned and heated to prevent condensation from obscuring the view of what's being stored. These types of doors allow staff to locate needed items without opening the doors, which is convenient in a busy kitchen where open doors can obstruct the workflow.
Three-section commercial refrigerators are also available with half-doors, sometimes called Dutch doors, which can limit the amount of cold air that escapes each time an individual door is opened. Sliding doors aren't as common as swinging doors, but are an option to consider for kitchens with limited aisle space.
The compressor location should also factor into your final purchasing decision. Rising hot air can make a top-mounted compressor strain, which results in reduced energy efficiency and increased wear and tear. Top-mounted compressors are also at risk for collecting grease generated by cooking that can clog components and potentially damage the motor, so units with this type of compressor work best when placed away from the cooking equipment in a kitchen. However, top-mounted units provide the most interior storage space because refrigerant lines don't need to be run down the back of the equipment.
Bottom-mounted compressors raise the bottom of the refrigerator's bottom shelf, which means the kitchen staff won't have to stoop as far to retrieve items stored there. Since these units can suck in particles that settle on the ground, they should not be used in bakeries or other kitchens that use a large amount of flour each day. They might require more maintenance, but the bottom-mounted compressor is easier to access than a top-mounted one, which leads to shorter and cheaper service calls. They're also easier to keep clean.
If your cooler will be used as a working box, which means it will store frequently-used items and be opened often, consider a refrigerator that utilizes an expansion valve instead of a capillary tube. This type of evaporator allows the system to recover more quickly when the refrigerator's temperature begins to rise.
It's also important to know what materials your reach-in refrigerator is constructed with. Most three-section commercial refrigeration has exteriors constructed with stainless steel or aluminum, while the interiors might be constructed with stainless steel, aluminum, or ABS plastic. ABS and aluminum are cheaper and lighter than stainless steel, but stainless steel is the most durable option.
For better energy efficiency, look for a three-section commercial refrigerator that has been ENERGY STAR certified.