Undercounter Refrigerators Buyers' Guide
A commercial undercounter refrigerator is made to fit under a countertop, giving busy kitchens additional cold storage without taking away necessary prep space. Before investing in an undercounter refrigerator for your foodservice operation, read below to learn more about the different options you have to choose from.
The height of a standard countertop is 36 inches, and an ADA-compliant countertop height is 34 inches. Commercial undercounter refrigerators can vary in height from 29 inches to 39 inches, and in width from 18 inches to 93 inches. To avoid sizing complications, you'll want to know how tall and wide your available space is. You should also take into consideration how many cubic feet of storage the refrigeration actually offers; depending on how many sections your unit has, it can have as little as 3 cubic feet or as many as 40.
Like other commercial refrigeration units, under counter refrigerators come with one, two, or three sections, and are equipped with doors, drawers, or a combination of the two. Refrigerator sections with doors have shelves, which are better suited for storing items like boxes, jars, or jugs of ingredients, while drawers are meant to be used with food pans. These units usually have one door or two drawers per section.
Although drawers will have solid fronts, doors can be solid or glass. Solid doors provide better insulation, while glass will let kitchen staff more easily see what's being stored inside. Some doors are also reversible, which means they can be hinged to open from the left or right.
The materials used in the construction of undercounter refrigerators vary from one manufacturer to the next. Stainless steel and aluminum are the most common materials for the exteriors of these units, while the interiors might be constructed with stainless steel, aluminum, or ABS plastic. Stainless steel is the most durable of these options and will also be the most expensive, while aluminum is less resistant to scratching and denting but generally more affordable; both of those metals are at risk of corrosion if their surface is scratched. ABS plastic, the cheapest option, is molded in one piece and resistant to daily wear-and-tear but isn't unbreakable.
The most common format for shelving is wire. They are generally covered in plastic, either PVC or epoxy, that makes them longer-lasting and easier to clean. A more durable and more costly alternative is stainless steel. Glass shelves are also available, but, as a premium option, are more expensive and less durable than wire.
Undercounter refrigerators can be supported by a frame, flanged feet, and traditional legs, or by casters that make them easily movable for rearrangement or cleaning purposes. The machine's compressors and accompanying vents, which take in cool air and expel hot air, are generally bottom-mounted on the rear, side, or front, and the placement of these components will affect the unit's placement in your kitchen. For example, a side-mounted system may not be able to be placed beside other equipment or flush against a wall, while front-mounted systems can expel hot air into aisles.
Undercounter refrigerators can come with a number of other options that might influence your final decision. Some include digital thermometers, which can help you keep an eye on the unit's internal temperatures. Dual-temperature units include two sections with independent temperature controls, so one of them can function as a freezer.
Some refrigerators are available with a low-profile height of 32 inches and can come with shallow depth, which saves space but sacrifices storage, or extra depth, which is great for anyone who needs more storage and has the available space to fit a deeper unit.