How to Specify a Refrigerated Display Case

Refrigerated display cases offer both closed and open air units for a variety of uses. Operators need to weigh the energy usage versus the convenience factor when deciding on which type is best. Here are a number of factors foodservice operators and their supply chain partners should consider when specifying these units.


Determine the type of application to decide if a refrigerator, freezer or open air merchandiser is needed. For merchandising product, glass doors or open air models are best, but users need to weigh energy usage versus the convenience.

If the operator plans to showcase items that are considered impulse purchases and wants to place the unit near the front of the store, then a lower profile glass door or open display unit may be more suitable.

Ensure that the refrigeration system is adequately sized for the amount and type of product as well as usage.

Consider the ambient conditions the case will be in as well as how heavily used the case will be to see if expansion valve systems or remote applications are warranted.

Space Constraints

Consider the space availability for the refrigerated display case and note if there are any constraints. Also determine if the unit will be incorporated into existing cabinetry or fixtures.

Keep in mind that not all reach-ins are the same width, height and depth.

Location, Location

Refrigerated display cases generally require an electrical supply and drain within 6 feet of the unit.

With open air merchandisers, the availability of a floor drain is important. Humidity in the air will result in a certain amount of condensation within the unit that can drip down the inside of the case, resulting in the need for a floor drain. If a floor drain is not available, then it is important to specify a unit with an electric condensate evaporator.

Also with open air models, it is important to identify a location that does not receive direct sunlight or is beneath any heating, ventilation or air conditioning ducts. The additional heat and airflow will result in a disruption of the air curtain circulating throughout the merchandiser, which keeps stored items cool. As a result, the case may not be able to hold food at safe temperatures.

Ventilation is necessary to adequately exhaust heat away from the refrigeration system.
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