Spec Check: Walk-In Refrigerators

Purchased infrequently but essential to foodservice, walk-in refrigeration units should be carefully considered prior to investment.

Walk-ins typically have a service life of approximately 15 years, but there are units that have been in operation for more than 20.

When purchasing a new unit, foodservice operators should consider a number of factors.

  • Determine what products the walk-in will store. Depending on an item's density and temperature, it may take longer to pull down to the correct temperature, thus requiring a larger refrigeration system.
  • To figure out the necessary capacity, keep in mind that 1 cubic foot of open storage area accommodates approximately 28 pounds of solid food.
  • Doors are an important consideration, since they receive most of the day-to-day abuse. If frequently opened and closed, a heavy-duty door may be necessary. Automatic closing devices, like cam-lift hinges and a positive door closer, ensure the door isn't accidently left open. If it's necessary to see what's inside the walk-in, a view window should be specified. Kick plates on the door and inside the walk-in are also helpful in preventing damage. Strip curtains can help keep out unwanted outside air during high-volume use.
  • Consider the weight and frequency of traffic to determine what type of flooring is necessary. If staff will use heavy-loaded to transport items into or out of the walk-in or there will be heavy shelving inside, a reinforced or structural floor may be appropriate.
  • If the walk-in will have floor panels, interior or exterior floor ramps can provide easier access.
  • Walk-ins require at least 2 inches of space between the walk-in ceiling and building as well as a minimum of 1 inch on all sides for proper ventilation.
  • Determine if space requirements will change or if there will be a future need to move the walk-in. This would necessitate cam-locking panels, which provide easy dismantling of the unit.
  • If the refrigeration system will operate in a hot environment, a larger size may be needed.
  • Maximum use of storage space is another consideration. Polyurethane panels, because of their greater efficiency, can be much thinner and still meet R-factor requirements. As a comparison, it would take approximately 8 inches of polystyrene or 33 inches of solid wood to equal the insulation value of 4 inches of polyurethane. Thinner panels equal more usable space.
  • For high-volume front of the house use, Stucco Galvalume has an embossed pattern that helps hide scratches, dents and blemishes.
  • White interior finishes can create a brighter environment and make the walk-in's contents more visible.
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