Refrigeration is one of the hardest working pieces of equipment in any commercial kitchen, operating 24/7 all year round. It is also potentially one of the most disruptive to your business if things go wrong.
A quality piece of commercial refrigeration equipment which is properly maintained can provide you with many years of efficient and trouble-free service, but no product is completely “maintenance free”.
In this article, we take a look at one of the most essential pieces of commercial refrigeration maintenance which all operators need to be aware of.
One of the most common causes of commercial refrigeration failure is a blocked condenser. The good news is, it’s easily avoidable as an element of your routine maintenance schedule.
Regular cleaning of this component is essential, and is a responsibility of the operator, not something which any product warranty covers. The cost of any service callout, labor, and required replacement parts will be chargeable to the user, so is something you need to know about and act upon.
The function of the Condenser Coil on a commercial refrigerator is to cool and condense the refrigerant. This works by using a fan to draw in ambient outside air from around the cabinet. As a result, dust, debris and grease can also be drawn in during this process, building up over time to restrict and eventually block the surface of the coil.
An obstructed condenser coil can cause a refrigerator to consume much more energy, as the compressor runs longer and more intensely, struggling to draw in enough external air. Without regular cleaning, this can lead to significantly increased energy bills, reduced component life and eventually failure of the cabinet.
The Condenser Coil can be located in different places depending on the product and manufacturer, and so the method of accessing it also varies. On an “Upright” cabinet, it could be located at the bottom or top of the unit, and accessible from the rear or front. “Counter” type products may have a hinged section on the front to access the Coil, while others may require the unit be pulled out to access it from the rear.
We recommend you should clean the surface of the coil every 30 days, but in reality, how often restrictive blockages can build up varies greatly from site to site. A pizzeria or bakery using a lot of flour, for example, may find that they require more frequent cleaning, as the powder can be easily drawn in.
In basic terms, the process of cleaning the coil involves removing the build up of dust and debris from the fins with a stiff bristle brush, vacuum cleaner or pressurized air.
Detailed step-by-step information on accessing and cleaning the surface of the Coil on your specific refrigerator (and other recommended maintenance tasks) should be available from the manufacturer.
For True customers, this information can be found in the hardcopy Operations Manual supplied with the product, or the electronic copy available on our website. We also have some videos available on preventative maintenance, including condenser cleaning:
Cleaning the Condenser Coil should be an element of your routine equipment maintenance schedule, including other tasks such as regular interior/exterior cleaning, and assessment of consumable items susceptible to wear and tear, such as door gaskets.
For larger sites and estates, we recommend a maintenance service contract offered by many refrigeration service companies. It is proven that routine maintenance plans can cost a business much less than relying on emergency calls outs each time problems do arise, they also reduce downtime, save electricity through more efficient operation, and extend the life of kitchen equipment.
In our 75 years of developing commercial refrigeration equipment, we have been at the forefront of innovation and technology development, and as a result, our products contain many patented designs and features which you can only find on True fridges.
One of these patented features is True’s Reverse Condensing Unit (RCU), which periodically reverses the rotation direction of the condensing fan to help “blow out” some debris from the surface of the condensing coil, assisting operators in their maintenance effort.
RCU is a standard feature on most True products, and was recently recognised as a winner at the National Restaurant Association Show 2020 Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards, honoring progressive equipment that increases efficiencies and productivity.
Unlike most other manufacturers, True champion the use of a “Bottom-mount” design on our Uprights, where the compressor and condenser components are housed in the bottom section of the cabinet rather than the top.
Not only does this make the condenser coil more easily accessible for cleaning, but compressors naturally perform more efficiently in the coolest, most grease-free area of the kitchen, and since heat rises, this usually means lower is better. It isn’t the easiest way to manufacture a refrigerator, requiring more piping between the components on the bottom and evaporator at the top, but we believe it results in a better product.
As stated, a blocked condenser is one of the main examples of a problem which can develop as a result of a lack of proper maintenance, the resolution of which will not be covered by any manufacturer’s warranty policy.
It should be the prerogative of operators to investigate and understand the terms they are getting and agreeing to when buying any new piece of equipment with a warranty.
Most refrigeration equipment bought new from a supplier will have some warranty provision, typically one to two years parts & labor. However, what is and isn’t included in this coverage can vary significantly between manufacturers.
If anything isn’t transparent or fully understood, seek clarification from the manufacturer before making the purchase decision. Only with this information are you able to make a fully informed and confident equipment choice.
Buying quality equipment from an established supplier and ensured with a long warranty period should protect operators and provide peace of mind that any genuine mechanical issues which arise with the product will be dealt with quickly, with minimal disruption to the business, and at no additional cost.
True have the product confidence to offer a FIVE years parts & labor warranty across our entire range, which we believe is the most inclusive and comprehensive in the industry. Full terms, conditions and exclusions of our warranty coverage can be found in our policy document here.
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