Common symptoms will usually point to a potential cause and its solution.

Walk-in food storage refrigeration spaces are great for businesses but run into issues now and then like any other appliance. Diagnosing common maintenance issues with commercial freezers or refrigerators may not be as difficult as it seems. Some common symptoms will usually point to a potential cause and its solution.

Common Commercial Freezer Issue Indicators

Some key indicators point to maintenance problems in commercial freezers and refrigerators. These signs are good for employees to know as well as managers and owners since early warning signs will be easier to address.

For example, a walk-in fridge or freezer will generally be pretty power-hungry, but keep an eye out for gradual increases in electricity consumption. This may indicate the appliance is having issues regulating its temperature. There may be ice building up inside the coils or the compressor may be wearing out, making the fridge or freezer less energy-efficient.

Abnormal amounts of ice or water buildup inside the walk-in fridge or freezer are also major signs that something isn’t right. An appliance that’s creating a particularly high amount of noise may also be running into mechanical problems. Any unintentional fluctuations in temperature should not be ignored, including when a commercial freezer or refrigerator struggles to stay at a consistent temperature.

These symptoms usually have something to do with one of a few easily diagnosable common commercial refrigeration problems. Once managers identify the issue, they can take steps to remedy it correctly.

Food Storage Refrigeration Temperature Problems

Potential cause: Evaporator, compressor or door seals

One of the most common commercial food storage refrigeration problems is temperature control. Characteristic signs of a regulation issue include fluctuations or an appliance that is consistently too warm or cold. Maybe the thermostat is set to a certain temp but the walk-in refrigerator or freezer cannot meet it.

This can be the result of a few different mechanical issues. The easiest to spot is a problem with the walk-in cooler’s door seals. Seals that are getting old, wearing out, peeling, detaching from the door, moldy or in otherwise below standard condition may be the culprit. Make sure to check the door’s gaskets and hinges since these can cause the door to close improperly or not at all if in need of repair.

Door seals that are in optimal condition may signify a problem with the commercial freezer or refrigerator’s evaporator or compressor. The evaporator is responsible for regulating the amount of moisture in the appliance. The coils can get worn out or clogged from ice buildup. This can force the compressor to work in overdrive to compensate for the reduced airflow in the evaporator. Unfortunately, this can cause the temperature to fluctuate or rise above the desired setpoint.

Walk-in Fridge or Freezer Water Buildup

Potential cause: evaporator pan, door seals or drain

Water buildup in a commercial freezer or refrigerator can be due to user error or a mechanical issue. It can appear as puddles on the floor of a walk-in food storage space or as excess condensation in containers or shelving. Food may be going bad more quickly than usual and the temperature is likely to be higher than it should be.

Diagnosing this issue can often be as simple as examining the amount of food stored in the fridge or freezer. It can be easy to lose track of how much food is being packed into a certain space, especially with something as large as this. Every appliance has its limits, though. A refrigerator with too much food inside may be struggling to keep everything cool.

This is another case where the door seals may be at fault, as well as fridge or freezer activity. Doors that are opened too often will inevitably begin having performance issues. Seals that aren’t up to standard may cause air to leak in or out, disrupting the internal temperature.

If addressing any of these issues does not resolve the water buildup problem, the cause is most likely a mechanical malfunction. The drain, evaporator pan or condenser coil may have failed. The condenser is responsible for removing heat from the fridge or freezer. If it is clogged or lacking proper airflow, it will struggle to pump heat out of the appliance. This is why good airflow inside and outside commercial food storage refrigeration spaces is so important.

Commercial Freezer Ice Buildup

Potential cause: Evaporator or defrost cycle

Sometimes a commercial freezer can get too good at its job and start accumulating ice and frost inside. At first glance, this may not look like a big deal. After all, the freezer is supposed to be keeping things frozen. However, poor temperature regulation can signify that a food storage space isn’t up to industry and government standards, posing a food safety risk. This is a major concern in the U.S. today, so any abnormal performance needs to be taken seriously.

Ice buildup is often due to a problem with the commercial freezer’s evaporator or defrost cycle. A key sign that this is the cause is a noisy fan. Additionally, the coils inside the evaporator could also be clogged or malfunctioning, resulting in improper heat and moisture regulation. Freezing coils can potentially point to a pressure problem, but this usually requires a professional inspection to identify with certainty.

It is also important to know whether or not the freezer has an automated defrost cycle or not. Ice buildup could very well be due to the absence of auto-defrost. If it does not have this feature, employees will need to regularly defrost the coils to keep them operating correctly.

Solving Food Storage Refrigeration Issues

When a commercial freezer or refrigerator isn’t working properly, it can be easy to get nervous, especially when food is at risk of going bad. Luckily, most problems fall into one of common categories that are easily diagnosed. Focus on carefully inspecting the issue at hand. Identifying is half the battle of fixing it, so managers should take it one clue at a time to get their appliance back on track.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over five years experience writing for the food and beverage industry.

Expert Takes, Feature, Kitchen Equipment