The Buyer's Guide: How to Find the Best Walk-In Refrigeration System

There are many different types of refrigeration systems for you to choose from. To simplify the process, you should determine the exact need, your required capacity, and how you want the unit to dissipate the heat it creates.  

In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) to move the U.S. toward energy independence, increasing the use of clean, renewable energy. This law impacts the equipment restaurant owners purchase for their establishments.

Before you buy, ensure that your new refrigeration system is compliant with the EISA. This may cost more, but the lifetime value and remaining in compliance with the law is worth it. Dealers may try to sell you a non-EISA compliant unit, so make sure you know what type of refrigeration unit you are buying. 

The Top 5 Walk-In Refrigeration Units

There are many different types of refrigeration systems for you to choose from. To simplify the process, you should determine the exact need, your required capacity, and how you want the unit to dissipate the heat it creates.  

Finally, you must consider the space that you have to accommodate the equipment. Make sure that you get the proper measurements. With the median start-up costs for restaurant equipment ranging from $95,000 to $250,000, you cannot afford to purchase the wrong refrigeration unit.

Before you shop, check out these top 5 walk-in refrigeration systems to see which one will best suit the needs of your establishment. 

1. Remote Refrigeration Systems 

Remote systems are the most cost-effective units because they are the least expensive. A licensed installer will need to install this unit because they are charged with a walk-in cooler refrigerant on site. Pre-assembled units come pre-charged.

The primary advantage of purchasing a remote refrigeration system is that the condensing unit is located outside, so heat is never conducted inside the building. 

2. Standard Top Mount Systems

Top mount systems are self-contained. They come with all the essential elements and gases installed. However, you will still need a licensed installer. The only disadvantage to this system is that the evaporator takes up valuable shelf space and headroom in smaller units. 

Penthouse refrigeration systems are another option and are just like standard top mount units. If you feel that a standard top mount refrigeration unit is right for you, check out the Penthouse before your final purchase. 

3. Side Mount Refrigeration Systems

Side mount systems are like top mounts except, as the name suggests, mount from the side. They are installed by a licensed technician who will attach the unit to the side of a walk-in. The downside of this unit is the shelf space taken up by the evaporation unit. They also require the hose to drain the condensation is connected to a drain, limiting its location options. 

4. Saddle Mount Refrigeration System

A saddle mount unit comes pre-assembled and is designed to be mounted atop one of the wall panels. These systems require a wall panel to install the unit with places at the top to allow the hardware to go through the wall. You will need to hire a licensed technician for this install as well.

One benefit of this unit is that the evaporator coil hangs from the top of the system, so it does not take up any shelving space.

5. Roll Up Refrigeration System

Similar to the penthouse refrigeration system, the roll-up units are installed to the side of the walk-in. The primary difference is that the evaporator coil, while located outside of the refrigeration unit, takes up any precious shelving space, as shelves cannot be placed near the evaporator. A licensed refrigeration technician will be required for installation. 

What to Do if You Bought the Wrong Walk-In Freezer Unit 

Commercial-grade equipment is one of the largest expenses a restaurant owner will incur. You may have thought your establishment would require a refrigeration unit that, in reality, it does not.

What do you do if you have purchased a walk-in freezer that you really do not need? Converting your walk-in freezer to a cooler might be your solution.

Converting from a freezer to a cooler takes less effort, but it is not just about turning up the temperature and calling it a day. You can severely reduce the lifespan of your refrigeration system if you do not convert your unit correctly.

There are some crucial first-steps you must take before converting your walk-in freezer: 

  • Check Freezer Compressor: Some compressors work for both coolers and freezers. Yet, some require modification to adequately regulate the pressure in the compressor.
  • Remove Defrost Cycle: The drain pan and line of the defrost units are unnecessary and must be removed. You will require a professional to uninstall these components. 
  • Consider All Costs: After evaluating your refrigeration unit, determining if it is even cost-effective to make the modifications or if it would be better for you to purchase a new system. 

Purchasing the wrong equipment is not the end. If you are prepared to make the necessary modifications, you can resolve this concern without difficulty. 

Choosing the Finest in Walk-In Refrigeration Systems for Your Establishment 

According to Forbes, 19% of new restaurants fail in their first year. Ninety percent of those owners cited financial difficulties and their lack of awareness of what it takes to run a restaurant. Primarily, they admitted they had little to zero knowledge of the type of equipment they would need.

Now that you have evaluated your walk-in refrigerators options, you can determine which system will work best for your restaurant. First, decide if the heat emitted from the condensing unit is a problem for you or whether space is your chief concern. Then evaluate cost efficiency and energy efficacy.  

Once you have determined which unit is right for you, make sure to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s warranty and what additional costs, if any, will be applicable, such as other parts needed for installation.

Your extensive research has you feeling confident you know what refrigeration unit you want. The final step is to locate a dealer. You may feel overwhelmed with the information on the different types of refrigeration units available on the market. Find a dealer you can trust, and they will simplify the process and put your mind at ease.