How to Select a Refrigerator


Not knowing how a refrigerator works, how do you pick the ones that will work best for your operation? Manufacturers all have printed specifications, and your dealer or equipment consultant will have recommendations. Some of the criteria you’ll choose from follow. Finishes. The surface of your refrigerator should be as sturdy as its interior components. Popular finishes include stainless steel, vinyl-coated steel, fiberglass, and coated aluminum; the latter comes in rolled, stucco, or anodized styles. Unlike home models, there are not as many porcelain or baked-enamel finishes in the commercial world. In fact, some health departments do not allow these finishes in commercial or institutional installations.

Construction. You can’t kick the tires, but certain quality features will be evident, such as overall sturdiness, door alignment, and how securely the handle is attached to the appliance. All-metal, welded construction is a plus, and having a seamless interior. compartment is an NSF International requirement. In fact, the NSFI has a whole section on refrigeration, accepted by most cities as minimum standards. Also, look for ease of cleaning and self-defrost features. Insulation. The most commonly used type of insulation is polyurethane, in sheets or foam, which has superior insulation qualities and even makes the cabinet a bit sturdier. Make sure it is non-CFC polyurethane foam, with at least an R-15 rating.

Fiberglass is also acceptable, although it requires greater thickness to achieve the same results as the polyurethane. Doors. A small but critical detail is whether you want the door to open from the left or from the right side. There are also half doors (you conserve cooling power by only opening half the refrigerator at a time) or full-length doors; the doors can be solid or made of shatterproof glass; they can have hinges or slide open and shut on a track. The way doors are opened can impact traffic patterns in the kitchen (see Illustration 10-9). Doors can also be self-closing, with magnetic hardware, to prevent being left ajar accidentally. The hinges should be stainless steel or, at least, chrome. Look for door gaskets that are easy to snap in place, not the old screw-in kind, as you will probably be replacing them during the life of the unit.

Handles. Stainless steel or nickel-plated handles are best. You can select vertical or horizontal handles. They can protrude or be recessed. Be sure the handle is included in the warranty, since handles take a lot of abuse and may have to be replaced periodically. Refrigeration system. It may be self-contained or, in the case of very large appliances, a separate unit. As we’ve mentioned, it may also be top-mounted or bottommounted. The accurate electrical current and capacity of the facility must be known so the manufacturer can supply the correct voltage and phase to meet the needs of the space. In some cases, additional expense may be involved to upgrade the electrical system. At any rate, look for the UL seal of approval, a sign that the unit meets basic electrical safety standards. The system may be water cooled or air cooled. The most common in foodservice is the self-contained, air-cooled unit.

Remember, the capillary tube system is for refrigerators used for storage: not much door-opening action. The expansion valve system has quicker pull-down capacity-that is, it can pull the temperature down faster after the unit is opened. It is ideal for busy hot line situations where the refrigerator is constantly in use. Drain Requirements. Most new refrigerators provide an automatic defrost system and automatic condensate disposal, which eliminates the need for a separate plumbing connection. Ask about it, however. A reminder: The NSF sanitation standards prohibit drains inside the refrigerator. Accessory availability. You’ll get shelves as standard equipment with a refrigerator purchase. Make sure they are adjustable. For foodservice, there are lots of additional items that might improve efficiency: adjustable tray slides, drawers, special racks for serving pans (called pan glides or pan slides), and dollies or carts designed to convert a reach-in cabinet to a roll-in one.

Think about these accessories when selecting the door, too. Certain doors seem to work better with some types of add-ons. Warranty. Most manufacturers provide a one-year warranty on parts in case of defective workmanship or materials; look for a separate five-year warranty on the motor and compressor unit. Some manufacturers also offer extended service warranties. Cabinet capacity. A properly designed refrigerator should provide the maximum amount of usable refrigerated space per square foot of floor area, and must be able to accommodate the sizes of pans you’ll be using. There are plenty of complex guidelines for calculating capacity and needs, which will be covered elsewhere in this chapter. Adaptability. Because today’s foodservice operations have changing needs, manufacturers are building in features to maximize flexibility.

One such offering is the convertible temperature option. With a flick of a toggle switch, a freezer can be converted to a refrigerator. It can be a pricey addition at the time of purchase, but if food storage requirements change, the option will pay for itself instantly. Another variation is the combination medium-and-high-temperature cabinet, designed to thaw frozen products quickly and safely by introducing warmer air into the cabinet as needed. Additional fans and a temperature sensing device bring the unit back to its normal refrigeration level when the food is sufficiently thawed. And there are hybrids: cabinets separated into two or three sections, each with different cooling capacities.

Source by Franco Zinzi


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