Jon Russell, owner of Russell’s Service Co., a Leesburg, Ga.-based service agency, shares a few ideas on how to maximize the service life of a reach-in refrigerator.

FE&S: What is the service life of reach-in equipment?

JR: Equipment like reach-ins are often taken for granted since these units require minimal interaction other than opening and closing doors. However, because this equipment operates 24-7, it is heavily used in foodservice operations. If properly maintained, reach-ins can last an average of 15 years, although some units have been in service as long as 30 years.

FE&S: What are the maintenance requirements for these units?

JR: Monthly, it is important to make sure the condenser coil is cleaned. This typically can be accomplished with condenser foam cleaner, which is a spray that penetrates dirt and is rinsed off. The condenser also can be occasionally brushed off in between cleanings. Operators can perform this task themselves, but it’s important to use the appropriate cleaner, or the coil runs the risk of being damaged.

FE&S: Are there other maintenance tasks that should be performed?

JR: It’s also important to regularly check gaskets and hinges. Loose hinges will cause the door to drag and allow air to get into the unit. Evaporator fins should be kept clean, especially when the unit is exposed to grease. Every three months, the fan motor and compressor should be examined to determine if there are any loose parts or excessive noise.

FE&S: How should reach-ins be cleaned?

JR: Soap and water can be used to wipe down the interior and exterior of the refrigeration unit.

FE&S: What are the signs a unit needs servicing?

JR: If the reach-in is not maintaining the proper temperatures or not coming down to temperature quickly enough, it needs servicing. We recommend regular temperature checks at least once daily that should be recorded in a log. Unusual noises may also indicate there’s a problem.

FE&S: When should a reach-in be replaced?

JR: If a unit is more than 10 years old and there is a compressor malfunction, replacement makes more sense than a repair due to the cost. If doors are warped, the unit should be retired.