A walk-in cooler and/or freezer serves as a critical piece of equipment in commercial kitchens, as it becomes the bank for cold food storage. With more operators using fresher ingredients, space necessary to keep items cool continues to increase.
The typical application for a walk-in cooler is to store cold items that culinary staff will use within a couple of days or contain bulk purchases. This equipment is not designed to pull temperatures of hot food down quickly like a blast chiller.
For foodservice operators seeking to cut costs and consolidate storage, combination walk-in refrigerator freezers may be a viable alternative to two separate units.
Walk-in cooler and freezer sizes and configurations can vary from a small 6-foot-by-6-foot unit up to any size cold storage warehouse. Although both walk-in refrigerator and freezer compartments have 4-inch thick walls, freezers also contain a defrost system to melt the frost off the system’s coils.
Like single-unit walk-ins, combination models are typically custom-made, so operators can specify these units in virtually any shape and size.
To determine the size of a walk-in cooler or freezer that an operation requires, it’s important to consider the maximum amount of food inventory necessary and how much shelving the unit can accommodate. With average temperatures ranging between 34 degrees F and 38 degrees F for coolers and -10 degrees F for freezers, the necessary size also depends on its usage and the operation’s volume.
Key construction criteria includes strength, durability, high insulation value and a tight fit at the seams. These attributes factor into the walk-in refrigerator or freezer’s service life and efficiency. Operators can choose from among various interior and exterior finishes available. The application will help determine the appropriate finishes. Common finishes include stucco aluminum, stucco galvanized, white smooth and stucco aluminum or galvanized and stainless steel.
Many walk-ins feature floors that are .080 or .100 aluminum, which can typically withstand 600 pounds per square foot of stationary floor load. Rolling traffic plays a role in how well a walk-in floor holds up, though, and the type of floor that unit should use. A heavy-duty floor is recommended for operations where there will be heavy traffic. For applications where there will be pallet jack or forklift traffic, a concrete wearing floor on top of the prefab floor or an insulated slab is best.
The horsepower depends on the size of the walk-in and the foodservice application. Sizing for storage only in a walk-in freezer is typically for 0 to -10 degrees. When sizing, always take into consideration the humidity in the room where the walk-in freezer will reside.