Service Agent Q&A with Bruce Hodge, service manager, General Parts LLC, Wichita, Kan.

FE&S: What are the main maintenance concerns with undercounter refrigeration units?

BH: The basic issue with any refrigeration is air movement. If there isn’t good air movement across the condenser coils and through the grill plates, the compressor will be forced to work harder, and this will shorten the equipment’s service life. Because refrigeration units are always in a confined space, the evaporator and condenser coils coils need to be kept clear of dust and other debris buildup. Depending on the operation, this system should be checked either weekly or monthly and brushed out by the operator. The fan motors and filter media also should be cleaned regularly.

FE&S: Are there cleaning and maintenance tasks operators tend to overlook with this equipment?

BH: People typically overlook the door gaskets, particularly in a beverage or bar environment where doors are constantly opened and closed. Gaskets get sticky and should be cleaned with soap and water weekly or at least monthly. If the sticky material is not removed, the gasket will start to stick to the door frame and eventually tear. This compromises the door seal, leaking cold air out of the unit, which then needs to work harder to maintain the proper temperature. Bar environments are notorious for this as the refrigeration units are located near taps, which cause spillage that can get messy. Enzymes used in creating craft beer also wreak havoc on rubber gaskets. In addition, loose or bent hinges can be a problem as doors will wobble, potentially allowing cold air to escape. These can be easily tightened or replaced like gaskets.

FE&S: What is the best way to clean the interior of undercounter units?

BH: This aspect of the equipment is more low maintenance, requiring just periodic wiping down with warm, soapy water. Operators need to keep fan cages clean and free of debris so as not to compromise air movement throughout the refrigerator.

FE&S: What is the average service life of an undercounter refrigeration unit?

BH: The service life is between 10 and 15 years with proper care and maintenance.

FE&S: What are the signs a unit should be replaced?

BH: Typically between five and nine years, this equipment requires more repairs, and operators are dealing with increasing breakdowns. This can be prevented with proper cleaning. Temperatures should be checked regularly and logged in. If there are fluctuations, a service call is warranted. If the compressor stops cooling and the unit is older, it makes more sense to replace it rather than repair the problem.