“Most refrigerator failures can be traced directly to neglect of routine and minimal attention.”1 It’s time to give your refrigerator, freezer, prep table, undercounter, reach-in, merchandiser, etc. some TLC. Conducting routine preventative maintenance on your refrigerator can save you from costly repairs, can extend the life of your machine, and can save you 5% to 10% on your energy costs.
Clean Condenser Coils
Heat related problems usually stem from a dirty coil. “Failure to clean condenser coils on a regular basis will increase electrical consumption and lead to major system component failure such as burnt wiring, a failed condenser fan motor, a restricted metering device, or a failed compressor.”2 You have three different cleaning options for your condenser coils.
- Brush with a nylon brush. Do this in the direction of the fins, top to bottom. Afterward, straighten any bent fins with a comb.
- Blow with a low-pressure air compressor.
- Chemically clean. This is best when there is a lot of oil or grease build-up on the coils. Use a mild and safe solution, such as Simple Green.
Clean Fan Blades & Motor
Clean once a month with a warm cloth. If it is necessary to wash the fan blades, cover the motor with a dry cloth so moisture does not damage the motor.
Check the Drain Outlet
If your drain outlet is visible, you can check for clogs and clear the end of the drain. This can also be done with a service tech. If you’re interested in a temporary do-it-yourself method, try this one:
- Insert a straw into drain outlet.
- Wrap a damp cloth around where the straw goes into the drain.
- Blow air into the straw and into the drain while firmly holding the straw in the drain with the damp cloth.
Clean the Seals & Gaskets
You can wipe down the gaskets with warm soapy water or remove them and let them soak in warm soapy water for 30 minutes. Once they’re dry, make sure the gaskets create a proper seal. You can check for a proper door seal by using a dollar bill.
- Place a bill between the gasket and door frame.
- Close the door.
- If the ball falls out or you can pull it out easily, the door is not sealing properly.
- Check the seals on all 4 sides.
Also, check for any rips and tears in the gaskets. Replace these every 3 years.
Check the Hinges
Your door hinges can wear and move out of alignment over time. This compromises the door seal. You can also lubricate the hinges periodically.
Clean the Refrigerator Interior
Clean the interior and the shelves with warm water and mild soap. Steel wool, caustic chemicals, and bleach can damage the finish and leave strong chemical scents that affect food flavors.
While you’re in there, replace the interior lighting as needed. Working lighting can help your staff find items quicker, so the door is open for less time. Make sure you use the replacement bulbs are the same size and the same wattage.
Leave It to the Professionals
(Image via Manitowoc Ice)
You should schedule professional maintenance at least twice a year. A contractor preventative maintenance check should service and check these things:
- Pressure clean all air cooled condenser coils
- Pressure clean all drains
- Check the temperature
- Check refrigerator cycle
- Check refrigerant level
- Inspect door gaskets and seals
- Inspect hinges or automatic door closers
- Oil motors or bearings when oil ports exist
- Check unit thermometer for accuracy
- Check unit installation
- Inspect unit wiring
- Inspect unit compressor
- Provide a detailed report on each unit along with make, model, serial number, and temperature
- Provide a detailed list of repairs found to be needed
Here’s a small list of brands that Douglas Equipment sells:
- Arctic Air
- Beverage Air
- Turbo Air
Sound the Alarm
Your refrigerator will rarely go down without warning. Even if your refrigerator does not have a self-diagnostic system, it can let you know when something is wrong.
Check your holding temperatures daily. Temperatures trending high? Food has a shorter shelf life? Something is wrong.
Listen to your compressor. Too much noise indicates a problem.
If the refrigerator cycles are running longer or running more frequently, call a service tech.
An Ounce of Prevention…
Some kitchens don’t allow for much space, but if you can give your equipment some breathing room, you’ll be better off. At least do not put refrigerators close to heat sources like stoves, ovens, etc. Worktop refrigerated bases allow for other equipment to sit on top of them, but do not mimic this with non-worktop units.