DIY Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Tips

For centuries, harvesting ice was the only means of refrigerating perishable food items. If you lived in the United States, chances are you’d be relying on ice harvesters throughout New England to intricately pack the ice and make ready for a long transport. As you can imagine, shipping ice all across the country can be arduous and costly (even before you consider the loss of product while in transit).

It wasn’t until 1835, when the first patent was granted for a Vapor-Compression Refrigeration Cycle. Over the years, technology has vastly improved and almost everyone can recall growing up with a refrigerator in their own homes. As with many items that have become commonplace, we sometimes take for granted the amount of thought which went into the design and may overlook the importance of regular maintenance on the equipment after it has been installed.

Preventive Maintenance & Commercial Refrigerators

Based on my past experiences working in insurance claims, a lot of compressor and refrigeration failures can be traced back to lack of preventative maintenance. The last thing a restaurant owner wants to encounter is a walk-in freezer or cooler full of spoiling food. The loss of business can be daunting – and in a lot of cases, avoidable with a little bit of work.

No piece of equipment was created to last forever, but why not try to get the most out of that expensive piece of equipment?

Refrigeration equipment and compressors are designed in almost every conceivable size to fit the need of a customer. Regardless of the size or type of equipment, preventative maintenance is required for regular operating procedures. Every piece of equipment should be maintained per the manufacturer’s guidelines, usually found in the manual or on the company’s website. Routine maintenance should be performed no less than twice a year by a licensed and certified refrigeration contractor.

Refrigeration Maintenance & Licenses

Licenses provide proof of professional training, but each state has different licensing guidelines. At the bare minimum, make certain any refrigeration contractors are at least Type 1 certified before allowing them to work on your equipment.

Most licensed and certified refrigeration contractors will recommend routine maintenance be performed not less than twice a year. Below are a few items which should be included (but not limited to) in the service company’s inspection:

  • Checking all electrical connections
  • Unit thermometer and thermostat
  • Levels of refrigeration
  • Cleaning drain lines and condenser coils

4 DIY Tips to Extend the Life of Your Commercial Refrigerator

While most preventative maintenance should only be performed by a qualified contractor, there are a few ways you can help out before the next service:

  1. Check the air-cooled condenser coils on coolers, freezers, and ice machines (found on the exterior of unit). In order to avoid damaging the aluminum fins, use a wet/dry vacuum to remove dirt.
  2. Check ice machines. Remove the cover and inspect the interior for signs of mold or slime buildup. If any buildup is found, call a service company for appropriate cleaning, sanitation, and repairs.
  3. Check door gaskets on coolers and freezers. Inspect for rips or tears.
  4. Check automatic door closers and hinges on equipment.

All equipment designers intend for regular preventative maintenance to be performed, and by following their wishes you’ll extend the life of equipment and ensure it works to its optimal performance level. In the long run, it’s more effective to perform small, routine maintenance than it is if the equipment fails and your business is unexpectedly closed for any period of time.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy and Renewable Energy (EERE) states in the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Best Practices Guide, that studies* have shown an estimated 12-18% cost savings when a preventative maintenance program is implemented, as opposed to waiting for equipment failure to occur

Aside from wanting to ensure your equipment will perform to its best ability and be operational for years to come, why should you implement a preventative maintenance program? Simply put, it will save you money.

Commercial Kitchen Maintenance Tips

To learn more about keeping your equipment – and your business – operational, don’t miss these blogs:

Society’s risk management team can help your business identify and eliminate key risk areas. Contact your local Society Insurance agent to learn more about how Society can protect your business.

*(The Federal Energy Management Program’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Best Practices Guide, Release 3.0, Chapter 5).


Jarrett obtained his B.A. degree in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. He began his career at Society Insurance in 2008 in the Property, Auto, and Liability Claims department. While there, he earned his AIC and AIS and has spent the past three years in Risk Control.

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