As most people already know, doing your research before a large purchase is crucial. The last thing anyone wants to do is make a large investment that they will regret in the future. Whether it be a home, an automobile, or even a walk in cooler, people work too hard for their money to not make informed decisions on large purchases.
Many people assume that all walk in coolers and freezers are the same. After all, they’re only insulation with some metal covering them right? Wrong! There are many different ways that walk in coolers and freezers are manufactured today, many of them are vastly different. For starters, many walk in coolers and freezers are built using an insulation material called “extruded polystyrene”. Extruded polystyrene is the same pink foam board that you see at every home improvement store across the country. Keep in mind that most walk in coolers and freezers are built using a cam lock system. These cam locks need to be mounted into something strong to ensure their longevity and functionality. When a cam lock is mounted into nothing but foam it becomes extremely easy to pull it loose, making sealing your panels impossible. It is also worth mentioning that many manufacturers today are also building what is referred to as an “all foam box”. These panels are constructed exactly as the name implies, using all foam with no frame support. Many people may be wondering “so, what’s the problem?”. This is a logical question and is worth answering. As previously mentioned, all foam boxes are built using only insulation and have no frame to support them. Having no frame support makes these boxes relatively fragile and easy to break the seams if bumped by a forklift or hand-cart.
Next, make sure that the walk in cooler or freezer you plan to purchase is both NSF certified as well as compliant with current DOE regulations. According to 2009 DOE government regulations, walk in coolers and freezers are supposed to be manufactured to meet their strict guidelines. Be sure to ask the company you are dealing with whether or not they meet these guidelines, if they do not, you should strongly consider looking for a different manufacturer. If you’re considering extruded polystyrene, keep in mind that it is usually labeled as having an R-value of 5 per inch. If you’re buying a cooler or freezer that is intended for food use, making sure that it’s NSF certified is a must. If the box is not NSF certified and you’re using it for food use, you risk hefty fines and possibly temporary closure of your business or restaurant.
You may be wondering “what are my other options?”. Thankfully, other options do exist outside of polystyrene and all foam boxes. Polyurethane is another type of insulation used in walk in coolers and freezers. Many companies choose not to use it, mainly because it’s more expensive. These companies will lead you to believe that polyurethane is an inferior product, while at the same time pushing you toward polystyrene. Polyurethane provides a superior R-value when compared to polystyrene while also being extremely durable and stronger than polystyrene. Polyurethane is a two part compound that is mixed together to form the insulation material used in the panels. This is simply not something you can go to the local hardware store and purchase, slap two pieces of sheet metal to and call it a panel.
Next, let’s take a moment to focus on framing. If you’re going to purchase a new walk in cooler or freezer, you probably want it to last more than a couple of years before it starts breaking down. If longevity is important to you, make sure that your new walk in cooler or freezer is built with a wood frame. Wood framing makes for extremely sturdy panels, especially when coupled with polyurethane insulation. Wood framing also has the advantage of allowing your cam locks to be anchored into the wood instead of being “anchored” into nothing but foam. Many companies will lead you to believe that wood framing is a bad idea because it collects moisture and will rot and promote significant mold growth. When properly constructed, wood frame panels are moisture resistant and molding is not an issue. This is because the wood is covered and not exposed to any moisture or condensation.
Hopefully this article has helped inform, as well as help clarify some rumors and myths. As one can tell, there are many options available when purchasing a walk in cooler or freezer. Please, if nothing else do some research into the company you choose to buy from. Research alone could very well be the difference between a wonderful product and a downright headache. Thank you for reading and be sure to check back next week for a new blog post and updated walk in cooler information!