An undetected ice buildup can lead to a 100 percent increase in walk-in cooler operating costs. The buildup of ice on a walk-in cooler’s evaporator coils, ceilings, drain pan, and other surfaces is one of the most common causes of malfunctions, so it’s important to set a routine defrost schedule and regularly check the equipment.
What Happens When Ice Builds Up?
Ice buildup mostly affects the evaporator coil and prevents the cooler from reaching the pre-set temperature. Aside from drastically reducing efficiency, ice buildup also affects the freshness of food products. Another risk associated with ice accumulation is compressor damage. Inconsistent temperatures that partially melt and refreeze ice sometimes allow water to enter and damage the compressor chamber. In addition to repair costs for damages, ice buildup can double the operating cost of the unit.
Where to Inspect?
The best way to avoid ice buildup and other common problems is a proactive and preventative approach. Clean the coils regularly to keep dirt and dust at bay. Dirty coils reduce airflow and create more moisture, which may then freeze over and reduce the overall efficiency of the walk-in cooler. The moisture also creates the ideal environment for mold and other harmful bacteria to grow and multiply, threatening all food products in the freezer.
There are a few other parts to check if ice builds up. It’s possible that the evaporator fan or a circuit breaker has failed, stopping airflow and creating condensation that could damage the compressor. The drain in the drain pan carries melting ice from the coil to the sewer, and this drain line can get clogged, causing water to pool and freeze. If the drain pan freezes, ice creeps up the entire coil and forms one large block. So, always check the drain and drain pan for clogs or foreign objects. Check all of these walk-in cooler components for ice regularly, especially on rainy and humid days when moisture in the air is high.
The best way to prevent costly problems with refrigeration unit is to set a routine defrost schedule and check the equipment regularly. In an industry with low overhead, restaurant owners cannot afford to waste resources on preventable repairs.
Thanks to Myrmi on flickr for the image used in this post.