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Commercial Kitchen, Commercial Refrigeration, Preventive Maintenance Agreements

A Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Checklist to Help You Stay Cool During the Busy Season


Restaurant chef looking into refrigerator as part of a refrigeration maintenance checklist

The holiday season is coming fast. You’re probably scrambling to get ready for the onslaught of New Yorkers and tourists lining up for a chance to enjoy the trendiest and tastiest fare the city’s restaurants have to offer.

But if your refrigeration equipment fails, you’ll be sending all those customers home dissatisfied or worse. So, today we are sharing some great tips and resources on how to keep your equipment (and your head) cool!

Refrigeration equipment is your best friend and worst enemy

Anyone who manages a food service operation probably has a love-hate relationship with refrigeration equipment. On one hand, they help you serve fresh and appealing fare. Without your coolers, chillers and walk in freezers, you’d be serving lukewarm drinks, wilted greens and melted ice cream. And that’s exactly the problem: when they break down, your business quickly comes to a screeching halt.

If you’ve been in the business for a while, you’ve certainly experienced the anxiety (even panic) that occurs when a critical refrigeration unit goes down during a busy dinner shift. You can lose thousands of dollars in wasted product and lost business in a very short period of time. Not to mention the repair bill, which can often cost you double if it happens at night or a weekend, which of course it will!

Luckily, avoiding commercial refrigeration repair isn’t as daunting as it seems; most breakdowns of commercial refrigeration equipment can be prevented with regular refrigeration maintenance. You’re probably aware that your heating and air conditioning equipment needs to be cleaned, inspected and tuned up at least twice each year (and possibly more often depending on your usage). But many restaurant owners don’t realize that their refrigeration equipment also needs TLC to keep working reliably.

Related Article: Neglected Commercial Refrigeration Equipment is a Recipe for Disaster!

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Checklist

Here’s a handy checklist of the refrigeration maintenance tasks that need to be taken care of to keep your coolers, freezers and chillers operating reliably and prevent the need for a restaurant refrigeration repair at the worst possible time.

You can do the everyday tasks yourself, but the others will require the expertise of a professional refrigeration company. How often these tasks need to be done may vary depending on your system load and the demands of your business. A qualified commercial refrigeration service company can work out the refrigeration maintenance schedule that’s right for you.

Your daily/weekly to-do list:

  • Check temperature and defrost frequency settings. If the temperature is set too high, your food will spoil and you could have a public health risk on your hands. If the temperature is set lower than necessary, the unit needs to work too hard and can shorten the life of your system. The same goes for defrosting more often than needed.
  • Clear space around the equipment. Air flow blocked by debris or stacks of stuff can put a strain on the unit, causing it to run inefficiently and even overheat. Reduced air flow can also increase power consumption.
  • Be vigilant about turning out the lights inside walk in coolers and freezers. Not only do the lights drive up your electric bill, but they actually generate heat that forces your equipment to work harder to keep it cool. A best practice: use fluorescent lights that generate less heat inside coolers and freezers.
  • Clean the inside of all units.  Remember not to use steel wool, bleach or caustic chemicals which can damage the finish. Be sure to consult the owner’s manual and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check for cold air leaks. When hinges, latches, strikes, gaskets or seals are in poor condition, the door of your units may not be airtight. Test the door gasket by closing a dollar bill in the door. You should feel some resistance when you pull on it; if it slides out easily the door is not sealing properly. Call in a professional refrigeration company for advice and repair.

Monthly to quarterly maintenance and inspection tasks:

Schedule a refrigeration service company to do a detailed inspection, cleaning, and tune-up of all your refrigeration equipment. These tasks require the expertise of professionals who know what problems to look for. Keep in mind that attempting to do repairs yourself could void your equipment warranty.

  • Inspect and clean each unit’s condensing and evaporator coils. A buildup of dirt and grime impedes the flow of through heat through the coils which causes your unit to lose efficiency. This should be done with a commercial condenser coil cleaner and the right tools. We recommend having this done by a professional to avoid damage to the sensitive coil fins.
  • Disassemble and thoroughly clean ice makers. Did you know that dirty ice is one of the most common health inspection violations? Even if your ice looks fine, you could be making people sick if the inside of your ice maker is covered with mold.
  • Check compressor and fan motor operation. If the compressor goes, you probably need a new unit. If it’s working too hard, your technician can find the cause and fix it before the unit fails.
  • Inspect all parts for wear. A commercial refrigeration service expert can spot degrading parts and replace them before that cause the entire unit to fail.
  • Clean fan blades. Dirt and grease on the fan blades causes drag that slows down the motor.
  • Clean gaskets, lubricate hinges, and repair any air leaks. Gaskets need to be clean to form a tight seal, and hinges should be regularly lubricated to keep doors closing properly. Cracks or holes in the exterior walls will also cause the unit to lose cool air and have to work harder. If parts need to be replaced, your refrigeration professional can install more efficient versions such as automatic spring hinges.
  • Check refrigerant levels. If your equipment is leaking refrigerant, it’s an EPA violation as well as a repair issue. Your technician will determine where the leak is coming from and repair it before recharging the refrigerant.
  • Check electrical connectionsLoose wires can often cause those unexpected equipment failures.
  • Calibrate thermometers. You can’t be sure your equipment complies with health regulations if the thermometers are not regularly tested and calibrated.

To prevent breakdowns that cost your business, sign up for a preventative maintenance program for your refrigeration equipment. Consult a qualified refrigeration service company like Arista to put together a plan that’s right for your needs and your budget. Want to learn more? Grab a copy of our helpful Guide to Making Sense of HVACR Maintenance Contracts.


Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts