Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Guide

Deanna Dicristo April 27, 2023

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Guide: Tips and Advice

A well-maintained commercial fridge is the backbone of your kitchen. 

It keeps your ingredients fresh, your customers safe and your business thriving. On the flip side, neglecting your fridge can lead to costly downtime, health code violations and revenue loss.

It’s crucial to keep your fridge in tip-top condition — which is why we put together this guide featuring commercial refrigeration maintenance tips. Keep your customers safe, your bottom line stable and your foodservice business up and running with a little help from the information below.

Keep the condenser coils clean.

The condenser coils in your commercial fridge are responsible for transferring heat out of the fridge in order to maintain desired temps. If they’re not cleaned regularly, build-up occurs leading to eventual overheating and breakdown.

To clean the condenser coils in your commercial fridge, you’ll want to take the following steps:

  1. Turn off the power. Before cleaning the condenser coils, you should turn off the power to the fridge. This will prevent any accidents and keep you safe. If you’re concerned about anything in the fridge, you can transfer it to one of your other fridges while you clean.
  2. Locate the coils. They’re usually located on the back or bottom of the fridge. You may need to remove a cover or access panel to reach them.
  3. Gently clean the coils with a soft-bristled brush. Once you have located the coils, you can use a soft-bristled brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove any dust or debris that has built up. When you’re cleaning, move the brush or vacuum in the direction of the fins to avoid damaging them.
  4. Check for damage. While you’re cleaning the coils, take the opportunity to inspect them for any signs of damage like bent or broken fins. If you do find any damage, you’ll want to contact a professional technician to repair or replace the damaged coils.
  5. Replace the cover or access panel. Once you’re finished cleaning the condenser coils, make sure to replace any covers or access panels that you removed. This will protect them from further damage and ensure that they continue to function.

Check to make sure the door seals are intact.

When it comes to commercial refrigeration maintenance tips, our number one suggestion is to maintain your door seals. Are you struggling with maintaining your fridge’s interior temperature or facing inexplicably high energy bills? Worn-out door seals could be the culprit.

Here’s how you can tell if your commercial fridge’s door seals are working properly:

  • Visually inspect them. The seals are made of rubber and can be found along the interior edge of the fridge door. Open the door to your commercial fridge and examine them closely. Look for cracks, tears, or other signs of wear. Don’t forget to look in the corners or around the hinges.
  • Do the paper test. You can test the seals on your fridge using a piece of paper. A dollar bill is convenient for this task, but any sheet of paper will do. Place your piece of paper so that it is partially inside the fridge and partially outside the fridge, and then shut the door on it. Attempt to pull the paper out. If it comes out easily, then the seals aren’t sealing properly. If it stays in place when you try to pull, your seals are doing their job.

Taking a look at how your commercial fridge’s door seals are working every three to four months can help you to  catch any small issues before they become major problems. If you’ve inspected your seals and believe they’re in need of replacement, it can easily be done by a trained professional.

Keep your commercial fridge sparkly + clean.

If you’re the owner or manager of a food business, you already know the importance of maintaining cleanliness in your establishment to avoid health violations.

Take a look at your current cleaning checklists and make sure they include the following:

  1. Empty the fridge. Take out all the food, drinks, and any removable parts like shelves, trays, and drawers. Place them in a separate, already clean area. It’s tempting to clean around the things that are in therebut, if you want to meet health department guidelines, you’re going to want to make sure you clean every nook and cranny.
  2. Discard any expired food. Check the expiration dates on all food items and discard anything that is past its date.
  3. Wipe down the interior. Wipe down the interior of the fridge with a solution of warm water and mild detergent (or whatever cleaning solution you use at your establishment). Pay special attention to scrubbing any spills, stains, or sticky residue.
  4. Clean the removable parts. Wash the removable parts like shelves, trays, and drawers in the same solution. Rinse them thoroughly and let them dry completely before putting them back.
  5. Clean the exterior. Wipe down the exterior of the fridge, including the doors, handles, and gaskets. During this step, switch the cloth you’re using to avoid cross contamination.
  6. Clean the condenser coils. See above for detailed instruction.
  7. Fill it back up. Put all the tasty ingredients you use to prepare your delicious recipes back where they belong.

By following these maintenance tips every time you clean your commercial fridge, you can avoid the need for emergency repairs and improve organization, which helps prevent health code violations, food spoilage or costly (and avoidable) downtime.

Verify that you’re following the manufacturer guidelines about temperature and load.

When you buy a new commercial fridge, it will come with a care and maintenance guide that details everything you need to do in order to maintain optimal performance.

Of all the information in that guide, there are two things we’ve found to be most important when it comes to maintenance:

  • Internal temperature. The ideal temperature for a commercial fridge is typically between 32 and 40°F. Regularly monitor the internal temperature of your fridge using both the built-in thermometer and an external one to make sure it stays within an acceptable range.
  • Fridge load. There’s a recommended interior load for any fridge. Overloading your fridge can lead to a dip in performance or higher-than-wanted energy bills. Make sure you’re following your manufacturer’s recommendation for how much is stored inside your unit. The main goal here is to make sure air can flow properly, no matter what’s inside.

Schedule regular maintenance.

Even when following all of these tips, it’s still important to schedule regular maintenance for your commercial fridge. A professional technician can inspect your refrigerator for any potential issues and perform routine maintenance tasks like lubricating motors, tightening electrical connections and generally making sure your commercial refrigerator is running optimally. Regular scheduled maintenance is ideal, but it’s never a bad idea to connect with a service provider that offers emergency services — just in case!

Make sure your commercial refrigerator not only works, but does so safely and efficiently with help from Smart Care and the 1,400+ technicians we employ nationwide to make sure your commercial kitchen is always up and running. Find the technicians nearest you.


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