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Commercial Reach In Refrigerators: Know What To Buy

Commercial Reach In Refrigerator Buying GuideTURJRF45

Commercial reach in refrigerators are generally used in restaurants for short term food and ingredient storage, as opposed to large walk-ins that store bulk items long term. The commercial reach in refrigerators available through eTundra.com are built for heavy duty use and have a more powerful compressor than residential refrigerators.

More horsepower means a refrigerator’s storage space cools quickly and stays cold despite constant door opening.  This is vital for food safety, and NFS regulations require commercial kitchens to store food products at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bottom vs. Top Mounted Compressors

The compressor is the engine of a commercial reach in refrigerator.  Keeping this engine working effectively and efficiently requires a combination of maintenance and environment.  Some compressors work better in certain environments than others, and purchasing the right unit for the job and location you have in mind is an important decision.

Commercial reach-in refrigerators are made with either a top or bottom mounted compressor.  Top mounted and bottom mounted compressors have advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to make your purchasing decision based on where and how you plan to use the refrigerator.

Bottom mounted reach ins:

  • Are more efficient in hot environments because the compressor is on the floor, where it is cooler
  • Feature an ergonomic storage space with more accessible shelving than top mounted units
  • Should not be used where lots of flour (like a bakery) or dust is present as the compressor will clog easily

Top mounted reach ins:

  • Have better compressor airflow than a bottom mounted unit, making them more efficient.  However, this only applies in a cooler environment
  • Perform better in dusty environments or where a lot of flour is present (like a bakery)

Size and Insulation

Commercial reach in refrigerators come in three configurations: one door, two door, and three door.  Doors can also be halved for more compartmentalized storage.  When considering what size reach in refrigerator is right for your commercial kitchen, keep in mind that the larger the unit, the more energy it will consume.

Energy Star has begun rating commercial reach in refrigerators.  Use the Energy Star guide to identify units that are the most energy efficient.

Of course, energy usage must be weighed against the amount of storage space you need.  Probably the most efficient way to organize your refrigerated storage space is in gradually smaller units the closer you get to the hottest part of the kitchen: the production line.

Start with a walk in for bulk storage, then a two or three door reach in refrigerator stocked with daily or weekly supplies, and finish with a one door reach in refrigerator nearest the line for quick and easy access by kitchen staff.

All commercial reach in refrigerators have thick insulation to maximize efficiency and cool air holding power.  Stainless steel interiors are more expensive than aluminum or galvanized ones, but are stain and rust resistant, can withstand heavy use, and are much easier to clean and sanitize.

Commercial Reach In Refrigerator Maintenance

Most commercial reach in refrigerators are designed for heavy duty use and should perform at a high level for many years.  However, a few very simple preventive maintenance tasks will help ensure that your reach in refrigerator is working effectively and efficiently.

Keep the compressor and coils clean.  The coils are usually black tubes that are packed together on the outside of the refrigerator on the back side.  Wipe dust and dirt off coils and the compressor regularly to maximize life cycle and efficiency.

Make sure the compressor fan has good airflow.  A partially blocked or very dirty compressor fan must work harder to cool the refrigerant in your reach in, shortening it’s life

Replace worn door gaskets.  All commercial reach ins have thick self-sealing gaskets on their doors to make sure cold air can’t escape from the unit.  Over time, these gaskets wear out and lose their effectiveness.  A good indication your door gaskets need replacing is the constant presence of frost on shelves and food products.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. Good article! Few people realize that air flow is critical for any air cooled refrigeration unit (this includes most ice machines and freezers).

    I could tell you some horror stories about the things I have found blocking the air to these units. Rags, boxes (stored on top of the unit), trash and the most common is the plastic wrap that comes off a food pan. All of these have the same effect; it will rob the unit of the needed air to cool it. Imagine running your car without a radiator and you see how far you will get.

    As for “dusting off” the coils; You will find that the closer to the cooking line you are the less likely you will be to find “dust”. What you find on the coils are grease mixed with anything and everything that might be in the air. You will have to use a NO RINCE coil cleaner (it comes in a spray can) to clean it. if that won’t do it, you will need to have your HVAC guy use something stronger.

    There is also a set of coils on the INSIDE of the box. The fan you hear running is forcing air thru that coil to deliver the cold air. I mention it because if you are not careful that coil can become clogged with plastic wrap and other light pieces of paper that the fan will force against the coil. Unless you are “handy” you won’t be able to get to this coil. Make sure there are no small pieces of paper or plastic in your refrigerator or freezer and the inside coil should not be a problem.

    As Greg has said these are heavy duty compressors on these units, that said I am here to tell you that most problems with these units are from dirty coils and a operator leaving the door open (that will cause the inside coil to freeze up and block the air flow with ice). Check your outside coils every 3 months and keep them clean. 2. advise your employees not to store anything in a way that will block the air to the unit and keep the door shut when not in use.

    You CAN and will burn up a unit that has the air blocked for a extended period of time! Some units have a safety to protect the compressor from burning up but it has to get very hot before the safety kicks in and in some cases the damage is done.

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas
    (where we keep our coil clean at ALL TIMES–LOL (if you believe that I need to work for YOU–LOL)

  2. Good information which we will find valuable when we make the dedision to bbuy a two-door reach-in for our Synagogue Kitchen. We have 5 quotes for true and traulsen; beverage air , continental and Ascend.We are at the point that we have enugh enough but where can we see unbiased rating of the true and traulsen?

    One supplier,, short order. com rates true and traulsen with4 and3 stars respectively; they consistently rate the Beverage with 5 stars thourghout their their listsdings.

    we think the t-49 true would be the best unit for us; that upgrades us sform 40 cf to 49 cf and the price is in our range.

    How do you rate the units listed? Please

  3. I typed an entire presentation ofwhere we are in our search for a two door refrigerator for our Synagogue kitchen and obviously lost the connection; briefly, wheere can we find an unbiased rating for true, Traulsen, beverage air; ?

    short order,com gives beverage 5 stars, true 4 stars and traulsen, 3 stars; they seemed biased in favor of beverage throughout their listing.

  4. How does turbo air refrig. compare to other commercial friges. ( True- ETC.)

    • Hi Craig,

      Turbo Air is very comparable to True. These are both competitively priced brands with good quality construction (stainless exteriors, etc.) Check out and compare a bunch of different commercial refrigerators here, including Turbo Air & True.

  5. I am opening an outfitters store and would like to sell beverages (water, cold drinks and beer) I think I need a merchandiser with two doors and I am looking at two brands true 47 ang beverage air mmr49. They are about the same price apex 2,800. Which one do you think is a better product or is something else better. I’m on a budget. Thanks!

    • Gail, both True and Beverage Air are reputable brands with very good warranties and service. They directly compete with each other and there isn’t much of a difference between their units, at all. If I were to pick one over the other, I would say go with the Beverage Air.

  6. I like that the article specifically says that the top mounted cooler would work better in a bakery than a bottom mounted. It just goes to show that there is always a best tool for the job. It would only take a little extra research to find the refrigerator that is best for your business.

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