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Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?

Any restaurateur who has dealt with equipment parts has heard of OEMCan You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts? (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and generic parts.  If you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown:

OEM parts are produced by the manufacturer of the piece of equipment or a subcontractor commissioned to make parts for the original manufacturer.  OEM parts are distributed by the manufacturer of your restaurant equipment.  If your equipment is under warranty, the manufacturer will replace broken parts using an OEM part and a certified service technician.

Generic parts are not made or distributed by the manufacturer of the restaurant equipment.  These parts are made using the same specifications as the original part and are equal or better in quality to the equivalent OEM part.

And this is where the whole thing gets a little complicated.  Restaurant equipment manufacturers have spent a lot of time and energy telling the entire food service industry that generic parts are inferior in quality and perhaps even dangerous to use.  There is an obvious economic incentive for them to say this: if you buy an OEM part from them, they make a lot of money.  Ironically, many “generic” parts are made in the same factory, and by the same company, that makes the OEM part (Robertshaw parts being the most common example of this).  The only difference between the two is the box the part comes in.  If it’s in a Southbend box, it’ll cost you as much as 50% more than the identical part in another parts distributor’s box.

I will say this again because the myth out there is a powerful one: generic parts are equal to or better in quality than the OEM part.  Really, there are only a few reasons why you would ever want to buy an OEM part over a generic part:

Warranty.  Your equipment is still under warranty and using anything besides an OEM part installed by a certified service technician will void the warranty.

Availability. Sometimes, due to the geographic location of your business in relation to parts distributors, you can get an OEM part faster than a generic.  And sometimes speed really matters, like when your fryer thermostat goes down the Friday before the Super Bowl.  In those situations you might be willing to pay more for the same part just so you can get it right away.

Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?Generic availability. Some parts, especially rare parts, are not manufactured generically and can only be purchased from the original equipment manufacturer.  That’s when you just have to grin and bear it.

Otherwise, there’s really no reason to not buy generic (and remember that in many cases “generic” means the same exact part from the same place in a different box).  Of course, always buy from a reputable restaurant equipment parts distributor no matter what kind of part you’re looking for.

There are many very common parts that go out all the time in the most common types of restaurant equipment.  These parts are easy to buy generically and easy to install.  Learn more about easy do-it-yourself restaurant equipment repair.

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Adventures In Restaurant Maintenance: Gas Equipment

This article will deal with common maintenance issues regarding commercial gas kitchen equipment. I will address issues with electric equipment in a future article.

It has been my experience that most commercial restaurant equipment is operated with natural gas. In general I believe gas equipment to be better than electric with regard to maintenance issues. Most of the systems used to deliver the gas to the burner are simple and easy to fix.

As I have said in previous posts, I don’t know how comfortable you are with working on this equipment but even if you are not comfortable at all, there are things you as a owner/manager can do to keep your service calls down and save you money on a service call if you have to have one.

In general, all gas equipment works the same way. The first thing you need to know is if your particular equipment is equipped with a “standing pilot” or “electronic ignition” (also called “spark ignition”).

The best way to determine this is by reading the service manual. If you don’t have a service manual you can determine the type of pilot system you have by visually inspecting the equipment. You will have to remove the cover that hides the burner. Once you have the cover removed look at the burner. Do you see a little fire (about the size of a lighter flame)? If you do this is what is called a “standing pilot.”

If you don’t see an actual pilot (actual flame) you probably have electronic ignition. If you have electronic ignition you will see a heavy wire that leads from the control module to the burner. A control module will look like a small box with a plastic cover and will have several wires going to it. The heavy one will look a lot like a spark plug wire (usually gray in color) that plugs into the module and leads to the igniter (this is the part that causes a spark very close to the burner when you turn the gas on).

OK, now you should know if your particular equipment has a standing pilot or electronic ignition (you might find both systems in the same kitchen).

Adventures In Restaurant Maintenance: Gas Equipment

An example of a thermocouple; get the model and serial number before purchasing to make sure you buy the right one!

If it is a “standing pilot” you will notice a small piece of metal that is about the size of a small pencil tip (about 2 inches long) that is in the flame. This is a thermocouple or a thermopile. It will have a tiny brass colored tube connected to it (most thermocouples) or a small wire coming out of it (most thermopiles). It might be flat on top (most thermopiles) or have a rounded point (most thermocouples).

This little piece of metal is the most likely item to go out and prevent your equipment from working. The good news is the cost of the actual part is not high.

Adventures In Restaurant Maintenance: Gas Equipment

An example of a thermopile; get the model and serial number before purchasing to make sure you buy the right one!

The labor cost, however, can be expensive. What a thermocouple or thermopile does is send a signal to the gas valve (or safety valve) to let the valve know that a fire is present before it allows gas thru the valve to ignite the burner. The reason these go out is because they run 24/7. Even when the equipment is off, there is still gas going to the pilot light to keep the equipment ready to operate. Most thermocouples or thermopiles are only screwed in to the valve (there are some that are actually built into the safety valve and can not be replaced without replacing the valve).

If I were you I would make a list of all the equipment I have that has a “standing pilot” system and locate the part number for the thermocouple or thermopile and keep a new one on hand. Please be aware that the manufacturer might use several different thermopiles or thermocouples on different equipment (even if made by the same company).

Get the model number and serial number off the equipment and call a parts supply to buy a replacement. This is without a doubt the most likely part to go out and cause your gas equipment to quit working. Even if you call someone in to repair the equipment; it is better to let them use the one you provide (the repair companies often “mark up” the parts they charge you for).

In any case they don’t cost much and it could mean the difference between having your equipment working or not. Some are easy to change, some are difficult (Vulcan fryers come to mind when I think of difficult thermopiles) but the equipment will not work without them.

In a future article I will talk a little about safety valves (the second most likely thing to go out), and whether it would be cost effective to stock some of these that is on your most critical equipment.

Electronic ignition (or spark ignition):

These systems use a small electric spark to ignite the burner. When you turn on the equipment and listen close you will hear a small “click” or “snap” that might happen several times before the burner ignites.

Adventures In Restaurant Maintenance: Gas Equipment

An example of a control module; get the model and serial number before purchasing to make sure you buy the right one!

That’s the igniter sending a small spark across two points. The most likely item to go out on this system is the control module (described above). These parts can be expensive but it could be worth keeping an extra one on hand for critical pieces of gas equipment.

These are good units and I don’t have many go out but it is another part that you HAVE to replace if it does go out (in other words, you can not fix a control module). Some of these come with a replacement wire (looks like a spark plug wire), some will not. If I replace the module I replace the wire. The wire plugs in and is easy to replace.

Before I end this entry, I need to warn you that working with gas can be dangerous!

You must always turn the gas off before working on this equipment!

There are things you as a owner / manager can do but you will have to invest the time to educate yourself on the safe way to do it. I will take this opportunity again to urge you to get the service manual for your equipment and buy Don Walker’s book Keeping Your Gas Restaurant Equipment Cooking. It has a lot more detail than I can give you in a short blog entry.

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I’ll sum this up by saying: you can save yourself a lot of money and down time by being able to do minor repairs on your own equipment.

Even if you pay someone to come out and fix the equipment you can save money if you have the right part “in stock”. In the case of the thermopile / thermocouple it is not a matter of IF it will go out, but WHEN it will go out (you can bet it will be on a Saturday of a very busy weekend if your restaurant is like the kitchen I work in).

Spend a few bucks and get the parts; it will save you a LOT of time and aspirin in the long run!

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Restaurant Sinks and Faucets: Some Useful Tips

More than likely, your restaurant has several sinks that serve many purposes in the back of the house, in server stations, and behind the bar.  Having the right kind of sinks in the right places is important not only to accomplish many various tasks, from glass and hand washing to stock pot and flatware cleaning, it’s also a vital part of your food safety program, and something that health inspectors will focus on.

First, let’s get the basics out of the way.  Most of you probably already know this stuff because you have to set up your sinks properly to pass inspection.  But if you’re thinking about starting a brand new restaurant, the following info will be very helpful.

For the rest of you, skip past this and read some additional, VERY IMPORTANT information, unless you’re looking for one of the sinks or faucets listed below.  Click the link if this is the case.

Types of Sinks:

Restaurant Sinks and Faucets: Some Useful Tips

Hand Sink

  • Hand Sinks: these are pretty standard sinks for washing your hands.  Keep the dishes out.
  • Kitchen Sinks: choose from 1, 2, 3, or 4 compartment kitchen sinks for rinsing and washing dishes.  An HACCP program requires a 3 compartment sink for the proper sanitization of dishes.  Review the procedure here.  If you want to wash and fill stock pots and other big cookware items, get a big sized compartment sink.
  • Bar Sinks: 3 compartment bar sinks are designed for glass washing behind the bar.
  • With all these sinks, make sure you buy NSF approved only! NSF sinks have features that prevent the buildup of grime and bacteria, like welded drainboards and sealed seams that eliminate spaces.

Types of Faucets:

Restaurant Sinks and Faucets: Some Useful Tips

Deck Mount Faucet

  • Deck Mount Faucets: these faucets mount directly onto the sink.  Make sure you measure the hole centers, or the distance between the center of the two holes where the faucet will mount on your sink, before ordering.
  • Wall Mount Faucets: these faucets mount from the wall and come through the backsplash.  Wall mount faucets are by far the most common type in restaurants.
  • Pot Filler Assemblies: these are a specialized wall mount faucet with a hose or extended, swiveling spout that allows you to easily fill big stock pots.
  • Pre-Rinse Assemblies: these assemblies are designed to help staff quickly rinse dirty cookware and tableware before it goes into your dish machine.

It’s always going to be easier to install the type of faucet that your sinks and kitchen’s plumbing are set up for.  If the sink in question has holes for a deck mount faucet and your pipes come vertically out of the floor, use a deck mount.  If you have plumbing coming horizontally out of the wall, by all means use a wall mount faucet.

If you skipped down, start here.

Leaky faucets can waste thousands of gallons of water every year! That costs your restaurant money, especially if it’s the hot water that’s leaking.  Over time, the washers in a stem assembly become worn, which means they don’t form a perfect seal when the handle is turned off.  This allows water to leak out even though the faucet is turned off.  These washers are less than $5, and they can save you hundreds of dollars in utility costs over the course of a year.

Caring For Restaurant Sinks and Faucets

Commercial sinks and faucets are made from stainless steel.  Stainless steel is a great material because it’s durable and rust resistant, but a couple simple maintenance techniques can extend the life cycle of any sink or faucet.

Never use abrasive pads or detergents.  Steel isn’t stainless or rust resistant.  There is actually a thin film of chromium and/or nickel that covers the steel and gives it it’s shine and prevents rust from forming.  When you use an abrasive pad or detergent to clean stainless steel, this thin film becomes scored and develops holes, which allows rust to move in.

Wipe sinks and faucets down daily.  Moisture is rust’s best friend, and the sinks and faucets in your kitchen are necessarily wet all day.  When you clean out your sinks at the end of the day, however, make sure you wipe them down with a soft rag.  This prevents moisture and rust from working together overnight to tarnish and rust your sinks and faucets.

Use a Garbage Disposer

Restaurant Sinks and Faucets: Some Useful Tips

Garbage Disposer

In kitchen sinks that collect food waste from washing cookware and tableware, installing a garbage disposer is important.  Not only does it increase your kitchen’s efficiency since you don’t have to clean out and dispose of food waste separately, a garbage disposer also makes your restaurant green.  That’s because you keep food waste out of landfills and conserve water by reducing sink cleaning time.  Sending food waste down the drain also keeps it out of trash cans and dumpsters in your kitchen, where it decomposes quickly, breeding bacteria and nasty smells.

Restaurant sinks are easy to forget about.  It’s one of those things you have to worry about when you first open a restaurant, and don’t really think about afterwards.  But properly maintaining your sinks and faucets, repairing them quickly when they leak, and equipping them properly with things like pot fillers and garbage disposers, not only makes your operation more efficient, it can translate into significant savings later on.

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Restaurant Kitchen Casters: Buy Smart

Casters make life in your restaurant’s kitchen a whole lot easier.  They allow you to roll heavy equipment around for cleaning.  They make your mop buckets mobile and power hand carts and loaded shelving in your walk-in and storage areas.  They even let you roll the trash out quickly.  The lowly caster serves many purposes, but what many restaurateurs don’t realize is how easy they are to replace, and, most importantly, how much money you can save by buying casters for new equipment separately.

Restaurant Kitchen Casters: Buy Smart

Most heavy equipment will take a heavy duty plate caster, but some may take a threaded stem caster instead

Let’s start with new restaurant equipment and shelving.  Any time you buy a new piece of heavy restaurant equipment like a gas range, a fryer, or a reach in refrigerator or freezer, the manufacturer will want you to buy an accompanying caster set.  Casters on this heavy equipment is a great idea because it makes cleaning your kitchen much easier.  An even better idea is to buy an after-market caster set separately, with the same weight capacities and heavy duty construction, at a fraction of what the equipment manufacturer wants to charge you.  Most heavy restaurant equipment will take a plate caster or a threaded stem caster.

Restaurant Kitchen Casters: Buy Smart

An expanding stem caster fits into the round or square hole of a shelving post and expands so that it fits tight inside the hole.

The wire shelving you use in walk-ins and for storage are much easier to handle if you mount them on casters.  That way, shelving can be moved for cleaning, and the extra height will help you meet the minimum 6” space between the bottom shelf and the floor required by the health inspector.  Shelving usually takes an expanding stem caster.  And while we are on the subject of shelving, if you are buying some for your walk-in, make sure you get the epoxy coated kind!  The moist environment in a walk-in causes non-coated shelving to rust very quickly, which not only looks bad, it means you’ll be buying more shelving within a few years.

Restaurant Kitchen Casters: Buy Smart

Most carts, dollies, and mop buckets take a caster like this one, but some take a small plate caster

Hand carts, dollies, and mop buckets also have casters.  Unlike restaurant equipment, these items usually come already mounted with their casters, so buying them separately is not an option.  However, those casters often break or wear out long before the item is no longer useful.  Replacements are often hard to find unless you know where to look.  These casters are often very easy to replace, getting a replacement caster can extend the life of your carts, dollies, and mop buckets.

So the next time you need some new equipment casters or need to replace some old ones, remember that you have options, and if you look around, you can save some significant dough by buying smart.

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Replacing Restaurant Faucets Made Easy

Replacing the commercial faucet on sinks in your restaurant doesn’t have to be a difficult job.  Following a couple simple steps will help you replace old or worn faucets in your kitchen very easily.

For starters, there are two types of faucets:

Replacing Restaurant Faucets Made Easy

1. Deck MountThese faucets attach directly to the top (or deck) of your sink.  The water lines come up vertically underneath the sink.

Replacing Restaurant Faucets Made Easy

2. Wall MountThese faucets attach to water lines that come horizontally out of the wall above the sink.

Commercial restaurant faucets vary in sizes of four or six inch centers. Although there are some wall mount faucets that have an adjustable inlet coupling, that can adjust from six to ten inch centers or two to eight inch centers.

DON’T FORGET TO SHUT OFF THE WATER!!

Deck mount faucets are more difficult to change than wall mount because you have to access the connections under the sink.

With a basin wrench (the easiest tool to use) or a crescent wrench, loosen the nuts on the hot and cold water lines on the bottom of the faucet water lines.  At this point you can use your hand to remove them.  Next, using the basin wrench, loosen the two nuts that hold the faucet in place.  Again, use your hand to remove the nuts.  Remove the old faucet and then use your hands and the wrench to tighten the nuts on the new faucet.  Make sure the connections are tight.  Turn the water on and check for leaks.

If there aren’t any leaks, then the job is done!

To replace a deck mount faucet that’s on a wall mounted hand sink, remove the sink from the wall.  First turn off the water and disconnect the water lines at the shut off valves.  Next disconnect the drain line from the bottom of the sink and lift it straight up (it hangs on a wall bracket) and remove it from the wall.  Now you can access the bottom with ease.  Follow the previous instructions to remove and replace the faucet.  The only difference is you will not need to use the basin wrench.

Wall mount faucets are fairly simple to replace.  It is best to know the faucet’s brand name for a direct replacement.  If you are unable to find a brand name then measure the inlet coupling on the back of the faucet body.  These are the couplings that fasten the faucet body to the sink.  To replace the faucet simply unscrew the inlet couplings from the back of the faucet body and install the new faucet.

If this is a new installation, you’ll also need to order either the wall mount kit or the deck mount kit for the faucet you are installing.  The kit comes with everything needed to connect the water lines to the new faucet.

Check out more commercial plumbing supplies.

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Fixing Gas Ranges

The most used and abused piece of kitchen equipment is the range.  Luckily it’s probably also the easiest to repair.  There are five range components that need to be replaced the most frequently:

If you are having problems with the oven portion of your range, check out these tips on repairing the oven.  There are additional parts depending on what other features your range has.  A convection oven would also have a blower motor and fan.  If there is a griddle on the range then burners and gas valves may need repair.

When working on a range always remember to shut off the gas!

1. The top grates only need replacing if they have cracked due to metal fatigue or if they have been dropped and broken.Fixing Gas Ranges

2. Burner heads usually become plugged over time.  There are usually two screws that connect the head to the venturi.  It is a good idea to use some kind of rust dissolver on the screws to loosen them.  Once the screws are out you can install the new head, and always remember to replace the gasket as well.

One alternative to replacing the head is to get a drill bit the same size as the holes in the head and drill out the grease build up in them.  However, this can sometimes alter the flame pattern.

3. Replacing the venturi is only necessary if it has been dropped or broken.  Use the same procedure for replacing the burner head and remember to install a new gasket.

4. Top burner pilotsneed to be replaced if they become clogged.  They are very difficult to unclog, and generally need to be replaced. There are three types of pilots:

Those with the tube pre-welded to the pilot head.

Those that have a nut and ferral to slide over the tube and be tightened onto the tube.

Pre-formed pilot assemblies specific to a particular range.

Fixing Gas RangesFinally, there are new “flex tube” pilot burners that have a flexible pilot tube, making them very easy to install.

When replacing the pilots you will have to remove the front top plate (bull nose) from the range to access the pilot adjustment valves.  This will also have to be removed to replace the burner valve described below.

The pre-welded type is fairly easy to install. To replace, disconnect the pilot tube from the pilot adjustment valve and remove.  Place the new pilot head and tube next to an existing one and follow the contour while slowly bending to form the same shape.  When you get to the end you may need to cut the tube off, using a tubing cutter.  A nut then needs to be put on, and then a ferral and screw back onto the pilot adjustment valve.

The type with the nut and ferral is very easy.  Simply use a tubing cutter and cut if off just below the old pilot head.  Remove the nut and ferral from the new replacement pilot head and slide them over the tube, nut first and then the ferral.  Slide the pilot head onto the tube and tighten the nut up to the pilot head.

The pre-formed pilot assemblies are far easier because they are all bent and ready for installation, the only draw back is they are a little more expensive than the others.

Fixing Gas Ranges

5. Top burner gas valves are fairly easy to replace. With the top plate (bull nose) removed you can access them easily (part of the frame runs across the top of them).  If you are replacing all or just one, the burners must be removed if they have a slip type orifice.  If there is a tube type burner valve they need not be removed because you can disconnect the tube from the burner valve and move it out of the way.

In either case when the burners or the tube is disconnected take a wrench and screw out the valve being replaced (in some cases you may have to remove a pilot adjustment valve to be able to turn the burner valve by it).

Once the old valve is removed, put some gas thread sealer on the treads of the new valve and screw it back into position, being careful not to over tighten.  Reassemble the unit except for the top plate.  Turn the gas back on and light the pilots (this may take a few minutes because the gas must first force out the air in the manifold).

Once the pilots are lit, turn on the first burner.  There may be no gas flow because the orifice on the new valve may be closed.  Using two wrenches, one to hold the valve the other to turn the orifice, open the orifice to allow gas flow (this may take a couple of turns).

Fixing Gas RangesOnce the burner lights, continue to adjust the orifice until there is a nice blue flame.  Adjust until you have as little of a yellow flame as possible. If you feel there is still too much yellow flame you may need to adjust the air shutter located on the end of the venturi.  Once you have produced the bluest flame you can get, you are done.  You can reassemble your range and cook to your heart’s content.

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Fixing Commercial Oven Problems

Oven problems are fairly simple to diagnose.

The most common complaints are:

  • The pilot won’t stay lit.
  • The oven won’t get up to temperature.
  • The oven gets too hot.
  • The oven does not cook evenly.

Fixing Commercial Oven ProblemsProblem number one is probably the most common.  Usually it’s the thermocouple that causes this problem.  When lighting the pilot, if the thermocouple is not directly in the flame it can not get hot enough to allow it to open the safety valve.  If it is directly in the flame and it won’t stay lit then the thermocouple is probably defective and needs to be replaced,  Keep in mind that some safety valves have the thermocouple permanently attached so the entire valve must be replaced.

If you’ve replaced the thermocouple and attempt to light the pilot and it still will not stay lit then the safety valve is defective.  Remember to check the type of safety valve you have to get the correct replacement.  For correct identification  procedures check out this Tech Talk post.

When working on any type of gas equipment always remember to shut off the gas!

Number two is usually a thermostat problem.  When you set the thermostat at a set temperature and it does not reach that point it may be one of two problems:Fixing Commercial Oven Problems

1. The thermostat may be defective.
2. The thermostat may be out of calibration.  To check the calibration get a thermometer that you know is accurate.  Put it in the oven and set the thermostat to 250º.  Open the kick plate below the oven door and watch the burner flame, if it goes off before the oven reaches 250º you may be able to calibrate it.

To calibrate a thermostat remove the knob and check to see what type of thermostat you have.  The thermostat is either a type with a round disk that has two screws holding it in place or it will have a D shaft with a small screw in the center of it.  In either case only turn the disc or screw a fraction of a turn at a time and no more than a quarter turn either direction.

Continue to turn the disc or screw a fraction of a turn each time until you see the burner come back on.   If you reach that quarter of a turn point and the burner does not come back on, the thermostat is defective and must be replaced.  If the burner comes back on, watch the temperature of the oven and if it gets to within 5 or 10° of the preset temperature, you are good to go.  It may take several tries to get it properly calibrated.

If you still can not get it calibrated within the temperature range, you need to replace the thermostat.  All thermostats are preset from the factory and should not require calibration when installed.  If you find that the new thermostat does require calibrating, follow the previous instructions.

Number three is also a thermostat problem.  Follow the same procedure to calibrate as you did for the oven not getting to temperature.  Again, if you can’t get it to calibrate, replace it and the oven should heat to the correct temperature.

Number four is a common problem after a new thermostat has been installed.  All the thermostats have a capillary tube with a bulb attached to the end of it.  This is the part that senses the temperature in the oven.  The bulb is attached to clips inside the oven.  If the bulb is not put back in the same place, i.e. it’s just stuck in the oven cavity and left hanging, then the thermostat will run “wild,” meaning the oven cooks unevenly.

Remember to get that bulb back into those clips no matter how hard it may be.

If your oven is running wild check and make sure the bulb is installed properly.  Another reason for the oven running wild is that the thermostat is totally defective and in this case must be replaced.

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Identifying Electric Cooking Equipment Elements

There are five types of elements in electric food service equipment:

1. Calrod (metal) type
2. Glass tube (quartz) type
3. Ceramic type
4. Wire type
5. Solid typeIdentifying Electric Cooking Equipment Elements

These five elements are either submersible, dry, or both.  No matter what type of element you’re trying to replace, the most important piece of information you need is the element’s manufacturer, model, and serial number.  Search for elements by manufacturer here.

When working on any piece of equipment always remember to disconnect the POWER!

Calrod elements are found in both overhead warmers and well type warmers.  The well type warmer can be a counter top or a steam table warmer.  The configuration (shape) of the elements depends on which unit they go in.  Most overhead warmers use a straight calrod or glass tube element.  Steam table elements can be many different shapes: u-bend, w-shape, s-shape, round, etc., so the best means of identification is by brand name, model and serial number.  The voltage is also very important.

Glass tube type elements have a wire element curled like a spring inside a glass tube. These elements are found in overhead warmers, cheesemelters, and some conveyor type toasters and impingers.  The best way to identify these elements is with brand name, model and serial numbers as well as voltage.

Ceramic elements are most commonly found in overhead warmers.  Although they are a rarity, the same identification method should be used, model number, serial number and voltage.

Wire type elements are usually those that are referred to as a card element.  This means the element is a thin flat wire or spring type wire that is wrapped around some type of conductive flat card.  This type of element is most commonly found in pop up or pop down toasters.  For proper identification, again having the model and serial number and the voltage is very helpful.

Solid type elements are calrod or filament elements and are incased in a block of metal or possibly ceramic.  They come in various sizes and shapes but perform just like other elements.  They can be found in warmers, toasters and even chafing dishes.  The best way to identify these elements is by brand name, model and serial number and voltage.

If you can’t find a brand name, model or serial number, there is another way to identify that element (and this goes for all elements).  Every element has information either stamped into it or stenciled on to them.  You may need a magnifying glass to read the information (especially on calrod elements).

The information you need to find on the element is:

1. Voltage
2. Wattage
3. Part number
4. Color coding

With this information, it is more likely that you will receive the correct element the first time.  Also don’t forget the style and the piece of equipment it is in.  Remember, there are many pieces of equipment that have elements, and the above information also applies to their identification.

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Replace Commercial Refrigeration Thermostats Yourself

There are two types of temperature controls used in commercial refrigeration:

1. Thermostatic (either an air sensing type or evaporator coil sensing type)
2. Low pressure controlReplace Commercial Refrigeration Thermostats Yourself

Let’s start with thermostatic type controls.  An air-sensing thermostat does just that: it senses air temperature.  The control sensor tube is usually mounted in the evaporator housing.  The evaporator is located inside the unit, usually at the top where the fan motor is mounted.  The thermostat has a straight capillary or sensor.  The capillary tube is mounted on the outside of the evaporator coil usually pushed into a tube that is mounted in the front of the evaporator.

Replace Commercial Refrigeration Thermostats YourselfAn evaporator-sensing thermostat has a coiled capillary tube attached to it, which you can see pictured as a tight spiral to the left.  The evaporative sensing capillary or coiled tube end push into a hole that is in the evaporator.  It senses the temperature of the evaporator coil rather than air temperature.

These two controls are not interchangeable. If you put an air sensing control in place of an evaporative sensing control, the evaporator unit will shut off permanently, causing the temperature to rise.  If you put an evaporative sensing control in place of an air sensing control the unit will continue to run, causing the evaporator to freeze up.  If this happens there will be very little airflow, causing the temperature to rise.

How to spot a defective thermostat:

A commercial refrigeration thermostat can fail in two ways: in an open position or a closed position.

If the thermostat fails in the open position, the unit will not run at all.  To check this, remove the screws from the evaporator housing (make sure the unit is unplugged or the breaker is off) and pull the housing down.  Locate the wires attached to the thermostat and remove them.  Connect the two wires together and tape with electrical tape.  Turn on the breaker or plug the unit back in.  If the unit runs, replace the thermostat.

If the thermostat fails in the closed position, the unit will run all the time.  Running constantly will cause the evaporator to freeze up, restricting the airflow and causing the temperature to rise.  Use the same procedure described above to test the unit and replace the thermostat if necessary.  Also be sure to defrost the evaporator before turning the unit back on.

If the evaporator continues to freeze up after the thermostat replacement, call a service company as you may have other problems requiring a trained technician.

The other type of control is a low-pressure control.  These are usually located in the compressor compartment.

A low-pressure control is connected into the refrigeration lines and controls the temperature by using the pressure of refrigerant flowing through the line.  This type of control requires a service technician to replace.

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Replacing Gas Safety Valves

There are many different types of safety valves. These are the most common types:

  • FMDA
  • BASO
  • TS
  • Combination Type

1. The FMDA safety valve is the only type with the thermocouple permanently attached to it.  This means the thermocouple cannot be replaced; the entire safety valve must be replaced if the thermocouple fails.  The easiest way to identify an FMDA type safety is a ½” diameter red button on the bottom of the valve.  You must know the gas pipe size and if the pilot tube is an “in and out” or an “out only.”  An “in and out” safety valve has two threaded holes at the top of the part, one for gas for the pilot to come in and one for gas to go out.  An “out only” safety valve has just one threaded hole to connect gas for the pilot to.

Replacing Gas Safety Valves

FMDA Safety Valve

2. The BASO safety valve can vary in design depending on the piece of equipment it is on, so it is important to know the brand name, model and serial number of the piece of equipment to get the correct safety valve the first time.  The easiest way to identify a BASO valve is by the 15/16” diameter red pilot button.  The thermocouple is separate from the safety.

Replacing Gas Safety Valves

BASO Safety Valve

3. The TS type safety valve is the only one that can be rebuilt.  It is similar to the FMDA and BASO types in that it has “in and out” or “out only” pilot tubing, so you must know what is in your equipment.  A rebuilt kit is available in both and it is not necessary to replace the body unless it is damaged.  The body has no moving parts in it.  The easiest way to identify the TS safety is by the 5/8” diameter red button.  The thermocouple is also separate from this safety, similar to the BASO.

Replacing Gas Safety Valves

TS Type Safety Valve

4. Combination safety valves come in three different styles:

  • 120 Volt Type
  • Tubing Type
  • Millivolt Type or 24 Volt Type

A combination valve is a gas valve with the safety built into it.  Most combination valves are found in fryers.

Replacing Gas Safety Valves

Combination Safety Valve

How to determine which type you have:

  • If there are two wire leads coming out of the valve then it would be the 120 volt.
  • If the wire leads are screwed to the top terminal block, and two tubes are coming out of the top of the valve, it is the tubing type combination safety valve.
  • If the wires screw into a terminal block it would be a mulitvolt type.If you are not sure, just provide the brand name, model and serial numbers.

Every combination valve uses either a thermopile or thermocouple.  The most common is a thermopile, and there are two different thermopiles:

  • Screw-in type
  • Two-lead type

The screw-in type screws directly into the body and the two-lead type has a terminal block on the combo valve to directly screw into.

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