Higher ambient temperatures place refrigeration under increased strain. So what can operators do to head off equipment problems over the summer months? Here are Stevenage-based kitchen maintenance provider Serviceline’s top 10 tips to minimise the chances of breakdown during the hotter weather.
1. Assess if your equipment fits your needs
First and foremost, operators need to assess their refrigeration capacity and their operational needs. Many foodservice counters, especially older models, do not have a defrost cycle. These are designed to be switched on, run for a few hours and then switched off. To prevent evaporators icing up, the counter should be switched off overnight. By using these units as refrigeration units overnight during peak times, operators run the risk of equipment failure. If this is the case, investment may be necessary to convert equipment to meet the operator’s requirements.
2. Remove domestic equipment from a commercial kitchen
A commercial unit is built to cope with increased usage, especially during the summer months. As kitchens expand, offering more from the kitchen, it makes financial sense to invest in commercial equipment over domestic. With greater operational efficiency, commercial units generate considerable savings through reduced expenditure on electricity and the cost of constantly replacing domestic units.
3. Do not adjust the temperature thermostat
Given the onset of warmer weather, operators should not try adjusting the temperature thermostat of refrigerated counters, fridges and freezers if the unit is running too warm when the ambient temperature rises. The temperature rise will normally be down to either a fault on the unit or an iced-up evaporator. Altering the thermostat could temporarily cover up a permanent problem.
4. Keep your condensers clean
Failure to keep the condenser clean will cost you around 8% in extra energy consumption and increase the risk of overheating when the kitchen gets hot. On older fridges, you may be able to clean the condenser yourself; on newer models, it requires an engineer to gain access.
5. Check the door seals
A split door seal could cost you 10% to 15% more energy and you don’t need that when kitchen temperatures soar. Wash all around the door seal with warm, slightly soapy water and a cloth. Check closely for splits or ill-fitting seals and replace if damaged. Be careful not to use a knife!
Foodservice operators who choose not to commit towards any type of preventative maintenance often unknowingly do not comply with various kitchen certification regulations”
6. Do not overload refrigeration units
Overloading the fridge or freezer blocks the flow of air and stops it circulating properly. This causes the compressor to work harder and subsequently risks breakdown. More importantly, this could mean your food fails to come down to the correct temperature!
7. Monitor your evaporator
If there is a coldroom, look closely at the evaporator, which is where the cold air is blown from. If there is any ice on it, or around it, particularly at the back or sides, there is a problem. If the ice has formed a stalactite, there is a bigger problem. You will need a fridge service engineer to examine the cause.
8. Check your icemaker for limescale
Look closely at the ice from your icemaker. If it is usually clear but has become cloudy, you may need to have the icemaker descaled. If you have a water filter fitted (most caterers should), change it at least once a year — before the summer is a good idea. If you have a removable filter, pull it out and wash it thoroughly.
9. Provide sufficient operator and routine maintenance training
Staff should be trained in how to operate, load, stack and clean refrigeration units in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Routine daily maintenance and cleaning will help to substantially reduce the chance of equipment failure.
10. Prevention is better than the cure
Preventative maintenance ensures your equipment operates efficiently, reducing its energy consumption and the risk of breakdowns. Operators who choose not to commit towards any type of preventative maintenance often unknowingly do not comply with various kitchen certification regulations. As a result, the operator’s kitchen expense is often far greater in the long-term through their need to replace poorly maintained equipment prematurely.