A woman addressing the Common Faults to Spot in Your Commercial Refrigerator

Top 6 Common Faults to Spot in Your Commercial Refrigerator: A Complete Guide

Posted by | 17-11-2023

Commercial refrigerators are the backbone of many businesses, from restaurants and cafes to grocery stores and hotels. They are essential for keeping food fresh and safe. However, they can also be a source of stress when things go wrong. The cost of repairs and the potential loss of perishable goods can be significant. This guide is designed to help you identify common problems with your commercial refrigerator before they escalate, saving you time and money.

A person checking on a faulty commercial refrigerator

Understanding Your Commercial Refrigerator

Before diving into common faults, it's crucial to understand the basics of your commercial refrigerator. These units differ significantly from their residential counterparts in size, cooling power, and design. They're built to withstand frequent use, but the impact is more significant when they fail. Regular maintenance is not just recommended; it's essential for the longevity of your appliance.

Commercial refrigerators are essential in various industries, particularly food service and hospitality. Understanding how these units work is crucial to spot and diagnose common faults effectively. A commercial refrigerator operates similarly to residential models but on a larger scale and with more robust components to withstand heavy usage. 

The main components include the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and thermostat. The compressor acts as the heart of the refrigerator, circulating refrigerant through the system. The condenser dissipates heat, while the evaporator absorbs heat inside the unit, thus cooling the interior. The thermostat regulates the temperature by controlling the compressor's activity.

Common Faults and Their Symptoms

Commercial refrigerators play a critical role in various businesses, ensuring food and beverages are stored at optimal temperatures. However, like any mechanical device, they can develop faults over time. Identifying these issues early can save significant time and money. 

1. Temperature Irregularities

Understanding and addressing temperature irregularities is crucial for maintaining the efficiency of your commercial refrigerator.

Fluctuating Temperatures

One of the first signs of a problem in a commercial refrigerator is inconsistent temperatures. If the temperature inside fluctuates more than usual, it could indicate issues with the thermostat or the cooling system.

Inadequate Cooling

When your refrigerator fails to maintain the desired temperature, it's a red flag. This could be due to a variety of factors, including a malfunctioning compressor, blocked vents, or low refrigerant levels.


Conversely, overcooling can also be a problem. If your refrigerator is freezing food, it could be due to incorrect thermostat settings or a malfunction in the temperature control system.

2. Strange Noises

Identifying and investigating strange noises can help pinpoint potential mechanical issues in your commercial refrigerator.

Buzzing or Humming

A constant buzzing or humming noise from your refrigerator can suggest a problem with the compressor or the electrical components. It’s often a sign that the motor is overworking.

Clicking Sounds

Clicking sounds can indicate a problem with the start relay, which helps power the compressor. Frequent clicking noises may suggest the relay is failing and needs attention.

Rattling or Vibrating

Rattling or vibrating noises can be caused by loose components or unbalanced positioning of the refrigerator. This is often an easy fix but should not be ignored.

3. Leakage Issues

Leakage issues in commercial refrigerators, whether water or refrigerant, are common problems that require immediate attention.

Water Leaks

Water pooling around your refrigerator is common, often stemming from clogged drainage lines or defrosting problems. Regular cleaning and maintenance can usually prevent this.

Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant leaks are more serious and can significantly impact the cooling efficiency. They require immediate professional attention as they can be hazardous.


Excessive condensation inside the unit can also be a sign of a leak or a problem with the door seal. This can lead to moisture problems and spoilage of stored items.

An owner is looking inside of a commercial refrigerator

4. Electrical Problems

Electrical problems, from flickering lights to non-responsive controls, can signal significant issues in your commercial refrigerator.

Flickering Lights

Flickering lights inside your commercial refrigerator could be a symptom of minor electrical issues, such as loose bulbs, or more significant problems, like electrical malfunctions.

Non-responsive Control Panel

If the control panel on your refrigerator is unresponsive, it could be due to electrical faults or issues with the motherboard. This requires professional diagnosis and repair.

Circuit Breaker Trips

Frequent circuit breaker tripping when the refrigerator is running can indicate an electrical overload or a short circuit in the system, necessitating immediate attention.

5. Frost Build-up and Defrosting Issues

Frost build-up and defrosting issues in commercial refrigerators can lead to reduced efficiency and increased energy costs.

Excessive Frost in Freezer

A frost build-up in the freezer compartment indicates a problem with the auto-defrost system. This can lead to reduced efficiency and increased energy consumption.

Defrost System Failure

If the automatic defrost system fails, it can lead to significant frost accumulation hampering the appliance's performance and cooling ability.

Ice in Refrigerator Section

Ice formation in the refrigerator section, not just the freezer, is a clear sign of defrost issues and should be addressed to prevent damage to stored food.

6. Door Seal Problems

Door seal problems, including worn or damaged seals, can compromise the efficiency and performance of your commercial refrigerator.

Worn or Damaged Seals

Door seals worn or damaged can lead to cool air escaping, forcing the refrigerator to work harder to maintain temperature and increasing energy consumption.

Difficulty in Closing Doors

If the refrigerator doors are hard to close or don’t seal properly, it can be due to warped doors or damaged seals, which are essential for maintaining temperature efficiency.

Visible Gaps or Tears

Regularly inspect the door seals for any visible gaps, tears, or signs of wear. Any damage can compromise the efficiency of your refrigerator and should be repaired promptly.

A woman addressing the Common Faults to Spot in Your Commercial Refrigerator

Preventive Measures and Maintenance Tips to Avoid Common Faults in Commercial Refrigerators

Running a business that relies on commercial refrigeration means understanding the importance of keeping your units running efficiently and reliably. Regular preventive maintenance is key to avoiding common faults that can lead to costly repairs or loss of perishable goods. Here are some essential maintenance tips to keep your commercial refrigerators in top condition:

1. Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Dirt, debris, and dust can accumulate on the condenser coils, leading to inefficient cooling and increased strain on the compressor. Schedule monthly cleanings of the coils and fan blades using a coil brush and vacuum. Also, inspect the door seals (gaskets) for any signs of wear or damage. A broken seal can let warm air in, causing the unit to work harder to maintain temperature.

2. Proper Internal Organization

Overstocking your refrigerator can obstruct airflow, leading to uneven cooling and strain on the system. Ensure that there's enough space between products for air to circulate freely. Also, avoid placing hot items directly into the refrigerator, as this can cause a temporary rise in internal temperature and put an extra load on the cooling system.

3. Monitor Temperature Regularly

Install a reliable thermometer inside the unit and check the temperature regularly. Fluctuations in temperature can be a sign of a malfunctioning thermostat or other issues. Keeping a temperature log can help you spot trends or problems early on.

4. Defrost Regularly

If your refrigerator has no automatic defrost function, regularly defrost it. Excessive frost buildup can impair the efficiency of the evaporator coils and lead to increased energy consumption.

5. Inspect and Clean Drain Lines

Blocked drain lines can lead to water pooling inside the unit, creating a slip hazard and damaging the floor. Regularly check and clean these lines to prevent clogging.

6. Schedule Professional Maintenance

While many basic maintenance tasks can be handled in-house, scheduling professional inspections at least once a year is advisable. A trained technician can identify potential issues that might not be obvious to the untrained eye, such as refrigerant leaks or electrical problems.

7. Educate Your Staff

Ensure your staff understands the importance of maintaining the refrigerator. Simple practices like closing the door promptly, reporting any unusual noises or temperature changes, and handling the equipment with care can go a long way in preventing damage.

8. Be Proactive with Replacements

Don’t wait for a component to fail completely before replacing it. If a part shows signs of wear or is not functioning efficiently, replacing it promptly can prevent more serious issues.

A customer in a store looking inside of a commercial refrigerator

Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

Understanding the impact of common refrigerator faults on energy consumption and how regular maintenance can lead to significant cost savings is essential for any business relying on these appliances.

Impact of Common Faults on Energy Consumption

Common faults in commercial refrigerators, such as leaking seals, malfunctioning thermostats, or frosted coils, can significantly increase energy usage. For instance, a fridge with a damaged seal must work harder to maintain its internal temperature, leading to excessive energy consumption. 

Similarly, a faulty thermostat might cause the refrigerator to cool more than necessary, again using more energy. This increased workload drives electricity bills and puts additional strain on the refrigerator's components, potentially leading to more frequent and costly repairs.

Tips for Improving Energy Efficiency

To enhance energy efficiency, consider the following tips:

  • Regular Cleaning: Keep condenser and evaporator coils clean. Dust and debris can insulate these coils, reducing their efficiency.
  • Check Seals and Gaskets: Regularly inspect door seals and replace them if worn out to prevent cool air from escaping.
  • Optimize Loading: Avoid overloading the refrigerator. This allows for better air circulation and more efficient cooling.
  • Set Correct Temperatures: Ensure your refrigerator is set to the appropriate temperatures – not too cold or warm.
  • Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Models: Consider upgrading to newer, more energy-efficient models if your current appliances are old and less efficient.

Long-Term Cost Benefits of Regular Maintenance

Investing in regular maintenance offers substantial long-term cost benefits. Keeping your commercial refrigerator in top condition reduces the risk of costly emergency repairs. Regular maintenance helps identify potential problems early, preventing them from escalating into major issues. 

This proactive approach extends your refrigerator's lifespan and ensures it operates at peak efficiency, reducing energy bills. Additionally, well-maintained equipment is less likely to experience downtime, ensuring that your business operations run smoothly without interruption due to appliance failures.

A woman customer buying things from a commercial refrigerator

When to Replace Your Commercial Refrigerator

In the lifecycle of running a business that relies on commercial refrigeration, there comes a time when you must decide whether to repair your existing unit or replace it. This decision is crucial not just from a financial standpoint but also for ensuring the efficiency and reliability of your operations. Here's how you can make this important decision:

1. Assessing the Lifespan of Your Refrigerator

Commercial refrigerators typically have a lifespan of about 10-15 years, but this can vary based on the model, usage intensity, and maintenance history. If your unit is approaching or has surpassed this age range, it might be time to consider a replacement. Older units are more prone to breakdowns and are less energy-efficient than newer models.

2. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Repair vs. Replacement

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis when facing a significant repair. Consider the repair cost against the age and condition of the unit. As a general rule, if the repair cost is more than 50% of the value of a new refrigerator, replacement might be a more economically viable option. Also, factor in the potential for increased energy efficiency and lower operational costs with a new unit. Frequent breakdowns add up repair costs, disrupt your business operations, and lead to inventory loss.

3. Latest Advancements in Commercial Refrigeration Technology

The commercial refrigeration industry has seen significant advancements in recent years. Newer models are designed with energy efficiency in mind, often meeting or exceeding ENERGY STAR® guidelines. This can lead to substantial savings on your electricity bills. Additionally, modern refrigerators come with advanced features such as digital temperature controls, smart defrost systems, and better insulation, all of which contribute to more consistent cooling and longer shelf life of your products. Some units are even equipped with IoT connectivity, providing real-time monitoring and alerts, which can be a game-changer for preventive maintenance and early fault detection.


Recognizing and addressing common faults in your commercial refrigerator is crucial for maintaining an efficient and safe operation. Regular maintenance can prevent most issues and extend the lifespan of your unit. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.

The Commercial Refrigerator collection from Ancaster Food Equipment, featuring both refurbished and brand-new models, offers a practical solution. The range of refrigerators is designed to address common issues effectively, combining modern technology with robust construction to ensure fewer faults and maintenance needs. 

Ancaster's refurbished units are meticulously restored to meet high-quality standards, offering a cost-effective and reliable option. Whether you choose our brand-new models for the latest features or a refurbished unit for value and reliability, Ancaster Food Equipment stands ready to assist. 

Our expertise in commercial refrigeration ensures that you get the best product suited to your specific business needs, enhancing your operational efficiency and saving on long-term costs. Contact Ancaster Food Equipment at 1-855-680-4398 to explore their collection and find the perfect refrigeration solution for your business.

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