Top 10 Refrigerator Maintenance Mistakes to Avoid
Commercial refrigerators are built to last through heavy use over the years. As the backbone of restaurant kitchens, the frozen food aisles, and other foodservice operations, commercial refrigerators run 24/7 for food-safe storage and product quality. While these commercial equipment are sturdy, taking their proper use and regular maintenance for granted can eventually be costly.
When a commercial refrigerator with years of heavy use stops working, regular service and operations are immediately impacted. Suddenly, there’s nowhere to store food that must be kept refrigerated, causing massive inventory loss. In many cases, this damage doesn’t happen overnight—it occurs slowly over years of poor usage and maintenance. Worse, a lot of owners and staff are unaware of the damage, even throughout the years.
10 Common Mistakes in Refrigerator Maintenance
Are you causing damage to your commercial refrigerator without knowing it? Here are the most common mistakes to avoid in refrigerator maintenance, in order to prolong its lifespan:
1. Poor ventilation
These units work hard to keep items stored inside cool, food-safe temperatures. This hard work also generates heat, which refrigerators need to expel. Poor ventilation means they don’t have enough space around the unit to release that heat.
Add to the lack of space to begin with, ventilation is further hampered by dust and debris building up in the vents. Over time, this prevents heat from escaping the fridge, which affects the interior temperature and causes the unit to malfunction.
2. Keeping the door open
Refrigerator doors need to be closed at all times. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re standing in front of the shelves reaching for ingredients, but keeping the door open can damage the fridge in the long term.
When the refrigerator door is repeatedly left open or the door gaskets no longer seal properly, the interior temperature rises. The sudden shift in temperature forces the motor to work harder in order to maintain the optimal cool, food-safe temperature, causing it to overheat and eventually break down.
Commercial refrigerators have generous shelving space, but they still have capacity limits that must be met. Each unit is rated for a specific cubic volume of storage, and while it appears that you managed to fit everything inside, it doesn’t mean that this is safe. When stocking the fridge, make sure that there is enough room for cold air to circulate and cool the entire cabinet. Organize items properly to avoid piling them on too high and blocking the vents.
4. Low temperature
Many commercial freezers are now built with a smart thermostat that self-regulates the interior temperature to ensure it is food-safe. If manual controls are available, avoid setting the temperature too low to prevent the motor from being overworked to maintain a suitable climate.
Temperatures that are too low can also cause the food to freeze—even when it should not—and frost to form in the cabinet. Make sure to check the manual and ask a professional technician about the optimal settings.
5. Refrigerating warm food
Hot, freshly cooked food does not belong inside a commercial refrigerator—at least not until when it has cooled down. While it’s important to avoid letting food sit out too long, make sure to track the time and let it cool sufficiently. Placing hot food inside the refrigerator will cause the interior temperature to rise, which can affect the quality of the other perishables inside. This also forces the unit to work harder to stabilize the temperature.
6. Lack of proper cleaning
Just like any appliance, commercial refrigerators require regular cleaning, especially with high-volume use. Both the interiors and exteriors of the unit need to be cleaned to maintain optimal performance. Make sure to remove dirt and debris from the exteriors to prevent them from accumulating in the vents.
Leave the internal components to professional refrigerator mechanics. They can clean the drainage system and prevent clogs and leaks. They will also clear the defrost pipe to keep it from getting blocked or freezing, as well as water dripping off the coils and collecting at the bottom of the unit.
7. Neglecting the coils
The coils are some of the most crucial parts of a commercial refrigerator. Simply, these keep the fridge cold by removing warm air to maintain cool, food-safe temperatures.
When the coils are damaged or filled with debris, they fail to function properly, and as a result, cannot maintain the ideal interior temperature. This forces the unit to consume more power to compensate for the reduced function, which then shortens the lifespan of the coils and requires an untimely and costly replacement.
8. Leaving torn gaskets
Keeping the refrigerator door closed is not enough; you must pay attention to how well it seals. Door gaskets—the rubber seal that runs along the door frame—reinforce the seal and add a layer of insulation to prevent warm air from entering the interior cabinet and causing the temperature to rise. As the motor works harder to restore the ideal temperature, it also racks up your energy bills. Make sure to check the gaskets and replace torn ones right away.
9. Not defrosting
Many commercial refrigerators are now designed to self-regulate and defrost automatically, but it’s still important to make sure that the unit regularly undergoes this process with long-term use. It’s especially common in older fridges for frost to build up over the interior coils, and when left on their own, will reduce the efficiency of the fridge. For older fridges, make sure to set a regular defrost schedule and maintain an optimal thermal transfer between the refrigerator components.
10. Not replacing the filter
If your commercial refrigerator has a water filter, then you need to replace it regularly. A refrigerator technician can help you confirm the type of filter you have, as well as replace it as part of your regular maintenance schedule. Make sure to replace the filter regularly to prevent harmful bacterial growth and impact on food safety.