Whether you own a restaurant, bar or convenience store, your walk-in cooler or freezer is likely one of the largest line items in your energy usage. If you’re looking to reduce your overhead it is imperative you do all you can to optimize your walk-in for maximum energy efficiency. In this article we’ll cover everything from maintaining your refrigeration system to energy saving accessories.
Maintain your Walk-in
Check your door sweep, door and panel gaskets for any rips, cracks or icing and replace if necessary. Icing around the door could indicate a failure of the gasket, heater wire, or the door closer. Lubricate hinges twice a year to keep them closing smoothly. Make sure your walk-in is organized and covered items are clearly labeled to reduce the amount of time spent searching for ingredients.
Maintain your Refrigeration
Every six months, visually inspect your unit for corrosion, electrical issues, leaks or improper fan operation. Clean the evaporator coil and blades. Make sure the drainage system is clear of any debris. Ensure airflow to the unit is unobstructed.
There are many more steps to take to make sure your refrigeration unit is running efficiently. Visit this page for more refrigeration maintenance tips.
Upgrade Your Refrigeration System
New Department of Energy standards went into effect in 2009. If your walk-in was manufactured before 2009, your refrigeration unit is likely less efficient than newer energy act compliant units.
Buy a New Walk-in
Walk-in panels can wear out and the insulation will degrade with time. At some point during the life of your walk-in, it will begin to become a liability with increasing power bills. At this point the initial cost of buying a new walk-in will be overshadowed by how much money it can save you in energy bills.
Train Your Staff
Don’t allow your staff to leave the walk-in door propped open for extended periods of time. As they enter, they should let the cam-rise hinges and door closer should bring the door shut. Some hinges will not automatically close the door or may have a built-in dwell if the door is opened to a certain angle. Make sure you have an easy to use inside release handle or foot pedal to prevent entrapment. And upon exit, make sure employees are turning off the light. Many times this will be indicated with a pilot light on the switch.
Upgrade Your Lighting
Upgrading your lighting from fluorescent to LED can offer significant benefits to convenience store owners. The upfront cost for retrofitting can be quite steep but it may pay for itself after a few years. LED lights use less electricity than fluorescent ones and they also add less heat and load to the refrigeration unit. Anthony and Styleline offer retrofit LED lighting for convenience store walk-ins.
Parts and Accessories
Having properly working walk-in parts can make a huge difference in the energy efficiency of your box. Here are some effective products that can help you trim energy costs.
- Vinyl strip curtains and air curtains – When you open the door to your cooler or freezer, the air exchange it causes is obviously never a good thing. These products will prevent a significant amount of cold air escaping the box; they are especially necessary if your walk-in has very high traffic.
- Self-closing hinges – Hinges that are “cam rise” will allow the door to rise slightly when opening the door. When the door is let go it will slide back down its tapered cam and will close the door most of the way.
- Door closers – These devices mounted at the top of the door work well with self-closing hinges and will pull the door until it is completely closed.
- Foot pedals or push knob inside releases – Let the door close behind you when entering your walk-in and exit using the inside release to reduce time with the door open. (Make sure you’ve tested these exit methods with another person present.)
- Magnetic door gaskets- These along with wiper gaskets ensure that the walk-in is sealed properly and airtight around the doors.
- Light switch with pilot light – Lighting left on in the box increases the load on the refrigeration. The pilot light is a great indicator of whether or not your light has been left on. Before shutting it off, be sure no one is still in the walk-in.
- View window on door – Can allow you to view the operation of your walk-in without going inside. It can also let you see if anyone is currently in the walk-in, preventing collisions and the possibility of turning the lights out on anyone inside.
If you know of any other ways to save on energy costs in your walk-in cooler or freezer, please share them in the comment section below.