The summer has arrived and for many hospitality businesses, it’s peak trading period. Hotels and holiday parks are bustling, bars are thriving and al-fresco dining is at its peak. The public wants to enjoy the sunshine, and so does your business!
It’s also a busy time for us too, but for a slightly different reason. The Summer heat makes refrigeration and air conditioning equipment work especially hard. Whether it’s a cold room, a cellar cooler, an ice machine, a bottle cooler, kitchen fridges or your front-of-house AC, they all have to step-up to the mark to counteract that summer heat.
And when they do, any issues that have been harbouring, undetected over the cooler months are brought out into the open for us all to notice. In short, we end up with cooling equipment that doesn’t do a very good job at cooling!
This is obviously frustrating for everyone involved, and in some cases, can cause serious disruption to a business – not ideal in peak season.
So, we thought we’d put together a short article with some quick tips on how to look after your fridge & AC equipment during summer months (and the winter ones for that matter). Like anything, if you take care of them, they’ll take care of your business when you need them the most.
How 95% of refrigeration/AC issues arise
We get two types of calls to our service desk:
- My equipment has stopped working
- My equipment is running at a high temperature
On the face of it, it looks like something has suddenly gone wrong. It’s either abruptly stopped working, or rapidly increased in temperature. However, when you dig a little deeper, the cause is almost always a cumulative one. Smaller, less noticeable issues put strain on your system. Over time, this strain causes wear on critical components, and one day they go ‘pop’.
The trick is to spot the smaller issues before they cause the bigger problems. This article will help you spot those issues and advise on how to protect against them occurring in the first place.
Some of these issues can be spotted by you, and others by a qualified engineer.
First, let’s explore how to avoid the issues in the first place.
Top tips for healthy refrigeration/AC equipment
- Keep it clean
The biggest strain put on equipment is through clogged up air vents. Refrigeration & AC equipment needs to transfer away heat, and if it can’t keep a flow of air through the unit, it will continuously overheat and components will wear out quickly. Not only that, but it has to work twice as hard to keep things cool, so it will create a dent in your electricity bill too. Keeping your vents clean is the easiest way to ensure a long-living, trouble free piece of equipment. This especially applies if your unit is located in a busy kitchen, a high-traffic retail environment/bar or in a dusty/dirty alleyway (exterior units).
- Don’t overstock
For traditional fridges and freezers, keeping free airflow around your fridge is key to maintaining its efficiency and reducing strain. Temperature sensors are usually at the top of your unit and measure the temperature of the return air. If air isn’t circulating properly, you will likely have very cold produce at the rear & bottom of your fridge, and warm produce at the top and front. This is because the cool air is struggling to reach your produce – and the thermostat. Your unit will be working overtime but will be over cooling your rear produce. You might even notice some frozen items. More work = more strain = wears out quicker.
- Keep equipment ventilated
On a similar note, ensuring units have got appropriate ventilation is essential. If it’s an integral unit (where the condenser is part of the main unit), then ensure that vents are not surrounded by unvented cladding or general items in storage.
Likewise, if your unit is remote (i.e. you have a condenser outside – common for AC, cellar coolers & retail refrigeration), ensure your external unit it is kept well ventilated. They’re usually sited out of the way in ‘back alley’ environments. Avoid things like stacking beer barrels/rubbish around them or generally obstructing air flow in any way makes it much easier for them to do their job.
- Don’t store items on top of your fridge
One top tip for ‘top loaded’ kitchen or bar fridges (i.e. where the integral cooling unit is sited at the rear or top of the fridge), is to not store things on top of them. They are designed to lose heat through their roof and insulating them further with your storage is going to put extra strain on the unit.
- Keeping units serviced
Even if you are a diligent owner, there are still important maintenance activities that only a qualified engineer can carry out. Testing and cleaning internal components and filters, checking for gas leaks and gas contamination, identifying bearing wear and stress-testing items are just some of the activities that our engineers carry out. The health of internal components and the levels/quality of gas are key to maintaining efficient operation and minimising stress and wear. Contaminated gas (i.e. outside materials getting in through a leak) can cause rapid degradation and damage to an entire system and is one issue in particular that needs dealing with swiftly.
It’s also a legal requirement to annually service refrigeration/AC units that contain over 12kg of refrigerant gas. Gas leaks contribute to global warming (and units with low gas inside also use more electricity). Our engineers provide all the relevant annual certifications that your unit needs.
Spotting a distressed unit
Understanding what signals your unit is giving out is key to pre-empting expensive and disruptive downtime. Here are the key signs to look out for – if you’re concerned about your unit or just want some advice, give our service team a call.
- Monitor temperature
Keeping an eye on your unit/room temperature is not just good health & safety practice, but it can show up a distressed unit before more serious problems occur. Place an additional thermometer either in the unit itself (e.g. upright fridge) or in the room that it serves (e.g. AC or cellar cooling). Regularly record your readings and if you notice any worrying trends, give us a call. Things to look out for are temperatures running higher than normal and units/rooms taking longer to reach the desired temperature than previously.
- Hot air
When your equipment is running, you should generally feel warm air coming out of your vents. This is absolutely normal, but if it ever turns to ‘hot’ air, this is something to be concerned over. It shows that your unit is struggling to get rid of its heat and needs some attention.
- Ice build-up
Ice build up and icicles can be a sign of the unit over-cooling, which could show a problem with your thermostat, air flow or gas. Let us know if you have a noticeable build-up of ice.
- Over or under labouring
Listening out for units that are over or under labouring is another good indicator. Perhaps you’ve noticed your unit being active a lot more or a lot less than usual. If you notice this, we’d suggest monitoring its temperature, checking ventilation and, if several signs point together, getting in touch for a pre-emptive maintenance visit.
- Screeching, burning smells and smoke.
This almost goes without saying, but if you hear your unit making some weird and wonderful noises, it’s probably not feeling very well. Likewise, if it emits any burning smells or smoke. As has been well publicised recently, refrigeration units can be a fire risk when overheating so it’s important to get them seen to.
If you notice any water dripping from your AC or cellar cooling units, get in touch. This can highlight drainage or condenser issues and should be looked into.
We hope you’ve found this article useful and that your refrigeration & AC equipment performs well for you over the coming summer months. If you need any further advice, would like to book your annual service & compliance visit, or need our help for an emergency repair, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our service team on 01254 277933. We’re here for you 24/7/365.