Learn your refrigerator: An overview of commercial and retail units for refrigeration and HVAC professionals

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If, after completing training at RSI, you enter the commercial refrigeration servicing field in Phoenix, AZ, you might find yourself maintaining and repairing plenty of pretty common (and neat!) refrigerated units. These units might hold food products, drinks, or retail goods that need to be kept cold. Below, you can find a brief overview of some of the types of cooling equipment you might encounter:

Walk-in Refrigeration Units

These are some of the largest refrigeration units in stores, groceries, and restaurants. They are cooled by giant compressors, or systems that enable refrigeration gases to be highly pressurized. These highly pressurized coolants are then released into the refrigeration coils. There, the coolants evaporate, removing heat from the cavernous interiors of the refrigerators. Because of their structures and features, they can be set to cooler temperatures than you might typically be able to set your home refrigerators to.

Walk-in coolers are usually not visible to the public. They are hidden at the back of a grocery, restaurant, café, or big-box store. Only the employees of the business and, of course, the refrigeration technician, with proper permissions are allowed to enter the units. These large units enable food and beverage products to be deeply cooled for long periods of time. They are typically large enough to enable people to enter them and move around in them.

People who work in walk-in refrigeration units whether they service them, like some RSI graduates do, or whether they work with them in-store, as part of their daily job must follow safety instructions thoroughly to avoid injury, shock, or even death. They must understand sanitation, and, most importantly, basic safety precautions, to work in these units. They must be careful not to fall because there’s a puddle of refrigeration fluid on the floor, and must not harm themselves from overexposure to cold while working. Many people who work inside walk-in refrigeration units don cold-protective, insulated clothing to guard against frostbite, and are careful to keep themselves well-hydrated.

Deli, Bakery, and Produce Cases

These types of refrigeration units are standalone units that are lower and wider than walk-in refrigeration units. Full-grown adults cannot enter them, walk around in them, or perform full-body work in them. However, they are designed so that food service and HVAC workers can reach into them and walk around them easily.

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Refrigerated cases are usually illuminated by interior fluorescent lights, so food preparation workers or store customers can see products to reach for them, or purchase them. There are typically either several shelves to hold foodstuffs, or there is one deep-set shelf on which several layers of items can be stacked (especially deli cases). They usually have stainless steel or aluminum interiors, as well.

Deli and bakery cases can vary greatly in size, from small, mobile units that can easily be moved to change a store layout, to large, heavy cases that remain stationary on the floor. Most all are encased in glass; smaller cases have sliding or swinging glass doors that can be opened easily, but still seal effectively to keep cold in and heat out.

Refrigeration specialists and HVAC workers must take normal precautions when working with this equipment. Some of these precautions include making sure units are unplugged before using non-diagnostic servicing equipment, and ensuring that one’s hands are free of liquid or materials that conduct electrical current before proceeding with repairs.

Stand-Alone Retail Refrigeration Units

Retail refrigeration units are the most similar to those you’d find in your home or apartment. One of the most striking differences between commercial units and home units is the physical appearance. Upon seeing a retail refrigerator, you might be tempted to think, Oooh, that’s fancy!

And indeed, some of them are! They can come in different shapes, such as octagons or triangles. Many have unit bodies composed entirely of glass, so shoppers or restaurant workers can see the products within them at all times. Others are made of brushed stainless steel, so they look gorgeous and cutting-edge. They can come in double or triple widths, with the corresponding number of doors.

Besides appearance, these retail refrigerators are different from home units because they can cool at lower temperatures. The combination of great cooling power and physical allure makes them ideal for storing giant gourmet sandwiches, beautiful flower bouquets, or fancy, luscious cakes and pies. Maintaining these units is similar to maintaining home units; however, they might be under extended warranties that cover more repairs and parts.

The world of commercial refrigeration is vast, and can be quite interesting. By learning more about what kinds of commercial refrigerators are out there, you can decide what sort of work environment will be best for your individual interests and needs and then attain appropriate refrigeration training to get started on a fulfilling and interesting career.

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