Restaurant Freezer Not Keeping Its Cool? Check The Condenser Coils Before You Call For Repairs

If your restaurant freezer isn't cooling properly, you might have a problem with your condenser coils. If you get to them quickly enough, you can fix the problem yourself without having to call the repairman. 

What do the condenser coils do and how do you know if there's a problem? Condenser coils pull the heat out of the inside of your unit. When they aren't able to do their job properly, the unit won't stay at the right temperature. This makes the compressor work harder in an effort to cool the unit. The compressor eventually starts to run in longer and longer cycles trying to keep the unit cold. Eventually, it's running all the time. The strain on your freezer is tremendous when this happens -- and so is the strain on your electric bill. Dirty condenser coils can add as much as 10% to your electric bill per unit!

You probably see where else this is going: if you don't get the condenser coils fixed before your compressor gets stressed from running all the time, you'll end up with a damaged compressor and have to replace that as well.

The thing that should tip you off to problems with your condenser coils is the sound of the compressor running in longer and longer cycles. If it seems like you hear the hum from the compressor more often or in longer bouts, don't ignore it or chalk it up to the age of the unit -- it's a sign of trouble coming.

What do you look for and how do you try to fix the problem on your own? First, look for the condenser coils. Sometimes they're behind a panel, but usually they're open in the back of the unit or tucked underneath the freezer to keep them from harm. They create static, which means that they will get very dusty. Even when everything else in your restaurant is sparkling clean, they can end up collecting a sort of greasy grit, just because they pull tiny particles of smoke and oil from the air while food is cooking.

Turn off the unit and disconnect any water supply lines (if it has an ice maker). If the coils are behind a panel, unscrew the panel and put it out of your way. If not, you can skip straight to the next step.

Use a high-powered shop vac to suck the dirt and dust away. You can use compressed air if you want, but make sure that you blow the dirt and grime out of the coils, not further in. (Because that's going to throw all of the dirt into your restaurant, you might want to stick with the vacuum.) If the freezer is near a floor drain, you can even wash the coils off using a hose.

Look for the fan that sits near the condenser coils and give it the same treatment. The fan helps keep the airflow going over your condenser coils, so you want it to be unencumbered as well.

If there's any dust or grit left on the coils when you're done, you can gently remove it with a paint brush. Do not rub the coils when you are cleaning them down with a cloth because you can break them, and that will spill refrigerant all over the place and require some expensive repairs. When you're done, replace the cover (if there is one) and reconnect everything. If ice had built up inside the unit, let it finish melting before you start the unit again.

It's recommended that you clean your condenser coils once a month, or at last bi-monthly, if you want to keep your unit alive and running for as long as possible. 

If you've tried cleaning the condenser coils but the unit is still struggling to keep its cool, contact a professional repairman (such as one from Pro-Staff Mechanical Inc) to take a look. The sooner you do it, the more likely you can prevent what might be a small problem from escalating into a damaged compressor, which could be fatal for the unit.