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Commercial Refrigeration Troubleshooting

A commercial refrigerator is built to weather everyday use, making it a vital piece of any restaurant or cafeteria kitchen. If you experience an issue with your unit, it can greatly impact your business’ operations. Fortunately, this commercial refrigeration troubleshooting guide will help you identify and resolve issues as quickly and easily as possible.

In some cases, more than just a simple repair is required to resolve the issue. If necessary, be sure to call an authorized technician to service the equipment.

No Power

When the lights are off and the machine isn’t humming smoothly, a few things could be wrong:

  • Power switch is flipped off – This is a very common issue. By checking to see if the power switch is “off” from the onset, you can save time and avoid frustration before getting into a deep dive of the whole machine.
  • Unplugged or broken power cord – See if the unit’s power cord is unplugged or damaged. If there is visible damage, such as frays or splits, make sure to replace the cord immediately. Also, an extension cord could be a likely culprit because many aren’t sufficient or safe enough to power large machines. In some cases, they can void warranties by certain manufacturers.
  • Blown fuse or tripped circuit – If the power switch is on and the cord is plugged in without visible damage, take a look at your facility’s fuse box. Sometimes, a blown fuse or tripped circuit could be causing the problem.

Too Warm

If you notice the interior of your unit is warmer than usual, check for one of these issues:

  • Warm location – Location is key to having your commercial refrigerator running smoothly. Keeping your machine up against the wall can cause bad air circulation, preventing it from staying cool. If the unit is in direct sunlight or near hot appliances like ranges and warmers, this also can affect circulation.
  • Dirty condenser coils – If the condenser coils at the bottom of your commercial fridge are dirty, it can keep the unit from cooling properly. Routinely cleaning your refrigerator’s condenser coils can help prevent this.
  • Broken door gasket – First, check if the door is cracked open or being opened too frequently, allowing cool air to escape. If not, the door gasket may be cracked or broken. Make sure to find out which type of OEM gasket fits your unit. For instance, when replacing a True refrigeration gasket, there are specific gaskets associated with different manufacturing dates for each model.
  • Damaged door hinges – If the door gasket seems fine, broken latches or hinges might be causing the door to stay ajar or remain unaligned. When repairing your unit, make sure that the OEM-replacement latches or hinges are specific to your model. For example, if your machine uses flush hinges, the replacements should be the same. 
  • Bad temperature gauge or thermostat – The gauge in your commercial fridge could be blocked or broken. Try to remove any items that are blocking it. If the temperature still reads high, double check the unit with a thermometer to make sure the thermostat is working. If you’re still struggling to maintain the right temperature, then the thermostat might need to be replaced.

Too Cold

Surprisingly, a commercial refrigeration unit can actually be too cold:

  • Too much ice buildup – Many of the latest units have an auto-defrost function that thaws the evaporator coils between compressor cycles. When there is too much ice, your machine’s cycles might be off. In this case, you might need to swap out the defrost timer. If you own an older machine that requires manual defrosting, remember to defrost at least once a year or when ice builds to about a quarter-inch in the interior.
  • Frozen coils – When the coils are frozen, there is a good chance there is something wrong with your unit’s pressure. In this case, make an appointment with an authorized technician to repair the unit.

Compressor Problems

The compressor moves refrigerant throughout your entire machine. Common problems that cause a defect in this part include:

  • Noisy operation – The compressor kicks on sporadically, creating a soft humming sound when working properly. However, if you hear a clicking or clunky motor sound when the compressor kicks on, it could be a sign of imminent failure.
  • Dirt buildup – In rare cases, the compressor might be too dirty to properly run. Every manufacturer gives recommendations in regards to how often you should clean your compressor, but a general rule is at least three times a year.

Evaporator Fan Problems

The evaporator fan keeps air flowing constantly throughout the unit. If something seems off, check for these issues:

  • Noisy when opened – If you hear a loud sound when the door is opened, the evaporator fan’s blades could be broken. Inspect the fan for any evident damage. If there isn’t any damage, check if there are loose components nearby that might be rubbing against the blades.
  • Noisy when closed or opened – If you hear a very loud noise when the door is opened or closed, the evaporator fan could have a broken motor. This is usually accompanied by a thicker frost buildup.
  • Dirty or frozen coils – Sometimes, noise can be attributed to dirty or frozen evaporator coils. Make sure to clear the drain line before cleaning or removing thick frost. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual for cleaning instructions. If the coils are frozen solid, this could be an issue with the unit’s pressure, so call an authorized technician to repair the unit.

Leaking Water

Whenever you see too much water in the unit or on the floor, look for either of these problems.

  • Clogged drainage hose – When the drainage hose in your commercial refrigerator’s defrost setting is blocked or tangled, the unit may leak water.
  • Full evaporator pan – A compressor is responsible for evaporating the water in the pan. If you see it overfilling with water, it most likely means the compressor is broken.

Please contact a local authorized service agent who can help with this specific unit and all your commercial kitchen equipment needs.