The Cold Front

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As manufacturers tackle federal mandates, a variety of freezers still meets all restaurant needs.

Manufacturers are devoting their time and energy to meeting new federal environmental requirements. Therefore, new freezer designs as of late are limited. However, diverse selections of  freezers are still on the market to meet any niche need a restaurant may encounter.

“For the past 24 or so months, most refrigeration manufacturers have been busy working toward meeting upcoming government regulations, specifically DOE 2017 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation under SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Program). The latter would have required the use of ‘natural refrigerants’ as of January 2016, but it was eventually delayed into 2017,” says James V. Piliero, sales development manager at Texas-based Traulsen.

“As part of SNAP, Traulsen has just introduced a broad range of freezers, refrigerators and compacts, all of which utilize SNAP-compliant R-290 refrigerant.”

Such is also the case at Mississippi-based Master-Bilt, which announced last fall that under its new Alternative Industrial Refrigerant (AIR) initiative, it will begin to use Hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blended refrigerants and foaming agents in its equipment next year, as required under SNAP guidelines. According to Jack McDonald, vice president of marketing and business development with the Standex Refrigerated Solutions Group, Master-Bilt’s parent firm, walk-in freezers will use R-449A, which is a blend of HFC-32, HFC-125, HFO1234yf and HFC-134a.

Other manufacturers are expected to announce new environmentally friendly refrigerants that will be used in their freezers by year’s end.

For basic frozen storage needs, Traulsen markets its G Series and R&A Series freezers, which come in one-, two- and three-door models and single-door units in smaller widths for placement in tight kitchen work areas.

All Traulsen freezers feature the Intela-Traul microprocessor control system that maintains interior temperatures in even the hottest kitchens by continuously monitoring ambient conditions. The system automatically adjusts to precisely maintain the desired set temperature regardless of how often the doors are opened. Kitchen staffers can personally check internal temperatures from a three-digit LED panel.

Stand-alone freezers in single and double widths are offered with up to four doors and also feature Traulsen’s TempAssure airflow system that more evenly spreads chilled air to preserve foods longer and, thus, reduce food waste. This is accomplished by a blower that forces the cold air down the entire length of the interior cabinets while reducing heat migration into storage areas.

Energy efficiency is stressed by Beverage-Air, located in North Carolina. The company offers one-, two- and three-door reach-in freezers with a choice of full- and half-door configurations that are all Energy Star qualified. Features include a top-mount balanced refrigeration system with an evaporator positioned out of the food zone to maximize capacity. The downdraft airflow system distributes chilled air evenly to every item and is maintained at minus 10 degrees. An electronic thermostat with a manual defrost button provides a digital display of cabinet temperatures, including status indicators and a key pad to make necessary temperature adjustments.

Ease of mobility and maintenance is stressed by Arctic Air, of Minnesota. Offered in single-, double- and triple-door configurations, each reach-in freezer compartment has three adjustable epoxy-coated wire shelves. An electronic thermostat with an external LED display provides ongoing internal temperatures while enabling easy changing of temperature settings. A bottom-mounted compressor with larger fan motors provide more efficient operation and faster recovery times. A front-accessible condensing unit slides out for easy maintenance, and the doors are lockable. All models come with casters so moving freezers  to where they are most needed is a breeze.

For large frozen storage needs, nothing beats a walk-in freezer for capacity. Master-Bilt offers walk-in freezers as small as 36 square feet as well as sizes that meet the storage needs of the largest banquet halls. Choices include 10-Bilt walk-ins that offer a broad selection of sizes and options and are built to order for shipping in 10 days. Quick Ship walk-ins come in fewer sizes and options but can be custom built for shipment in five days. They can also be ordered with remote or packaged refrigeration systems. Ready-Bilt walk-ins are completely assembled at the factory and require no assembly; they’re simply lifted into place with a boom-lift or forklift.

“Master-Bilt walk-in freezers are designed to hold the proper temperature to maintain all types of foods,” says Bill Huffman, vice president of sales and marketing, at Master-Bilt. “Side panels are polyurethane foamed-in-place for the most dependable insulation. As a barricade between perishable items inside and warmer temperatures outside, our standard entry doors are designed to withstand the numerous openings and closings of a typical business day without losing structural integrity.”

This past year, Master-Bilt introduced a fully adjustable hinge backing plate that solves the challenge of maintaining walk-in freezer door alignment. The hinge backing plate, exclusive to Master-Bilt and standard in all its walk-ins, moves in all directions, not just up and down, to make squaring possible without removal of the door or frame. It saves time and labor for maintenance, Huffman explained.

Master-Bilt freezers also use less electricity with the Reverse Cycle Defrost System, which replaces the electric defrost heaters with a reverse cycle valve attached to the condensing unit that turns the flow of the refrigerant into the opposite direction during the defrost cycle. This enables the already warm refrigerant to melt the frost and ice from the evaporator as it flows backward—saving the energy a heater might consume. The reverse cycle is triggered by the freezers’ Master Controller electronic control system only when it detects that frost or ice buildup has reached a critical thickness. With this system, defrost time can be as little as 30 minutes.

Another feature of Master-Bilt walk-ins is the Web2Walk-in program that provides the owner access to the electronic control system anywhere via the Internet. Owners can monitor and program data through all wireless communications devices, including Android smart phones, for which the program has an app.

Made with the same rugged construction as its coolers, Polar-Pak walk-in freezers from Kolpak, based in Tennessee, can fit virtually any configuration inside and outside a restaurant. The Polar-Pak line features 4-inch-thick foamed-in-place urethane foam panels that mount in place with Posi-Loc fasteners. Designed to be quickly assembled on the premises without a refrigeration technician or plumber, these walk-ins can either be mounted flush to the ceiling or side-mounted. Standard panels allow various layouts with two ceiling heights: 78 inches and 90 inches. Other features include a hot gas condensate evaporator and an interior safety release.

Under Kolpak’s Quick Ship Program, walk-in freezers are shipped within seven days after an order is received.

When greater flexibility is required for a full-size walk-in freezer, Kolpak Pre-Engineered is the solution. Made from the same quality panels and components, compartment sizes range from 6 by 6 feet to 10 by 24 feet in 1-foot increments. Taller panels range from 90 inches to 102 inches. Each is delivered ready to assemble. LED lighting is standard inside these freezers, as it only uses 15 percent of the electricity as standard bulbs.

There also are freezers for special food storage needs. “The standard zero- to minus-5-degree operating temperature of the vast majority of foodservice freezers is adequate to meet the needs of most applications,” says Traulsen’s Piliero. “Colder temps (minus 15 and minus 20 degrees) are usually required for hardening ice cream products. The latter temps are rarely used by ordinary restaurants. Instead, they are most often used by large-scale foodservice productions, such as resort casinos.”

Traulsen’s ice cream freezers that dip to minus 15 degrees are simple to operate with controls that enable precise command over the temperature and sensors. Alarms help keep the temperature consistent. Doors are self-closing to help maintain temperature, but if you’re loading or unloading a lot of product, use the 120-degree stay-open feature for speed and ease. Standard interior arrangements include three chrome-plated wire shelves per section.

For long-term storage of meats, True Food Service Equipment, located in St. Louis, offers the TMW Meat Well freezer. An oversize refrigeration system holds temperatures at minus 10 degrees for optimum storage of all types of meats. A self-closing sliding lid helps maintain internal temperatures. This freezer provides supplemental frozen food storage capacity almost anywhere on the premises.

Traulsen also offers undercounter freezers that can be installed near individual work stations to provide convenient frozen storage for a limited range of products. For example, an undercounter freezer might hold lower usage items destined for a fryer—think appetizers and finger foods—as opposed to bulkier, higher volume foods such as French fries. Because they are undercounters, they also provide valuable work space on top that would otherwise have been lost if using a reach-in type cabinet.

These undercounter freezers come in widths from 27 to 72 inches, with assorted shelf configurations. They are available with or without casters. Other features include a stainless steel exterior, a front-breathing self-contained refrigeration system for use in compact areas, an automatic condensate evaporator, magnetic snap-in EZ-Clean door gaskets and a three-year warranty.

Restaurant owners also can reduce energy consumption with existing freezer models by retrofitting the KE2 Evaporator Efficiency device from KE2 Thermal Solutions, which is based in Missouri. The device provides total control of a system’s evaporator by restricting defrost cycles only when they are truly required, thus reducing energy use by more than 40 percent when compared with mechanically controlled timed-interval defrost cycles. This defrost-on-demand device also reduces temperature fluctuations, which can be up to 5 degrees and can damage food inventories.

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