Getting to the Bottom of Things: Walk in Cooler Troubleshooting Tips

It’s tough to maintain a cool head if you think that your walk-in cooler is busted.

The longer your cooler is out of commission, the more money you lose. The products that you store in it are called ‘perishables’ for a reason. If this essential equipment is malfunctioning, your goods are toast.

To add insult to injury, a large electric bill may surprise you at the end of the month. And then you think about how much money you spent to buy the cooler in the first place. The thought of spending that much money again for a replacement is enough to send anyone into a rage.

We understand your frustration. But you have to stay calm. There’s a good chance that your cooler just needs some troubleshooting.

Read on to learn how to perform walk-in cooler troubleshooting for some of the common head-scratching problems.

The Basics of Cooling

To have a better grasp of how problems occur and what you can do, we need to review how a cooling unit works.

Any cooling equipment, such as a cooler, freezer, or refrigerator has five components. These are the compressor, condenser, evaporator, expansion valve, and the refrigerant.

The cooling process is different from what you expect. The air inside is chilled indirectly by taking the heat away. The refrigerant carries heat from the inside of the unit and dissipates it to the outside.

The refrigerant enters the inside of the cooling unit as a low-temperature gas. It passes through the evaporator coils where it absorbs the heat from the interior, raising its temperature.

The refrigerant then flows into the compressor where the molecules are squeezed together to form a hot, high-pressure gas. It will now travel the length of the condenser coils which are located outside. As the refrigerant is exposed to the cooler outside air, it dissipates the heat it absorbed and condenses into a cool liquid.

It will then enter the expansion valve where it will experience a pressure drop and revert into a low-temperature gas. In this form, it will flow through the evaporator coils and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Walk-in Cooler Troubleshooting: Where to Start?

Most of the problems you’ll encounter start from the basic components. Let’s look at some of the problems and what you can do about them.

Evaporator Coils

We now know that the evaporator coils play a crucial role in the cooling process. Even a slight inefficiency in its function can result in many problems.

The most significant issue you’ll see is impairment of its primary function, heat absorption. In this case, the refrigerant inside the coils doesn’t warm up as it should. Moisture freezes and clings to the coils instead of condensing into a liquid to be drained.

The whole evaporator coil eventually frosts over. This is the first symptom of malfunctioning coils.

Now you might think when you see ice build-up that the temperature inside the cooler is too cold. It’s actually the opposite. Ice becomes an insulating barrier to heat transfer.

As a result, heat builds up inside the cooler. Suction pressure drops because the refrigerant, as a gas, doesn’t expand due to insufficient heat. The compressor, therefore, has to work harder and longer and may eventually fail.

How did this series of events start? Anything that can impede heat transfer may cause this. It can be as simple as dirt on the evaporator coils or debris on the condenser.

We’ve also established that ice on the coils is a bad thing. Ice can form due to a number of reasons. The defrost cycle may be messed up because the evaporator fans are not rotating correctly. Or the melted ice at the end of the defrost cycle gets trapped due to drainage failure.

Troubleshooting Problems with the Evaporator

The first step is to melt the ice off. Then observe the end of the defrost cycle to see if the evaporator fans are blowing.

The next step is to examine the evaporator coils. If you see dirt and dust, clean them off. But if you see an oily residue, this might indicate that there are pinhole leaks on the coils due to corrosion. If this is the case, the coils will need replacement.

After that, investigate the door for leaks. An improperly sealed door can cause moisture and other airborne chemicals to enter and stick to the coils. Moisture leads to ice build-up while volatile organic compounds can corrode the evaporator coils.

Finally, check and clear the drain line. Make sure that the melted ice gets drained off.

If the problem still persists, it’s time to contact the professionals. A cooling technician can fix issues such as low refrigerant volume and compressor mechanical breakdown.

Condenser Coils

Condenser coils are the counterpart of evaporator coils. They dissipate heat while evaporator coils absorb heat. Condenser coils are located outside while evaporator coils are located inside the cooler.

As is the case with evaporator coils, condenser coils require efficient heat transfer to function at its best.

Being located outside, dirt and debris are even more of a problem. Again, these act as insulators and interfere with heat transfer. Yard debris such as pet hair, grass clippings, and even cobwebs are common culprits.

It’s also important to have good airflow surrounding the coils. In enclosed spaces, heat will accumulate and linger around the condenser. It becomes more difficult to release the heat.

Troubleshooting Problems with the Condenser

It’s simple, really. Look at the condenser coils of your cooler. If it looks like a bird’s nest or a spider’s hunting ground, it’s probably time to clean it.

Turn off the power to the whole unit and gently clean the fins with a stiff brush.

Next, check the room where your cooler is located. If it feels hot and humid, you might need to install extra air intake and exhaust. Use fans to get the air moving freely.

Occasionally, you might observe the coils to have frosting or even encased in ice. This suggests an airflow problem elsewhere, such as duct blockage, dirty filters, or low refrigerant volume. This warrants a call to your friendly professional.

Keep Your Cool

We hope that by following these walk-in cooler troubleshooting tips, you’re able to restore functionality to this important piece of equipment. But if these tips don’t work, there’s still no reason to worry.

We’re here to help.

For your heating and cooling concerns, we’ve got you covered 24/7. Contact us today!

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