Routine Refrigeration Maintenance: A Case Study

The following table is a case study of two clients of ours. Our service records from 7/1/12 – 6/31/13 were used to create this table. This comparison is between two bars located in the West Loop area in Chicago. One location (Bar #1) has had a routine maintenance schedule and the equipment is serviced quarterly. The second location (Bar #2) has never accepted a maintenance quote and never had all equipment cleaned and checked on a regular basis. They always call on the hottest days and nights getting whatever piece of equipment fixed that needs immediate attention. The table below will illustrate the importance of routine maintenance and the consequences of equipment neglect.

EstablishmentTotal Number Of Coolers & Freezers Scheduled Maintenance 7/1/12 - 6/30/13Non Emergency Service Calls 7/1/12 - 6/30/13Overtime Service Calls 7/1/12 - 6/30/13Compressor Failures 7/1/12 - 6/30/13
Bar #127Every 3 Months1021
Bar #224None1843

This table clearly shows the benefits of a maintenance plan. Bar #1 has more total equipment than Bar #2, but has less service calls for the year. Also, Bar #1 had only one compressor failure as compared to three at Bar #2. The overall cost of service for the year was much less at the client with a maintenance plan. The properly maintained equipment required far less electricity as well. Routine maintenance plans reduce service calls, save electricity and extend the life of refrigeration equipment.

When it comes to reliability of any equipment, preventive maintenance is a crucial factor. Failure to properly maintain commercial refrigeration will almost always lead to costly repairs and loss of product. As Murphy’s Law would have it, these breakdowns usually occur at the most inopportune times like nights and weekends. It is at these times that service of coolers and freezers comes at a premium. Failure to properly maintain equipment also causes much higher utility bills and shortens life of equipment.

Problems caused by failure to maintain refrigeration equipment

  • Increased utility bills

  • Burnt wiring due to increased amp draw

  • Failure of fan motors caused by dirty coils

  • Failure of thermostat due to increased amp draw

  • Failure of compressor due to dirty coils

  • Restriction of metering device caused by overheated & damaged refrigerant oil

  • and more!

Benefits of routine maintenance

  • Reduced electrical consumption

  • Less equipment breakdown

  • Lower service and repair costs

  • Longer equipment life

  • Fresher product

  • Reduced product spoilage

  • Decreases chance of emergency service due to neglect

  • Decreases stress

  • and more!

More information available on the following blogs

Outdoor Refrigeration Units & Extreme Cold Weather

Compressor & TruckAn epic battle will be happening across Chicago. Outdoor Refrigeration Units will be fighting the elements to maintain proper temperature.

A Polar Vortex is making it’s way towards Chicago. We will experience some of the coldest weather in decades. Predicted temperatures for Monday are -12F & -40F windchill. Countless refrigeration systems will fail to maintain proper temperature. Most of these affected systems will have the compressor unit located outside. Outdoor commercial refrigeration condenser units located in regions that experience cold Winters must have low ambient operation controls. Units not designed to run in cold weather will not maintain proper temperature in the conditioned space when it gets cold out. The following are some of the different types of components that are needed to help a refrigeration unit run in cold weather.

Cold Weather Accessories & Controls

  • Condenser Bypass Valve
  • Condenser Fan Cycling Control
  • Compressor Crank Case Heater
  • Adjustable Low Pressure Control

The condenser bypass valve is used to used divert refrigerant from the condenser coil & instead pipe it right into the liquid line to maintain sufficient head pressure. This low ambient control works in any weather condition including subzero windy weather. This is the best cold weather control for your commercial refrigeration unit.

The condenser fan cycling control is used to cycle outdoor condenser fan motor on & off to try & maintain system head pressure. This method may not work well in extreme cold & windy conditions. This is especially true when the condenser coil has been installed facing West. Often wind travels West to East & can over cool the condenser even with the fan cycled off. This mostly happens on extremely cold & windy days. This is why we do not believe that a condenser fan cycling control is a good choice. There may be several days a year where a cooler or freezer will not operate correctly with a condenser fan cycling control.

The compressor crank case heater is used to prevent liquid refrigerant from migrating into compressor. The heater is energized all the time & keeps the compressor warm. This protects the compressor from liquid migration & liquid slugging.

All outdoor condensing units should have an adjustable low pressure control. Some units come with OEM nonadjustable low pressure controls that have a settings too high for cold ambient conditions. This may cause compressor to sit idle & not cool the space to be conditioned when it gets cold out. We recommend a standard pump down setting for all outdoor compressor units. The standard pump down setting is 20# low side compressor on & 0# low side compressor off.

Owners of commercial refrigeration systems in Chicago should keep a close eye on temperature & cycling during the extreme weather created by the Polar Vortex. If temperatures become erratic & warm up during the cold snap, chances are there is a problem with winter operation.

Please feel free to comment on this post or ask questions below. We are here for commercial refrigeration repair service during this weather & as always we are available 24/7/365.


More information is available in the following posts.

How cold weather affects outdoor refrigeration units.

Avoid Refrigeration Break Downs During Chicago Blizzard Weather


Commercial Refrigeration “Service” vs. “Maintenance” – There’s a Difference

Refrigeration Service At O'Hare
O’Hare Terminal 5

In our experience we find that most after hours emergency commercial refrigeration service calls are due to lack of proper maintenance. Failure to properly maintain coolers and freezers will lead to various unpleasant outcomes. Poorly maintained equipment uses more power to maintain temperatures. It’s also prone to premature failure of critical components. These failures usually occur at the worst possible times like nights and weekends. Repairs cost significantly more after hours or on weekends compared to during regular business hours.

A Solid Maintenance Plan Can Prevent Commercial Refrigeration Repairs

The following scenario is a case in point. We received a request for emergency commercial refrigeration service at a customer lounge in O’Hare Airport on Saturday 10/26/13. The client requested repairs on a two door cooler in their kitchen. We let the client know that services come at a premium on weekends and explained our labor rates. We offered to schedule repairs for first thing Monday, but the customer could not wait.

Upon arrival we found that the cooler condenser and evaporator coils were both plugged with debris. One of two evaporator fan motors had failed possibly due to restricted airflow caused by the dirty coil. This caused one half of the evaporator coil to freeze up. The compressor was extremely overheated due to the dirty condenser coil. We defrosted the frozen coil, replaced the bad evaporator motor & pressure cleaned the evaporator & condenser coils. After repairs and cleaning the refrigerant pressures were checked and a system restriction was found. System oil had been fouled due to overheating caused by the dirty condenser. This caused the capillary tube metering device to partially restrict causing a low back pressure. A quote for new capillary tubing will need to be prepared.

All of the problems found with this cooler stem from lack of maintenance. All of this could have probably been avoided with a proper maintenance plan in place.

The following are the main takeaways from this service call.

Consequences of lack of routine maintenance include:

  • All problems with this cooler were caused by lack of maintenance on commercial refrigeration equipment
  • The overtime service call cost the client about $250 more than regular rate service
  • Overheated and damaged oil has caused the capillary tube metering device to become partially restricted and new capillary tubing will need to be quoted
  • The dirty condenser coil caused compressor to run hot and has decreased life of the compressor

Avoid Unplanned Commercial Refrigeration Service – Be Proactive

We strive to make clients aware of the importance of a routine maintenance plan. This is a tough sell for some reason. Most clients operate on a reactive basis instead of a proactive basis. If proper maintenance plans were in place the majority of commercial refrigeration equipment failures could be avoided. Check out some of our DIY tips for commercial refrigeration maintenance.

Some benefits of a routine maintenance plan

  • Prolong life of commercial refrigeration equipment
  • Reduce electrical consumption
  • Reduce the need for emergency commercial refrigeration service
  • Prevent costly commercial refrigeration repairs

Chicago Refrigeration Tech Plans Decadent Ice Cream Sandwich Social

It’s been a long Summer full of Chicago Refrigeration calls! Northeast Cooling has been busy running commercial refrigeration service all over the cityNorthern Illinois. The owner Mitch is ready to hang up his hat for a minute.  Recently he ran across a post about Gourmet Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwiches. He got so excited that he created a Google Local Chicago invite for the event. Time to take a break & enjoy a double decadent ice cream sandwich made with Glazed & Infused Donuts & Black Dog Gelato Ice Cream on August 29th. Join Mitch & his Google #CHIexperts friends in a Celebration of Summer & try the best Donuts & Ice Cream in Chicago! RSVP on the Google Invite  & meet Mitch at Black Dog Gelato on Damen between 5 & 6 PM on August 29th. He will comp $1 for each sandwich you buy.

Chicago Refrigeration Expert
Mitch Byrne / Chicago Refrigeration

The following flavor combinations will be available.

  1. Apple Fritter &  Vanilla Bean Gelato
  2. Chocolate Cake Doughnut & Salted Peanut Gelato
  3. Terrys Toffee Yeast Doughnut & Milk Stout Gelato
  4. Lemon Doughnut & Blueberry Gelato

This epic event is happening August 29th only. It will be at Black Dog Gelato. The address is 859 N. Damen Ave.  After spending the day repairing commercial ice machines, coolers &  freezers Mitch will be at the Damen Store between 5 & 6 PM.  RSVP on the Google Invite & get comped $1 for each sandwich purchased from 5-6 PM by Mitch & Northeast Cooling

Wondering what a Google City Expert is? Do you consider yourself an expert on all things Chicago? Do you know the best places to eat, drink, shop or be entertained? Join Google City Experts. It will entitle you to exclusive perks! This program will get you access to private events in the Chicago area, free cool swag & at times special online recognition.


Mitch at Northeast Cooling is a verified Google City Expert & would love to tell you more about the program. Leave a comment below &  he will get back to you!


Mitch Byrne
Refrigeration Expert & Verified Google City Expert Mitch Byrne


Green Refrigeration: Cool Vap Evaporator Coils

Cool Vap Evaproator Coil
Mike Reihl from Reihl Efficient LLC & Mitch Byrne from Power Technology Chicago Inc at the Reihl Efficient Factory with a Cool Vap Evaporator Coil.


Reihl Efficient LLC has a great new Green Refrigeration product on the market. The Cool Vap Evaporator Coil for Walk In Coolers is a major advance in Commercial Refrigeration technology.

I recently went on a tour of the Reihl Efficient factory in Michigan. The folks at Reihl Efficient have figured out how to maintain & even decrease the box temperature of Walk In Coolers during the compressor off cycle. This has huge energy saving potential. Cool Vap coils in my opinion are a breakthrough in Green Refrigeration! I was very impressed by the facility & the high quality of the Cool Vap evaporator coil assemblies. All models come standard with high efficiency electronically commutated evaporator motors.  The panels & coil housing are several times thicker than other coil brands & the coil should be more durable due to it’s configuration.

Mike Reihl has come up with a fantastic idea on how to tap into thermal inertia during a refrigeration off cycle to maintain & even lower box temperature. Cool Vap coils have a custom built chamber that rests on top of the evaporator coil. This chamber is filled with a proprietary mass. This mass builds & stores cold energy during the compressor run cycle. During the refrigeration off cycle this cold energy can be released back into the box by cycling the evaporator fan while leaving the compressor off! The Walk In Cooler is able to maintain or drop temperature without running the compressor. Cool Vap Coils take Green Refrigeration to the next level! Independent studies have been conducted. One showed an electrical savings of 37% & the other showed savings of 72%! Cool Vap Energy Efficiency study, coil sizes & specifications available on manufacturers website.

The manufacturer is so confident in the performance of their Cool Vap coil that they are offering a Performance Guarantee Agreement! They guarantee at least a 35% reduction in the electrical expense associated with running a walk in cooler or they will compensate the difference for the equivalence of two years!

Cool Vap coils come standard with 1 or 2 EC (electronically commutated) high efficiency evaporator motors. The coils range in size from 7,000 – 17,000 BTU’s. Interested in learning more or purchasing Cool Vap evaporator coils? Power Technology Chicago Inc is a Reihl Efficient Cool Vap Coil Distributor.