Common problems with refrigeration and freezing systems – and how to avoid them

Refrigeration and freezer systems have a funny way of running into operational problems sometimes. Knowing what problems might occur can help prevent them from becoming serious issues. Here is how to recognize and avoid them – and what to do if an accident happens.
  • Maria Sotberg




Icy freezer, one of the most common problems with refrigeration and freezing systems.
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Commercial refrigeration is a lifeline for many businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, and pharmaceutical companies, among others. These systems work tirelessly – typically continuously – keeping products at optimal temperatures to preserve their quality and safety. However, like any other workhorse, they require regular care and maintenance to continue performing efficiently. 

But even well-maintained systems can run into operational problems from time to time. Knowing the issues that might occur is critical to prevent them from escalating into serious ones. 

Here are some common problems your commercial refrigeration or freezer units might run into:

Ice buildup in the refrigerator

Ice buildup is one of the most common problems encountered in commercial refrigeration – but you shouldn't let it go too long before you take action. This usually occurs due to issues with the defrosting system, poor door seals, blocked vents, or doors left open for too long.   

Excessive ice can block the inflow of cold air, forcing your refrigeration system to work harder and consume more energy. This can eventually lead to component failure. 

Make sure to regularly inspect door seals and replace any faulty ones. Paying extra attention to these small details, coupled with the correct defrosting routine, can help prevent this issue.

Failure to maintain temperature levels

Because a malfunctioning compressor needs to work harder and longer to maintain the desired temperature level, the discharge temperature often exceeds the limit the manufacturer recommends. Eventually, this will lead to overheating. If you suspect any problem with your compressor, you should have it checked by a professional right away.

If your refrigeration system cannot maintain proper temperature levels, it is essential to check the unit's temperature setting. The inability to provide enough cooling may be due to dirty condenser and evaporator coils, a malfunctioning compressor or thermostat, incorrect temperature settings, dirty fans, or inadequate airflow inside the refrigerator.

Regular temperature monitoring and calibration can help ensure accurate temperature control. Even refrigerators with automatic temperature settings should be checked regularly.

If you have IWMAC, it's easy to keep track of the temperature chain. If the temperature falls below or rises above a set value, the system automatically notifies you. This means that you will be informed quickly if a piece of equipment malfunctions, allowing you to take steps to prevent loss and damage.

Unfamiliar noises

Your refrigeration system should hum along quietly. If you start hearing unfamiliar noises – grinding, rattling, or buzzing – it's a clear signal that something is wrong. These noises could indicate an issue with the compressor, fan motor, or other internal components. Ignoring these sounds can lead to serious damage and costly repairs.

Always consult a professional technician if your system starts making unusual noises; it's rarely a sign of something good.

A sudden increase in energy usage

A sudden spike in your energy bills could indicate that your refrigeration system isn't working efficiently. However, several factors could contribute to this, like dirty condenser coils, malfunctioning fans, outdated equipment, temperature fluctuations – or a combination.

No matter what issues you find or suspect, it's a good idea to regularly have a professional technician check and take care of your commercial refrigeration equipment.

For expert assistance and solutions tailored to your specific needs, consider seeking out one of our Certified Partners. Their specialized training ensures they are well-equipped to handle any refrigeration system issues you might encounter.