Numerous written commentaries expertly describe subpar walk-in refrigeration units. They uncover poorly maintained freezers, highlight ongoing coolroom issues that haven’t been properly addressed, and generally provide a guide to improving energy efficiency within leaky refrigerated environments. As worthy as those deftly compiled guides undoubtedly are, they only ever talk about system flaws, not system efficiency. Today, we’re flipping that approach on its head by holding up a model of an energy efficient cooling setup.

Illustrating the Ideal Coolroom Configuration 

An impeccably configured walk-in freezer isn’t affected by the opening of an accessway. A plastic curtain acts as a kind of airlock, although it’s the exchange of cold and warm air, not atmospheric pressure that’s segregated by the vinyl strips. The refrigeration unit emulates that environment-isolating feature by discharging proportionate quantities of chilled air into the sealed chamber. Furthermore, the low-energy output appliance, the one fastened high on the coolroom wall, isn’t influenced by the changing outside temperature or any shortcomings created by the chemical refrigerant. In other words, the chamber is absolutely sealed, the refrigeration unit is functioning without producing any system losses, and the stored contents are surely staying fresh.

Identifying the Factors That Break This Ideal 

Wear and age are the twin rogue factors that undermine everything described in the last paragraph, which is why an ideal system may as well be a mythical creature. Even the equipment’s primary functions inhibit any potential energy savings by condensing the moisture in the local atmosphere. That moisture freezes or runs in icy rivulets. It seeps into metal parts, behind insulated panels, and wreaks havoc on all freezer and coolroom parts. Sure, the erosion of the system doesn’t take place overnight, but it’s slowly, ever so slowly, wearing down what once was a near perfect refrigerated structure. Over time, the cooling envelope will fade, even fracture, until the equipment and the room are no longer energy efficient.

Maintenance programs strengthen energy boosting factors while they attenuate system-detrimental factors. Curiously, time has almost stopped for the chilled contents in here, but environmental time is in flux. Ice and chilled water are threatening the structure and the cooling equipment. Condensate clouds float as a fine mist, icy deposits cause pipes and wall panels to expand and contract, and metal parts experience accelerated oxidisation. Beyond the effects of that ice factor, there’s the human factor to tackle. Fortunately, a sound management strategy provides the training and guides necessary to handle that particular energy inefficiency culprit.

Today, clear plastic swing doors and plastic strip curtains are considered a cold storage room staple. The space-segregating PVC panels prevent dirty air from circulating, they help cold storage areas to keep their goods cool, and also generally eliminate other zone-propagating invaders, including noise. There’s little that can go wrong with the tough plastic access points, although they are susceptible to the following site threats.

Physical Impacts 

A sweep of a staff members’ hand pushes aside the panel. No damage is done, so the workflow continues. In point of fact, the workflow is optimised because there’s no waiting for a rigid door to open or close. Still, there are other travellers crossing the coolroom floor. Trolleys loaded with meat cuts hit the clear plastic swing doors. Then there are forklifts cruising the indoor highways. The operators of these heavier vehicles take care when they cross one cooling zone into the next, but some damage is likely when plastic meets a loaded metal chassis.

Environmental Damage 

Tough engineering plastics won’t fail when the temperature drops precipitously low. The material is designed to handle the arctic cold. However, when installed on a loading dock, perhaps as a barrier while the warehouse door is raised, there are a handful of external threats that will weaken the plastic. Primarily, ultraviolet radiation (UV) discolours PVC. Combined with constant wear and tear, with large pallets of sharp objects passing through the entryway, the plastic panels and strips will turn a brownish colour. Generally speaking, the clear plastic swing doors and plastic strip curtains retain elasticity, but a small amount of polymer brittleness will seep into the material.

Susceptible to Mechanical Activity 

Transparent vinyl curtains swing closed on a rail system, they’re concealed behind a large warehouse door, and some are located a short distance behind strong freezer accessways. Similarly, clear plastic swing doors work on their own, plus they’re supported by mechanical opening and closing systems. When a single curtain strip becomes kinked, it ends up trapped in a gap between one of these doors and the door frame. Meanwhile, a rail system fails because of corrosion. The result is an energy leaking plastic barrier, one that could potentially damage the coolroom door.

Fortunately, a few plastic curtain strips are easy enough to replace. A large panel on a plastic swing door isn’t that much harder to replace, so problems with this environment segregator are readily addressed. Keep that fact in mind when plastic transparency fails, too, for this issue is considered a health and safety risk, one that could obscure an approaching forklift as it travels between cold zones.

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