Commercial refrigeration equipment is a complex yet necessary asset for many businesses

What is commercial refrigeration, and how does it work?

Commercial refrigeration equipment refers to the cold storage equipment used in commercial settings. Examples include the reach-in refrigerators and freezers found in supermarkets, specialty food stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores. The walk-in refrigerators and freezers found in restaurant equipment and cafeterias would also be considered commercial refrigeration equipment.

The advent of refrigeration has allowed businesses and homeowners alike to store foods and beverages for extended periods without spoilage. Commercial refrigeration keeps both prepared foods and meal ingredients cold by removing heat for convenience and safety purposes. Heat removal has been accomplished by various means over the years; keep reading to discover how modern commercial refrigeration systems work.

What you’ll learn in this article:

What Are the Different Types of Commercial Refrigeration Equipment?

There is a wide variety of commercial refrigeration systems:

  • Reach-in vertical cases and refrigerators
  • Plug-in enclosed vending machines
  • Semi-vertical display cabinets
  • Horizontal cases
    Deli cases
  • Drop-in coolers
  • Draft beer systems
  • Undercounter refrigerators
  • Back bar coolers
  • Refrigerated display cases
  • Prep table

The various commercial refrigeration equipment can have different functions:


Chillers are used to keep items, such as food and beverages, below the average room temperature yet above freezing. Such equipment prevents spoilage by keeping perishable items cool.


Freezers keep perishable items frozen, preventing them from spoiling.

Combo Chillers and Freezers:

Combination commercial refrigeration units can allow for both chilling and freezing perishable items.

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What Industries Use Commercial Refrigeration?

Several businesses and industries usually rely on commercial refrigeration. We often categorize food and beverage companies, supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants as businesses that require commercial refrigeration systems. But hospitals and medical research clinics often use commercial refrigeration to keep sensitive materials at the appropriate temperature. Commercial refrigeration systems may also be found in florist shops, where they can store fresh-cut flowers from wilting.

Let’s go onto the important part of our article,

How Does Commercial Refrigeration Work?

The Cooling Process:

All refrigeration works via a principle called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This principle states that when two objects of different temperatures are brought close together, heat will always travel from the warmer object to the colder one. Using this principle, commercial refrigeration systems utilize a refrigerant solution to transfer heat from the food inside the refrigeration unit’s storage area to the refrigerant. Refrigerant solutions obey a second physical principle, which states that gases cool as they expand and heat up as they are compressed. While cycling through the refrigeration system, the refrigerant is sent through a series of pressure changes to improve efficiency and speed. It removes heat from the refrigerated space to keep it cold.

The Refrigerant:

Refrigerant is the key to the success of modern commercial refrigeration systems. In the past, Freon was the most common refrigerant found in both air conditioning units and refrigerators. However, Freon was found to damage the Earth’s ozone layer, causing an increase in solar radiation reaching the planet’s surface and changes in the global climate. Currently, Freon is being phased out of use in the United States. Other refrigerants, such as tetrafluoroethane, are taking their place to improve the efficiency and eco-friendliness of modern refrigeration systems continually.

The commercial refrigeration system has expanded to a massive industry. The process of chilling can be a high-temperature process to get the environment to low-temperature freezing. Freezers hold fundamental importance in the food business. If the refrigerating system does not work correctly, the entire company is jeopardized.

Commercial refrigeration presents a challenge to the technicians, owners, and installers who deal with them every day. There are several levels of installations, networks, parts, costs, etc.

The commercial refrigeration systems operate using a refrigeration circuit that works with an absorption system or vapor compressor to cool or dry the air. The general principle of refrigeration expands the liquid into a gas and eliminates heat from the local area. One of the simple refrigeration cycle components is the commercial refrigeration compressor.

How Does the Compressor Work in Commercial Refrigeration Equipment

The compressor is used in commercial refrigeration by letting the refrigerant run the circuit. The compressor plays a role in the commercial cooler like a heart in a living creature’s body. The power comes from the electric motor fixed in the system. This process eases the pressure on the refrigerant’s system.

The refrigerant flows from the compressor through a condenser. When this process happens, it is in the condenser where vapor converts into liquid form and emanates heat. In the air-cooled process chillers, the moisture is presented to a higher temperature than the air going through the condenser. In water-cooled process refrigerant systems, the refrigerant vapor is presented to a higher temperature than the water going through the condenser.

The refrigerant process completes its cycle in the condenser. Now, it goes through the metering device or expansion valve, and the pressure drops.

Finally, The refrigerant reaches the evaporator; here, the heat causes it to vaporize. The evaporator collects heat from the space that is set to be cooled. Then, the refrigerant goes back to the compressor, and the entire cycle starts once again.

Whether you run a restaurant or a school, you know just how important it is to keep your commercial cooler in good working condition. When a problem crops up, it costs you money by the minute.

Common Commercial Refrigeration Issues that need reparation:

  • Your refrigerator is leaking water:

If your refrigerator is leaking, a plugged drain hose or defrost drain opening could be to blame. Or the gasket around the door could be worn. 

  • There is fluid in fresh food compartments:

If fluid has accumulated in the fresh food compartments of your refrigerator, it could be the result of old or damaged door seals. Examine your seals, and call our experts for replacement service.

  • There is excessive frost in the freezer:

If you notice excessive frost in your freezer, the defrost system may be faulty, or the evaporator fan motor may need to be replaced.

  • Your refrigerator stopped running:

If your commercial refrigerator stopped working altogether, the first thing to check is the thermostat—chances are, you need to have it replaced. 

  • Your refrigerator isn’t cooling properly:

If your refrigerator is having trouble maintaining its temperature, the thermostat, door gasket, or a blocked drain could all be to blame.

  • Your refrigerator is making strange noises:

If your unit is making strange or loud noises, this could indicate that the compressor motor is failing or the fan is wearing out. 

  • Commercial Refrigerator Parts Fail: 

Door Gaskets, Thermostats & More:

When one part of your commercial refrigeration system fails, it can derail more than a day of business. One of the most common parts to fail is the door gasket, as commercial coolers get so much use. Check the seals and gaskets on commercial refrigerators annually as a part of your maintenance routine.

Is your refrigeration system in need repair or maintenance? Learn more about KCR’s commercial maintenance plans!


Your HVAC maintenance appointments should work around your family’s schedule. For nearly 50 years, KCR has provided residences and businesses with peace of mind and temperature control. We’re proud to serve our customers with efficiency and flexibility in managing your efficient home heating and air conditioning.

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