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When To Upgrade To A Commercial Walk-In Cooler

Shelving for walk-in organization

Commercial walk-in coolers are a great resource for a variety of businesses needing to increase cold storage space. Upgrading the current reach in to a commercial walk-in cooler will not only give them adequate and appropriate storage but also, offer more convenience for accessing products and storing at appropriate guidelines.

Commercial walk-in coolers also known as industrial coolers provide temperature-controlled storage space for a wide range of products.  Commercial walk-in coolers are manufactured to meet a variety of sizes from small scale units to full warehouses spanning hundreds of square feet. With endless possibilities, commercial walk-in coolers are manufactured to satisfy strict food storage requirements and meet cold storage needs.

Commercial walk-in coolers are a major investment for a retailer or restaurant. Due to the investment, it is important to thoroughly research commercial walk-in coolers and walk-in cooler manufacturers to understand the many options available and ensure you know what you are getting before making any decision.

In this guide, we discuss how to choose the best walk-in for your business by clearly explaining what a commercial walk-in cooler is, what features to look for and what benefits an industrial cooler may have for your business.

What Is A Commercial Walk-In Cooler?

A commercial walk-in cooler is a large scale refrigerated unit that stores various types of perishable goods. Unlike a reach-in, a commercial walk-in cooler is large enough for employees to walk in and around in the unit. These walk-ins not only have significantly more storage capacity than a reach-in but are also easier to maintain for consistent temperatures.

Types Of Commercial Walk-In Coolers

Each commercial walk-in cooler is customized to fit various industries and applications. There are a variety of commercial walk-in cooler applications such as: 

  • Grocers will typically have several coolers including Dairy coolers, Meat and Seafood Coolers and many other types for specific uses
  • Convenience stores will typically have a beverage cooler for soft drinks and sport drinks as well as a beer cooler.
  • Liquor stores will have commercial walk-in coolers for storing inventory
  • Even dollar stores that offer fresh produce and a limited assortment of groceries will have a commercial walk-in cooler in their back room.

Depending on the storage requirements, commercial walk-ins can be customized to accommodate customer needs and business operations.

What To Consider Before Buying A Commercial Walk-In Cooler

Before buying a commercial walk-in cooler it is important to consider the various requirements needed. Customers should consider the amount of storage space needed, the purpose of the walk in, the size and location of the unit, and the temperature requirements needed just to name a few!

In addition to the information already discussed, it is important to consider the following topics before buying a walk-in cooler.

Freezer Or Refrigerator

Walk-in freezers and walk-in refrigerators, while similar, are technically different. The primary difference between the two is the storage temperature maintained within each unit.

Walk-in freezers however should operate with a temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and are used to preserve a variety of frozen products to sustain longer shelf lives, such as frozen vegetables and meats.


Indoor or Outdoor Walk-In Coolers

Indoor and outdoor walk-in coolers have key factors that differentiate them from one another.

Traditionally, outdoor walk-in coolers require additional insulation compared to indoor walk-ins to better protect the unit from elements and environmental factors. Other differentiating factors include:

  • Different Sealants for Moisture Protection
  • Plumbing in the Ceiling of Unit
  • Internal Steel Structure
  • Recessed Gasket Panels
  • Weather Hood Above Exterior Doors
  • Roofs


These factors often result in higher costs for outdoor walk-in coolers but when interior storage is not an option, this is a viable solution.

Storage Requirements For Walk-In Coolers

When opting for a commercial walk-in cooler vs smaller cold storage options like a reach in, it is important to understand your storage requirements. More complex storage requirements such as exact temperatures and humidity levels will be much harder to maintain with a reach-in.

Commercial walk-in coolers are designed to safely store high volumes of temperature-sensitive products. For businesses that require larger inventory on hand or store in bulk, a commercial walk-in cooler is a great option.

Reach-in coolers and other alternative methods will not have the volume, capacity, and efficiency to effectively handle large quantities of product. To combat this, businesses are required to purchase multiple reach in coolers, resulting in higher costs and taking up critical floor space.

For most businesses, especially food service, where large quantities of food need to be stored at exact temperatures, a commercial walk-in cooler is more cost effective and efficient than other cooler applications.

Walk-In Cooler Components

There are a variety of different components that can be used to customize a walk-in cooler including shelving, alarms, display doors, traffic doors and more. Choosing the right components for your industrial cooler not only improves design but can enhance the functionality of the unit.




Walk-in cooler shelving creates a complete back-room storage system that optimizes space and minimizes costs. With a wide variety of walk-in cooler shelving available, business owners can customize their space to best fit business operations and products. Identifying the appropriate shelving for your walk-in cooler prior to purchasing will allow efficient use of space inside and outside your walk-in.



There are a variety of configurations for refrigeration units for a walk-in including side mount, top mount, remote, and pre-assembled.  It is important to identify what type of refrigeration unit best fits your demands as there are pros and cons to each and may impact the type, or size of walk-in cooler required.


Understanding the different types of walk-in cooler doors makes it easier to choose or design a walk in cooler that best fits business needs. There are two main door types to choose from, traffic doors and display doors.

Traffic Doors

Traffic doors such as swing doors, impact doors, and double acting doors are a great asset for high traffic areas that offer both forklift and pedestrian access.

Display Doors

For customer facing operations such as convenience and grocery stores display doors are often the top choice. These doors allow for easy access for shoppers while also protecting and preserving temperature sensitive products.

Each style of door offers advantages and disadvantages, with one not being better than the other it’s important for buyers to consider business operations to best choose a style of door and walk-in that is for their needs.

Benefits Of Commercial Walk-In Coolers

There are many benefits for businesses to utilize walk-in coolers. For any operation that requires large scale cold storage, commercial walk-ins provide many advantages over other kinds of refrigeration including improved food safety, energy efficiency and operational efficiency.

Food Safety

All industrial coolers are required to follow strict regulatory standards. While both commercial walk-in coolers and reach-in coolers are held to the same standard such as the National Sanitary Foundations ANSI 7 and The Department of Energy Code of Federal Regulations Energy Standard, reach-in coolers tend to be harder to regulate.

Energy Efficiency

Frequent opening and closing of the reach in coolers allow the warm air from the outside to replace the cold air inside, causing the refrigerator to work harder to maintain the temperature.

Additionally, the frequent opening and closing of the door requires the unit to utilize more energy use to stabilize temperature and puts the contents inside at risk. Energy consumption is not only inefficient but can also be very expensive. While the same concerns about frequent opening and closing apply to commercial walk-in coolers, they are a more efficient application for cold storage. To maintain the same volume of product as a commercial walk-in cooler, reach-ins would require multiple units working independently of one another. The more units needed, the more energy, space and money needed.

Furthermore, commercial walk-in coolers are not only more efficient operationally, but can also be equipped with additional features such as motion detector lights and LEDs to reduce energy use.  From an energy efficiency standpoint, commercial walk-in coolers are typically the better choice than reach in coolers.

Process Efficiency

Industrial coolers can improve operations and increase efficiency as they are designed and built to optimize a business layout and operation. This provides efficient use of space, ensuring all available real estate is being utilized as well as providing a layout that serves the operation of the business.

Due to the inability to customize reach-ins and other cold storage methods, it is not uncommon for these units to be placed in areas that are inefficient to the work streams, as they require installation in specific areas, instead of being installed for function and process.

In many cases, this creates crowded workspaces and less efficient work processes.

A customized commercial walk-in cooler can be strategically designed and placed to optimize processes. Improving product placement for process efficiency decreases risks and increases time savings.

Weigh The Pros/Cons of Upgrading to a Commercial Walk-in

When deciding on whether a commercial walk-in cooler is the best option it is important to look at all factors before making any purchase. A cost-benefit analysis from a financial standpoint can help customers decide if the upfront cost of an industrial cooler is beneficial to the business in the long run.

To summarize, commercial walk-in coolers are typically the most beneficial option for businesses wanting a long-term cold storage solution that can hold large quantities of products while reducing energy consumption and improving process efficiencies.

To learn more about commercial walk-in coolers contact a KPS Global expert today or visit our website for more information on commercial walk-in coolers.

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