Cold storages are no different than your vehicle. When taking a long trip, most people check over their vehicle to make sure it is operating properly and any problems are addressed. The same goes for your cold storage. Most cold storages sit idle between seasons and are fired up just in advance of the storage season. It is always a good idea to perform a regular inspection and complete needed maintenance to ensure your cold storage is structurally fit and operating properly. Your cold storage contractor can assist with preparing an inspection and maintenance schedule. Here are a few simple items storage owners can complete on their own.
1. Examine the condition of your building. Start from the roof down looking for faulty roofing and openings caused by age, wind or animals. Eaves and roof vents should be unobstructed. Outside walls and foundations should be straight and look in new condition.
2. Clear debris from your fan and condenser. Your cooling equipment will usually have a condenser unit on the outside of the building which removes heat from the building using a fan blowing air through what looks like a vehicle radiator (condenser). This fan and condensor need to be kept clear of debris and obstructions to ensure maximum air flow. Restricted air flow will reduce cooling efficiency, decrease equipment life and drive up power consumption.
3. Check doors for good gaskets that seal. Any broken or cracked seals should be replaced. Air infiltration is the second highest cooling load for a cold storage.
4. Check ceilings and walls on the inside for discolouration or signs of mold or rot. If any of these symptoms are present, they should be addressed. Concrete floors should be dry and in new condition. Floors with cracking and shifting may indicate a structural problem and a building contractor should be consulted.
5. Examine and clean the evaporator coils. Your cooling system will usually have evaporator coils which look like a vehicle radiator with a fan hanging from the ceiling. As with the outside component of the cooling system, the evaporator coils need to examined closely and be cleaned with no air flow restrictions.
6. Contact your refrigeration contractor for updates. Before starting up your cooling system and giving it a test run, it is a good idea to contact your refrigeration contractor for any special procedures to follow.
7. Monitor the inside temperature. Once your cooling system is operating, the inside temperature should be monitored and any changes from design temperatures or previous years should be noted. Your refrigeration contractor should be consulted for possible cooling system issues.
8. Prevent the spread of decay-causing organisms. Prior to using your cold storage, it is always a good idea to ensure proper sanitation to reduce the spread of decay-causing organisms. Take a look around for any safety issues or hazards waiting to happen. With increasing electricity rates, it may be beneficial to have your refrigeration contractor inspect your cooling system annually to ensure it is operating at peak efficiency.
For more information, pick up the following factsheets at your local OMAFRA office or online: Troubleshooting Cold Storage Problems (94-083) and Forced-Air Cooling Systems for Fresh Ontario Fruits and Vegetables (14-039).
John Warbick is an engineer with OMAFRA, horticulture crop systems, based at Vineland Station, Ontario.