It's a question that many aspiring (or seasoned!) restaurant, convenience store, and supermarket owners ask—should I go with remote or self contained refrigerated display cases in my store? Is one type of equipment better than the other for my grocery store or gas station? What are the pros and cons of each? What costs are involved?
The difference between self-contained and remote refrigeration units is the great divide in refrigeration technology, and consequently these are frequently asked questions. Fortunately, this is a question that we are especially qualified to answer, given our long history in the commercial refrigeration business. Let's start at the beginning: what are my options when it comes to refrigerated display cases?
Self-contained refrigeration refers to refrigerators or freezers that have all the refrigeration components inside the case itself (like the refrigerators we typically keep in our houses). The idea is that you set it in place, plug it in, and it works.
There are some pros to self-contained units. Ease of installation and affordability are the most attractive features of this type of display case. With the possible exception of a condensate drain, or widening a doorway to get the unit into the building, no modifications are typically needed when installing a self-contained case. Convenience and lower up-front cost are the selling points of this kind of unit.
On the downside, since the refrigeration process requires removing heat from the air inside the unit to cool it, and all that heat has to go somewhere, self-contained cases must release it back into your store. This can create an uncomfortable experience for your customers, and an uncomfortably high electric bill due to the need to run the AC in your store that much harder. Also, the refrigeration process involves noisy compressors which can quickly make your store a rather unpleasant place to be when running self-contained units. While these negative aspects might be negligible in a store with only a few cases, store owners quickly run into trouble when adding multiple cases.
Remote cases, on the other hand, contain only an evaporator and fans inside the unit. The condensing unit (the noise and heat maker) is installed somewhere outside the case, and connected via refrigeration lines. By removing the condensing unit and placing it in an external location, such as the roof of your store, the amount of noise and heat generated inside your establishment can be greatly reduced. All the heat pulled from the air inside your cases is harmlessly released outside.
The main downside to remote cases is their associated up-front costs; however, keep in mind that the savings from the lessened burden on your AC system will pay for those costs over time. When putting in remote units, you will often pay less for the actual cases, but there are other components that must be purchased alongside them, including a condensing unit (or multiple condensing units), and refrigeration lines. Fortunately, depending on your configuration, a single condensing unit might cool a line of several display cases. Also, remote cases need to be professionally installed, so contractor fees will apply. If you're needing a concrete installation quote for what you have in mind we recommend finding a reliable refrigeration company nearby to discuss the installation of your cases. They will be able to assess your needs and walk you through some issues related to your particular application, as well as provide you with an installation quote.
Vittitow Refrigeration sells, installs, and services everything you need for your refrigeration equipment in the most of the Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois area. If you are outside those states, we would still love to sell you your display case, and condensing unit, but your equipment will need to be installed and serviced by a local HVACR technician.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide. I hope this information was helpful to you. If you're in the market, feel free to take a look at the cases we offer on our website. Please feel free to Contact us with any questions you may have, or to discuss your project! We also offer a full line of used restaurant equipment, and various other items, as well as various services including store design, walk-in coolers, and custom woodwork. Thank you!
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