Choosing Self-Contained or Remote Refrigeration

Every kitchen, whether it's a small cafe or a large cafeteria, needs somewhere to store cold foods. Refrigerators come in many different sizes and styles, which is useful because it allows you to purchase the option that best suits your restaurant's layout and individual needs. When shopping for a refrigerator for your restaurant, you may come across the terms "self-contained refrigeration" and "remote refrigeration," and you'll notice that there is a large price difference between the two. In this blog we'll break down the differences between self-contained and remote refrigeration and each of their unique pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your establishment.

Shop All Commercial Refrigerators & Freezers

What Are Self-Contained Refrigeration Units?

Self-contained refrigeration

Self-contained refrigerators are appliances that house all of their components, such as the condenser and evaporator, inside the unit itself. These types of refrigerators are the most popular option used, and they comprise nearly 90% of refrigerators used in commercial kitchens.

Pros of Self-Contained Refrigeration

Here are some benefits to choosing a self-contained refrigeration unit:

  • Self-contained refrigerators are very easy to set up, and many allow you to just plug them in and start using them.
  • Everything you need to set up your refrigerator comes in one convenient purchase.
  • Because everything is housed in one unit, it's easy for repairmen to service your refrigerator if there is an issue.
  • Self-contained units can be moved easily.

Cons of Self-Contained Refrigeration

While there many benefits to these refrigerators, here are a few downsides to choosing a self-contained unit for your restaurant:

Self-contained refrigeration unit
  • Self-contained units create a lot of heat, raising the temperature in your kitchen very quickly.
  • As a result of the hot air in your kitchen, your air conditioning will have to work overtime to compensate, resulting in a higher utility bill.
  • The evaporator and condenser on these units can be loud, which is not ideal if you have an open concept or small kitchen, as it can disrupt guests.

What Are Remote Refrigeration Units?

Remote refrigerators are insulated cold food storage areas that are outfitted with an evaporator inside, but the compressor and condenser are located in a remote area away from the refrigerator itself. Typically, foodservice establishments will place their condensers and compressors on the roof, depending on the climate, or in a cool basement.

Because the components that give off the most heat, the compressor and condenser, are moved to a separate location, remote refrigeration units are ideal for restaurants that have heat concerns, such as establishments with poor ventilation or low ceilings. Additionally, if you have a large grocery store, deli, or commissary kitchen that operates multiple coolers, remote options are an excellent choice because they keep your interior cool and comfortable for your guests and also remove the noise from the condensers.

Pros of Remote Refrigeration

Here are some benefits to using remote condensing units in your establishment:

Remote condensing unit
  • Because there are fewer components in the main body of the refrigerator, remote refrigerators have more storage space.
  • Remote refrigerators eliminate any noise issues, which is ideal for display units or refrigerators in grocery stores.
  • These products can reduce your electric bill because your fridge will be producing less heat that your air conditioning needs to deal with.
  • If you operate in a cool climate, installing your condensers and compressors on the roof or outside can help your unit run more efficiently.

Cons of Remote Refrigeration

Even though there are many benefits to choosing remote condensing refrigerators in your establishment, there are some downsides as well:

  • Remote refrigerators are more expensive to install because you need a professional to run lines from your kitchen to wherever you want to install the compressor and condenser.
  • Additionally, because the components of your refrigerator are separated, they're more difficult and time-consuming to repair.
  • Remote refrigeration units have the potential to increase your utility bills because they require more power to move the coolant from the body of the fridge to the remote compressor and condenser.

Self-contained and remote refrigerators are both excellent choices for different types of foodservice settings when you're looking for a new refrigerator. But, while there are some instances where choosing a remote refrigerator is an ideal option, in most restaurants a self-contained refrigerator is the perfect option due to its easy setup and versatility. When it comes to refrigerators, though, it's best to consider your options and think about which type of refrigerator is best for your establishment's unique situation and needs.

Posted in: Management & Operation|Product Spotlights|By Richard Traylor
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.
Webstaurant TVProduct demonstrations, how-to's, & descriptions ArticlesIn-depth information and tips for running a successful restaurant Buying GuidesTools to help you find the perfect product for your business