Types : Reach-in chilling equipment comes in one-, two- and three-door/compartment configurations, as well as wide-body and narrow-body models. Smaller, undercounter reach-ins can provide convenient added storage space for products needed at a display-preparation or service point. Reach-ins can be configured as combination refrigerator-freezers with separate temperature readouts. Pass-through reach-ins allow access from both sides. Glass-fronted reach-ins allow easy identification of contents and are suitable for grab ‘n go and merchandising displays.

Capacities/Footprint s: Reach-in units can be sized to fit most available spaces, including under counters. One-section reach-ins measure about 280 wide, 320 deep and from 780 to 840 high, and have a storage capacity of about 20-cu.-ft. to 25-cu.-ft. Double-door units hold from 46-cu.-ft. to 52-cu.-ft. of products, while triple-door units provide 70-cu.-ft. to 80-cu.-ft., depending on manufacturer and model. Four-door, wide-body reach-ins can hold up to 100-cu.-ft. of products.

Operators should be aware that not all interior space may be available for storage in a reach-in, since evaporators, lights, tray slides and other components must fit in the unit. When space above a reach-in is limited, a bottom-mounted compressor is an appropriate choice, although it will reduce interior storage space and require installation of a door about one-half the height of a regular door. Top-mounted reach-in compressors require greater clearance, but can maximize available internal storage capacity.

Energy Source(s) : Reach-in refrigerators operate on 115 volts of electrical power. Smaller one- and two-door reach-in freezers use 115 volts as well, but three-door units may use 208 to 230 volts. Operators will get thebest performance from a reach-in that is most energy-efficient and has a proper balance between the size of its cooling surface and the speed, direction and uniformity of its airflow.

Standard Features : Top-end reach-in units are typically manufactured of aluminum and stainless steel in a variety of combinations with all-stainless construction representing units’ highest cost factor. Less-expensive reach-ins may use aluminum to form their sides and interiors or utilize a plastic coating for interiors and door liners. Reach-ins generally utilize 20 to 30 of rigid or foamed-in-place polyurethane insulation to help maintain interior temperatures.

Reach-in refrigerators are manufactured to maintain an interior temperature of 40[degrees]F. or below, while reach-in freezers should maintain interior temperatures around 0[degrees]F. Glass-door display freezers hold temperatures as low as -15[degrees]F. to -20[degrees]F., and come with interior lighting, mirrored interior panels and exterior message displays. Depending on size, reach-in units may require more than one compressor. While a one-door unit typically requires only a single ½-hp compressor, a two-door unit will need a ¾-hp compressor and a three-door unit requires a 1-hp compressor. Four-door units rely on two ¾-hp compressors to ensure even cooling and temperature maintenance. Remote compressors are available that save space and reduce energy loads.

Almost any reach-in can be fitted with either one full-door or two half-doors. While they take up a bit of storage space, half-door configurations help maintain internal cabinet temperatures and reduce energy costsby allowing less cold air to escape when opened frequently. Many operators look for sliding doors or doors with a 90[degrees] stay-open feature and adjustable stops that allow for 120[degrees] to 180[degrees] swings to provide easy access in tight spaces. Sliding doors may be specified as a space-saving measure. Reach-ins are typically equipped with four adjustable heavy-duty vinyl-coated wire shelves per door.

Reach-in controls are typically electro-mechanical or, more recently, run by self-diagnosing microprocessors. In addition, temperature monitors can be either analog or digital, depending on model and manufacturer. For digital controls, a battery backup is useful and double-checking temperatures with interior thermometers is a worthwhile safeguard. Some units include programmable defrost cycles, while other models defrost on a pre-set schedule.

Undercounter reach-ins offer either a single-door cavity or drawers for storage. Door units typically have more storage space than those with drawers and are well-suited for front-of-the-house, cooking-support applications. Drawer units, however, store foods separately. This makes them especially useful as cookline elements where, for example, one drawer can hold chicken, another can store seafood and yet another vegetables thus lowering the possibility of cross-contamination incidents. In addition, because drawer units offer small, discreet compartments that can be opened independently of one another, they impose less work on their compressors. Also, since drawers can be removed, such units are easier by design to clean than door models.

Undercounter units come with either front- or rear-breathing ventilation. If a unit is to be placed in an area with ample air circulation, a rear-breather with a side-mounted compressor is usually appropriate. If it is to be placed in a tight space, a front-breather will be necessary to provide the appropriate ventilation.

New Features/Technology/Options : Some newer models have a microprocessor temperature control that will precisely maintain correct temperatures, resulting in longer product shelf life and money savings. Some also feature more usable interior space, and airflow systems that keep units from working as hard to recover after doors are opened. One manufacturer recently added enhanced communication capabilities to one of its newer lines of reach-in and roll-in refrigerators and freezers. A new communications module replaces the standard digital thermometer. The new module, working in conjunction with the solid-state, electronic control found standard on the unit, displays temperature and provides alarms for instances of high or low cabinet temperatures. It also provides for service diagnostics assistance. A new, optional NAFEM Protocol Communications module is also now available for operators who wish to monitor equipment performance using a remote computer. At least one maker is marketing a unit located in the evaporator that controls box temperature and all aspects of the electric defrost — initiation, termination and fan delay. The unit promises to eliminate the time clock, heater contactor, thermostat, defrost termination switch and fan delay switch for simpler operation. Energy-efficient, environmentally friendly reach-ins offer up to 46-percent energy savings (compared to previous models), allowing an estimated ROI in little more than a year. Insulation developed by NASA is also being used in some refrigeration units, helping to maintain proper holding temperatures even when units are located next to hot cooklines.

Key Kitchen Applications : Reach-ins are essential for holding foods safely and conveniently in storage, prep and service areas. Reach-in refrigerators and freezers can be installed as freestanding units or under counters or cooktops to keep foods necessary for meal production immediately accessible.

Purchasing Guidelines : The size of a facility, style of food preparation and production-demand levels will help determine the operation’s requirements for refrigeration. Determining proper sizing and door configuration for reach-in cold storage before operators make their purchases is most likely to result in optimum solutions.

Another key factor to consider when buying a reach-in is the application for which the unit is intended. If a reach-in is slated to be used on a production line, it will open frequently and, thus, will need to feature low air velocity or high humidity to prevent foods from drying out. Such a unit will typically require expansion valves, which offer quick cooling. If a unit is to be used primarily for storage, it will likely not be opened nearly as frequently and can be equipped with the less-expensive capillary (or cap) tubes.

If a reach-in is slated for front-of-the-house use, end-users should consider a unit that offers more ornamental features, such as handles constructed of steel instead of plastic.

Maintenance Requirements : Staff should thoroughly and frequently clean and sanitize reach-ins, inside and out. Warewashing or dishwashing units can clean wire shelves. Stainless-steel components, such as floors, doors and shelf pilasters, are the easiest to clean. Specifying units with heavy-duty casters provides mobility that makes thorough cleaning easier. Exterior hardware with chrome-plating has fewer grooves to trap grease and grime and so will be easiest to clean.

Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials : Maintaining proper food-holding temperatures is fundamental to food safety. Reach-ins must hold foods consistently at 40[degrees]F. or below, as specified by HACCP requirements, and must be able to recover temperatures quickly even when doors are continuously opened and closed.