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A coldroom of one’s own

Celltherm’s Michael Lazenby explains why suppliers and end-users need to focus on quality when looking for a coldroom – from design and planning, through to installation and service support

There are no real secrets to coldrooms which are energy-efficient and meet the demanding requirements of everything from gourmet food storage to foodservice on an oil platform, or even storing valuable research in a medical laboratory and DNA for the local police force.

In a global economic climate where business is being squeezed at all sides by higher energy costs, the importance of an energy-efficient coldroom which will stand the test of time comes into its own.

Not surprisingly, people are too often tempted to source budget coldrooms from internet suppliers, in the belief that they will get a coldroom that does the job at a low price. In life, you tend to pay for what you get, and the market is littered with coldroom installations that at best keep products stored safely, but waste huge amounts of energy and money -because they can’t provide the quality of environmental seal between panels, doors and floors that a fully camlocked installation can.

In the worst case, you get coldrooms being chilled by refrigeration units that use ozone depleting gases and/or have been specified for the wrong application, and are not cooling their contents to the correct safe temperatures.

If you are looking to invest in a coldroom installation, go through this following checklist and tick all the boxes before you are tempted to make any price-based decision.

  • Write a brief of what is needed to be stored, considering the optimum temperature, shelving etc and look at the options and constraints around location;
  • Consider a modular coldroom design, which can be tailored to suit the available space;
  • A thicker panel will provide better insulation and improve energy efficiency. It is worth talking to a coldroom expert about what they can supply, as thicker is always better (100 mm or even 120 mm for instance);
  • Evaluate a system which uses fully camlocked technology to deliver thermally efficient connections between walls, floors and ceilings. If the cold room needs to be moved, the camlocks will also make this much easier;
  • Think about the door to the coldroom as it has to stand up to constant use, and always maintain the seal to keep cold air in and warm air out. It should be made from durable, high-quality materials and be able to deal with extreme temperature changes;
  • Choose the right materials for the panel cladding, floor and door – including features that promote damage resistance, hygiene and energy efficiency;
  • When considering refrigeration units, always consider remotely-sited condensing units to reduce overall running costs. Plug-in solutions can offer cost savings but need adequate ventilation and in the main are more costly to run. Flexibility and features such as low-noise operation and lower running cost refrigerants should always be considered;
  • Adopt a good door closing regime and fit a strip curtain. These will cut running costs significantly;
  • Will the coldroom supplier be able to offer advice on design, installation, training, servicing and spare parts? Are they a specialist or just another importer and reseller?

Buying a high-quality coldroom from an established business with a proven track record in specifying, designing and installing them will pay dividends in the long-term.

Although thicker panels for a coldroom will be more expensive, against a whole-life cost, with the saving on energy bills and potential tax reliefs factored in, the better-insulated coldroom will deliver a greater saving in the long term.

A 120 mm polyurethane panel will deliver a k-value of 0.16 compared with 0.24 for an 80 mm panel.. Thicker panels generally provide a payback for the additional cost in around 12 to 18 months. 

Michael Lazenby is managing director of Celltherm

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