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Setting Up a Commercial Sized Walk-In Freezer --- $ on the cheap $

 
Dale Hodgins
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I started the day at Starbucks this morning and made an important discovery. They change out their refrigerators at 5 years old. The unit pictured below was about $3000 new. The refrigeration guy said that with proper maintainance these units could last 50 years. They are for sale for around $600 if everything works and as low as $200 for units stripped of refrigerant parts so that they are just shelving with doors. Considering the amount of stainless steel in these heavy units, $200 is about $75 above scrap value.

Other chains also get rid of stuff long before they wear out but aparently Starbucks machines are the best of them because they start with good quality and replace them so often. He's been at it for 30 years, so I have no reason to doubt this.

Stripped down units would be perfect for shelving in a large cooler or freezer. They have wheels and the doors seal out odor so that fish, meat, fruit and vegtables could share the same space. Any decent shelving would cost more than this.

I could see rolling a fridge into a food prep area where it could be loaded with freshly killed chickens or garden produce. Once loaded it would be left in the walk in freezer with the doors left open until everything reaches the propper temperature. This would make for a high end very slick freezer room at a bargain price.

Units left intact could be used as stand alone display cases in the sales area on larger farms. The refrigeration guy told me that plain looking units without stainless cladding are much cheaper. Extra insulation can be added to most surfaces to increase efficiency.

My next demolition project has two walk in freezers. I'm going to try to swing a deal on these. They currently have grand plans of selling them, but experience has taught me to play it cool and swoop in with a low ball offer just when they start dialing the scrap yard once they determine that there aren't many buyers for this sort of thing. I should have word within 2 months.

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John Polk
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A non-functioning one could be converted to a nice smoker or dehydrator.
It would also make a nice storage bin for paints/other volatiles in the work shop.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Older units without stainless steel and with ill fitted glass doors are free. The doors can be propped open to achieve just the right ventilation.


With some additional insulation, the glass fronted units would make a great case for a bread box solar hot water heater.
 
Dan alan
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Location: Tyler Texas
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I have built several custom walk in coolers for homes and wineries. Here is the cost of the last one; no pics sorry..

Size 12 feet by 5 feet

$120 2 ton R22 House unit, used, found in local thrifty news paper
$20 Used A-coil and blower from house air conditioner furnace
$96 2-5 ton refrigeration expansion valve
$55 Freon R22
$63 Copper pipe and insulation
$475 3.5 inches of sprayed in closed cell poly urethane foam.
$5 Solder/Acetylene gas+oxygen
Free My labor

$834 Total Cost
 
Dale Hodgins
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Everything sounds great except that your labour should be included. Let's say $30 an hour for a qualified guy. How many hours do you figure?

A few days ago, I got 2 walk in units for free. I don't know their age. The company I'm working for had them bled of gas and capped. I will probably use the 4x7 unit as a freezer and the 7x7 unit as a fridge. Well water is quite cold here, so the fridge may be cooled with a large water coil mounted on the back wall and ceiling.
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Dan alan
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It took me 2.5 hours to set and hookup the equipment.

I also forgot to list the thermostat which was $19
 
Dale Hodgins
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After getting the coolers half dismantled, a guy came waving $500. I decided to take it, since I have no time to deal with it and with all of the heavy equipment arriving Wednesday, it would likely get sqished. Crackheads have plagued this jobsite since day one , so I don't want anything containing copper and aluminium lying around.

I only had $50 labour into it. With $500 I can buy a refrigerated truck box when needed.

This has happened before. Sometimes, I get totally infatuated with some hard to move thing when I'm ultra busy, and then I have to sell it so that dealing with my prize doesn't mess with the job I'm managing. I have to constantly ask myself, "is this the highest and best use of my time?"
 
Ivan Weiss
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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The SPIN Farmers are all into low-cost refrigeration and homemade, home-based cooling and freezing units. The archives of their mailing list are crammed full of design features, cost savings, and discussions of materials.

One device that they mostly swear by -- for cooling, not for freezing -- is the Coolbot, which, according to the Web site, "turns almost any brand of off-the-shelf, window-type air conditioning unit (purchased separately) into a turbo-charged cooling machine. With it, you can transform a highly-insulated room into a walk-in cooler, keeping your vegetables fresh and thermostatically controlled cool down to 34° F!"

Many of the SPIN Farmers, including several in BC, use these units. I'd check all this out, Dale. I thought of the Coolbot immediately upon reading this thread. But if it's freezing you're after, this is probably not the way to go, it's just a lower-cost cooling option. I hope this is helpful.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Thank you Ivan. I will check them out. The cold well water at my place will probably be all that is needed for a big fridge. Various refrigeration units come my way, so my final choice will be determined by availability.

Often there are scrap trucks with insulated boxes on the scrap market. One of these, encased in straw bales, would be a great starting point. Just about any truck box covered with bales, could become a cooler. I get sheets of stainless steel, so the bottom 4 feet and floor could be given a nice cleanable surface.
 
Roy Haney
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BE Careful the EPA HAS Struck.
The EPA has changed the law again and normal refrigerant is outlawed. THe R34 can't be manufactured and you must swich to R400. This means that you will have to purchase a new AC unit when yours has a problem.
Refrigerant units having the old refrigerant in them are getting very expensive to fix.
Dupount Patenent as I understand has run out there for the old refrigerant would become very cheap for others to make. Strange on how the EPA protects us at this economic time.
 
Morgan Morrigan
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Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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They all work with propane ......
 
Rick Brodersen
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Location: Bainbridge Island,WA
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I have 16+ years of doing Commercial/Industrial HVAC & Refrigeration. I have bought & sold countless walk ins, they can be done for cheap and R-22 medium temp and lower temp refrigerants are still wildly available, there is more R22 that was manufactured than any other refrigerant and only in the USA can it not be made anymore, while the price has and is going up it will never be like R-12. I wouldn't concern myself about what refrigerant the unit uses. Keep in mind glass door cases (refrigerators) are not the most effecient...glass is needed to promote product...insulated doors are the best. I would also try to stick with higher quality brands if you can, allot of units are now made in Mexico and they lack quality control. New units are having a 10-20% warranty issues when they are brand new...I've found everything from mis wired compressors to driers, evaps, valves installed in the wrong direction...quite sad really....If you do get one of the older units they can last 50+ years... I've got a small undercounter fridge (my beer fridge) that's from the 60's still is all original except for the cold control (thermostat)...that's how I got it for free...it wouldn't work and they gave it away thinking the repair would be too costly.
 
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