The Walk-In Cooler
If you think of farm equipment, what comes comes first to mind is probably a tractor or pickup truck. Yet most equipment, even tractors, are specialized for particular jobs and generally not used that often, sometimes not for months. The walk-in cooler, though, is used every day of the year.
A walk-in cooler is standard equipment on most farms, although no one ever thinks about them. But it’s there, a few steps from the farm store, or in the processing shed, or tucked around back. Even farmers don’t think about the walk-in much. Hearing the condenser run is just part of the constant background noise.
There are two options for getting a walk-in cooler. You can buy a one with insulated panels for the walls, floor and ceiling. These are powered by large condenser units. There are many manufacturers and models. Even found used on Craigslist, for example, they cost a few thousand dollars. Worth it, but a lot of money for a small farm.
The other option is a D.I.Y project. The farmer builds the box from plywood and foam insulation. (The more insulation the better). Instead of an expensive refrigeration unit, a cheap electrical component (called a CoolBot) and an air conditioner keep the walk-in cool. The electrical gadget tricks the air conditioner into running longer than normal so it cools the temperature down to 35-40 degrees. It works well, is a much cheaper option, and is easier to repair.
This came in handy this past week when our walk-in cooler stopped cooling. Of course it is was a 90 degree day, because that’s just how these things go. Thankfully we had a spare (and more powerful) air conditioner we got last year at a yard sale -just in case. It took a bit to install the larger unit and wire it up, but this morning the temperature in the walk-in is a chilly 37 degrees. Aahhhh.
Randy Robar, co-owner of Kiss the Cow Farm