The Lower 40: A Refrigeration Guide and Comparison

The Lower Forty Refrigeration Graphic

Whether you are looking to replace a single reach-in cooler or outfit a new kitchen for the first time, it can be a bit chilling to think about all of the available options. There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to buying the right refrigeration unit for you and your business. In this comparison guide we include the most popular brands we carry as well as some helpful tips to get you started.

The four brands we will discuss in this guide are True, Turbo Air, Arctic Air, and Westwind. While we do carry a few Premium brands such as Delfield, Federal, Howard-McCray, and Excellence, they have been omitted from this guide due to their specific individual uses. Typically with Premium lines, you will find features like, thermostatic expansion valves (Delfield) or complete customizability (Howard McCray) that are nice, but tend to come with a higher price tag. The remaining four brands have a multitude of options for various applications and will be separated into two categories: Professional and Economy.

Professional

Professional Brands include companies that are recognized as industry leaders for their advancement, year by year, through unique features that are brand specific, as well maintaining high-operating standards. These units are perfect for applications that handle medium to high volume traffic.

True

Hydrocarbon Refrigerant

For the past 70 years, True Manufacturing has been adhering to their mission of “Providing a wide range of American-made commercial refrigeration products that exceed industry quality standards at competitive prices.” And honestly, nothing could be Truer - pun intended. One of the notable features of True is their pioneering use of R290 Hydrocarbon refrigerant in a majority of their units in the US market. This is a big deal because the EPA is cracking down on what refrigerants can be used in commercial equipment; True is making sure consumers are prepared to move forward. Essentially, R290 absorbs heat quicker, which cools your unit faster and is more energy efficient. Plus, with a lower Global Warming Potential than R134 or R404, it is better for the environment. Check out our blog on Hydrocarbon to learn more.

Warranty

Another great reason to choose True is their lengthy warranty coverage. All units are covered by a 3 year parts-and-labor commercial warranty with an additional 2 year commercial warranty on the compressor. Because of their popularity, techs are familiar with True units, and parts are easier to come by than other brands, this ensures that warranty claims are handled pretty quick. True requires a field tech to call in and confirm the part failure, and they will work directly with the tech to get your unit up and running again. However, it is rare that warranties will even be utilized in most units rolling off the line.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts

Over time your refrigeration unit will need to be maintained. In the same way that you change tires on your car, your unit will need some parts eventually swapped for newer replacements, such as light bulbs or gaskets. This can sometimes be tricky if you can’t find the the exact part you need or one that is compatible with your unit. True has done a wonderful job creating a parts market that is available to the public and a verification system that cross references the model and serial number on your particular unit to ensure you get the part you need. If a part goes obsolete due to their equipment changes, True will have a comparable replacement ready to go.This is done to facilitate repairs and add value to their brand. It ensures that you have the correct part for the job and can get it done right, the first time. When these units are cared for properly, they can last up to 10-15 years, if not more.

Spec Sheets

Finally, doing the research on any unit to make an informed decision can be tricky if the information you need is hard to find. It can be an easy thing to overlook, but when trying to find the right fit for your business, the more you know, the better. True has detailed spec sheets that include everything from the “Rough-In Data” to additional features (standard and optional). Spec Sheets can sometime reveal information about a unit that solidifies a decision to purchase. Take a look at this example sheet to see what I mean.

Turbo Air

For the past two decades, since being founded in 1997, Turbo Air has maintained a simple mission to be the most respected and trusted company in the foodservice industry - and with competitors like True, you can see that they had their work cut out for them. That is why it’s exciting to see this small company with humble beginnings grow to have equipment in over 67 countries and a multitude of warehouses here in the US for quick fulfillment.

Self-Cleaning Condenser

So what sets Turbo Air apart from the other big names in the industry? Besides an array of systems such as Early Warning, Self Diagnosis, and Smart Defrost, one feature you will not find with any other competitor, (Drum Roll, Please!) - - - Self-Cleaning Condenser! You might ask, “Why does it matter if the condenser is self-cleaning? Here’s why: the most common failures on any piece of refrigeration equipment occur within the condenser, usually the compressor. It is common for the compressor to be overworked and have trouble cooling the cabinet because the condensing coil is covered in dirt, dust or grime. With a Self-Cleaning Condenser, a bristle brush moves up and down the unit 2-3 times a day to ensure your unit is running at its peak efficiency, using less energy and placing less wear on the compressor. Even competitors who offer a 5 year warranty on the compressor reserve the right to not fulfill warranty if the unit was not routinely maintained.

Warranty

Very Similar to True, most of Turbo Air’s line will sport a 3 year parts and labor warranty with a 5 year warranty on the compressor. There are a few units that have a modified warranty so you will need to check out the spec sheets for that. However, what sets Turbo Air apart from True in the warranty department is the Residential Coverage. While True only supports a Commercial Warranty, Turbo Air supports both Commercial and Residential. This is a pretty uncommon thing in commercial equipment - so it’s kind of a big deal!

Bells and Whistles

It can be hard to justify an extra $500.00 or so on “bells and whistles” - but if I may, just for moment, guide you to what we've all experienced in a commercial kitchen - soul shattering moments that wear you down faster than a greasy condenser.

Imagine this, you are carrying a large pan with two hands over to your two-door cooler. You place the pan on your hip, hoping to be able to open the door with one hand, but the pressure inside the cabinet creates this weird vacuum that requires two hands to open a single door. You set down your large pan and pry open the door just to be greeted by a dimly lit interior that doesn’t seem as cool as it should be. You set your large pan inside the cooler, but now you look around the inside of the poorly lit cooler for the temp control. Once found, you adjust it all the way to the coldest setting because you aren’t sure what the actual Fahrenheit reading should be for “setting number 4” on the manual dial. Two weeks later, you are frustrated because you’ve had a tech in 3 times, trying to repair the unit but they just can’t find anything wrong. Seem familiar?

Turbo Air has integrated a plethora of innovative tech, such as the “Door Pressure Release Device” to make your job a little easier. The chart below is a summary of some of that amazing tech you will find on these units.

Self-Cleaning Condenser Standard Feature that cleans the condensing coil 2-3 times a day to prevent dust build-up and equipment failure
Digital Temperature Control System Provides precise and constant temperatures throughout the cabinet. This allows food products to remain fresh
Early Warning System Unit Diagnoses and monitors itself for risk factors which give early warning signals to allow for preserving contents and for preventing future problem
Self-Diagnosis System When a unit breaks down, it will run a self-diagnosis to figure out this issue, saving both service time and unnecessary expenses that can occur due to misdiagnosis.
Smart Defrost System Analyzes its surrounding environments and defrosts only when it is needed for the required time - saving energy and keeping the contents safe

Economy

Economy brands are geared more towards overcoming the fiscal boundaries that prevent customers from purchasing the higher end equipment. These brands are usually recommended for low-medium volume business and what they lack in special features, make up for in affordability.

Arctic Air

Since being established in 1995, Arctic Air is a relatively small company that focuses on providing affordable equipment that pairs well with what you need.

Economy Variety

Whether you are looking for a cooler or freezer, prep table, or undercounter unit, Arctic Air has made sure to cover all of the most commonly sought after units. The great thing about this is that you can consider the options between both Professional and Economy lines, rather than being bottle-necked into buying a more expensive unit when you may not need to.

Digital Thermostat

What is sometimes considered a luxury item on other brands, Arctic Air has incorporated into their entire line up. When you are running with an economy line, every bit of savings count and the less time spent checking thermometer inside the cabinet, the more money saved in the long run. Digital thermostats allow you to check the internal temperature of the unit without opening the door. This provides a peace of mind by constantly showing you that the food is chilled, while also letting you know if the temperature starts to creep up. Should an issue arise, the first tell-tale sign will be a warmer temp, which will be displayed on that thermostat.

Warranty

All Arctic Air units come with a 1 year parts and labor warranty with a 5 year warranty on the compressor - both of which are commercial warranties only. They have also established two different departments for warranties, which is split depending on the unit you own. This means a shorter downtime in the event of a warranty issue. In addition, Arctic Air, in a similar manner to True, has an established parts department to facilitate maintenance and upkeep as it arises down the road.

Westwind

Westwind has its roots in a small American company with over 70 years of experience in the foodservice industry. Run by ex-foodservice professionals and not corporate suits; they’ve included features that you want, not extras they want you to buy. Since these units are bought in bulk and brought in directly from the manufacturer, they are able to be offered as the affordable commercial refrigeration line to meet your needs.

Try Before You Buy

Unlike any brand you may be considering, Westwind units are available for our Try Before You Buy program. This allows you to have the unit for two weeks from the date of shipment to see how it works for you. For more details take a look at our Try Before You Buy Agreement Form.

Castors Pre-Installed

A majority of the time, when a unit arrives, there is some assembly required. This can be a bit difficult if you lack the manpower or tools to field install the castors. Westwind solves this problem by having the castors pre-installed before delivery.

Warranty in-house

Westwind provides a 1 year parts and labor warranty with 5 year warranty on the compressor and includes coverage for both Residential and Commercial applications. Since these units are bought in bulk quantities, the warranty is covered in house. Westwind believes in the philosophy that customers are people, not numbers and handle their warranties that way. This simplifies needing to bounce around between Dealers and Manufactures to resolve an already stressful warranty issue.

Summary

When shopping around for your cold side equipment, it is important to not get caught up in the hype of marketing. What may be considered “Best in the Industry” may not be the best choice for you. It is important to think about how that unit will fit into your overall business plan. In the same way you would consider how a potential new hire would fit with the rest of your staff, you must also consider how well a new unit would work in the kitchen. Things to think about would include:

  • What is the ambient temperature of the kitchen?
  • How often will the doors be opened on a given shift (the more they open, the more the compressor runs)?
  • Is there a fair amount of grease in the kitchen?
  • Will I have time to clean the condenser?
  • How much does a warranty matter to me?

At Prima, we understand that making the right choice for you can be made easier with the right tools and resources. Below is a chart to help compare all of our brands listed in this blog.

Brand Brand Feature Warranty Final Thoughts Rating
True HyrdoCarbon R290 3 year Parts and Labor/5 year warranty on the compressor (Commercial only) Ambitious industry leader//Environmentally Conscious//Seeks to reduce the “Cost of Ownership Professional
Turbo Air Self-Cleaning Condenser 1-3* year parts and labor/5 year warrant on the compressor (Commercial and Residential) Customer driven//Tech Dependent//Seeks to improve ownership experience Professional
Arctic Air Economic Variety 1 Year Parts and Labor/5 years for Compressor (Commercial only) Strives to offer quality with economy line//variety of options//Seeks to make Ownership more available Economy
Westwind Try Before You Buy 1 Year Parts and Labor/5 years for Compressor (Commercial and Residential) Tangible Economy Options//Can test before buying//Seeks to make ownership personal by eliminating middle-men. Economy

*dependent on the unit