Walk-In Coolers and Freezers

Walk-In Buying Guide

A walk-in cooler or walk-in freezer is an essential piece of equipment in most foodservice establishments. Its primary purpose is to keep a large quantity of perishable food cold. Unlike a reach-in unit, with a walk-in you can “walk in” to the unit for very easy access to your product.

Most walk-ins are made up of panels of foam insulation bonded between two sheets of metal, with the panels being assembled on site with cam locking devices. A refrigeration system typically ships with the walk-in. Many different configurations of panels and refrigeration systems are available.

The essential features of a walk-in:

  • Keeps product at desired temperature
  • Uses as little energy as possible while still maintaining correct temperatures
  • Can be installed quickly and easily
  • Lasts for years
  • Is at a cost you can live with

If you're reading this buying guide, it means you're probably looking to replace or upgrade a walk-in, or are looking to buy for the first time. This guide contains the things to consider when buying a walk-in. If you need more help, a knowledgeable Central Product Consultant would be happy to help you find the right walk-in for your establishment.


How much storage space do you need?

Walk-Ins come in an endless variety of sizes. When thinking about what size is best for your establishment, calculate one cubic foot per every 28 pounds of food.

How much space do you have available for the walk-in?

Buying a walk-in isn‘t as easy as picking the size that will hold all your food. You may have space limitations based on your chosen location for the walk-in, plus there are factors to consider such as clearance, ventilation, proximity to drain lines, and more.


Cooler (Refrigerator)

Coolers typically maintain a temperature between +35°F to +38°F, varying slightly between manufacturers.


Freezers typically maintain an average temperature of -10°F, with other temperatures available by special order.


Combination units are part cooler and part freezer. Manufacturers offer some standard size combination units, or you can customize a unit to be exactly the size you need.





Because an outdoor walk-in is located outside, it ships with additional items to protect it from the elements, such as outdoor refrigeration housing, outdoor roof sealing kit, and low ambient controls.

Refrigeration Systems


With remote refrigeration systems, the refrigeration is separate from the walk-in box. They may be in separate rooms of your facility, or one may be indoors and the other outdoors. The benefit of such a system is that heat can be exhausted in a more convenient location than where the walk-in box may be located. Note: While some walk-ins can be self-installed, remote refrigeration systems should always be installed by a professional.


With a self-contained refrigeration system the refrigeration is located with the walk-in box. Refrigeration is typically a one piece system, including condenser, coil and condensate evaporator. Refrigeration may mount at the top of the walk-in, and may be flush to the walk-in ceiling for 100% use of interior space. Refrigeration may also mount at the side or rear of the walk-in. Self-contained systems typically do not require the services of a professional installer.


Remote and self-contained systems are the most common, but talk with a Product Consultant about other options such as penthouse or saddle mount systems.


With floor

The type of floor depends on the application. For example, smooth aluminum may be sufficient for moderate walk-in use. Walk-ins that will see heavy cart traffic or will house heavy beer kegs, however, may need a heavy duty stainless steel floor, perhaps with special underneath reinforcements.

Without floor

Certain applications may not require a walk-in to include a floor, and a floorless walk-in will typically be less expensive than one with a floor. However, you want to be sure your walk-in is up to code so be sure to check all federal, state and local requirements before ordering.


Cost is largely based on walk-in size, type, materials, extra features and manufacturer. It is a large piece of equipment, so it is certainly an investment. But don't buy just based on cost; make sure you buy a unit that will fit your needs.

Other Things to Consider

Insulation Materials

Different materials offer different levels of insulation quality and longevity, and are different costs. Common insulation materials include polyurethane, polystyrene and polyisocyanurate.

Panel thickness

The industry standard for walk-in coolers is 4" of insulation. Your building architect may request 5" or greater, but 4" should usually be sufficient.

Metal Skins

  • Aluminum: Corrosion-resistant. Lighter in weight than stainless steel and very strong. More porous and prone to scratches so at times can be harder to clean. Can be lower in cost.
  • Stainless Steel: They don‘t stain, corrode or rust as easily as other steels. Easy to clean. Typically the most expensive.
  • Galvanized: Corrosion and dent resistant. Can develop white rust that can turn into actual rust if not cleaned properly with caustic cleaners.
  • Galvalume: Combination of aluminum and galvanizing material. It is as strong as steel with even more corrosion resistance.


We advertise several top brands (Kolpak, Norlake, Leer), but have access to many more. Let us know your needs and we‘ll help you find just the right walk-in for you.

Available options

This includes ramps, automatic door closers, strip curtains, etc.

Legal requirements

Let a Central Product Consultant help you ensure your new walk-in meets EISA 2007 national requirements and all local codes.