Walk-In Coolers: Indoor or Outdoor?

One of the biggest hurdles when purchasing a walk-in cooler can come from a pretty simple, yet important question: should you get an indoor walk-in cooler or an outdoor walk-in cooler? There are several factors to take into account when making your decision - space requirements, location of the condenser location, ensuring the proper ambient temperature, wear & tear, and more. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an indoor vs outdoor walk-in cooler.


What may be the most crucial factor when choosing your walk-in cooler is the space requirements. Indoor walk-in units have several requirements: at least 6 inches of space above the walk-in unit and 2 inches all around to ensure proper air flow, easy access to the refrigeration system components for cleaning and maintenance, etc. There are pre-fabricated walk-in units that are sized to meet these requirements in the majority of buildings, and if not, you can have a custom walk-in cooler built to meet your specific needs. There are situations when the space is just not there for an indoor unit, and this is where outdoor units thrive. Outdoor walk-in units make it possible to have the cooling space you need when your indoor space is severely limited, and give you easy possibilities for when you may need to expand your walk-in unit in the future. A free-standing outdoor walk-in unit is essentially a separate structure from the building, and has a door that open to the outdoors. A butted outdoor unit is an outdoor unit that is ‘butted’ up against the side(s) of a building, and thus the door is against the building and accessible from the building itself, reducing the wear and tear from the door being exposed to the outdoor elements.


There are several different options for the condensing unit of your walk-in cooler. Restaurants and other service-based businesses may not want a loud condensing unit that could be heard by customers as they are dining-in. In these cases, you could go with an outdoor cooler or choose a remote condensing unit. Remote condensing units are designed to allow the condensing unit to be installed outdoors regardless of whether your walk-in cooler is located indoors or outdoors.  Because of the heat a condensing unit produces, you would want to locate it away from vents, ovens, etc. that you may find in a kitchen.  This is why you will often find an indoor cooling unit in the furthest back area of a building, but even easier to avoid heat and loud noises would be to go with an outdoor walk-in cooler.


Regional temperature plays a role in determining the average temperature of the cooler, and should be considered when choosing an indoor vs outdoor unit. If you are in an area that has long cool and / or cold periods, this will help with cooling the condensing unit of an outdoor cooler. The cooler temperatures will allow it to work more efficiently and will cost less money to run. If you are in a hot and humid region, you may want to avoid an outdoor unit and go with an indoor unit to ensure the unit runs more efficiently year-round.


While it may be easier for several reasons to go with an outdoor walk-in unit, wear and tear due to outside elements is something you should think about. Damage to the panels, door gaskets, etc. can lead to bigger problems if your walk-in cooler begins to have outside air leaking in. If you live in an area susceptible to severe weather, extreme hot or cold temperatures, high winds, etc., it may not be advisable to go with an outdoor unit and you may want to opt for an indoor walk-in unit.


And finally - cost. Outdoor walk-in coolers are generally pricier than indoor walk-in coolers. Outdoor units require more materials, weather coating and protection, a proper concrete foundation for the unit to be installed on, and more. All of these add-ons cause an increase in price which may dissuade purchasers from buying an outdoor unit.


In the end, it may be one or several of the above factors that drives your decision to choose an indoor or outdoor cooler. Be sure to take all factors into account before you purchase and install your unit to ensure that it is going to best suit your needs.