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Commercial Refrigeration Installation: DIY vs. Professional

Commercial Refrigeration Installation: DIY vs. Professional Installation

Deciding between DIY (Do It Yourself) and professional installation for your commercial refrigeration system greatly impacts your equipment’s performance and longevity. Commercial coolers and freezers are crucial to ensure the safety of chilled and frozen treats and preserve their freshness. They must always be properly working without any performance loss. Commercial refrigeration installation requires careful and proper installation to achieve optimal cooling or freezing with the engineered capacity and efficiency for the longest lifetime.

Commercial refrigeration systems greatly differ from residential units with their complex design, installation location, and heavy-duty components. Remote condensing systems and walk-in coolers and freezers require secure lines to connect the cabinet and the compressors. Commercial refrigeration systems have different design features designed for optimal performance under specific conditions. Coming with powerful components, commercial coolers and freezers feature complex electrical connections.

You must make a wise decision between DIY and professional installation to start a commercial refrigeration unit. Installation of commercial refrigeration equipment hinges on several critical factors, including cost, efficiency, safety, and compliance with local regulations. DIY installation offers cost savings and flexibility, allowing business owners to take control of their setup, particularly when you need to install small units with less complex installation steps. However, it comes with significant risks, such as improper installation, voiding of warranties, and potential safety hazards when it comes to larger units. This article will compare DIY vs. professional installation of commercial refrigeration, including when each is feasible, their benefits and disadvantages, the considerations for choosing one of them, and tips for installation.

Commercial Refrigeration Installation Requirements

Commercial refrigeration equipment is a costly investment for any foodservice and retail business. They are the key to safely preserving your perishables and frozen products until service, thereby storing a highly expensive food inventory. They must be in good condition constantly to prevent temperature fluctuations and food waste. Hence, the commercial refrigeration installation must be carried out with duly compliance with the basic requirements as follows:

  • Local codes and regulations must be followed properly to ensure your business’s compliance with them.
  • The manufacturer’s guidelines and requirements must be inspected carefully and applied properly.
  • The commercial refrigeration systems must be powered by the right type of electric outlet through a proper electrical connection.
  • All gaps and openings connecting to the refrigerant system, such as piping, controls, compressors, and condensers, must be properly sealed.
  • The refrigeration system must be protected from the dust and dirt entrance.
  • The refrigeration system must be installed with proper ventilation since air intake is crucial for refrigeration efficiency.
  • Commercial refrigeration systems require regular checks and maintenance after installation to track whether the requirements are still met.

Challenges of Commercial Refrigeration Installation

Challenges of the commercial refrigeration installation below must be considered and addressed even before making your purchase since these challenges can only be overcome while selecting the equipment:

  • Commercial kitchens have space limitations, and commercial refrigeration units are quite large. You must carefully measure your available space and choose your unit or make modifications before installing.
  • You or the installation contractor must be fully aware of the local requirements and regulations for commercial refrigeration installation so as not to face fines or even shutdown.
  • Commercial refrigeration units are complex appliances that require complicated electrical connections, plumbing (if necessary), and handling of hazardous coolant chemicals.

DIY Commercial Refrigeration Installation

DIY commercial refrigeration installation refers to handling all installation processes on your own or with your personnel without technical expertise or experience in professional refrigeration installation. Although it is common with most residential tools and appliances, DIY installation is more challenging for commercial refrigeration equipment due to its complexity and special designs.

When is DIY Installation Feasible?

DIY commercial refrigeration is feasible when the commercial refrigeration equipment is small and simple and requires you to insert the plug. Prefer DIY installation when commercial refrigeration with a mounted system presents a simple setup. Check whether the manufacturer deems DIY installation not a violation that causes the warranty to void. A DIY commercial refrigeration system installation can be a correct option when you build your walk-in refrigeration from scratch and obtain the cooling parts separately.

Benefits of DIY Installation of Commercial Refrigeration

Cost Saving: The most significant advantage of DIY installation in a commercial kitchen is the cost savings. You do not have to hire a contractor or an expert for the installation and do not have to spend money except for the necessary kits. Instead, you carefully inspect the installation guide, open the box, and proceed with the specified setup steps.

Flexibility in Scheduling: Since DIY installation of a commercial freezer or refrigerator only involves you or your staff, you do not have to wait for other people to schedule an installation time for you. You can start just after you have the appliance in your facility as long as you have the necessary parts.

Sense of Accomplishment and Control: Installing your commercial refrigeration unit provides a sense of accomplishment, especially when you start to use it for your business. While dealing with the installation, you gain more knowledge and insight about the system of your commercial refrigeration equipment details.

Risks and Considerations of DIY Installation of Commercial Refrigeration

Risk of Improper Installation: Trying to set up a piece of commercial refrigeration equipment without sufficient expertise and knowledge may result in improper installation and under-performing of your equipment. The incorrect connection of electric wires increases the risk of malfunctioning or breaking your appliance. Additional safety risks appear after an unfitting electrical connection, which can even result in loss of life and damage to your facility.

Time-Taking: DIY installation requires an extensive search and preparation to appropriately install your equipment. Finishing with constant checks, look-ups, or mistakes requires more time.

Lack of Specialized Tools and Expertise: A standard restaurant or café does not normally have the advanced and complex tools for refrigerant supply or measuring the electric outlet features that are needed to facilitate and accelerate the installation of a commercial refrigeration appliance.

Potential Voiding of Equipment Warranties: Commercial refrigeration equipment are pricy appliances that are designed for professional use. The manufacturer warranty is a reason for preference as a showcase of the quality of their purchased equipment and a live saver with reliable after-sales service. However, most manufacturers require professional installation by a certified installer to provide the benefits of a warranty on the product. An unauthorized DIY installation can cause your warranty to void, which is much more expensive than a professional installer in case of a breakdown.

Professional Commercial Refrigeration Installation

Professional commercial refrigeration installation refers to experts and technicians with the required certificates and licenses. It provides higher reliability and quicker setup but also carries more costs.

When to Choose Professional Installation

Choose professional commercial refrigeration installation when the refrigeration system is large, complex, and requires complicated connections, sealing, and maintenance. When your system necessitates handling hazardous chemicals such as refrigerants or the manufacturer requires installation by a certified installer to enable you to benefit from the warranty, you must prefer expert technicians or contractors.

Benefits of Professional Installation

Expertise and Experience: Professional installers undergo extensive training about the specifications and features of commercial refrigeration equipment, electricity connections, and sealing requirements. Commercial refrigerator and freezer equipment manufacturers, their associations like CFESA, and the business associations and institutions as specified by EPA conduct training for technicians. These trainings provide theoretical and hands-on training for the trainees.

Manufacturers share the details and tips for the best performance of their products with their certified installers. Thus, professional installers are familiar with the equipment they deal with. Certified installers have seen many examples of these units and have installed many of them over time. So, they know the units and the intricate features of connections to provide the best installation for your establishment.

Installation and Operational Safety: Professional installation is safer than DIY installation since the professional installation technicians are required to have specific training, such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), for work safety.

Commercial kitchen appliance professionals get formal education or certification training for HVAC systems, refrigeration, steam, electricity, or gas. They have detailed knowledge of potential risks and hazards of commercial kitchen equipment and how to prevent them. Professional installation by certified installers offers proper protection from these risks with the proper connections, duly activated security precautions, and the latest security updates.

Access to Specialized Tools and Resources: Certified installers constantly deal with installing and maintaining commercial refrigeration equipment. They have the necessary specialty tools and equipment to cut, drill, and seal during installation. Furthermore, they have specific information about how to handle the wiring and plumbing of these units, as well as the required tools for measuring, cutting, and connecting.

Less Downtime: Professional installation means connections and settings are made as they should be. Your commercial freezers, coolers, and HVAC systems incur fewer electricity outages while ensuring sufficient air and water supply. This will decrease the downtime of your commercial equipment, maximizing its performance and lifetime with less wear and tear.

Reduced Maintenance Costs: All running equipment is exposed to the effects of operation and gradually wears over time. Proper installation by a professional ensures all parts, components, and functions function properly, eliminating unexpected breakdowns and premature wear of parts. Professional installers help you place the equipment in your facility’s best location to prolong its lifetime with optimal conditions.

Compliance with Local Codes and Regulations: All local authorities have rules and codes regarding equipment installation. For instance, the State of Georgia designates detailed installation rules, as shown in the Rules and Regulations Food Service by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Similarly, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services determines basic rules to guide business owners in creating a kitchen with compliant standards. 

Professional installers are aware of these rules and regulations and know how to apply them in a commercial setting. So, a certified installation professional can make the connections and placement in compliance with the relevant regulations.

Warranty Protection: Most manufacturers require or recommend installing their products by a professional installer to ensure all the connections are made properly. When you hire a manufacturer-certified installation contractor for your refrigeration system, your warranty will not be void and preserve its validity under the specified terms for the specified duration.

Post-Installation Support and Maintenance Packages: The professional installation brings additional support from a local technician after you start using your equipment. Your commercial refrigeration system will be safe and sound under the warranty of the manufacturer, in addition to the continuous support of the installer in case of an urgent problem.

Professional installation contractors frequently offer maintenance packages for commercial kitchens to maintain commercial refrigeration systems regularly. This prolongs the lifetime of your equipment and retains its high efficiency and productivity.

Cost Considerations

The high service rates are the principal disadvantage of preferring a professional installation for your new equipment. Certified installation prices can go up to $10,000 for the walk-in coolers, starting from several hundred dollars to install the commercial reach-in refrigerators. However, this upfront cost can be easily compensated with lower energy consumption or an avoided breakdown due to an incorrect electric connection of your commercial oven. Professional commercial refrigeration equipment remarkably prolongs the service life of your equipment, reducing your total cost of ownership.

Recreational Vehicle RV Technician in His 40s Replacing Camper or Travel Trailer Refrigerator. RV Industry Theme.

Making the Decision Between DIY and Professional Installation

Consider the following issues carefully while deciding between DIY and professional installation of commercial refrigeration equipment:

Factors to Consider

Time Availability: DIY installation is quick at the start since you only need yourself or your personnel if needed. However, depending on the complexity of the equipment, installing it by yourself may take too much time. Professional installation is up to the availability of a local contractor. So, you may have to wait sometime to find a blank spot in their schedule to start using your expensive commercial refrigerator or blast chiller.

Budget Constraints: Professional installation is more expensive since you need to hire an expert. DIY installation would be cheaper to launch your new equipment if you have strict budget limitations.

System Complexity: DIY installation is recommended mostly for equipment with simplified setups. However, the need for a professional installer increases as the system complexity rises.

Personal Technical Skill Level: DIY commercial refrigeration installation depends on your technical skills. If you have previous experience in the commercial refrigeration industry or have a background in electrical connections, you may prefer to set up your equipment without other technicians.

Compliance with Local Codes and Regulations: The foodservice industry is subject to strict regulations, and commercial refrigeration systems are important in these guidelines. Professional installation enables you to conform to the rules and requirements while constantly familiarizing yourself with the local authorities’ guidelines.

Safety Requirements: Commercial refrigeration systems are powered by electricity and use inflammable refrigerants. These are transmitted to the industrial units through cables, wires, or hoses, which need proper connection with correct sealing. Otherwise, leakages may damage your facility or harm people. Professional help is the right choice for a safe installation process if your commercial refrigeration unit has complex connections.

The Urgency of Installation: Commercial refrigeration is essential to protect food from spoiling, demanding a quick replacement to preserve perishables. At those times, DIY installation can be a rapid solution for your establishment.

Long-Term Maintenance Needs: The reliability of commercial refrigeration systems depends on regular maintenance after installation. Therefore, creating a regular maintenance schedule is important, and a professional installation contractor can provide maintenance services.

Potential for Future Expansions or Upgrades: Trained with detailed knowledge of commercial refrigeration systems, professional and certified installers present better support for future expansions and can prepare your unit for later upgrades during installation.

Checklist for Choosing the Right Option

After considering the factors for a selection between the DIY and professional installation, you should answer the questions below to find the best way for your situation. The answers to this checklist help you determine whether you have the right tools, skills, and information for a DIY installation while allowing you to determine if professional installation is the right option.

  1. Do I have the necessary skills to ensure the installation meets industry standards?
  2. Is my budget sufficient to cover professional installation costs without compromising other areas of my business?
  3. How complex is the refrigeration system I plan to install?
  4. Do I fully understand the local regulations and compliance requirements?
  5. What are the safety risks associated with installing the system myself?
  6. How much time can I realistically dedicate to the installation process?
  7. Will I need special tools or equipment for the installation?
  8. Is there a reliable professional service available within my timeframe and budget?
  9. What are the warranty implications of installing the system myself versus using a professional?
  10. How will my decision affect long-term maintenance and efficiency?

Tips for Successful Commercial Refrigeration Installation (Regardless of Method)

After considering the factors for commercial refrigeration installation and making a preference between hiring a professional and doing it yourself, you should keep the following 7 preparation tips in mind for flawless installation and avoid the 10 pitfalls.

7 Preparation Tips

  • Review All Manufacturer Instructions and Local Building Codes: Learn the relevant codes and regulations before installation. Examine the manufacturer’s necessary details and guidelines for installation instructions.
  • Gather All Necessary Tools and Equipment Beforehand: Ensure you have the right tools, installation parts, and kits before you start.
  • Confirm That All Components and Parts are Included and Undamaged: Control the package content, ensure the package is safely delivered without any damage, and that all parts and accessories are fully in place.
  • Schedule Sufficient Time to Complete The Installation Without Rushing: Installing commercial refrigeration equipment requires careful handling. Make sure you have enough time to complete the installation without rushing.
  • Prepare The Installation Site by Ensuring It is Clean and Accessible: Clean the area and open up the space for comfortable working and proper installation. Leave the required gaps.
  • Arrange for Any Required Inspections or Permits: Obtain the required permits or checks in time, if necessary, to install commercial refrigeration equipment.
  • Conduct a Pre-installation Checklist to Cover All Safety and Operational Considerations: Use a checklist to ensure you have completed all necessary steps to start installation.

10 Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Skipping The Reading and Understanding of Manufacturer’s Installation Manuals: The manufacturer’s installation manual contains all the crucial details and necessary guidelines. Review and apply them carefully to prevent damage.
  • Underestimating the Complexity of The Installation: Assess the complexity of the installation correctly and evaluate your skills properly to check whether you have the right skills and tools for the installation.
  • Ignoring Local Codes and Regulations: Never ignore the official codes and rules during installation. They are crucial for operational safety and your business’ working permit.
  • Failing to Check for Compatibility of New Equipment with Existing Infrastructure: Ensure your existing system and infrastructure are compatible with the new commercial refrigeration equipment.
  • Overlooking The Need for Specialized Tools Until The Middle of Installation: Installing a commercial refrigeration system requires specialty tools like a refrigerant scale, multimeter, leak detectors, and gauges. These tools are vital to ensure proper installation and to prevent leakage and damage.
  • Rushing Through The Installation Process: Take your time during installation and double-check to avoid damages.
  • Neglecting to Test The Equipment Thoroughly After Installation: Test the system properly after the installation before starting to use it at full capacity.
  • Forgetting to Train Staff on The New System’s Operation and Maintenance: Train your staff about the features and controls of your new system.
  • Assuming That Installation Does not Impact The System Warranty: Improper installation invalidates the warranty terms on your commercial refrigeration system. Thus, review the product manual and installation guide for the specific conditions.
  • Overlooking The Long-Term Maintenance Requirements During Installation Planning: Maintenance ensures your commercial refrigeration system’s reliable performance and extended lifetime. Schedule a regular maintenance program for your commercial refrigerator, freezer, or HVAC.


Deciding between DIY and professional installation for your commercial refrigeration system significantly impacts its performance and longevity. Due to their complex design and heavy-duty components, commercial refrigeration systems differ vastly from residential units, requiring careful installation to ensure optimal performance and compliance with local regulations.

DIY installation offers cost savings and flexibility, allowing business owners to take control of the setup, especially for smaller equipment with less complex installation steps. Benefits include lower initial costs, control over the scheduling, and a sense of accomplishment. However, DIY installation comes with significant risks, such as improper installation, potential voiding of warranties, safety hazards, and the need for specialized tools and expertise. DIY installation is only advisable for simpler equipment that does not require intricate electrical connections or handling of hazardous chemicals.

Professional installation, on the other hand, involves higher costs but provides numerous advantages. Certified technicians bring expertise, ensuring the installation meets industry standards and safety requirements. They have the necessary tools and experience to handle complex installations efficiently, reducing downtime and maintenance costs. Professional installation ensures compliance with local codes and regulations, protects warranties, and often includes post-installation support and maintenance packages. This approach is crucial for larger, more complex systems that require precise connections and proper ventilation.

When comparing DIY vs. professional installation and deciding on one, consider factors such as the system’s complexity, budget constraints, time availability, technical skill level, and long-term maintenance needs. Professional installation is generally the better option for ensuring the longevity and efficiency of your equipment despite the higher initial cost.

In conclusion, while DIY installation may be feasible and cost-effective for simpler units, professional installation is recommended for complex systems to ensure optimal performance, safety, and compliance. Making an informed choice between DIY and professional installation contributes significantly to the efficiency and success of your commercial kitchen.

William is an experienced copywriter with a passion for crafting compelling narratives and engaging content that are tailored with SEO principles. Since joining Chef’s Deal in 2021, he has been an active part of developing high quality and informative content for the visitors and producing impactful copy that resonates with diverse audiences. With a keen eye for detail and a skill for storytelling, William excels in translating complex details into clear, comprehensible and meaningful texts that ensures higher visibility and insights. He thrives in collaborative environments, leveraging his expertise to drive brand awareness and achieve business objectives. With a proven track record of delivering results-driven content, he is dedicated to elevating brand awareness and connecting with customers on a global scale.

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