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The Cost of Commercial Refrigeration Systems

What is The Cost of Commercial Refrigeration Systems?

The cost of commercial refrigeration systems varies primarily based on the specific type of refrigerator or freezer required by a business and the features and capabilities each setup demands.

The first consideration is the type of refrigeration equipment. In this article, we provide an extensive overview of the price ranges for various refrigeration systems, including reach-in refrigerators and freezers, walk-in units, ice machines, undercounter units, merchandising refrigerators, refrigerated display cases, bar refrigeration, ice cream machines, refrigerated prep tables, blast chillers, medical refrigeration, specialty refrigeration, chef bases, and work tables.

We explore other factors affecting the costs of these systems, such as brand, usage, size, capacity, features, condenser type, and certifications.

Installation and total ownership costs are worth evaluating. We provide 11 tips to help you manage the costs of commercial refrigeration systems. These key strategies include choosing the right size, investing in quality, comparing brands and warranties, prioritizing energy efficiency, benefiting from financing options, considering total cost of ownership, utilizing government rebates, monitoring and controlling usage, planning for future expansion, training staff, and planning regular maintenance.

Price Range of Commercial Refrigeration Systems According to Their Types

Refrigeration is the backbone of all foodservice businesses, ensuring food safety and product preservation. However, not all refrigeration units are equal, and their price tags reflect that. We searched the market extensively for the cost of commercial refrigeration systems, from the workhorse walk-in freezers and reach-in refrigerators to the feature-rich refrigerated display cases and prep tables. The following approximate price ranges came up.

Reach-In Refrigerators and Freezers

IKON IB81R 81 inch Three Section Reach-In Refrigerator

Reach-in refrigerators and freezers are self-contained cabinets with solid or glass doors, 1 to 3 sections, and adjustable temperature settings to store and present a large selection of ingredients. Their prices typically range from $1,000 to $44,000. The combo units feature both refrigerating and freezing compartments. This added complexity of maintaining 2 distinct temperature zones within a single system makes them pricier, with rates starting at around $3,500.

Walk-In Refrigerators and Freezers

AmeriKooler QC060877**FBSC 6 ft X 8 ft Quick Ship Indoor Walk-In Cooler with Floor, Self-Contained

Walk-in refrigerators and freezers are spacious, room-sized units ideal for bulk storage of food and beverages. The budget range falls between $4,000 and $55,000. The initial investment for walk-in combos tends to climb significantly, with roughly $13,000 starting prices. These prices are estimates; the final cost depends on specific needs. Many manufacturers offer custom-built models tailored to your unique space and requirements for the most optimal storage solution. The cost outlay for these made-to-order units varies based on the chosen specifications.

Ice Machines

Ice Maker with Bin

A reliable ice supply is necessary for happy customers and safe food handling, and navigating the world of ice machines is a cool experience. The cost depends heavily on your needs. Undercounter ice machines are ideal for everyday use in restaurants, cafes, and bars. Their prices span from a budget-friendly $600 to around $7,000. For higher capacity demands, prefer an ice maker head, costing anywhere between $1,200 and a hefty $18,300. You need an ice merchandiser if you plan to sell bagged ice, which costs roughly $2,300 to $14,650.

Undercounter Refrigerators and Freezers

Undercounter refrigerators and freezers are necessary for maximizing efficiency in tight spaces. Our survey reveals a broad investment spectrum, starting from $400 and going over $15,000. The dual-temp combo units provide ultimate flexibility for a higher cost, starting around $3,500.

Merchandising Refrigerators and Freezers

Turbo Air TGF-49FAB-N 54" Glass Door Merchandiser Freezer in Black, 40 cu. ft

Merchandising refrigerators and freezers are sales superstars in commercial settings. They put your most tempting food and beverages on display to entice customers. The countertop models are perfect for boosting grab-and-go drink and snack sales. They cost $300 to $4,000. The floor models improve capacity but increase the cost outlay to $600 – $25.000. Open-air merchandisers are a unique option, upgrading product visibility with minimal barriers. They tend to be pricier, with a cost spectrum of $1,800 to $50,000.

Refrigerated Display Cases

The budget considerations for refrigerated display cases vary by installation type – countertop, drop-in, and freestanding – and specific use. For example, bakery display cases maintain optimal humidity for pastries at a cost of $800 to $25,000. Meat and deli display cases fall within a broader spectrum of $1,500 to $44,000. Seafood display cases are available for a $800 – $20,000 budget.

Bar Refrigeration

True TBB-24-48G-HC-LD 49 inch Two Glass Swing Door Back Bar Cooler with LED Lighting

Bar refrigeration units ensure your beers, wines, and liquors are perfectly chilled, refining taste and enjoyment. Specific types and features determine the cost spectrum. Back bar coolers offer ample storage, typically for $900 to $12,000. Keg coolers, essential for draft beer systems, fall within a similar range of $400 to $12,000. Bottle cooler prices start around $900 and reach $7,000. Wine deserves special treatment, so wine storage requires special refrigeration. Wine coolers span from an affordable $300 to a considerable investment of $30,000 for high-end models.

Ice Cream Machines

Pasmo S111A2 Countertop Single Flavor Soft Serve Machine w/ 6.9-Qt. Mix Hopper, Air-Cooled

The base price for ice cream makers is $755, and high-volume models are available for up to $30,000. Batch freezers store larger quantities and reach even higher price points of up to $58,000. Ice cream dipping cabinets keep pre-made frozen treats chilled and readily accessible for scooping. They come in a wide spectrum, starting around $900 and peaking at $40,000. You can pay between $190 and $16,000 if you consider purchasing chest freezers, a versatile storage solution for pre-made containers.

Refrigerated Prep Tables

True TFP-64-24M-D-2 64" Mega Top Sandwich/Salad Prep Table w/ Solid Door and 2 Drawers, 24 Pans

Refrigerated prep tables provide a cool and convenient workspace for preparing ingredients. Their cost often depends on the size, features, configurations, and intended use. Sandwich & salad prep tables are in the $900 – $20,000 range. Pizza prep tables tend to have a slightly higher starting price of $1,500 and can reach $30,000 for top-of-the-line models with powerful refrigeration systems and additional functionalities.

Chef Bases and Work Tables

Chef bases and work tables incorporate functionality and workspace efficiency. Chef bases raise countertop equipment and keep ingredients close at hand in refrigerated drawers or compartments. Their cost outlay is between $1,500 and $26,500. Worktop refrigerators and freezers provide a dedicated workspace directly above the refrigerated area. They follow a similar pricing structure, starting from $1,200 and climbing up to $20,000.

Blast Chillers

Eurodib USA BCB 10US Reach-in Blast Chiller-Freezer

Blast chillers are high-powered units that rapidly reduce hot food’s temperature. Their specialized technology contributes to a higher price tag than standard refrigeration equipment. Basic blast chillers cost $4,000 to $50,000. The market also offers large multi-function models that combine chilling with powerful shock-freezing capabilities. Expect a significant investment for these versions, varying between $100,000 and over $300,000.

Medical Refrigeration

Summit LAB11 Chest Freezer

Medical refrigeration equipment maintains precise and consistent temperatures to safeguard vaccines, blood products, and other temperature-sensitive medical supplies. Features like alarms for temperature fluctuations, secure locking mechanisms, size, and capacity determine the cost variations. They fall within the $500 – $12,000 range.

Specialty Refrigeration

Turbo Air TMKC-34-2-WS-N6 34" Dual Access School Milk Cooler, Cold Wall

Specialty refrigeration caters to specific needs across various industries. School milk coolers ensure safe storage of chilled beverages for students at a cost of $4,000 to $12,000. Breast milk coolers, vital for daycare centers and hospitals, fall within a range of $400 to $4,000. Hotels and break rooms also have unique refrigeration equipment priced between $200 and $4,500. Portable refrigerators and freezers come in a vast spectrum, from personal-sized units around $500 to heavy-duty ice transport trailers exceeding $40,000.

Factors Affecting The Cost of Commercial Refrigeration Systems

Factors affecting the cost of refrigeration systems proved to be a little hard to compile due to the vast spectrum of products and their unique features. Different points come into play for different equipment. Prices change according to the considerations below:

  • Brand: Reputable brands with established track records often come at a premium cost compared to lesser-known manufacturers.
  • Quick-Ship vs. Custom: Readily available Quick-ship models are typically more affordable than custom-built units tailored to your specific requirements.
  • Usage: Outdoor refrigeration units, such as walk-in coolers and refrigerators, are a bit pricier than indoor models. They require extra coating and more robust construction for security and weather protection.
  • Installation Type: Countertop models are compact space-saving solutions that are less expensive than undercounter and floor-standing options.
  • Refrigeration System Type: Remote refrigeration systems come with a separate condensing unit, requiring additional installation costs compared to self-contained units.
  • Size: Larger units naturally cost more due to the increased materials and cooling power required.
  • Section: Multi-section refrigerators and freezers with separate compartments widen the overall dimensions and improve capacity, leading to a higher cost than single-section options.
  • Capacity: More usable storage space within the refrigeration equipment influences the size and price.
  • Compressor (Top/bottom/rear/side-mounted): Compressor location has a moderate impact on the cost of commercial refrigeration systems. Freestanding units typically have top or bottom-mounted compressors, while undercounter and countertop models have side-mounted compressors. It is more about functionality and space considerations. Rear-mounted options in larger units offer a quieter and sleeker design, usually at a slightly higher price point.
  • Compressor HP: Higher horsepower means faster cooling and a higher price tag.
  • Door Quantity: Adding more doors – 1 vs. 2 or 3 – increases complexity and cost but also enhances accessibility.
  • Door Type: Glass doors, which improve product visibility and merchandising, are more expensive than solid metal doors.
  • Access Type: Units with drawers in equipment like prep tables provide easier access to specific items but are a bit more expensive than those with traditional door access.
  • Finish: Stainless steel is a durable, sleek, and classic finish for commercial refrigeration equipment. However, it is costlier than other common options, such as vinyl and black-coated steel.
  • Certifications: Units with Energy Star, NSF, ADA, or other certifications have a greater upfront cost but compensate in the long run due to enhanced performance, longevity, and energy efficiency.
  • Floor/No Floor: The floor is critical in walk-ins to withstand corrosion due to moisture or lack of air. Floorless models are less expensive, but remember that an improperly insulated walk-in floor inflates energy bills.
  • Condenser Type: Air-cooled condensers are more affordable but require proper ventilation. Water-cooled condensers come at a higher upfront cost but provide better energy efficiency.
  • Production Capacity: Ice machines that produce large quantities of ice have a higher cost outlay.
  • Ice Type: Cube is almost the standard ice type. Machines that produce more specialized ice, such as flaked or nugget, are premium-priced.
  • Bin Storage Capacity: Capacity is a major determinant in the cost of refrigeration systems. Ice bins with a greater storage capacity, often measured in pounds or kilograms, are naturally larger and pricier.
  • Bag Capacity: Bag capacity applies to ice merchandisers; the higher the capacity, the higher the cost.
  • Dispense Type: Ice and water dispensers are more functional and have a higher price tag than models with only ice dispensing.
  • Dispenser Type: Manual ice & water dispensers are less expensive but increase the risk of contamination. Hands-free dispensers, the pricier options, automatically dispense ice or water into your cup, improving sanitation.
  • Design/Style: Features that contribute to unique aesthetics come at a premium price compared to more basic designs.
  • Service Type: Full-service refrigerated display cases are generally the most affordable option. The grab-and-go convenience in self-service cases comes at a cost. The combination of rear and front access in dual-service models also raises the price.
  • Display Type: Open-air merchandisers and display cases maximize product visibility. They typically cost more than traditional glass-door models due to the increased challenge of maintaining consistent temperatures.
  • Shelf Construction: Stainless steel shelves offer the most durability, corrosion resistance, and ease of cleaning, making them the highest-cost option. Wire shelves are more budget-friendly but not suitable for heavy loads.
  • Shelf Types: Angled merchandiser shelves refine product visibility, or adjustable shelves help customize display layouts but cost slightly more.
  • Pan Capacity: Refrigerated prep tables with a higher pan capacity allow for storing and prepping larger ingredients. Models with multiple, well-organized pan compartments mean more money than those with limited pan storage.
  • Special Features: Special features optimize performance but raise the cost of commercial refrigeration systems. The more specialized or convenient the feature, the higher the potential cost. Here are some examples:
    • The proofer feature in reach-ins enables controlled dough fermentation within the reach-in, increasing the cost but adding significant value.
    • Automatic ice ejection systems or self-cleaning evaporators in ice machines are more expensive but minimize maintenance needs.
    • Combi oven compatibility in blast chillers allows direct transfer of food trays from ovens into the blast chiller, streamlining workflow but at a higher cost.
    • Microwave sterilization and antimicrobial handles in breast milk coolers offer an extra layer of safety and hygiene but at a premium price.
    • Mirrored back panels in refrigerated display cases enhance presentation but add to the overall price.
    • Motion sensor doors in walk-in coolers and freezers improve efficiency and sanitation but require additional investment.

Commercial Refrigeration Installation Costs

Commercial refrigeration installation costs vary by the type of equipment. Complex systems like walk-ins and large-capacity ice machines often require professional installation for optimum performance. Your location and whether the equipment is a replacement also affect the installation costs. Equipment plus the installation fees greatly burden your overall budget, but a few tips can help you lighten this burden.

Basic Installation Fees: Below are the average costs of installing different refrigeration systems. Remember that these are approximate ranges that change significantly from region to region. The fees below include $25 – $50 hourly labor fees per technician, additional hardware like electrical wiring and line sets, and potential modifications to your setup.

  • Walk-ins: $1,000 – $5,000+. The broad range reflects the significant variation in the size and complexity of walk-ins.
  • Reach-ins: $200 – $1,000+
  • Merchandisers and display cases: $200 – $800+
  • Undercounter refrigerators and freezers: $150 – $500+
  • Worktop refrigerators and freezers: $200 – $600+
  • Refrigerated prep tables: $100 – $400+
  • Ice machines: $100 – $500+

Factors Influencing Installation Costs: These are estimated costs based on average labor rates and basic installation. Actual costs vary depending on your location, the complexity of the installation, and whether old units need to be removed. The more complex the installation and the mode modifications required, the higher the cost. For instance, stairs and tight spaces add complexity and labor time. The system’s complexity, such as remote condensers or specialty features, drives up costs. The disposal of old equipment means an extra step to the process and associated fees.

Tips to Reduce Installation Costs: A DIY approach saves money and seems reasonable for smaller equipment. However, remember that improper installation potentially leads to costly repairs or even void warranties. So, evaluate the pros and cons of DIY vs professional installation specifically for the equipment you buy. Consider the following tips to reduce installation costs:

  • Plan Your Layout Beforehand: Knowing the exact placement of your equipment helps streamline the installation process.
  • Obtain Multiple Quotes: Compare pricing and services offered by various qualified installers.
  • Schedule Off-Peak Days: Scheduling installation during weekdays or evenings usually lowers rates.
  • Consider Pre-Approved Models: Some manufacturers offer models with simplified installation procedures that are more budget-friendly to install.

Commercial Refrigeration Operational Costs

Commercial refrigeration operational costs include the ongoing expenses for running your equipment. Operational costs like energy bills, maintenance, repairs, or water usage add up over time and affect the overall cost of commercial refrigeration systems.

Energy Consumption: Commercial refrigeration is a significant energy consumer. Your equipment’s efficiency rating, how often it’s opened, user profiles, and correct upkeep all play a role in electricity consumption. Less efficient units lead to higher energy bills. These ongoing costs impact your budget in the long run.

Maintenance and Repairs: Regular preventive maintenance extends your refrigeration system’s lifespan and helps prevent costly breakdowns. Maintenance costs tend to be a recurring expense, depending on the equipment and service agreement. But you get your money’s worth because unexpected repairs due to neglected maintenance or equipment failure harm your budget more.

Lifespan and Depreciation: High-quality, well-maintained equipment depreciates slower and lasts longer, reducing the need for frequent replacements. Conversely, cheaper, less durable units need replacing sooner, causing additional capital over time. The extra money you pay for quality returns you, minimizing costs of ownership in the long term.

Additional Costs and Considerations: Ice machines and some prep tables use water. Your equipment’s water consumption rates and local water costs influence the operational costs. Defrosting and cleaning are crucial to optimizing refrigeration systems’ performance and energy efficiency. The frequency and labor required for these tasks contribute to total ownership costs. Finally, consider possible product spoilage due to improper temperature control or malfunctioning equipment.

11 Tips For Managing Costs Of Commercial Refrigeration

Our 11 tips for managing commercial refrigeration costs address considerations from choosing the right size and prioritizing energy efficiency to planning regular maintenance and monitoring usage. These strategies help you keep your cool, especially when you feel overwhelmed by rising equipment prices, installation fees, and operational costs.

1. Choose The Right Size For Your Business

Evaluate your cold storage needs carefully to choose the right-sized equipment. Include your current and projected demands in your assessment. An accurate size choice saves money on initial purchases and ongoing electricity bills. Going big when it comes to refrigeration seems tempting, but resisting this urge saves you money in the long run. Oversized units require a higher upfront investment, consume more energy, and occupy a larger footprint.

2. Invest in Quality

A lower price tag seems appealing, but investing in quality always pays off in the long term. High-quality refrigeration units are built with premium materials. They undergo strict testing processes and obtain certifications, leading to durability and longevity. This translates to fewer repairs and replacements down the line. Higher-quality equipment also promises better energy efficiency ratings. Therefore, purchasing a less expensive refrigeration unit isn’t always a good economy.

3. Compare Brands and Warranties

Don’t settle for the first few options, no matter how attractive they are financially or physically. Take the time to research different brands and compare features, energy efficiency ratings, and warranty terms. A slightly higher upfront cost for a unit that promises superior energy efficiency significantly saves on electricity bills over its lifespan. A longer warranty provides peace of mind, protecting you against unexpected repairs. Comparing options helps you find the optimal value and performance for your budget.

4. Prioritize Energy Saving

Energy saving is a key factor in managing the costs of commercial refrigeration. Look for Energy Star-certified products, which signify they meet stringent energy-efficiency criteria. Don’t let the higher initial cost for such equipment divert your target. Remember, energy-efficient equipment also promotes sustainability and a greener environment. Self-closing doors, auto defrost cycles, high-efficiency compressors, and LED lighting are proven energy-saving features. These features seem like small details but significantly reduce energy consumption over time.

5. Benefit From Financing Options

Equipping your kitchen with top-notch refrigeration doesn’t have to break the bank. Many foodservice equipment dealers offer flexible financing options to help you spread out the cost of your purchase. Budget-friendly payable amounts let you invest in quality, energy-efficient equipment upfront without straining your cash flow.

6. Consider Total Cost Of Ownership

Don’t just focus on the initial investment; consider the total cost of ownership, which covers the upfront cost, energy consumption, maintenance needs, and potential repairs over the equipment’s lifespan. A seemingly cheaper option means a smaller initial investment but raises operational costs in the long run. A few extra dollars paid for a refrigeration unit aren’t worth the risks of unexpected extra expenses along the way.

7. Utilize Government Rebates

Government agencies often offer rebates and incentives for buying energy-efficient equipment. Check out instant rebates and other such programs to reduce the relatively higher price of energy-saving refrigerators and freezers. Thus, you lower both the upfront and total cost of ownership.

8. Monitor And Control Usage

Continuously monitor and control usage once your equipment is up and running. Proactive monitoring is key to minimizing operational costs. Invest in thermometers to track internal temperatures and ensure they stay within safe and optimal ranges. Many smart refrigeration systems record usage data, enabling you to make necessary adjustments against temperature fluctuations.

9. Plan For Future Expansion

Plan for future expansion when choosing your equipment. Buying slightly larger units with the capacity to accommodate potential growth saves you the cost of purchasing additional refrigeration systems down the line. Discuss your future projections with your equipment dealer to balance current needs and future scalability.

10. Train Staff On Proper Usage

Staff members are crucial in optimizing energy use and extending your refrigeration systems’ lifespan. Train them on proper loading and unloading techniques, door-opening practices, and basic cleaning procedures. Every unnecessary door opening means escaping cold air inside the refrigeration, so investing in staff training is an investment in efficiency.

11. Plan Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is like preventive medicine for your refrigeration equipment. Schedule routine service checkups with a qualified technician to identify and address potential minor issues before they roll into major repairs. A well-maintained unit performs better, consumes less energy, and lasts longer.


Commercial refrigeration systems are essential for the successful operation of any foodservice business, ensuring that food and beverages are stored safely and efficiently. The cost of commercial refrigeration systems changes by the specific type, size, features, and brand you choose. In addition to the initial price tag, factors like installation, energy efficiency, maintenance, and repairs contribute to the total cost of ownership. Evaluate all these factors carefully to find the optimum balance for your business needs and budget. Therefore, buying refrigeration equipment requires a holistic approach. Research into price ranges and operational costs, proactive management, and responsible practices throughout the equipment’s lifecycle help keep your foodservice operation running smoothly and profitably.

Ray Hunter has been on the content management team of Chef’s Deal since 2021. With a deep insight into foodservice equipment and content writing dynamics, Ray has produced informative content about equipment, methods, and trends in the industry. He focuses on generating category and product content and also blog posts that achieve a fine balance between SEO optimization and user-friendliness to reach and address commercial kitchen operators’ wide-ranging needs and queries. With a special interest in novel technologies used in food service machinery, Ray works vigorously to remain up-to-date about emerging market expectations and advancements addressing them.   

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