How the R-value Affects Refrigeration Units


There are approximately 140 million housing units in the U.S., along with hundreds of thousands of restaurants. Go inside virtually any of them, and you’ll find refrigeration products of one kind or another. Refrigeration is essential for food storage in homes and commercial enterprises.

While homeowners often don’t pay as much attention to it, restaurant owners, manufacturers, and refrigeration units often speak in terms of R-value or refrigeration insulation R-values.

Not sure what R-value is or how it affects refrigeration units? Keep reading for a quick overview of R-value and why it matters to refrigeration systems.

What Is R-Value?

If you’re familiar with the term R-value at all, it’s likely in reference to the insulation in the walls or ceiling of your home. In broad terms, its meaning is the same for both the insulation in homes or businesses and the insulation used in refrigeration units.

R-values are essential the insulation power of a given type of insulation. Without digging into the very technical aspects of insulation, the higher the R-value, the better the insulation is at limiting heat flow.

Heat Flow

Heat flow can happen in one of two ways: convection and conduction. Most people already understand these types of heat flow at an intuitive level.

Let’s say that you get a piping hot cup of coffee. It sits on your desk for 20 minutes. You go to take a sip, and the coffee is now lukewarm. The heat from the liquid gets sucked away by cooler air until the temperatures match.

That transfer of heat through liquids and gases is convection.

Now, let’s say that you put a pot of water on the stove to boil. You go back ten minutes later and try to adjust the position of the pot. You jerk your hand back because the pot handle is now hot.

In this case, the heat has transferred from particle to particle in the pot’s material itself. This kind of heat transfer is conduction.

Why It Matters

In most homes, you’ll see a big temperature difference between the air in your home and the air in your fridge. The same thing happens in restaurants with their walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers.

Beyond that, the exterior of fridges, coolers, and freezers may soak up heat from the floors, walls, or even nearby cooking appliances. You don’t want that heat transferring into the unit through conduction.

You need good R-values on those units to minimize the amount of both convection and conduction heat transfer to ensure your food doesn’t spoil on you.

R-Value and You

For homeowners, most fridges and freezers are built with fairly similar insulation specifications. You can check the R-value and opt for one that’s higher, but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.

For restaurant owners, those values matter a lot more. The sheer size of walk-in coolers and freezers demands something more robust. For them, you likely want an R-value of 25 or higher.

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