8 Facts About Refrigeration Mechanics

The use of fridges and freezers plays a pivotal role in food processing. Without a reliable cooling method, beloved products such as ice cream and sauces would not be possible! However, it’s essential to understand that refrigeration goes beyond simply keeping items cold; it also guarantees the quality and safety of our food. Keeping food cold between 0°C and 8°C helps keep food fresh and slow down microbial growth. Alternatively, freezing slows bacteria growth, preventing food deterioration. 

As an essential component of the food processing industry, with many products relying on refrigeration, there is a need for skilled mechanics who can repair these systems. Given the specialized nature of this trade, it’s not a job for just anyone. Those entrusted with this role are known as refrigeration mechanics, and they play a vital role in ensuring the smooth operation of our world.

1. Refrigeration Mechanics ensure that refrigeration works at food processing facilities

Refrigeration mechanics are responsible for ensuring the functionality of refrigeration systems in food processing facilities. They leverage their strong understanding of industrial refrigeration systems and the underlying physical principles that govern them. This knowledge empowers them to perform electrical calculations, interpret electrical drawings, and troubleshoot control systems effectively.

One of the primary responsibilities of refrigeration mechanics is the execution of preventative maintenance programs. This involves meticulously inspecting and cleaning various components within refrigeration systems, including seals, coils, and fan blades. By continuously monitoring system performance and promptly addressing any issues, they help minimize the risk of equipment failures, which could lead to substantial expenses and food losses. Furthermore, refrigeration mechanics excel in troubleshooting unexpected problems, such as excessive build-up, power irregularities, or malfunctioning compressors, employing a systematic approach to identify, analyze, and resolve these issues efficiently.

2. Refrigeration Mechanics install fridge systems into food processing facilities

As food facilities expand, the need for new equipment, such as refrigeration systems, becomes inevitable. In this process, refrigeration mechanics are crucial in guiding purchasing decisions. They contribute to space planning and layout for efficient placement when establishing new refrigeration setups. Additionally, they handle the setup and dismantling of equipment.

Once the equipment is selected and the layout is planned, refrigeration mechanics assist in its installation. Commercial refrigeration systems are vital in transferring heat from inside the fridge to a refrigerant liquid, requiring careful integration into the building’s infrastructure. It’s important to note that commercial refrigerators are larger and more complex than typical household units that can be simply plugged in. Therefore, these factors must be carefully considered when creating and planning the installation of new refrigeration systems.

3. Refrigeration Mechanic/Technician are certified

The education required to become a certified refrigeration mechanic depends on your province or state. In Canada, you must complete secondary school and obtain an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship typically involves on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced refrigeration mechanics or mentors. During this apprenticeship period, aspiring refrigeration mechanics gain practical experience and knowledge about various aspects of the trade, including system installation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and safety procedures.

According to the Registrar of Skilled Trades Ontario, as of 2021 the set hours of apprenticeship training for the trade of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems Mechanic at 9000 hours (approximately five years), which consists of 8280 hours of on-the-job work experience and 720 hours of in-school training.

4. Refrigeration Mechanics perform preventative maintenance and repair

Food processing facilities need to have the peace of mind to know that their fridge and freezer systems are always working. The failure of these systems can result in costly expenses and extensive food wastage. To prevent such scenarios, facilities implement regular maintenance programs known as preventative maintenance programs. During these scheduled maintenance sessions, refrigeration mechanics undertake various crucial tasks, including:

  • Checking the seals of refrigerator doors and lubricating hinges
  • Cleaning condenser coils, fan blades, drain lines
  • Monitoring refrigeration system performance
  • Repairing and broken parts
  • Flushing acid and descaling water circuits

5. Refrigeration Mechanics perform troubleshooting repairs

As previously mentioned, refrigeration mechanics often encounter maintenance issues, which can be critical in a food processing facility. Some of the most common problems experienced with industrial refrigeration systems include:

  • Excessive build-up
  • Power issues
  • Mechanically locked compressors

When issues arise, refrigeration mechanics must engage in a systematic troubleshooting process to identify and resolve the problem. This troubleshooting process consists of the following steps:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Gather relevant data.
  3. Analyze the collected data.
  4. Develop potential solutions.
  5. Implement the chosen solution.
  6. Test the solution to ensure effectiveness!

7. Refrigerator Mechanics understand power, electrical and PLC controls 

Refrigeration system controls are specialized products designed to automatically optimize operating temperatures, fan speeds, and pressures within large-scale commercial refrigeration systems. Their primary goal is to minimize energy consumption while ensuring that the refrigerated spaces or equipment remain within predefined temperature limits.

Commercial refrigeration systems are significantly larger and more complex than household refrigerators, often featuring microprocessor-based electronics. These systems house various electrical components, including compressors, pressure switches, thermostats, fans, and control valves. Refrigeration mechanics know how to apply Ohm’s and Watt’s laws for interpreting electrical calculations and troubleshooting electrical boards. Additionally, they excel in troubleshooting control systems that incorporate electrical components such as relays, timers, motor starters, and controls.

8. Refrigeration Mechanics have a mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity and interpersonal skills

Being a refrigeration mechanic requires a wide range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:

Mechanical Aptitude: Refrigeration mechanics must possess mechanical aptitude, which entails a deep understanding of fundamental mechanical principles, including sound, heat conduction, velocity, gravity, and force. This comprehensive knowledge is essential because refrigeration systems involve these concepts intricately, making it a fundamental requirement for mechanics.

Manual Dexterity: Refrigeration mechanics require strong manual dexterity to handle small parts and make precise adjustments within refrigeration systems. Their ability to work in confined spaces further emphasizes the need for skillful and precise handwork. Ensuring the optimal functionality of these systems relies on their steady and careful manipulation of components

Interpersonal Skills: While refrigeration mechanics may often work independently, their role also requires collaboration with various departments, including production and logistics staff. Furthermore, they need to coordinate closely with fellow members of their maintenance teams. Effective communication is crucial in this context, as they must convey information clearly and concisely. Building and maintaining positive working relationships is equally important to ensure the smooth and efficient progress of tasks and projects.

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