When & Why
No matter what part of the floral industry you are in, holidays account for a large percentage of the year's business. Holiday production and shipping can be 10-20 times higher than normal, and with that kind of volume increase there is no room for error. Equipment failure and loss of product or productivity due to maintenance issues can severely affect your ability to deliver high quality product on time. The damage to your reputation as well as your bottom line is something no business can afford. Something that should be at the top of your lengthy holiday to do list? Cooler prep! Prior to Valentine's, Mother's Day, and end of year holiday season, (we recommend by September 1st), it is absolutely critical to inspect and maintenance your coolers to minimize your risks and avoid potential problems during the rush.
Cooler Maintenance Checklist
There are a few musts when it comes to cooler maintenance, but it is one of the most important investments of time and resources you should make. The value of maintaining your coolers and the cold chain is worth its weight in gold. Literally. Ensuring the cold chain is followed properly not only means longer vase life and better quality, but ultimately will add a significant amount of money to your bottom line. To be ready in time for the holidays, at least a month prior to holiday shipping we recommend:
- TO DO: Clean Evaporator Coil & Condenser/Compressor Unit Coils
Evaporator Coil: This is the fan inside the unit. You may want to hire a professional to do this, so you don't damage the unit. If you do opt to clean it yourself, be sure to turn off the cooler. Open the fan unit and clean it with a pump sprayer filled with water/FloraLife® DCD® Cleaner solution. Follow instructions listed to mix solution properly. This will loosen the dirt. Please Note: you can clean Evaporator Coil 2x's per year (Valentine's & Fall)
Condenser Coils: This is outside the unit. Turn the cooler off and open the fan unit. Use a utility vacuum that can reverse its airflow to blow the dust out thoroughly or you can use a can of compressed air.
- TO DO: Inspect Coolers for Leaks & Cracks
Walls: Check for water on the cooler walls, especially at the seams. This might mean you have an air leak, simply seal with silicone to repair.
Door Seals: Be sure door seals are secure and creating a solid seal as intended.
- TO DO: Calibrate Thermostat & Thermometer
Thermometer: Located inside the unit, this measures actual temperature. For a more accurate measurement of static temperature, we recommend placing a container of water inside and measure the water temp. Fluid temperatures fluctuate more slowly than air temperature and is less affected by frequent door traffic. Use two or more thermometers (depending on the size of your cooler) placed in separate locations throughout the cooler to be sure you're getting an accurate reading; one thermometer could be wrong but two rarely lie.
Thermostat: Usually located outside the unit, this is used to set the temperature you want the cooler to be at with your boxes and flowers inside. Flowers should be kept at 34-38°F (1-3°C). Tropicals need a warmer climate and should be stored at 55-65°F (13-18°C).
- TO DO: Map Your Cooler
Hot & Cold Spots: Large coolers have cold spots / warm spots. Remember, in front of the air handler the fan may be well below freezing as the air exchanger may be on and the air may be below 32F (0C) in order to properly cool the cooler. Keep flowers and flower boxes away from this direct airflow!
Clean & Sanitize
The best weapon we have in the floral industry battle against fungal and bacteria diseases is a regular cleaning and sanitizing routine. We recommend scheduling the following to keep your cooler and anything that touches your flowers or flower boxes in tip top shape:
- Check temperature several times throughout the day.
- Use a floral cleaner with a quaternary ammonium (QUAT) such as FloraLife® DCD® Cleaner to clean, sanitize, disinfect, and deodorize all tools, work surfaces and floors. The benefit of using such a floral cleaner versus just bleach is that it not only cleans and sanitizes but has a residual effect that offers longer term sanitation.
- Remove Ethylene Producers:
- Remember FIFO (First In/First Out) inventory rotation.
- Remove all dead or decaying flower and foliage debris, be sure to check drains.
- Use an Ethylene action inhibitor such as EthylBloc™ which can and should be done from the farm or in transit to you!
- Use a floral cleaner such as FloraLife® DCD® Cleaner to clean, sanitize, disinfect, and deodorize cooler walls, racks and shelving, doors, ceiling, and drains.
- Use a soft damp cloth to wipe down:
- Evaporator coil (interior fan) housing and fan guard.
- Door gaskets to keep them clean and sealing correctly.
- Cooler exterior including the compressor/condensing unit cover.
- Touch up nicks or scratches to the outer cooler walls to prevent corrosion.
- If compressor/condensing unit is located on top of cooler, be sure that the unit is free of anything that might obstruct airflow.
Have questions or need expert advice? Visit FloraLife.com or contact your local representative for an in-person consultation.